Blue Island Park District
|Bidayo Players Throughout the Years|
|Javon Austin||Freddie Hopkins||Michael McToy|
|Dorian Bolton||Anthony Jackson||Michael Price|
|Howard Bowling||Cody Jackson||James Rodgers|
|Vernon Cade||Garland Jackson||Walter Rodgers|
|Carl Carter||Renard Jackson||John Smith|
|* Michael Coleman||* Clayton Jones||Cornelius Spencer|
|Percy Coleman||Eric Jones||Keith Stallings|
|Michael Colvan||Ernest Jones||Darren Stewart|
|James Daniels||* Michael Lee||Pierre Walker|
|Curtis Durns||* Randy Lee||* Austin Ware|
|Nathaniel Earley||Westley Lee||Raymond Warren|
|Randy Ellis||Ricardo Ligon||Tracy Watkins|
|* Floyd Glover||Ron Mack||William Weatherspoon|
|* Ken Hairston||Marvin Martin, Jr.||Michael Webb|
|Michael Hamilton||Maurice Martin, Sr.||Leroy White|
|Robbie Harris||* Sherman Martin, Jr.||Jeffrey Henry|
Roger “Ozzie” Babilla
John “Butch” Backshis
The standard of excellence, according to many baseball experts, is a player who has mastered the combined ability to hit, field and run the bases. They may have had John Backshis in mind when they created these standards. At 6' 1", 195 lbs. and a batting average of over 500, John Backshis was one of the top long ball hitters of the 40s and 50s. His defensive skills at first and third bases complimented his impressive offensive skills. His determination to take that extra base constantly tested the quickness and accuracy of opposing outfielders. Playing with the Masked Marvels, the Golemski's and the Starlite Club, he was highly recruited by some of the top clubs of those eras. He played on the Lazy Nines, one of the best teams of their time.
From 1950 to 1960 he played with the Cottage Inn, winning various championships and tournaments at Gill Stadium on the Southeast side. John and his wife, Emma, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2001. John passed away on December 18, 2010.
Michael “Mick” Ballestri
John C Barrett
Don (Donny) Bianchi threw his first 16-inch softball at Portage Park in the early 1960s. He used to watch his father played there, so he grabbed a yellow Clincher and brought it to the sandlot field in Niles. Donny and his buddies played 16-inch there because not everyone had a mitt, and the windows were less “vulnerable” than a baseball.
After a successful baseball career at Hersey High School (he earned All-Conference and All-Area Honors there), Don headed to Western Illinois University where he met Buddy Doroskin (HOF). In the late 1970s, Western was a mecca for 16-inch softball teams. They were loaded with many South Side Irish players who were getting their Law Enforcement degrees. Teams from Chicago would flock to Western for the famous One-Day, One Pitch 16-inch Softball Tournament. Buddy and Donny built a team that beat everyone.
After graduation, Buddy asked Donny to play for the Badgers at Rand Park in Des Plaines. They competed against the Turtles, Rollers, Bushmen, Classics, and others. They then joined a tournament team called the Rat Pack. In its first Metro Tournament, the Rat Pack beat Otto’s 3-1 in what many called “the greatest upset in tournament history.” Otto’s won all the money that year and beat everyone, except the Rat Pack.
The next year Donny was recruited by Huey Carmichael and “Eggs” Czarnik (HOF) to play for the Runts. That same year, they took second in the ASA Nationals, losing to the Park Ave Spats. He then went on to play for AutoMart, Stray Cats, Coopers, Bud North, and The Splinters Sports Club. He ended his career after winning the ASA National tournament in 1991, redeeming his previous six runner-up finishes.
Donny was selected to nine All-American tournaments teams in his sixteen years of playing softball. He played shortstop and short center early in his career and moved to third base as he got older. He was a clutch hitter, usually batting third or fifth in the great lineups he played on. He retired in 1994 to raise his son and daughter. He has always cherished the memories he made and the teammates he played with while playing 16-inch softball.
