Linda “Chick” Lillis

From the humble beginnings of Ponytail softball at Kelly Park to winning ASA National Championships with powerhouse Rose and Crown, the kid who shagged softballs for the men’s teams at Kelly Park went on to become a major figure in softball, basketball, rugby, and Olympic team handball. Chick Lillis’ softball career began in 1967 when her team took second place at Kelly Park. She has played with so many teams in so many tournaments that it is impossible to list them all. Her rise to national fame, however, began in 1976 when she was noticed at a tournament in Arlington Heights by Bob Eskew, coach of Rose and Crown. From 1976 to 1984, Rose and Crown won the ASA 16″ Metro Championship seven times, took second once, and third once. In 1985 Rose and Crown merged with the Deperados. Their dominance of softball continued into the 80s as they won the ASA Metro twice and took second twice. 1986 and ‘87 saw them move to the USSSA 11″ National in Salt Lake City where they placed sixth and 3rd respectively, proving that 16″ players can adapt easily to any kind of softball. Besides the ASA Championships, Rose and Crown and Desperados took first or second in most Chicago area leagues. 1989 and ‘90 ushered in an opponent that even the mighty Deperados couldn’t defeat. The Cal Park league folded and no other league would let them play. Some of the players went to Canada and played in the Can-Am games, designed to spread goodwill between the United States and Canada. Despite being snubbed by other leagues, Desperados won the Quest for the Best Tournament both years. In 1990 they won eight consecutive games on a 95-degree day to win the title. 1990 saw Chick Lillis and other players travel to a softball tournament in Lisdoonvarna County Clare, Ireland. With nine women and one man, they defeated Irish teams consisting of eight men and two women to win the tournament. Their efforts were rewarded with a beautiful Galway Crystal vase as the tournament prize. Chick Lillis was a spray hitter whose quickness allowed her to stretch a single into a double. A utility player whose defensive skills assured an out, Lillis once played all four outfield positions during a single inning. In 1992 Lillis switched to Bidayos. They won the USSSA State Tournament in 1992 and took the Grant Park Classic in ‘92 and ‘93. Besides being one of the greatest female softball players ever, Lillis also played on the United States Olympic Team Handball Team, missing the Olympics because of a boycott by the United States. She played basketball, field hockey, volleyball, and played rugby from 1977 to ‘83 with the Chicago Women’s Rugby Football Club. In 1976 her teams won the Chicago Park District championships in softball and basketball – both on the same day! Chick Lillis currently lives in Madison Wisconsin with her husband, Lou Pitt, where she is a fireman / EMT.