Alvin “The Doctor” Robinzine
Ron Amazzalorso grew up at 96th and Avenue N, a street referred to as “Goat Street” because goats were once raised there. Avenue M was referred to as “Cow Street” for the same reason. Many discussions at local bars debated which of these nicknamed streets produced the better athletes.
Ron and his friends were gym rats and everyday weather permitting, they would gather at Piotrowski Park, to choose sides for a 16-inch softball game. Mr. Janess, the park supervisor, would distribute the softballs and bats for the pickup games. Everyday Ron and his friends hoped that Mr. Janess would hand out the new softballs. Because Ron would hang around each day after the games to help with cleanup, he became Mr. Janess’ favorite and was often able to score a new softball with Mr. Janess telling them “this is the last time I do this.”
Their lives revolved around sports at the park and at other sites around the city. They would load-up Mr. Janess’ car (sometimes putting guys in the trunk if they couldn’t fit inside the car) and compete at other parks, winning championships and making positive memories. These days inspired Ron to become a park supervisor, a position he held for thirty years with the Chicago Park District.
Ron graduated from George Washington High School in 1965, received his draft notice six months later, and ended up in Viet Nam. He returned home in 1968 and started his softball career with neighborhood teams and then competed at Calumet Park when it formed a league that featured some of the best team on the South Side. Bobby Mantai, a top player on the South Side, recruited Ron to play with his team 3 Star Erector for a tournament the following Saturday. They were undefeated through the weekend as was the softball team E.R.V. These two powerhouse teams entered the seventh inning with one out and Ron on second base. Bob Bradich, a power hitter, hit a long fly ball to right field, Ron tagged-up, and beat the throw home to score the winning run. From that day forward, 16-inch softball ran through Ron’s veins.
His career with the Eastsiders began when his team was playing them in the Calumet Park League championship game when Ron impressed their manager John Maribelli with a couple of hits, a homerun, and a throw to second that ended the game, securing the championship by one run. He went on to play five decades for the Eastsiders.
In 1978, the Eastsiders needed a pitcher, so Ron switched from centerfield to pitcher. He honed his skills and learned the tricks of the trade and defensive skills. The Eastsiders began playing in leagues and tournaments throughout the South Side and suburbs. They went on to win the championships of many leagues and won over one hundred tournaments. He started playing five days a week in two games a night on Tuesday and Thursday with late games in Blue Island and Harvey. He also played in tournaments on weekends. Besides the Eastsiders, Ron also played for Pete’s Hideaway, Huns, Lakeside Inn, T.J.’s, Speed, Indios, O’Hara’s, Little Rays, and ERV 10th Ward.
Ron played centerfield because he was fast and had great hands. He batted fourth behind Tom Newman. (HOF) He hit for power but could also hit to all fields for a high average. He played at Calumet Park in the Veterans Tournament in 1976 and hit three home runs to help his team win the championship. He received the MVP award for his efforts. He was also named to All Star Team in the men’s league in Harvey in the 80’s.
Ron played on a great team, never let the team down, and formed many long-lasing relations. Five decades later, the core of the team still gets together to rehash old memories. Ron thanks his wife, Fran, for the many sacrifices she made and his daughter, Nikki, for coming to his games when his wife worked weekends. He thanks God for his health. Ron is a retired supervisor for the Chicago Park District. His wife, Fran, is a retired nurse.
Bob grew up in the Galewood neighborhood at North Avenue and Harlem. He attended Holy Cross High School where he earned varsity letters in football, baseball, and track. He is a member of the Holy Cross Hall of Fame for football and track. He also played hockey with the Oak Park Park District at Ridgewood Commons. Bob’s longtime friend, Nick Sposato, helped him start his legendary softball career in grammar school when he and some little league friends formed an under-eighteen team at Sayre Park in 1974. They modeled their team after Lenny Nuzzo’s High Times team. His knack at winning championships started early in his career when his teams won league titles at Merrimac, Sayre, Shabonna, and Franklin Parks from 1976 to 1985. He also honed his skills by playing at Clarendon Park, skills that would later carry him and his teams to a record number of victories and national titles. Besides playing and managing the 45s, he also played for Lightning, the Jets, and O’Briens. He played primarily left and right field and was known as a line drive, doubles hitter who hit in the first through fifth spot. In 1988 he took over as manager of the 45s in the Classic League and managed them every year until his retirement at the end of the 2007 season. At first the team struggled to compete at the major level. In 1992 the fortune of the 45s changed with the acquisition of former Touch star, Tim Flanagan and his brother John Flanagan, a star baseball player at Notre Dame. Hall of Fame players Mike Stout and Mike Caputo along with Kurt and Eric Kiesel, Larry Downes, and Tony Portincaso joined the 45s in 1993. From 1993 to ‘97 the Bud 45s won their first national tournaments and became a consistent competitor in the upper division of the Classic League. In 1998 the team took a major step forward when Hall of Famers Frank Mustari, Pat Heraty, Tom Czarnik, Mark Frighetto, Paul Brezinski, and Curt Uidl joined the team. This coup was made possible by Rick “The Franchise” Gancarz. With the help of these very talented players the 45’s won their first of six ASA Major National Titles. In 2003 the dynasty was complete when Jeff Berger, Jim Matlock, and Hall of Famer Ron Kubicki joined the 45s. Additionally, Israel Sanchez, Mark Holstein, Brian Miller, Rich Villa, Jim Dooley, Anthony Avila, Keith Filkins (HOF), John Wolnick, Dave Singer, Fred Grief, Chris Downes, Len Nuzzo, and Marty Dosen were responsible for 468 wins against only 52 loses from 2003 to 2007. During the years that Bob managed the 45s, they won forty-six tournaments, including five straight ASA National titles. In 1996 they won their first Forest Park Invitational championship and took their first ASA title in2001. In 2001 the team was down 14-0 in the first inning but went on to defeat Traffic 18-16 in a game that lasted three and a half hours. In 2005 the 45s posted a record of 86 wins against 6 losses. He proudly managed them to an ASA tournament record of 44-3 from 2001 to 2007. Over the 27- year history of the Classic League, Bob Rascia holds the following records as a manager: 331 wins, seven championships, 26 wins in a single season, two seasons of 22 wins, the highest winning percentage of .958 and most games managed at 472. Bob and his wife, Melissa, live in Park Ridge, Illinois. They have three children. He is a criminal defense attorney.
