Jim grew up in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. In grammar school, Jim, along with a number of his friends from St. Peter Canisius, began playing 16” softball at La Follette Park. During his high school years, Jim’s team finished second or third each year.
The Sunday afternoons of Jim’s youth were spent playing teams from other neighborhood parks. The games were important for two reasons: bragging rights and a money pot. They also helped everyone become better softball players and teammates. Jim graduated from De Paul Academy in 1967. He is a proud Vietnam Veteran and served in the Americal Division of the U.S Army from January 1968 until August 1969.
Upon his return to civilian life, Jim attended college, entered the business world, and was fortunate to meet another West Sider, his wife Anne. In the late 1980s, St. Francis Xavier parish in La Grange started organizing 16” softball pickup games on Sunday afternoons. The Sunday routine of church and softball reminded Jim of the Sundays of his youth and just how much he enjoyed both the game and the camaraderie.
In 1992, Jim Quinn (HOF) asked Jim to play for the Leftovers in the 39 and over the league in La Grange. The Leftovers have never won a championship but have been competitive. The team still plays in that league, which is now at Janura Park. Jim hopes this will be their lucky year.
In 1998, Jim began playing in the inaugural Monday night 50 and over the league in La Grange with the Old Strokes. With Jim catching and playing 3rd base, the Old Strokes won the championship in 1998 and 2003 and still play in that league, also now located at Janura Park.
In the late 1990s, the Strokers began playing in the fall league in LaGrange. They won the championship in 1997 and, again, in 2013, despite their players being nearly twenty years older than their nearest competitors.
By the early 2000’s, Jim was playing softball 3 nights a week. Jim played with the Leftovers on Fridays, the Old Strokers on Mondays and the legendary Gillette Strokers at Grant Park on Thursdays. The Gillette Strokers began playing at Grant Park in the 70’s. Jim considers himself fortunate to have played with them during their championship seasons of 2006 and 2008. The highlight of every season is the annual Strokerfest, a barbecue held after a game in June. Members from other teams stop by to enjoy the festivities and camaraderie.
In addition to playing softball, Jim has served as the league commissioner for the 50 and over the league at Clyde Park from 2013 – 15 and at Janura Park from 2016 – 18.
When not playing softball, Jim volunteers at the Edward Hines VA Hospital. He is the Veterans Food Pantry Coordinator responsible for ordering, pantry set up and distribution. The pantry distributes food products to over 6,500 veterans per year. Jim also volunteers at the Hines VA Hospital Fisher House, an organization that provides no-cost housing to the families of veterans who are receiving medical treatment.
Jim never thought he’d still be playing softball at sixty-nine, but whenever he gets a hit or drives in a run, he remembers being thirty-nine again and all the good times he’s had playing softball. Jim is grateful for the many lasting friendships he has made over the years, a great many of these might never have crossed his path if it weren’t for the GREAT game of 16 – inch softball.