Sixteen-inch softball has always been a game that cut across racial, cultural and socioeconomic barriers. What mattered most was how you played the game. During its twenty-seven years together, the Commonwealth Edison corporate team stood as a shining example of this trait. It was a team comprised of office workers, electricians, meter readers, union employees and management employees that bonded into a championship team that dominated the Grant Park Industrial League in legendary proportion. Grant Park, on Chicago’s lakefront, is home to one of the country’s largest softball leagues. On Monday through Friday nights during the summer months, its sixteen diamonds are home to competition among the approximately 320 company teams that are divided into forty leagues. At the end of the season the forty league champions face off in a single elimination Tournament of Champions to determine the “Best of the Best.” The Edison team played together for over twenty years and had accumulated numerous league championships but had never won the Grant Park title. The trend was reversed, however, in 1990 when they defeated First Chicago 9-3. The next year their quest to repeat as “Best of the Best” (a feat that had never been accomplished) began in dramatic fashion with ABC Channel 7’s Janet Davies and a television crew chronicling their efforts. They swept through the competition during the preliminary games before defeating Northern Trust Bank 14- 11 in dramatic fashion for the championship. The thirty-minute television program aired in late August and featured highlights and interviews with players, coaches and wives. The show successfully captured the pressure of winning back-to-back championships. The next year they defeated CNA Insurance 5-3 and beat People’s Gas 8-7 in 1993, compiling a remarkable stretch of four consecutive titles in the Tournament of Champions. Their streak ended in 1994, but they bounced back in 1995 when they defeated Northern Trust Bank 10-4 for an unprecedented fifth championship in six seasons. Winning the title in an industrial league was impressive, but to repeat in a tournament where the “big guns” played was another story, so Commonwealth Edison entered the inaugural Old Style Classic Tournament in 1992. Billed as the world’s largest 16″ softball tournament with 152 teams, Edison went undefeated through the preliminary games before defeating Traffic 6-4 for the championship. Besides the glory of hoisting the trophy, each team member also won trips to Cancun, Mexico and assorted other prizes, such as portable telephones, Cubs tickets and trophies. Team members (and residents of Cancun) will long remember the October 1992 trip to that warm destination. Besides playing at Grant Park, Edison also played in the corporate tournament at Gordon Park in LaGrange. They won the league title for three consecutive years (an unprecedented feat), defeating such teams as Molex, People’s Gas and the Chicago Sun Times. Like many great teams that played together for years, Commonwealth Edison went through personnel changes but always maintained a nucleus of strong players who consistently competed at the highest levels. The fun and camaraderie on the field was equaled by the end of the year team parties where awards were presented and memories were made, memories that will always remind the players and spouses of all the practices, games and great competitors they faced along the way.
Phil Williams, Jim Murphy, Dave Ganir, Steve Alexander, Bob Giza, Tony Nevarrez, Willie Alicea, Raul Gonzalez, Mike Niedziela, Mike Andler, Wally Gniady, Stu North, Al Armstrong, Duryea Haralson, John O’Donahue, Wally Bass, Tim Hayes, Phil Polansky, Dave Batinich, Roy Henderson, Tom Polewski, Mike Bennett, Bill Hogarth, Jose Prado, Dave Blazek, Dale Hopkins, Demetre Rials, Bob Bridges, Andy Jungblut, Bob Ryan, Bill Buckley, Gary Kalinsky, Al Sakanis, Mike Carravia, Leo Kelly, Dale Senensky, Rich Carlson, Larry Keslinke, Bob Sarritella, Jim Casey, Len Koelper, Tony Sodoro, Luis Castro, Jerry Lannon, Drew Steinbach, Bill Cavanaugh, Dan Leahy, Jim Swanson, Mike Coleman, Sam Lomonaco, Nate Thurnhoffer, Mike Crews, Bill Lythberg, Nick Tryfonopoulos, Rafael Cuesta, Mike Lopez, Art Tucker, Bob Dapisa, Rick Machain, Manny Villarubia, Tony Decero, Kevin Manson, Andy Wallace, Bob Dion, Mike Mareno, Wilbert Ward, Mike Duba, Ed Mantel, Bill Waver, John Dyer, Wealthy Mobley, Randy Weeda, Jim Evans, Patrick Moran, Chuck Welch, John Folden, Ivan Moreno, Jim Wiggins, Jim Gamble, Greg Morris, Dwight Williams, Ray Geary, John Murphy, Chris Winberg, Bob Geist, Bob McRae, Tim Witkowski, Paul Gianfrancisco, Bill McKinney, Chris Zyla