Todd Mirrabelli loves softball the way it was meant to be played – Chicago-style with no gloves in park leagues and tournaments throughout Chicago. That’s where he loved to play and where he managed his teams.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Todd’s big brother John used to take him and his brother Garth to watch John’s games at Bessemer Park, Calumet Park, and Kensington Park. At the end of the year, they went to Trumbull Park to watch the Bobcats and future Hall of Fame members Eddie Zolna and Willie Simpson. This experience cemented Todd’s love for the game.
In 1976, Bob “Jaw” Harper started a team at Wolfe Park on Chicago’s East Side with Todd, his brother Garth, Dan Crnjak, Mike Standley, and others. In 1977 after showing some talent, the Eastsiders was formed when they added Ron “Ronzo” Amazzalarso, Tom Newman (HOF), Joe Somodi, Ed Borngraver, “Bosh” and others. They played in leagues at Bessemer Park, Vets Park, Mann Park and in leagues at Dolton Park. On weekends, they played in tournaments at Marquette Park, Calumet Park, and in neighborhood tournaments. By 1979, they played in Major leagues and tournaments at Blue Island and Harvey.
The Eastsiders then played at Kelly Park, home to one of the greatest no–glove leagues ever. This league showcased such teams as the Whips, Bobcats, Touch, the Stickmen and others. Many of the legendary players of the game competed in this league. People came from miles around to watch no-glove softball. By 1980, the Eastsiders played strictly Major softball and were ready to play in national competition.
In the early 1980s, the ASA allowed players to wear gloves and many believe this drastically changed the game because players became better defenders when they wore a glove. This leveled the field because weaker defensive teams were able to negate a hitter’s advantage. Additionally, non-seeded teams had to play three or four qualifying games to play in the nationals.
At this point, Todd Mirabelli started managing the Eastsiders in local park leagues and tournaments. He would schedule local games at 6:30 and John Kavanaugh and Bob Pagorak (managers of the Eastsider Major team) would schedule late games at Blue Island and Harvey. Todd managed this way through the ‘80s, winning neighborhood park leagues and tournaments. By 1990, Todd managed the team full time. They were done competing in Major softball and became a Class “A” team.
From 1990 to 2015, he managed teams in leagues around the East and South East sides of Chicago and in the South suburbs. In 1998, they won the Class “A” Nationals in Joliet, the Blue Island League, and the Illinois State Tournament.
From 1990 to 2015, Todd managed the Eastsiders in over one hundred “no glove” tournaments in parks all over Chicago. Todd’s players always came to the game expecting to win. They hustled, dove for balls, slid, and never made excuses. As veteran players got older, Todd added younger, local players (Matt Dosen (HOF), Marty Dosen, Jim Sherlock, Jim Farrell, Tim Lindeman, and Steve Ruzich, team captain) who followed the Eastsiders winning attitude. In many tournaments, organizers allowed each team to add three “major” players to the team roster. Todd added many players, especially Dave Bischoff (HOF) as a pitcher who would become future Hall of Fame players. Even though they were some of softball’s best players, they were still held to the high standards of the team.
The Eastsiders won tournaments (some multiple times) all over the South Side of Chicago and the South suburbs. They won so often that some organizers would not let them play as the Eastsiders, so Todd entered them as the Hippos, Joe’s Hideaway, and Elmwood Chapel. When he would go to Forest Park to watch Major tournaments and the No Glove Nationals, many major players asked if they could play for him because of his reputation for winning.
In 2003, the Eastsiders returned to play in the Mann Park League. They went on to win the league championship twelve years in a row until they were defeated in 2015. This loss ended their league play as many of their players were in their mid – fifties. Over the years, the Eastsiders won many tournaments and leagues and drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of pizza with the money they won.
Todd thanks his mother for his and his teams’ many successes. He used her phone to call his players and racked up a considerable bill during the softball season. He also thanks manager Don “the Dinger” Kosic who influenced Todd and motivated him and motivated him to get tournament teams together. He was the best manager on the East Side before the Eastsiders. Todd believes that the best sixteen-inch softball is played in local park leagues … without gloves. He is honored to be voted into the Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame.