The Chicago Rollers 16-inch softball team team was formed at the end of the 1976 season. It was a team that merged players from Niles, Edison Park and Notre Dame High School. The original team started with the following players – Tom Czarnik, Hugh Carmichael, Ed Murray, Craig Christiansen, Bill Maurer, Tom Jones, Mike Fragale, John Egart, Steve Everhart, Bill Byron, Kevin McGrath, and Jim Lannon. Several other players played key roles in the early success of the team. These players were Jim Boysen, Bob Bastone, Jeff Adams, Ken Walters, Buddy Eckholm, Kevin Kachan, and Tom Hohenadel.
During the next several years the Rollers played in several highly competitive leagues throughout the Northwest Suburbs and at Chicago Park District venues. The Rollers initial season was pretty good. They won several league championships and topped off a successful season by winning the City of Chicago Championship. Along the way the Rollers played almost every weekend and most of the time at least two games a night.
At the end of 1978, the Rollers added several key players from Murderer’s Row: Denny Hull and Warren (HOF) & Byron Johnson. We had a great year finishing in fourth place in the ASA Nationals in Prescott, AZ. Just getting through an ASA Metro was at the time a very difficult tourney to win, so the fourth place finish was a great step forward. During the 1979 season the Rollers won the Andy Frain Tournament, the Kelly Park championship and the North Shore Tournament (both won on the same night and played with a split squad). We won the Midwest Invitational in La Crosse and finished near the top in several Forest Park tournaments.
Unlike many teams that formed in the mid-‘70s, the Rollers accomplished a great deal of success in a relatively short period of time. Players that the Rollers competed against will always say that there was an intangible factor that the Rollers played with. They were driven by the desire to compete with the elite of the softball greats – not only the great players but also the great teams. They were fortunate to be able to play against some of softball’s great teams: the Bobcats, the Sobies, Big Banjo Bruins, Amaglamonsters, and Whips to name just a few. The players on those teams were truly great players and inspired the Rollers to be as good as they were.
In 1980 several players moved on. Some retired from the game to raise families, several moved out of state and several left to play for other teams. The Rollers added several players from the Des Plaines area: John O’ Conner, Chris Bouche, Jim Venard, Glenn Miller, Mark Ackerman, and Rick Wolfgram. They continued to play in Clarendon Park, Portage Park, and Evanston. In 1981 they merged with the Bobcats and finished second in the ASA Nationals in Harvey.
The Rollers became the Runts in 1982. Along the way, they added Mark Frighetto (HOF), Mark Schuler (HOF), Bill Finnegan (HOF), Ron Zieman (HOF) and Tim Howser. They finished second in the ASA Nationals that year in South Dakota, beating the Spats after the Spats came out of the losers’ bracket to beat them twice. . The Runts continued playing in Mount Prospect and Portage. They won the Illinois State tournament in 1984 and came in second in the USSSA in Iowa.
The team evolved into Auto Mart and Bud North in the late 80’s. Although the Rollers only played together for five seasons before merging with the Bobcats in 1981, they packed a lot of great softball into those years. Most team members would admit that playing 16-inch softball as a member of the Rollers was one of the best times of their lives.