During the late 60’s and early 70’s, many softball experts considered Bob Bernstein to be one of the best all around third basemen in the city. He was a star, leader and anchor for the great Shooter teams of that era. Not only did Bob hit for average (.550 to .600 each year), but he also generated great power to both hitting-alleys, accumulating well over two hundred home runs in his career. If the game was on the line, you wanted Bob at the plate.
Defensively, there was no one better.
He was a flawless fielder with great
hands and a strong accurate arm.
What made Bob stand out so much
was his great agility and acrobatic
diving catches and stops. After one
of his dazzling plays, spectators and
players alike would be shaking their
heads, wondering how he did that. Rarely did a batted ball get past him down the baseline, saving many extra base hits. He also had the uncanny ability to knock down balls in the hole, get up and throw the runner out at first.
His guts and toughness were illustrated in one of the most memorable plays in Clarendon history. In a game between the Shooters and Dwarfs, Ron “Bull” Kupich was on second base when a grounder was hit to Shooter shortstop, “Cookie” Komar. Komar threw to Bob at third base for the tag play. Kupich stood 6’4”, weighed 270 and had made it to the final cut with the Bears.
He had no intention of sliding. He viciously slammed into Bob trying to dislodge the ball. Bob was knocked backwards, making a complete backward somersault into the fence behind third base. Not only did Bob hang onto the ball, he had the presence of mind to jump up and throw to second base to hold the batter to a single.
His Shooter teams won several
titles, including two straight championships at Clarendon Park, the top North Side league, as well
as at Terminal Park in Skokie, James Park in Evanston and Mather Park in Chicago, where Bob was voted MVP of the Mather Park All-Star Game two years in a row. The Shooters also won several tournaments on the South Side, including the prestigious Blue Island tournament. When
the Shooters disbanded, the Dwarfs recruited Bob to play shortstop. With “Jake” Jacobi at short center and Bob at shortstop, they formed one of the best double play combos around. Bob
was on the team that played the first TV game at Soldier Field.
Not only was Bob a great softball player, he was also an outstanding hardball player. In 1962, he was All-City player for Lane Tech, leading the city and suburbs in hitting with a .540 average, still today one of the ten highest averages in state history. Bob went on to star at Southern Illinois University where he was team captain. As a sophomore, he led Southern to the NCAA Division 1A Regional Championship where he was named to the All-Tournament team.
Bob and his wife, Marcia, live in Highland Park. They have two daughters, Lesly and Samantha, two great sons-in-laws, Rich and Marc, and five wonderful grandchildren, Nathan, Dex, Bryce, Sophie and Matthew.