Team The 45’s

The Miller 45s dominated the softball world during their peak years: 2001 to 2009. The foundation for that sustained excellence began in 1988, the birth year of the Bud 45s. The Bud 45’s struggled through their early years in the Mt. Prospect Classic League and Des Plaines Power League, the top talent leagues on the North side. Hovering at the .500-mark, the 45’s fortunes rose with the addition of several new players beginning with the 1992 addition of Tim Flanagan (HOF) and his younger brother, John Flanagan. 1993 brought Mike Caputo (HOF) Mike Stout (HOF) Tony Portincaso (HOF) Erik and Kurt Kiesel, Larry Downes and Mike “Rock” Consiglio. The 45s, buoyed by the influence of veteran talent, began a steady rise in Major softball, finishing second in the Forest Park Invitational tournament, and winning two other tournaments that year. The mid-90s success led to a Forest Park Major Invitational Tournament Title over Lettuce, and a winner’s bracket final loss (4-3 to Lettuce) that still haunts manager Bob Rascia. 45s league play, in the both the Mt. Prospect Classic League and Cicero “Pro League” resulted in multiple top three finishes. 1998 ushered in a change in sponsorship from Budweiser to Miller Beer, a minor change dwarfed by the addition of the 45s franchise player of the next 10 years: Rick “88” Gancarz, and 45s mainstays Joe Dooley and Dan Mustari. Teamed with longtime 45’s Pat Heraty, Mike Stout, Tony Portincaso and the Kiesel brothers, 1998 brought an ASA winner-up banner to ASA Major National Championships 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 ASA State Tournament Championships 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009 Westchester Championships 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011 Forest Park “No-Glove” Championships 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 North vs. South Championships 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 Chicagoland Classic Championships 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008 Mt.Prospect Classic Championships 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 Hodgkins Park / Westchester Park District and Miller Lite Championships 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 Nine-Year Record (2003-1011) 660 wins and 90 losses the expanding 45s collection. The 45s Bucks matchup in the elimination bracket final was an all-time 45s classic game. The clutch hitting of Stout, Kiesel and Mustari, along with an extra inning three run “bomb” by Gancarz carried the 45s over the Jeff Berger, Jim Matlock, and Keith Filkins led Bucks. All of these players would later join the 45s. Frank Mustari (HOF), Curt Uidl (HOF), Paul Brezinski (HOF) Len Nuzzo, Mike Oneill, Tony Prochenski lead the 45s into the 1999 season resulting in league dominance. The 2000 addition of Israel Sanchez, followed by the 2001 addition of Dan Jalowiec, Rich Villa, and Mark Frighetto created an allstar packed 45s line-up. The 45s stressed and played strong defense and solid fundamental hitting. Their 2001 infield of Oneill (3B), Mustari (SS) Frighetto/Berschell (SC), Villa/ Jalowic (2B) and Sanchez (1B) perhaps challenged only by the 2003 45’s infield of Berger (3B), Mustari (SS) Portincaso/Frighetto (SC), Jalowic (2B) and Sanchez (1B) would likely top any all-time list. The 45s focused commitment to both league and tournament play lead to ASA Major National Championship Titles in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, along with forest Park Invitational Titles in 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 45s captured 74 tournament titles from 2000 to 2009. Mt. Prospect Classic League titles were secured in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The roster-wide commitment to league and tournament play allowed the 45s to accomplish total dominance in the 2003 to 2007 era, by way of multiple thirty-game win streaks, and four seasons with single digit loss totals. This team wide commitment to excellence resulted in a three-year stretch, from 2003 to 2005, without consecutive game losses. During that three-year period the 45s were a perfect 18-0 in ASA Major National Tournament play, with an overall record of 43-3 from 2001 to 2007 in ASA National Tournament play. The extraordinary commitment to team play was the bench Mark of the 45s, allowing the team to achieve extraordinary success through extraordinary play. The highlights were many, like overcoming a 14 to 0 first inning deficit to Traffic in the 2000 Forest Park Invitational, winning the Westchester Invitational, Forest Park Invitational and ASA Major National Title out of losers bracket in 2006, all against Maxim, and the very first Forest Park Invitational title, 4-3 over Lettuce in 1996 on Doug Perez’s walk-off hit. The 1996 Forest Park Invitational Championship was definitely earned the hardway, with Sunday victories over The Doll House, Splinters and Lettuce, the top three teams that year, in succession. The disappointments were few, but unfortunately, memorable. The untimely passing of teammates Tom “Eggs” Czarnick and Terry Moran and sponsor James “Grandpa Jim” Terrence far overshadowed any on field loss. The sustained success of 45s was clearly driven by a star-studded roster of committed players whose day-to-day focus was unprecedented. The management team of Bob Rascia (HOF), Mike Caputo (HOF), and Ron Kubicki (HOF) guided the 45s with a passionate commitment to team, not individual, success. The 45s are extremely thankful to their generous sponsors over the years: 45th Ward Alderman Patrick Levar; Budweiser; Miller Beer’ Bucks Lounge’ Beacon Tap; Golden Tee and most of all, Al MacFarlane (HOF) and Splinter’s Sports Club.