Joseph “Joey” Brankis

Growing up in the 18th and Halsted area of Chicago, Joe Brankis played at many of the top parks, and in many of the top tournaments. Those events would draw 500 fans for regular games and 700 fans for playoff or money games. In 1941, while playing with the Ruppert Knickerbockers, Brankis won the Windy City League batting title, with a 541 average. He moved to the Fewer Boilers in 1942, playing at Bidwell Stadium because the Windy City league was not active. At Bidwell and other parks, Fewer Boilers played many great contests against the legendary Gas House Gang. Like so many others of his generation, Joe’s softball career was interrupted when he served his country from 1942 to 1945 in the Army Air Corp. After the war, Chicagoans were again looking for great softball, so Brankis was signed on with the Tri-Plex Yankees, receiving a new 1945 Oldsmobile as a signing bonus. But the lure of Fewer Boilers was too strong, and he rejoined them later that same year. In 1948 Brankis was selected by Chicago softball fans to play right field on an All-Star squad peppered with such Hall of Famers as Lewa Yacilla, Eggs Bromley and Willie Perucci. When the Windy City League folded in 1949, Fewer Boilers moved to Northtown Mens Major Softball League under the sponsorship of Kool Vent Awnings. That year they lost the league championship to Midland Motors, but Joe won the batting title with a 588 average, edging out teammate Moose Skowron. In 1950, Brankis helped Hall of Fame inductee Frank Holan’s Rocky Stars win the championship at Gary playground. In addition to playing softball Joe Brankis earned an engineering degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He owned and operated an engineering consulting company until his retirement in 1997, at the age of 74. In 2000, he and his wife, Irene had one son and two grandsons and lived in Lake Forest, Illinois.