Walter Kuczwara

Every softball player has a great story about being late to a game due to a traffic jam or arriving at a game and changing in the car. Well, this year’s Holan Award winner was a great player who also became one of the greatest statisticians of softball. The catch? He never drove a car and traveled by public transportation to most of his games. Walter Kuczwara started his eight-decade softball career at St. Catherine Grammar School and in parks around Roseland. He served two years in the navy during World War II and started playing sixteen and twelve-inch softball upon his return in 1946. He played outfield, first base, and catcher with such teams as American Legion Post 49, Flea’s Tap, Rainbow Lounge, Michigan Lounge, Three Aces, Kenneth Allen, and the Dwarfs. During the 1954 season he hit for a .595 average with 176 hits, seventy-six doubles, twenty-one triples, and nine homeruns. He played for Burnside Steel the year they boasted a record of forty-five straight wins. In 1967, while playing for Pat’s Coiffure, the team won the Andy Frain Tournament and the “B” Tournament at Clarendon Park on the same day. Statistics show that Walter hit .545 at Clarendon that year. That same year he organized an All-Roseland Tournament that featured the champions of Pullman, Gately, and West Palmer parks. Fittingly, his West Palmer team won the tournament. During his playing career, he won four team-batting titles and played on teams that won twenty-five championships. After twenty-eight years as a player/manger of numerous teams and after recording over 3000 hits, Wally Filkins convinced Walter to keep stats for the Whips during their great championships runs in the ‘80s, for Sports Station in 1987, and for Lettuce in 1993. His efforts have made him a legend in major softball with teams that he kept stats for winning twenty-five championships and eight national titles. Besides keeping stats for softball, he spent thirteen years researching lost or unreported RBI stats of minor league baseball teams of the late 1900s, 1920s, and 1930s. He used the library inter-loan program to meticulously examine microfiche newspaper stories of minor league games. His efforts uncovered 139 missing RBIs Lou Gehrig had while playing for Hartford in the Eastern League. The corrections have been noted in baseball magazines. Walter worked for Burnside Steel for twenty-five years. He lives on Chicago’s Southeast side.