Raymond “Ray-Ray” Ray
Born in 1937, Raymond Ray grew up on the South side of Chicago at 41st and Dearborn. He was blessed to have a two-parent household with three brothers and three sisters. The neighborhood boys always had a sports hero to look up to and because Raymond was a baseball fanatic, he chose Jackie Robinson. He remembers a quote from Robinson's autobiography, "I Never Had It Made," that said, "I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect." He loved this quote because Raymond was small but was blessed with quick hands and reflexes. Growing up in that neighborhood, (which included 39th Street), young men aspired to play for the Ironmen. Ray became an Ironman and played shortstop with them for the remainder of his twenty-five-plus year softball career. He carries a lifetime batting average over .660, hit more than 110 homeruns, and drove in more than 1000 runners. He won tournament honors in the Southside Cocktail League in 1966 and in the league at 49th and Dorchester from 1967 to 1971. A thirty-two year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, he played shortstop for the 21st District, the 1st District, and the Gang Intelligence Unit softball teams. He retired from softball after a knee replacement, several dislocated fingers, falling arches, and many other ailments. Despite the injuries, he would not have changed a thing because of all the friendships, the fun, and the comradeship he experienced playing softball. Raymond and his wife of fifty-one years, Jametta, live on Chicago's South side. They have two children – David and Pamela, three grandchildren, one greatgrandchild, and two grand dogs.
The Rebels emerged as one of the most competitive women’s teams of the late 1970s and early '80s, playing in park district leagues as well as countless tournaments on Chicago’s North and South Sides. One of the most memorable moments in team history occurred in the Women’s National Softball Tournament in 1977. When the tournament began, Manager Ron Hill and Coach Stan Powenski knew they were at the helm of a team comprised of young, talented and athletic rookies and a few seasoned veterans. After losing their first game, the Rebels fought their way up through the loser’s brackets to take on the mighty Rose N Crown. They used a powerful offense and skillful defense to beat them twice to capture the national championship. This championship served as a springboard for many of the players who went on to become some of the best 16" inch softball players of their day.
Hurter “Red” Redmond
The "Babe Ruth" of the sport and a big gate attraction, the big right handed firefighter was the most prolific homerun hitter of the Windy City League during the 40s. His MVP season was in '4 when he lead the league in hits, avg. and 31 HRs. . leading Mid.: Motors to their first of two Windy City titles. Also a member of the Witt Hanley Yankee championship teams. He was so good the St. Pat's High School star was an original member of the Chicago American Hall of Fame created in '62. Perennial all star in the WCL. Famous cover photo for the '48 Championship program held at Comiskey included Red and DiMaggio shaking hands. Deceased.
Born in 1933, Tony Reibel's active playing career began in 1952 with Tom Green’s Baseball Inn and Kool Vent Awning at Kells Field (Chicago & Kedzie) in 1955-56 and with the Kenneth Allen team. He batted right-handed and threw right-handed. He was one of the top short centers in the game during the 60s and 70s. His list of accomplishments as an individual player merits recognition for the Hall of Fame alone, but he is best remembered for leading one of the top teams of the 60s & 70s in American Rivet Sobies to over 700 wins over a decade. They were one of the most dominant teams in the game from ‘66 to ‘72. The Sobies won three consecutive ASA National Championships (‘66, ‘67, ‘68). They won over 100 games in both ‘71 and’72 in possibly their finest years, winning every title except the ASA Nationals. The Sobies impressively won the first World Series of Softball in 1974 at Hart Stadium in Blue Island. They also won three Forest Park titles and five Andy Frain Tournament titles. The Sobies' battles with Eddie Zolna’s Bobcats were legendary and in 1971 the player everyone wanted to watch was the ASA All-American short center. He consistently batted over .500 with power in the cleanup spot. In 1970 he hit .548; 1971 - .560; and 1973 - .503. Tony was so respected as a player, manager, and administrator that he was unanimously elected as the first commissioner of the rebirth of the Windy City League in Bridgeview 1976 -77. Tony was responsible for changing an important rule which is unique to Chicago softball- “the foul third strike rule.” At Clarendon Park in the ‘60s, Tony was known to foul off dozens of pitches in an effort to stall the game, while his team waited for a tardy player because Tony was simply trying to get the pitcher to make a better pitch to hit. Clarendon Park supervisor, George Morse, implemented “foul third strike” rule to speed up the game. Reibel graduated from Lane Tech H. S. on the Northside. He was also asked to help softball and was the first white player to play in a Negro league with Sweetwater Clifton on the Capitol Records team Daddie 0 - Daylie League. He is also a co-founder of the Chicago 16” Softball Hall of Fame. He thanks his wife Marilynn, 5 children and his grandchildren for putting up with his pastime.
