Herb Sweetow grew up in Chicago and learned the game in Chicago Park District’s Jensen Park. He was also captain of his high school basketball team at Roosevelt High School and was awarded All-City honors. In 1942, World War II was demanding the full attention of our country. Many of the men who played 16-inch softball in the Chicago area were valiantly fighting and defeating the Nazis. For those 18 years and older, the game needed to be put on hold. Yet, during this year, the Chicago Park District sponsored what is believed to be the largest 16-inch soft-ball tournament in the history of the game. There was an astounding original field of 400 teams vying for this prestigious citywide title; The Chicago Parks Junior Championship. Herb Sweetow, was the captain of the Jeeps of Jenson, from Jenson Park, playing Shortstop and Pitch-er, leading the team to victory throughout the tournament.16-inch softball was the premier sport at that time, but opposing teams were not friendly to each other. During this tournament, there was fierce competition as winning was on everyone’s mind – win the war, win your sport, just win! As a result, when the Jeeps of Jenson team inad-vertently came to an elimination game without a bat, the opposing team refused to loan one of theirs. Herb’s team was not deterred as they played the first 5 innings with a child-sized bat borrowed from a boy at the park, scoring enough runs to take the lead. When the boy had to re-turn home with his bat and the opposing team still refused to lend them a bat, they used a tree branch – allowing them to finish the game within the rules and win. On June 30, 1942, the Jeeps of Jenson won the 16-year-old division of the tournament! In 1945, the team also won the 18-year-old division.
Upon return from his honorable service in WW2, Herb came back to the game he loved; 16-inch softball. His adult athletic career as a pitcher was mostly with Old Menn at Terminal Park (conveniently located across the street from his home), dominating the Terminal Park League, along with games at Clarendon Park and Thillens Stadium. As a pitch-er, Herb was in a league of his own. Famous for his knuckle ball, he could underhand the pitch with absolutely no spin. His curve ball, be-tween the legs pick offs to first and second, and even a fastball from time to time, successfully confused and frustrated the batters.
At the age of 83, he moved away from the park. A lifelong athlete, now he bowls, and continues at the age of 90, to work on his game and im-prove his score. Herb Sweetow, was an astonishing softball player, a veteran, and an athlete of the utmost integrity. He was amongst the best of his generation; a group of athletes that not only grew up with the sport, but were responsible for growing the sport.