North Western Railroad Chicago

When the history of industrial teams is written, Chicago and North Western Railroad will certainly rank as one of the greatest teams because of its record and its longevity. Started in the 1920s, a 1925 photo of the team shows a twenty-three year old Abe Saperstein as the team’s shortstop and manager, the year before he founded the Harlem Globetrotters in 1926. During the 1930s, despite the ravaging effects of the Depression, the team held together because employees were retained (regardless of their work skills) until season’s end. The records of those days are gone, but the legends of the many victories and hundreds of dollars won in money games lives on. In the 1960s the team entered Chicago’s “golden age” of softball when Joe Umana (HOF) entered the team in the Clarendon Park Industrial League in 1965. The team won the title. From 1965 to 1992 “Joe’s Team” won twenty-six Industrial League and Men’s League Park Championships, two Grant Park Tournament of Champions City-wide first place titles, and one City-wide Industrial title at Thillens Stadium. They also placed second in the Grant Park Tournament of Champions, and recorded seven final four finishes in the Grant Park Industrial Tournament of Champions from 1969 to 1977. Of all the great games that Chicago and North Western played, perhaps two standout as the most memorable. In 1990 the team won four out of five games in come-from-behind fashion before losing to the U.S. Postal Service in the City-wide Industrial Tournament at Thillens Stadium. They later defeated that team in the championship game, 11 – 6. In 1976 they played their most memorable game against the powerhouse Daily News team (and 1975 champions) at Grant Park with Mike Royko on the mound and Tim Weigel in left field. But 1976 was to be different when Chicago and North Western shutout the powerful Daily News team, 10 – 0. Over the years, the Chicago and North Western team developed classic rivalries against such teams as the First National Bank of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, Illinois Bell, the Chicago Police and Fire Departments, and other memorable teams. The strength of the team was credited to the lack of turnover at the railroad. It was not uncommon for them to field a team of players who had worked and played together for fifteen years. But many also credit Joe Umana’s leadership for their success. During his tenure, they won twenty-nine championships from 1965 to 1992. Joe Umana (HOF) Sal Pantano Jeff Liggett Mike Coyne (HOF) Tom May Roy Kramer Billy Haig Ted Lambrakis Rich Ginger Wally Friese Vince Flanagan Paul Blazek Sy Berman Tony Handzel Joe Collins Bud Allen Jim Hallgren Al Long Joe Jurkisatis Bob Franzen Howard Schulman Ron Ambroziak Gary Ogurek Joe Hill Jack Walter Ed Lydiksen Zig Wejman Noel Julian Tim O’Brien Dennis Brauner Denny Zeri Bob Madsen Pat Fiege Jerry Steigerwald Gary Kolbe Nick Poulos Clif Edington Denny Madison Larry Prince Larry Thompson Sylvester Bobo Bill Boukas Dick Stewart Lee Bellman Don Napen Don Kalinsky John Plebanek Tom Tinerella