Terry “Riles” Reily
A graduate of Mt. Carmel High School where he ran track and was on the swimming and diving team, Terry Reilly’s umpiring career started in typical fashion - officiating little league and pony league games. However, his career didn’t end there. As he became more skilled and known as an umpire, he moved into the world of “major / minor” umpiring when he began working behind the plate in semi-pro baseball games. His 16" softball career started when he was watching a game in Blue Island and realized that he could officiate softball games, and the rest is history. He started out officiating in B and C leagues, but got his big break in 1979 when got a chance to umpire a Major 16" National game in Harvey. That opportunity worked out well and Terry Reilly never looked back during his twenty-three year career. He credits his success in umpiring 16" softball to his years of umpiring semi-pro baseball where he learned to hustle, to follow the ball, and to develop a good demeanor for the game. From 1976 to 1999 as an ASA umpire, he officiated over five thousand games at leagues in Blue Island, Kelly, Harvey and Clyde Parks. From 1982 to 1999 he was ASA umpire-in-chief of Metro Chicago leagues. He umpired at twelve 16"Major League National Tournaments, calling balls and strikes at more than two hundred games. He was deputy umpire-in-chief at five Major Nationals and was umpire-in-chief for two “A” level Nationals. He also officiated at all tournaments, including district competitions, qualifiers, some state tournaments, three Hawthorne Classics, and several Grant Park Tournaments. He retired after thirty-four years with the Chicago Transit Authority where he was the Director of Emergency Services. He has two children, Tina and Kellie, two grandchildren, and a wonderful girlfriend, Brenda Bryan. He lives in Park Forest, Illinois.
Veterans of the many softball wars on the Southside remember Claude Rhodes as a superb player who was also the youngest player on his neighborhood team in the early 1930s. Claude was a top notch short center, also known as the "roving center." During World War II he remained the youngest player because everyone his age went off to fight the war. Claude had a brief period away from the Windy City. Upon his return he began to manage the Safari Tigers. His love of the game and excellent management skills were obvious because the Safari Tigers played in all the major tournaments. They went to the nationals for nine straight years and became the only black team to win the Winners Bracket in 1984 and 1985. They were second place in those years only to the World Champion Whips and Touch. He is still involved with the Clique team. Claude's contributions to the world of 16" softball will be remembered by those persons close to the Southside game.
Team RIC Cubs
In 1981, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) established the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Sports Program, a community-based adaptive sports program for youth and adults with physical disabilities. Thirty years later, it has become one of the longest running adaptive sports programs in the country offering a wide range of competitive and recreational sports opportunities for people of all ages and ability levels including, wheelchair rugby, basketball road racing and softball, sled hockey, golf, skiing, archery, power soccer, bocce, cycling, and military programming for injured service men and women. The Wirtz Sports Program along with partner program the Helen M. Galvin Health and Fitness Center, experience more than 40,000 program visits annually. With wheelchair softball quickly growing in popularity among athletes, the sport was one of the earliest offered within the RIC Wirtz Sports Program. Playing in parking lots across the region, the newly developed RIC wheelchair softball team found little success playing against the more established teams in the region. But the spirit of the game did not abate. And the in following years, the athletes honed their skills and drew Chicago's most talented players. In 1993, the RIC Rollers became the RIC Cubs when Cubs Care, the charitable arm of the Chicago Cubs baseball organization and part of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, came on board as the first National League organization to sponsor a wheelchair softball team. The team's performance became worthy of National League status when in 2002 the RIC Cubs won their first National Wheelchair Softball Association title and repeated as champs in 2005. The RIC Cubs have had great success in national tournaments: taking third and fourth place twice, and second place four times. In 2000, Major League Baseball (MLB) established the Major League Baseball Tournament in New York City. The annual tournament is popularly referred to as the "World Series" of wheelchair softball and offers the top MLB-affiliated wheelchair softball teams a chance to compete each September in this exclusive 16-INCH tournament sponsored by the New York Mets. The RIC Cubs have proudly won the title eight of the past ten years. And, with nearly thirty years of experience, the RIC Cubs wheelchair softball team continues a tradition of excellence and camaraderie on the field bringing home the MLB "World Series" title again in 2011.
RIC Cubs Players
Larry Labiak – Catcher Kurt Smith – Right Center Field Paul Moran – Left Fielder Jorge Alfaro – Short Stop Dave Lewis – First Base Alex Parra – Pitcher Dino Ramirez – Right Field Juan Ortiz – Second Base Angelo Cruz – Third Base Curtis Lease – Right Center Field Maurice Reynolds – Rover Dan Palmer – Designated Hitter Ramon Canellada – Infielder Hector Bruno – Infielder Trent Thenhaus – Team Manager Brian O'Dell – Coach Corey Hug – Coach Kelley Hayn –Equipment Manager
Unlike a lot of bar sponsors, Joe Rizza never sponsored a team expecting them to “pay him back” after the game. This attitude certainly produced a lot of happy wives whose husbands didn�t feel an obligation to stay out late after the game. All Joe Rizza asked was that a player or fan who was interested in buying a car check with him first for the best price. This modest attitude was apparent in his nineteen-year sponsorship of 16-inch softball teams. He started sponsoring the Rizza Rockers in 1986 in the North Riverside Park District League. They took off with a bang that year, winning that league and placing fourth in the “A” Nationals in Indiana. They played in eight straight “A” Nationals before moving up to the Majors in 1994. The Rockers won the Life Newspapers Suburban Tournament in 1993, the last year it was held. They competed in the Forest Park No Glove National Tournament for fourteen straight years, winning it in 1998. Joe Rizza has also sponsored leagues at Clyde Park, Hodgkins, Mt. Prospect, La Grange, and Berwyn and has committed to sponsorship into the 2005 season. Despite the many successes of the Rizza Rockers, Joe Rizza has never asked to keep the trophies from the many championships. Instead, he told player manager, Lane Niemann, to keep them, knowing they were a source of great pride to the players. While Joe Rizza may not have worried about trophies, he did care about the appearance of his teams on the field and spared no expense to make his players look good. While playing in the T.V. league, he never cared if they won or lost. All he cared about was that his players looked good. This attitude holds true to this day. Joe Rizza was born in Chicago on September 20, 1942. He entered the automobile business in 1967 as an owner of Bonnie Brook Ford in Chicago. He now owns Joe Rizza Ford in North Riverside (1978), Rizza Chevrolet (1982), Joe Rizza Ford / Porsche of Orland Park (1988) Joe Rizza Lincoln ,Mercury (1988), Joe Rizza Acura (1998), and Rizza Cadillac / Buick / Hummer in 2000. He is active in his dealerships and serves on many corporate and charity boards. He and his wife, Nives, have been married for over forty years. They are the proud parents of four children.
Team Rizza Rockers
The Rizza Rockers, a team made up of public service employees from North Riverside and Riverside - Brookfield High School graduates, started playing in 1986 in the North Riverside Fall Ball Rec. League. The next year they struck gold when they won the North Riverside Summer League. With confidence firmly in hand, they started playing some softball tournaments. Because of their great play, they won an “A” bid to the ASA Nationals in Indiana, taking fourth place in their first “A” Nationals despite having only two players who had played in a national tournament before. They were led by pitcher (Chops) Chiappetta and First-Team All- American Jeff Berger at shortstop. Fresh from their success at the “A” Nationals, the Rockers looked to challenge themselves to be as good as teams like the Blues, Jinx, and Touch, so they started playing in the toughest leagues around Chicago, including Forest Park, Bensenville, and Mt. Prospect. In 1993 they won the Suburban Life Tournament. That year they played in the No Gloves Nationals, the Hawthorne Tournament, the Grant Park Tournament, and in the ASA Nationals. They appeared in the ASA Major and “A” Nationals from 1987 to 1999. They also played in the short-lived Sports Channel Television League. As many teams climb the ranks of competitive softball, they often abandon the players they started with in favor of stronger players from other teams. The Rockers believed in an opposite formula - stick with younger players. This strategy paid off because they were able to develop their talent. It often failed, however, when some of the top teams would recruit these younger players. For a number of years, the Rockers seemed to be a farm team for some of the top teams. Their strategy of sticking with younger players and playing in the toughest leagues began to pay off as the Rockers started to hold their own with the era’s top teams, the Whips, Sports Station, Bud North, Dollhouse, Primetime, Splinters, and Bucks. In the late-90s, they went head-to-head with Lettuce and were able to hold their own against this legendary team. In 1998 they won the No Glove Nationals, beating Lettuce in the semi-finals and Pugliese in the finals. That year they were led by short center and Forest Park MVP, Greg Ziegler. Ziegler also played with the Rockers the longest and formed a bond with the Rockers’ manager that will last a lifetime. Many fine young players wore the Red & Black of the Rockers. It was said that manager Lane Neimann had the biggest phone book in the game. With a great sponsor like Joe Rizza Ford, the Rockers were always well stocked with players and looked sharp on the field. Joe Rizza continued his sponsorship during the entire time the Rockers played softball. His only requirement was that they looked good. And they did.
Pete Rocco began his 34 year softball career in eighth grade playing on a local team at a school they nicknamed “The Island” around Roosevelt and Austin. He continued playing for local teams all through Austin High School where he also played baseball. He played for Triners Lounge in Cicero and Stickney in 1952 through 1954, winning every league they were in and making the All Star team two years. He then switched to Comfy Tap during the 1955 and 1956 season before he was drafted into the army. Upon his discharge from the army, Pete Rocco teamed up with Hall of Fame member Moose Camillo. They played mainly at Chicago and Kedzie but also ventured into competition at Clarendon, Kelly, and Bellwood Parks. While playing at Chicago and Kedzie, Pete is the only player to hit the CTA building in dead center field with a homerun ball. Pete stayed with Moose Camillo until the team disbanded in 1967. He was part of the famous 1963 game that pitted Camillo against an “All Star” Bobcat team in Melrose Park. Besides Camillo, other Hall of Famers Kenny Green, Johnny Abatacolla, and Jimmy Nallen battled the Bobcats. Pete Rocco played second base and had a couple hits to help Camillo beat the Bobcats. Fans and players estimate that the pot for that game was between $20, 000 and $25, 000. After the breakup of Moose Camillo’s team, Pete played with St. Anthony’s Savings and Loan (later The Cabin) at Berwyn, Cicero, and Lawndale Park from 1967 to 1972. They won their leagues every year, including a big victory at DesPlaines in 1971. Pete then played with Sportsman’s Lounge and Governors Lanes before hooking up with Tony Velacek to form the Sobies, (which later became American Rivet), playing at Clarendon and Kelly Parks. Pete then played with the Steamers in an industrial league, ending his 34 year softball career when his sons started playing sports and he became a spectator. Although he was primarily a third baseman, Pete played nearly all positions except pitcher, finishing his career playing left field. He was a prolific hitter who normally hit in the middle of the lineup. He contributed over 800 homeruns and 4, 000 plus RBIs to the run totals of his teams. For his efforts, he was selected to All Star Teams at leagues in Chicago and Kedzie, Cicero, Berwyn, and Summit. He and his wife, Jennie, live in Lombard, Illinois. Pete is a retired member of Local 731 and works part-time as bus driver for Willowbrook High School. They have two sons, Peter III and Dan, and eight grandchildren.
Christopher William Rocco
Chris Rocco grew up in Chicago, on "The Island"(Austin Boulevard and Roosevelt Road), and was an active player during the Golden Age of Chicago Softball, having begun playing as a youngster in the West side Key Clark school yard with neighborhood boys and his younger brother, Peter Rocco, Jr. (HOF). Chris's career began in the 1940s, playing on at least a half- dozen championship teams, notably Murphy Motors, which won the American championship at Grant Park in 1948 and 1949. Logging in about 300 home runs and batting in over 700 runs in his career, he played in challenging West side leagues, winning many championships, including the 1979 Governor's Lanes team which won the Clyde Park Senior title, featuring the oldest players ever to win that honor, with some players near fifty years of age. In 1952, while working for the Pullman Company in the Merchandise Mart he played on that winning team which took the league's title. Five years later in 1957 the Sportsman team, with four future Hall of Famers, won the Garfield Park Senior title. In 1959, Song Lounge, with Chris and younger brother, Peter, together with a total of seven future Hall of Famers, won the Senior Softball League title at Garfield Park. Chris also played for Raytheon, a team that included Tony Reibel (HOF), when both worked at the Merchandise Mart. Chris later played for Comfy Tap. In 1972 Chris was on the Governor's Lanes championship team, which took the Clyde Park Senior title. Chris played second and third base in leagues in Cicero, Oak Park, Chicago Park District, La Fayette Park, Chicago and Kedzie league. Before his retirement from softball in 1979, Chris played in these locations: Chicago Park District - early 1950s; Comfy Tap, mid-1950s, Chicago & Kedzie League; Moose Camillo's team after 1956 until early 1960s; Oak Park League - late 1960s; Governor's Lanes - late 1970s; Cicero League - early years and 1970s. At the time of his death, December 1997, Chris was with the Cicero Police Department. His parents, Peter and Della Rocco predeceased him. He is survived by his siblings, Christine Rocco, Peter and his wife, Jennie Rocco; Angela Rocco DeCarlo, and her husband Dan DeCarlo. Christine and Jennie have since passed away. He has five nephews: Peter and Dan Rocco, Mark, Michael and Dan De Carlo. They continue the family tradition of being avid baseball players. Peter spoke for himself and Chris when he stated, "We played for the love of the game. "Softball and baseball are sports players can continue to play for most of their lives if they wish". They are demanding but ultimately uplifting sport.
Cecil and Diane Roderick own Buck’s Pit Stop and M&R Wrecking. Besides being long-term owners of these businesses, they are also long-term supporters of sixteen-inch softball through their sponsorship of hundreds of teams over a twenty-year period. These sponsorships have included police and fire teams, recreational and industrial teams, girls and women’s team, “A” league teams, and major teams like Buck’s, Jynx, and the 45s. These teams have played at leagues in Westchester, Hodgkins, Pleasantdale, LaGrange, Lyons, and Mt. Prospect. Buck sponsored teams have dozens of league championships, six Forest Park No Glove Nationals titles, and five ASA Nationals titles. In addition to sponsoring teams, Buck has helped in other ways. In 1998 the Rodericks funded and built additional parking at the Hodgkin’s Park District ball fields to alleviate parking problems at its two fields. When the concession stands closed at the 2000 ASA Nationals in Joliet, Buck and Diane went purchased over one hundred hamburgers and cheeseburgers, cokes, and fries from McDonalds so that his players could eat before their games. He has never asked for a penny in return for these actions. Ask any member of the teams that Buck and Diane have sponsored and you will surely hear comments expressing their love for this charitable couple. Throughout their long association with softball, they have always been class acts. Their actions truly exemplify the spirit of the Mayor Daley Award.
The Chicago Rollers 16-inch softball team team was formed at the end of the 1976 season. It was a team that merged players from Niles, Edison Park and Notre Dame High School. The original team started with the following players – Tom Czarnik, Hugh Carmichael, Ed Murray, Craig Christiansen, Bill Maurer, Tom Jones, Mike Fragale, John Egart, Steve Everhart, Bill Byron, Kevin McGrath, and Jim Lannon. Several other players played key roles in the early success of the team. These players were Jim Boysen, Bob Bastone, Jeff Adams, Ken Walters, Buddy Eckholm, Kevin Kachan, and Tom Hohenadel.
During the next several years the Rollers played in several highly competitive leagues throughout the Northwest Suburbs and at Chicago Park District venues. The Rollers initial season was pretty good. They won several league championships and topped off a successful season by winning the City of Chicago Championship. Along the way the Rollers played almost every weekend and most of the time at least two games a night.
At the end of 1978, the Rollers added several key players from Murderer’s Row: Denny Hull and Warren (HOF) & Byron Johnson. We had a great year finishing in fourth place in the ASA Nationals in Prescott, AZ. Just getting through an ASA Metro was at the time a very difficult tourney to win, so the fourth place finish was a great step forward. During the 1979 season the Rollers won the Andy Frain Tournament, the Kelly Park championship and the North Shore Tournament (both won on the same night and played with a split squad). We won the Midwest Invitational in La Crosse and finished near the top in several Forest Park tournaments.
Unlike many teams that formed in the mid-‘70s, the Rollers accomplished a great deal of success in a relatively short period of time. Players that the Rollers competed against will always say that there was an intangible factor that the Rollers played with. They were driven by the desire to compete with the elite of the softball greats – not only the great players but also the great teams. They were fortunate to be able to play against some of softball’s great teams: the Bobcats, the Sobies, Big Banjo Bruins, Amaglamonsters, and Whips to name just a few. The players on those teams were truly great players and inspired the Rollers to be as good as they were.
In 1980 several players moved on. Some retired from the game to raise families, several moved out of state and several left to play for other teams. The Rollers added several players from the Des Plaines area: John O’ Conner, Chris Bouche, Jim Venard, Glenn Miller, Mark Ackerman, and Rick Wolfgram. They continued to play in Clarendon Park, Portage Park, and Evanston. In 1981 they merged with the Bobcats and finished second in the ASA Nationals in Harvey.
The Rollers became the Runts in 1982. Along the way, they added Mark Frighetto (HOF), Mark Schuler (HOF), Bill Finnegan (HOF), Ron Zieman (HOF) and Tim Howser. They finished second in the ASA Nationals that year in South Dakota, beating the Spats after the Spats came out of the losers’ bracket to beat them twice. . The Runts continued playing in Mount Prospect and Portage. They won the Illinois State tournament in 1984 and came in second in the USSSA in Iowa.
The team evolved into Auto Mart and Bud North in the late 80’s. Although the Rollers only played together for five seasons before merging with the Bobcats in 1981, they packed a lot of great softball into those years. Most team members would admit that playing 16-inch softball as a member of the Rollers was one of the best times of their lives.
Team Rolling Dice
It was approximately the summer of 1973 when Louis "Butch" Whiters and Richard "Bro" Mason were sitting on a porch near 58th and Ada discussing how the neighborhood kids had nothing constructive to do because there were no health centers of recreational facilities available. So they decided to help the neighborhood kids by forming softball teams that would compete against each other. Later they would play teams from other blocks. This simple idea grew became so successful that they joined leagues at Sherman and Ogden Parks. At first they lost a lot of games because they weren't used to the high level of competition. Rather than give up (and as the oldest siblings in their families), they followed the pattern that all successful teams follow - they recruited better players from the neighborhood. Success followed and Rolling Dice built a strong team bond and family-like atmosphere. The next step was to find sponsorships. Most teams head to the local tavern or lounge and convince the owner to pick up the tab for uniforms and registration fees. But the members of Rolling Dice were too young to get a lounge sponsorship, so they had parties and raffles with team members and family friends at banquet halls to raise money. They also received a sponsorship from Alderman Shirley Coleman as an honorarium for their participation in the local backto- school parade. With uniforms and tournaments fees paid for, they developed into a team to be reckoned with. They weren't always successful but always gave the opposing team a tough fight. After ten years of playing, Louis Whiters stepped away to devote more time to his family and job, so Richard Mason took over a continued the strong legacy they had started together. In 1981 Rolling Dice competed in seven leagues and played every day. That year they won championships at 75th and Jeffrey, at Dawes Park, and at Washington Park. In 1993 they won the Blue Island league by defeating the Villains and the Washington Park league by defeating the Alpha Giants. In 2000 and 2001 they took second at Washington Park. In 2004 they won the titles at Blue Island and Washington Park. That same year they came in second in the Black Nationals in Wisconsin. In 2006 and 2007 they were cochampions at Blue Island and were co-champions at Rainey Park in 2006. In 2009 they were co-champions of the Fall League at Garfield Park. Throughout their history, Rolling Dice has played at many parks throughout Chicago and the suburbs. And they always played with that never-say-die attitude ingrained in them from the very beginning of the team by Lois Whites and Richard Mason.
Harry “Swede” Roos
The first team he played for was the House of David. He was so young he couldn't grow a beard to look like his teammates. The big 6'7 first baseman was an excellent power hitter for Ryans, American Gear, Magic Chef, and Harry's Owl Club. He was on Leo Fischer's Herald American Allstar squads in the 30s. He was an all-around athlete as a semi-pro football player and an early NBA player for the Ft. Wayne Zollners. Eventually he played on the first Lakers basketball team with George Mikan. He coached the first pro basketball team in Portland, Oregon, the Portland Indians. Since 1954, Portland taverns and churches have had organized leagues playing 16" ball thanks to a keg of beer bet by Harry. 1913-1979, Survived by his wife Lola, 4 sons, and 5 grandchildren.
Anthony “Anno” Ross
According to fellow members of the Pioneer era, Anthony Ross was one of the best left fielders who ever played the game. He had two abilities that gave him one of the deadliest arms of his era, he would spin in the air as he made the catch so he was ready to throw when he landed, and he had long arms that generated a lot of power. These two factors surprised a lot of base runners looking to stretch a single into a double or score on a long fly ball. A graduate of Hirsch High School and a resident of the Grand Crossing area of Chicago, Anthony's long arms also made him an excellent line drive "place" hitter. He usually batted third or forth in the lineup and could be counted on to drive in runs when needed. From the late 30s to the early 50s (with timeout to fight in World War II where he was stationed in Iceland), he played for some of the top teams of his time, including Mel Turner's, Bondi's, Ace Steel, Nudo's, Slo Freighters, Brown's, and Chicago Merchants. His love of the game showed as he played Monday through Friday, on Sundays in tournaments, and in money games at some of the great stadiums and against some of the great teams and players of his time. He will always be remembered as one of the great ambassadors of the game. He was in the restaurant business for much of his adult life as a partner in the Ranch House at 123rd and Halsted and in Jonathan Livingston Seafood in Naperville. After retirement, he became the head of maintenance for Brookwood Towers, a condominium complex in suburban Wooddale. Anthony Ross passed away on February 28th, 2001. He leaves behind his wife, Geraldine, and two children, Jim.
John Ben Rossi
John Rossi’s voyage to playing major softball in Chicago took a few detours along the way. After graduating from Mendel Catholic High School in 1955 (where he played football), he attended and played football for Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, Citrus Junior College in Azusa, California, and Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado. He was then drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington where he played baseball for the fort team. After the army it was back to Chicago where he started playing softball. During his twenty-five year career, John Rossi played with some of the top teams and top players of his era: the South side Loafers with Les Messinger (HOF) as manager and with Jake and Willie Schmidt and Fred Woolfe (all Hall of Famers) as teammates and with Beetle Bomb and Ron Braash on the North side (HOF) with Hall of Fame teammates Wally Mader, Tony Reibel, and Zeke Crement. He competed at Clarendon Park with Beetle Bomb, at Kelly Park and Summit Park with the Loafers, at Kosciusko Park with the Loafers and Beetle Bomb and in the legendary Daddy O Daily League with the Loafers. He also played in parks all over Chicago for the Chicago Fire Department. Of all the great moments John had while playing softball, he most remembers beating the Bobcats at Trumbull Park in the late ‘50s and beating the Chicago Police Department at Thillen’s Stadium while he was playing with the Chicago Fire Department team. He is a retired bricklayer of forty-four years with Local 21 and a retired firefighter of thirtythree years with Local 2. He and his wife, Debbie, live in Homewood, Illinois. They have twin girls, Francesa and Michelina.
Dave “Rulie” Ruehl
Imagine a time before television and video recorders, cellular telephones, videotaped replays, and widespread radio coverage of sporting events. Now add to that mix the popularity of local boxing matches, basketball games, and the emergence of 16-inch softball as a spectator sport that sometimes drew more fans than the Chicago Cubs. The task for the sportswriters of those eras was to recreate the color and action of these games for their readers. Of those writers, Auggie Ruff emerged as one of the top writers of all time. Born on August 31, 1906, Ruff graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1923. He played high school basketball, football, and baseball and played basketball in the semi-pro industrial leagues. Auggie's strength, however, was# found in writing about these events. Auggie was a sportswriter and editor for the Daily Calumet, a paper at the time that can be compared to the Daily Herald of today. Readers remember Auggie's great narrative talent that captured the excitement and drama of the classic softball matches of the time. Auggie covered such great teams as the Brown Bombers, the Gas House Gang, Lapota Steelers, Midland Motors and countless others. He also covered the many "pot games" between such teams as the Baltimore Lumber and Lombardi Kids. When Auggie retired after many years with the Daily Calumet, the great writer Leo Fisher emceed the gala that included the top sportswriters of the time. 16-inch softball owes a tip of the bat to Auggie's many contributions to the game. Auggie is 93 years old and lives in Chicago.