Sal Vasta (HOF), founder and manager of the Blues softball team, was introduced to 16-inch softball in 1969 on Chicago’s Northwest Side through the CYO program. His involvement in the program made him realize the unity of playing Chicago’s great game. He began the Blues softball team in 1969, playing in various parks around Chicago. Year after year they honed their skills until they eventually made it into the “A” and Major leagues of softball.
The Blues won numerous league championships at Wells Park, Paul Revere Park, Portage Park, Indian Boundary Park, Addison Park District, Villa Park, Clyde Park, James Park, Clarendon Park and in the Mt. Prospect Champions League. The Blues played over four decades with over one hundred different players. During the 1970s, the Blues had a North Team that played at Clarendon Park and a South team that played at Kelly Park. Both teams won numerous tournaments and games.
They retooled each year and kept improving. The Blues finished in several Final Fours in the ASA and USSSA National Tournaments. The team’s hard work paid off in 1989 when they won the USSSA World Tournament. From 1969 thru 1994, The Blues won over fifteen hundred games and numerous tournaments at the league, metro, state and national levels, including league titles at Mt. Greenwood, New Castle and Mather Parks.
In 1994, the Blues entered into a sponsorship with Hollywood Casino. That year they won the 1994 ASA National Tournament. In 1995, many Blues team members played with, and their new sponsor, Doll House won the 1995 No Glove Forest Park Nationals. In 1996, a nucleus of Blues players won the Grant Park Classic playing as Sports Channel.
It would be difficult to mention all of the players that have contributed to the Blues Softball team over those twenty-seven years. There are sixteen former players and coaches that are presently in the 16 – inch Softball Hall of Fame more will certainly be added in the future.
16 - inch softball was a great part of Sal Vasta’s life and the lives of his Blues teammates. Their twenty-seven year partnership generated many great friendships. Above all else, the Blues teams were always competitive and champions at heart.
Front Row: Carl Maniscalco, Cesar Milan, Jack Maniscalco, Sal Vasta,Anthony Maniscalco, Jeff Dohnal, Bob Lopez, Bobby Lopez,
Back Row - Len Nuzzo, Angelo Alesia, Steve Avino, Jimmy Devito, Jim Matlock, Bob Prenner, Dan Coco, Gary Maiorano
Ladislaus “Bingy” Boblak
With an amazing lifetime record of 193 wins and 6 losses, Ladislaus "Bingy" Boblak forged a reputation as one of the top pitchers of his era while throwing against some of the finest teams in the Pioneer Era of 16" softball. Pitching for J.J. Zientek Post, Boblak once defeated the legendary Brown Bombers by a score of 4-3. Boblak and the Zientek team also experienced the other side of baseball, back in the "good old days", when they played Donkey baseball at B.Y.N.C. Field. With the Wildcats, Boblak was called upon to stop a rally by the 12th Ward Democrats, who had already scored six runs and had the bases loaded. Boblak came into the game and shut the door on the Democrats by pitching hitless ball for the rest of the game. He then let his bat do the talking, driving in two runs and scoring two more, resulting in the Wildcats beating the Democrats 8-6. Later, pitching for the BYN All Stars, Boblak helped his team defeat a team that included Jack Brickhouse and Bob Elston, two of Chicagoland's legends of radio. The following year, Boblak pitched the BYNC All Stars to victory of the Chicago Aldermen and their aides.
Ron “Beetlebomb” Braasch
Joseph “Joey” Brankis
Ben “Nicky” Branman
Danny Brichetto started playing softball in the late 70’s on the North Side of Chicago at Kelvyn, Kosciuszko, Indian Rd., and Portage Parks. He was a center fielder who could hit to the gaps with power. Playing in a Sunday league at Kelvyn Park, the umpire, Al Hensel, asked him to play on his team at Hanson Park, a team that would evolve into the Wings that played at Kosciuszko and Indian Road. In addition to this team, Mike Gruber formed the Drillers with players from Brichetto’s college team, OFF. They played at Portage Park against the top competition like the Stones, Playboys, and Rollers. He also played with the Extras in the Wednesday Night James Park League, a league that featured top teams as well.
After playing against the Rollers at Portage and James, Tom “Eggs” Czarnik (HOF) and Hugh Carmichael asked him to play tournaments with the Rollers. In 1982, the Runts were formed from a merger of the Rollers and the Rat-Pac of Des Plaines. He played left field in an outfield with Mark Schuller (HOF) and John O’Connor (HOF). This was the best team he ever played on. For the next three years, the Runts placed second and third in the ASA Nationals in 1982 and ’83 and the same in the USSSA Nationals in 1983- 84. They won many tournaments in those three years, one being the North Shore Tournament where he was voted MVP.
In 1986 and 1987, Danny played with Sal Vasta’s Blues at Clyde Park in Cicero. He helped them win many class “A” tournaments. He played in an outstanding outfield that included Hall of Fame inductees Angelo Alesia and Jim Matlock. In 1987, “Eggs” asked him to join Bud North for the first of their three straight Forest Park wins. He played center field between Paul Brezinski (HOF) and Mark Schuller (HOF). They finished third in ASA Nationals. He finished the 80’s playing for Meadows during Mr. Cooper’s last season. He was teamed up with Mike Gruber again along with Jerry Rhea (HOF) and Bill and Terry Moran (HOF). In addition to playing at Mt. Prospect in the Classic League in the 80’s, he continued to play at Kosciuszko with the Wings and with his brother Larry’s team, the Critters.
As the 90’s began, he reunited with former Runt teammate, Glenn Miller, on the Turtles. The Turtles competed in the Mt. Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Franklin Park leagues along with all ASA and USSSA tournaments from 1990 to 1996. They finished ninth in ASA Major in Cedar Rapids and fourth in 1992 USSSA Major. In 1991 he played with Steve Jansen and Larry “Bass” Schumacher on the Flames in LaGrange. They finished fourth in ASA A and Danny was selected as a 1st team All-American.
Rich Mellman (HOF) brought softball back to Grant Park with many classic tournaments in the 90’s. This was special since Danny and his brother used to watch their father, “Motts” Brichetto, play center field for the Merchandise Mart back in the 60’s. Former Wing teammate, Tony Dudek, asked Danny to play on the Sun-Times team that won the Industrial Division in 1993. The team featured Tom “Bomber” Horn (HOF), the Placek brothers and Dan Cahill (HOF). In the Championship game he tore his bicep tendon swinging the bat. He had surgery that week but was back playing the following year. Luckily that was his only serious injury in forty years of competition.
In 1997, at the age of forty, Danny formed the Bugs that played in the Forest Park League. The league winner received a bid to the No Glove National. He was reunited with Mark Schuller in the outfield. They added power hitters Tim O’Neill , Jim Gierek, John Carey with Tommy Thompson (HOF) on the mound. They were the first team from the local league to win at least two games in the No Glove Nationals, losing to the eventual runner up Gamblers 9-8.
In 1998, “Eggs” asked him to play on a young Shooters team that featured Chris Downes, Michael Simpson, Tony Grillo, the Dooley brothers and of course two younger Czarnik brothers, Ray (HOF) and John. They finished second in the ASA Class “A” and tenth the following year in ASA Major. In the ‘90s, he also played at Merrimac Park for Ron “Suds” Czarnota’s Full House team.
In 2001 and 2004 he played with Bob Balzanos March teams that placed fifth in Aberdeen and ninth at Prescott. In between those stints, he played with Ralph Reporto’s Leinenkugel team in 2003-04. They placed fourth in ASA Class “A” in Bourbonnais where he was named a Second team All American and led the team in homeruns for the tournament. He played in his last two ASA tournaments in 2005 at the age of forty-nine year old lead off man for Wally Pec’s (HOF) Registers and in 2006 with Charlie Lowy’s Craftsmen.
Danny still plays softball today. He has enjoyed the camaraderie and competition over those forty-plus years.
