Jim Mikuta

Jim Mikuta started playing softball at 37th and Albany in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago. Like thousands of kids before him, he and his friends played “sewer to sewer” until they were too big for the street corner and moved to the schoolyards or the neighborhood parks. In Jim’s case he moved to gravel lots along at 38th Street during recess where he received valuable lessons on hitting from the nuns at St. Joseph and St. Anne’s Grammar Schools. He attended St. Rita High School until his family moved to the Midway Airport area in 1962 and Jim transferred to Gage Park High School. Because of this move, he spent a lot of time at Pasteur Park watching the older guys play. Once he got older, he and his friends started the Chancellors. They played at Pasteur and other neighborhood parks. Around 1964 – 65 they combined players with some former Whips players and created the Hustlers. It was a two-day tournament with the Hustlers at Trumbull Park that would change Jim’s softball fortunes. They were playing Red’s Tap (aka the Bobcats) in a 9:00 game on Sunday morning and many of the players for Red’s Tap were late in arriving, so the Hustlers were holding their own. Once the stragglers started arriving, the game turned from being a good game to being a great game. Although the Hustlers lost the game 7-6, Jim did especially well on the field and at bat, hitting two homers and a triple. After the game, Pete Monaco, the Hall of Fame manager, asked Jim if he wanted to play for the Cats. That was every playground rat’s dream, so he quickly said yes. However, before he started playing at Clarendon, he put in some practice time in a gravel lot by Gage Park to get used to the “juiced-up” ball used at Clarendon. With that it was softball five nights a week with double headers at Clarendon and Kelly Parks. They played in weekend tournaments, in classic money games, and on Sunday mornings at Lake Shore Park. Jim also played with Sgt Peppers and Butch McGuires in the Rush Street League. Unfortunately Jim’s first appearance in a national tournament with the Bobcats didn’t go as he planned. He and two other players were benched in favor of some ringers brought in for the tournament. The Bobcats lost to the Sobies 10- 0 and Jim’s loyalties quickly changed to the Sobies. He stayed with them a few more years before retiring from softball. 1968 was a life-changing year for Jim. He started his carpenter apprenticeship with Local 10 and met his future wife, Carole Mary. He has since worked as a building inspector for Chicago, was a union steward for the new Comiskey Park (has the first brick from the old park), worked for the Chicago Housing Authority for ten years, and is currently finishing his career as a carpenter for the CTA at the South shops. He and his wife, Carole Mary, have been married forty years and have three sons, Christopher, Adam, and James. Unfortunately, his youngest son and great sports enthusiast, Jim, passed away in 2005. Jim, Sr. dedicates his induction to his sons. He cherishes the memories of all the great games and all the friendships he made because of softball.