Roger Babilla has been involved in sixteen-inch softball for thirty-six years as a player, coach, and sponsor. He grew up in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. Like many Chicagoans before him, he played softball first in the street and then moved to a more organized level at many parks, including Lincoln, Hamlin, Horner, River, Wells, and Grant to name a few. He attended Luther North High School and began playing organized softball for the Gents when he was eighteen. He played the game for twenty-five years, mostly at second base or catcher.
In 1978, he began sponsoring teams at all skills levels. Ozzie and his business partner, John Wong, opened OJ’s at Clark and Diversey. They took the name from the O in Roger’s nickname and the J in John’s first name. In 1984, they opened Buffoon’s Saloon on Irving Park Road in Chicago. Roger currently owns Augie’s Booze and Schmooze at 1721 W. Wrightwood in Chicago.
Hall of Fame inductee Rich Polfus called the men’s O.J.’s team that Roger sponsored a powerhouse that started out playing in “beer games” and blossomed into a competitive team that played in parks throughout Chicagoland. Every summer Roger sponsors ten to twenty teams and he pays the league fees for the S-3 Social Club. Without all of Roger’s sponsorships throughout the years, fewer teams would be playing softball.
The O.J.’s women’s team will go down as one of the top women’s teams in sixteen-inch softball history and was honored by the Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame in 2001. It began a ten-year run that dominated play in leagues and tournaments throughout Chicago and the suburbs. In 1985, many of the O.J. players continued playing for Ozzie and John when the O.J.s became the Buffoons.
Besides sponsoring softball, Ozzie has supported the Misericordia Family and Fest for eighteen years. And has raised over $75,000 in donations. He has also supported the Make-a-Wish Foundation for six years through his Augie’s Golf Outing that has raised over $85,000 in donations. The Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune have recognized his bar for having “one of the best best holiday decorations”. People who know him call Ozzie a loyal, hard-working friend.