Danny and his wife, Ellen, Have three children: Lauren, Matt, and Billy. They live in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
Bill “Eggs” Bromley
Team The Bruins
Greg “Speedy” Burzynski
Marty “Doc” Bush
Paul “Legs” Bute
Beth Schultz Porzelt
As a first baseman for Sulky Inn, Beth performed flawlessly for many years and was named by the Sun-Standard Newspaper as one of the best “first-sackers” in the league who is “wiry and can dig’em out of the dirt with the best of them. As a batter, she was known for her timely hitting and ability to advance the runner when needed.
Beth retired from the game she loved in 2000, but Beth remembers all the great friends that she and her family have made during her years of playing softball.
She just retired as a business analyst in downtown Chicago after 44 years. She and her husband, Al, live in Brookfield, Illinois. They have two sons, Stephan (Lindsey) and Kurt. They also have two beautiful granddaughters, Amelie & Audrey!
Beth Porzelt’s softball career began in the early 1970s in Crestwood when she convinced her father, Joe Schultz, to start a girls’ league that included the surrounding townships of Alsip, Hickory Hills, Oak Forest, and Oak Lawn. Beth played for the Devils, a team that dominated the league for many seasons and earned Beth many MVP awards. She played for the Devils, and her father until she was eighteen when Colleen Logan and other girls Beth met at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island recruited her to play for their team.
While at Eisenhower, Beth played softball and volleyball and was an integral part of the Eisenhower Cardinals conference champion softball team her senior year.
Beth started her women’s softball career with Ray’s Pizza. In her first season, Ray’s won first place against a dominant Pet’s team at Hart Park. They continued their winning streak by capturing the first Windy City Championship and several other championships in the Ethel Stevens Tournament at Hanson Park. Eventually, Ray’s Pizza became the Sulky Inn Favorites, a legendary team considered to be one of the top teams at the time, and went on to win numerous league and tournament championships.
Bob Russ Jr.
Bobby Russ Jr. started his sixteen-inch softball career in the late 1980s with two Northwest Side neighborhood teams – the Levee and the Jackmen. Both teams had a number of HOF players on their roster. He played baseball and basketball at Weber High School from 1981 to 1985. He received a scholarship to play baseball at Lewis University, a Division II powerhouse in Romeoville, Illinois. As a four-year starting pitcher for the Flyers, he helped them win two conference championships. They appeared in the 1988 and 1989 Division II World Series where they finished third and fifth, respectively. He was voted 2nd Team All-American his senior year.
Once his college baseball days were over in 1989, he started playing softball with Lightning Softball and the Stooges. In 1992 Bobby was a member of the ICE team that won a loaded “A” Nationals in Indianapolis. In 1993 he was recruited to play first base for Lettuce Entertain You, the best team in softball at that time. For the next twenty-plus years, Bobby started for Licorice, Laborers, Maxim, and Flashback, all sixteen-inch powerhouses.
Bobby has won nine ASA and SSA Major championships and eight Forest Park No Glove Nationals. He has been selected an All American ten times. He was named the MVP of the Forest Park No Glove Nationals twice and was named the Suburban Life Tournament MVP once.
Bobby has been coached by some of the best in the game, including Rich Melman, Joel Zimberoff, Pat Caputo, Jimmy Spidale, Warren Johnson, Tom “Eggs” Czarnik, Willie Simpson, Ronnie Matriciano, Ron Schabinger, Lenny Nuzzo, Danny Cocco, George Vournazos, Rich “Wags” Wagner, Jeff “Jibbz” Hernandez, Anthony Tyler and his Hall of Fame father, Bobby Russ Sr. His father’s favorite saying was “it’s not about the name on the back of the shirt; it’s about the name on the front of the shirt.”
Bobby and his wife, Karen, have four children – Ryan, Brendan, William, and Lucy. He enjoys coaching his sons in basketball and baseball and coaching Lucy in basketball. He still plays sixteen-inch softball at the age of fifty.