Alderwoman “Ginger” Rugai
In 1989, Virginia Rugai was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the following months, friends and neighbors provided an incredible network of support for Rugai and her family as she waged a difficult battle with this horrible disease. Like so many other survivors, Ginger had an ongoing desire to continue the fight beyond her personal health, and offer assistance to other women facing breast cancer. Five years after her initial diagnosis, Kathy O'Shea, a longtime softball player and friend of then Alderman Ginger Rugai, suggested a women's softball tournament to benefit the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization. Starting small with an eight team morning tournament, the tournament has blossomed into a widely recognized event, attracting over 1500 players and generating over half a million dollars for breast cancer charities. This emotional day is filled with laughter, memories, and even some tears as a community celebrates the strength of so many survivors and the legacy of lost mothers, sisters, and friends. Recently, the American Cancer Society announced the first official Y-Me research fellowship at the University of Chicago. This grant enables physicians to setup a lab and test new ideas that may hold future answers. The results will be reviewed by the most brilliant cancer minds in Illinois. The Y-Me tournament is held on the last Saturday of August. Any who have not attended are encouraged to do so. This is an incredibly moving day highlighted by a Survivors Game highlighting the length of time each player has survived breast cancer. Also, like any good softball tournament, a great party follows the games. This is truly a day to remember lost love ones, to support those brave women currently struggling, and to offer hope to future generations that someday breast cancer will be cured. Mayor Daley appointed Ginger Rugai to fill the vacancy of the 19th Ward Alderman in December of 1990. Alderman Rugai was elected for her first term in February 1991 and was subsequently reelected in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. Alderman Rugai is Chairman of the City Council's Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities. She also serves as a member of Committees on Finance; Police & Fire; Budget and Government Operations; Committees, Rules and Ethics; Economic, Capital and Technology Development; Historical Landmark Preservation; and Transportation and Public Way. Ginger Rugai is Past President of the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, member of Little Company of Mary Hospital Foundation Board, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls Leader Council, Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago, and Historic Chicago Bungalow Founder and Honorary Association Board of Directors. She was appointed to Mayor Daley's Task Force on Women's Health and a Commissioner of the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues. Alderman Ginger Rugai began her career as an English teacher at Queen of Peace High School with a Bachelor of Science degree from Loyola University. Before becoming Alderman, she served as Assistant to the Director of the Beverly Area Planning Association, a member of the Illinois Senate Staff and Administrative Aide to State Senator Jeremiah Joyce. Alderman Rugai continued her education, earning degrees from Loyola University Chicago - Master of Arts: Urban Life, Learning in 2001 and from St. Xavier University - Doctor of Public Service, Honoris Causa in 2010. During her thirty five years of community service, Ginger has received many awards including Mt. Greenwood Civic Association "2002 Women of the Year"; Irish American Alliance "Woman of the Year"; St. Joseph Seminary, Archdiocese of Chicago "Rerum Novarum Award"; Mother McAuley High School "Catherine McAuley Leadership Award"; Morgan Park United Methodist "Community Service Award"; Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization President's Medal; Beverly Art Center "True Believer Award" and Illinois State Crime Commission "Award of Excellence". She is married to Ado Rugai, attorney at law. They have three children, Michael, Robert, and Karen.
Bob Russ, Sr.
Bob Russ, Sr. started his softball career on the North side of Chicago at Hermosa, Mozart, and Blackhawk Parks with the Trolls and DE Rogues. He attended Lane Tech for two years and then transferred to Kelvyn Park. He was elected captain of the Kelvyn Park baseball team for the final two years and was selected to Chicago's All-City Baseball Team. He also played basketball and football at Kelvyn Park. Bob was drafted in the Army where he spent two years with the 4th Infantry Division. He returned form Vietnam with the rank of SPEC 5. He started playing serious softball when he joined the Olympics, a team playing at Kosciusko and Clarendon parks. He was then asked to play with the Lyons 54s, a powerhouse team in those days, featuring such great players as John Straley, Jim Fuller, Louie Zielinski, and Greg Burzynski, all Hall of Fame inductees. He also played with the Gaffers at Kosciusko. Bob was considered one of the toughest outs in softball. He did what all good hitters do - he got on base. He hit hard, spinning line drives at the feet of infielders, making them difficult to pick-up. He hit the gaps hard and when the outfielders came in to catch the dump hit, the ball would jump off to the side, allowing him to take an extra base with his good speed. He was a tough singles and doubles hitter with a lifetime batting average over .600. In the 1970s, he joined the Rogues. They played at Clarendon and Kelly parks in Chicago and James Park in Evanston. Many softball experts think the Evanston League was one of the toughest ever with the Bobcats, Sobies, Dwarfs, Murder's Row, Rogues and others competing. They beat the Bobcats for the championship on a triple-play in the last inning when Lou Zielinsky made a great play in short center, flipped the ball to Bobby Russ who then threw to Vito Maggerise (HOF) to complete the triple play. The crowd of one thousand spectators went crazy. The Rogues won championships throughout the city, including the Andy Frain Tournament and won multiple titles at Amundsen and Kosciusko parks. The Rogues featured Hall of Fame inductees, Vito Maggerise, Bill Massuci, Mike Mareno, Bob Garippo, Lou Zielinki, and Mike Tallo. Bob was MVP two times in the '70s with the Rogues before moving to Otto's in the '80s. Bob played second base and catcher for Otto's. He was surrounded with great players on the team, again all Hall of Fame inductees: Mike Tallo, Rich Urbanski, Bill Massuci, Jim Krause, Paul Brezinski, and Tim Decker. In the '80s Bob also played with the Pirates of Broadview and also with the Stooges, led by Pat Caputo (HOF) and Michael and Jimmy Spidale of the Stooges. He finished his playing days with the Bally team and a work team in the suburbs. Bob went on to manage and coach some great teams in the '90s through the new millennium, including Primetime, Lettuce, Licorice, Sage, Maxim, Flash, and Jinx, five-time national champions. Bob lives in Carol Stream with his wife, Terry. He has three sons, Bobby Jr., Randy, and Mark and two stepsons, Brian and Keith. They have eight grandchildren and a chocolate lab named Toby.
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.