James “Milt” Melton

James was born on August 23, 1936. He grew up on the South and West Sides of Chicago, attended Emerson Grade School, and graduated from Manley High School where he was an outstanding basketball and baseball player. He attended Crane Junior College until he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After his military service, he attended Chicago State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. He then began his career with the Chicago Park District, the United States Postal Service, and finally the Chicago Park District.

James was a solid softball player with the Feather Merchants. He was known for his outstanding knowledge of the game and his fierce competitiveness. As evidence of this, he managed UNK Wild Bunch to an undefeated season.

In 1969 the Chicago Park District assigned James to Washington Park as park supervisor with the mission of improving all the program and activities at Washington. He started an eight-team adult Sunday league. He later convinced the Chicago Transit Authority to move their Sunday league from Grant Park to Washington Park. He also helped convince the Chicago postmaster that a 16-inch softball league was a good idea for its employees. Their thirty-team league played on Saturdays. But with only eight fields available, James had to make fields on the grass.

Besides organizing the leagues, he started an umpire training and development clinic and created Umpires, Inc. Throughout the years, many umpires from this organization officiated at ASA National tournaments.

In 1980, the Chicago Park District re-designed the athletic fields with input from James. The softball fields were relocated to the north end of the park and the baseball fields were moved to the south end. This allowed for the addition of five more softball fields.

The Chicago Park District has recognized James for his outstanding performance in the field of professional recreation administration and for his outstanding dedicated service. To honor his service, the Washington Park Advisory Council installed a memorial stone in the softball area so that players of all ages will know of the person responsible for their “Field of Dreams.” In 2011, the Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame honored Washington Park with its Field of Dreams award.

On August 6, 2010, James and Mildred celebrated their 50th anniversary with family and friends. On December 16, 2010, James passed after suffering a massive heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Mildred, his children Terrance, and Lisa, his granddaughter, Niki, and his lifelong friends and beloved umpire league.