51 YEARS AND COUNTING! In 1969, students at St. Benedict High School officially formed the “ACES” to join the newly created 16-inch softball league at Paul Revere Park. It was fitting because many of the original ACES started playing at the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club (NBGC) at Revere. In 1971, the Aces added friends from the Alpha Chi fraternity and DePaul University. They have continued playing ever since.
Over the years, the ACES have accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments: 1971 Clarendon Park Saturday League Champs, 1972 and 1973 Paul Revere Park Champs, 1976 and 1977 Paul Revere 2nd place, 1978 Portage Park B League Champs, 1982 Paul Revere Champs, 2000 Horner Park Champions and 2008 Indian Road Champions. The ACES have played more than 1,300 softball games over 51 years.
One of the team’s greatest memories involved an invitation to play in the 1976 Andy Frain tournament at Clarendon Park. The ACES drew the reigning city champions, Murderer’s Row, in the first round and won. The ACES next faced the Bobcats. Although the ACES lost, it was quite an experience playing two of the most legendary teams in softball history. Another great moment occurred when the ACES won the prestigious Ed Kelly Tournament at River Park in 1977. The ACES faced four “A” league teams to win the tournament.2008 was an emotional year for the ACES. We lost one of the original founders, our leader, coach and dear friend, John Barrett, (HOF 2007) to his battle with cancer in March of that year. The ACES dedicated the season in John’s memory, winning the league and championship with an undefeated record!
That year’s team included five sons of current and past ACES, fathers and sons playing together to honor John’s memory. It was only natural since many families grew up attending and watching the ACES play. In fact, the team was featured by Rob Johnson on CBS Channel 2 for a “Your Chicago” segment. In addition, Pioneer Press did an article on the ACES and 16-inch softball. Recently, Dana Kozlov of CBS Channel 2 did a feature on the ACES Fifty Years for the 10 PM newscast.
Over the last 13 years, more sons got involved. It worked so well that today the ACES play in two leagues at Indian Road Park. The older ACES play in a 55 plus year old league which the ACES helped organize. At the same time, the ACES continue to play in the main league featuring nine sons playing with several of the older ACES. Several current players have been with the ACES for over 40 years. In fact, Jim Kartheiser, one of the original founders, has played all 51 years.
Off the field, the ACES have become lifelong friends, getting together for many family events and supporting many projects. Annually, they gather for the John Barrett Golf Open. The proceeds fund a Leadership Scholarship at the same NBGC where it all started those many years ago. ACES families have also created and contributed to the Jessica Freundt Memorial Fund and The Paul Seiwert Foundation raising $500,000 for cancer research and scholarships. They support the revitalization of John C. Coonley School, a Chicago Public School, resulting in the attendance tripling, improving sports programing and test scores. Lastly, several ACES have given a great deal of their time and skills to coach at grade schools, high schools, Park Districts and Special Olympics to further develop “Sports” in the future generations.