In 1987, John Pellegrino organized the Hickory Hills Rebels after growing up watching sixteen – inch softball games at the local park. The players were friends from the neighborhood looking for a competitive outlet and took their name from a childhood football league.
The Rebels built momentum and skill, leading up to their first big tournament win, the 1993 USSSA “A” State Championship in Orland Park. The next year, they were victors of the 1994 ASA “A” Nationals in Blue Island. In the summer of 1998, the Rebels won the Grant Park Chicago Classic “A” Tournament, a particularly proud moment playing with no gloves (preferred Rebel style). This was followed up with a win at the 1999 ASA “A” State Tournament in Mount Prospect. The last big tournament the Rebels claimed triumph was the 2001 ASA “A” Nationals in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Over the years, the Rebels sought out competitive leagues. They started in Hickory Hills, and then later played in Lagrange Park, Clyde Park, Worth Park, Blue Island, Alsip, and the Pro League. The Rebels had signature wins over Lettuce and Flash in the Pro League, Stickmen at No Glove Nationals in Forest Park, and Graphic Edge (Iowa) in a Mount Prospect tournament. Twice the team finished in the final six at No Glove Nationals. The Rebels were battle-ready in all the big summer tournaments, preventing an easy victory for their opponents.
Rebels roster stalwarts include players Sam Alberto, Ed Chibe, Bryan Fry, John Jerbich, Bill Kenney, Mike Kozak, Thomas “TK” Kulawiak, Darren Neputy, Tom Neputy, Andy O’Neill, John Pellegrino, Bryan Smith, Fred Sterling, and Mike Trudeau. All who have worn a Rebels jersey supported the team’s success and endurance. Many Rebels continue playing thirty years later, though with more knee braces and gray hair.