Don Bianchi

Don (Donny) Bianchi threw his first 16-inch softball at Portage Park in the early 1960s. He used to watch his father played there, so he grabbed a yellow Clincher and brought it to the sandlot field in Niles. Donny and his buddies played 16-inch there because not everyone had a mitt, and the windows were less “vulnerable” than a baseball.

After a successful baseball career at Hersey High School (he earned All-Conference and All-Area Honors there), Don headed to Western Illinois University where he met Buddy Doroskin (HOF). In the late 1970s, Western was a mecca for 16-inch softball teams. They were loaded with many South Side Irish players who were getting their Law Enforcement degrees. Teams from Chicago would flock to Western for the famous One-Day, One Pitch 16-inch Softball Tournament. Buddy and Donny built a team that beat everyone.

After graduation, Buddy asked Donny to play for the Badgers at Rand Park in Des Plaines. They competed against the Turtles, Rollers, Bushmen, Classics, and others. They then joined a tournament team called the Rat Pack. In its first Metro Tournament, the Rat Pack beat Otto’s 3-1 in what many called “the greatest upset in tournament history.” Otto’s won all the money that year and beat everyone, except the Rat Pack.

The next year Donny was recruited by Huey Carmichael and “Eggs” Czarnik (HOF) to play for the Runts. That same year, they took second in the ASA Nationals, losing to the Park Ave Spats. He then went on to play for AutoMart, Stray Cats, Coopers, Bud North, and The Splinters Sports Club. He ended his career after winning the ASA National tournament in 1991, redeeming his previous six runner-up finishes.

Donny was selected to nine All-American tournaments teams in his sixteen years of playing softball. He played shortstop and short center early in his career and moved to third base as he got older. He was a clutch hitter, usually batting third or fifth in the great lineups he played on. He retired in 1994 to raise his son and daughter. He has always cherished the memories he made and the teammates he played with while playing 16-inch softball.