Tommy “T” Thompson
- 1015 wins
- Won thirty-seven league championships
- Won the Mt Prospect Classic League in 2012
- Won ASA Class “A” Nationals in 2007
- Won ten tournaments
- Finished third in ASA Class “A” Nationals in 2000, and 2004 after losing winners bracket final
- Finished third in ASA/SSA Major Nationals in 2009 and 2011 after losing winners bracket final
- Seven other top-ten finishes in Nationals for a total of eleven top-ten finishes in seventeen years
- Seventeen top-ten finishes in Major tournaments
- One of only four teams who played in Forest Park No Glove Nationals every year since 2007. Thunder had two top-ten finishes in that time span
- Finished third in ASA State Championships in 2007 and 2009
- Fourth in total number of wins in Mt Prospect Classic League history
- Team manager Frank Stella ranked fourth in total number of wins among managers in Mt Prospect Classic League history
- Thirty-nine players with All-American awards at Nationals
- Two players win the batting championship at Nationals
- Two players win the most home runs award at Nationals
- Two players win the most home runs award at Forest Park No Glove Nationals
- One player won the MVP at ASA Class “A” Nationals
Tom Duff started playing 16-inch softball in 1975 in the Oak Park leagues with Clockwork, a team he formed. Duff also coached and/or organized most of the teams he played on, including his Leo Burnett and Optimus teams that won many Ad League Championships at Grant Park. These teams included longtime Clockwork teammate and HOF inductee, Dan “Sheik” Carmody. Duff finished his thirty-year career in the 2005 Hamlin Park tournament.
Duff was recruited to play with the Takers and Rox and helped them win additional park leagues and tournaments at the Major “A” level. Tom Duff was considered to be one of the finest defensive first basemen of his era. In addition to having great hands and stretching ability, he had tremendous range, quickness and softball “smarts.” His large, still mutilated fingers are a testament to his ability to catch everything thrown or hit his way.
In addition to his defensive prowess, his great leadership and strong desire to win inspired many of his teammates. He often channeled this “hot-headed” nature to get into opponent’s heads. One of his longtime teammates said, “Tommy never played for the recognition or pats on the back. He was the real, I love this game, deal. He respected the game, he loved the game, and he loved to win.
He was sought after by the best teams, and could have played “A” level ball exclusively if he chose to. But his first loyalty remained with his neighborhood Clockwork team, which competed at a high “B” level.
Tom Duff played 16-inch softball from 1975 to 2005 with the peak years from 1980 to 2004. During these peak years, his teams won many tournament championships and league titles. Clockwork won the Hamlin Park in 1987, 2003, and 2004; Rox won it in the 1990’s. Additionally, his teams won league titles at Oak Park (1987 and 1989), Kosciuszko Park, Riis Park, Clarendon Park, Kelly Park, and they won the Berwyn Tournament.
Tom grew up in Oak Park and graduated from St. Ignatius High School. He earned his undergraduate degree at Loyola University and his graduate degree at DePaul. Tom and his wife, Pam, live in La Grange Park. They have four children: Kevin (already a two-time 16-inch Nationals winner), Liz, Kelly, and Maggie. Tom is the President of Optimus, an Advertising Creative Services company in Chicago.
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.
James “J.T.” Tencza
Team The 45’s
Ted “Todge” Tomczak
One of eleven children growing up in Oak Park, IL, Phil played all sports. As quarterback and halfback at North Austin Boys Club football at Amundsen Park, he led each team to a Pop Warner championship.
Phil started high school at Oak Park & River Forest where he quarterbacked an undefeated freshman team. After his family moved to Texas, they returned to Chicago, where he attended and played his senior year at Taft High School. His team won the Public League Championship in 1972- 73 and played in the City of Chicago Prep Bowl. This championship team was just elected into the Taft High School Hall of Fame. He graduated from Elmhurst College where he played football and was co-captain. He played safety and punter. He led the team with a single season of 111 tackles and seven interceptions, both school records at the time.
Upon graduation, he started playing 16 – inch softball with his college buddies on the Den and Alley teams. They played at Amundsen & Kosciuszko Park. He then helped start the “Titans” with Tom Eukovich. They started playing at Sayre Park, Berwyn and later at Kelly Park. He then went on to play for ten years with the Blue Max team led by (HOF) Frank Holan Award winner Jimmy Giblin. His teams won the Amundsen, Bellwood and La Grange leagues and placed at Portage Park. They also played in the tough Kelly Park and Clarendon Park leagues. The Blue Max won the Andy Frain tournament championship at Clarendon Park beating a (HOF) Billy Bereckis led team. Phil led the team in hitting when the Blue Max won the tournament championship at the Cicero Clyde Park Suburban Life tournament. Another highlight was playing with the Blue Max in the Berwyn tournament where the Blue Max lost to the Bobcats 8-7. The Blue Max played in the Metro Championship at Lou Boudreau Field where they eventually lost to the champion Stickman. Phil also played with his brother Tony on the Jets in Hamlin and Wells Parks with (HOF) Carl Maniscalco.
Concurrently, Phil played on the Blue Max infused team called Spirit in the Forest Park House League where they won three championships and automatic bid entries into the prestigious 16 - inch No Glove Tournament. He also played on the Clan that won the league three years later. He played on the highly ranked Josephs team, which included the (HOF) Jimmy Krause. Josephs went on to league championships at Melrose Park, Bensenville. The Josephs team placed fourth in the Forest Park tournament and also participated in many tournaments up at Trevor, WI.
Phil then hooked up with (HOF) Manager – “Chubbs” Polfus and the HOF team Takers from Oak Park. Also on the team were (HOF) Stan Bachaus and Wall of Fame player Jimmy Walsh. The Takers went on to win Kosciuszko and Oak Park, leagues. Currently, Phil is still playing three nights per week in the over 50 leagues. Phil played on The Takers with (HOF) Angelo Alesia in the Clyde Park 50 - and – over – league where they won four consecutive championships.
Phil now plays with the Crush team run by Mickey Ballestri (HOF) at La Grange and won the 50 - and – over – league and championship. Phil also plays with the March Manufacturing Doctors in the Berwyn 39 and over - league where they won the Berwyn league and championship in 2016 and 2017. The team was run by (HOF) Ray Topps. Phil plays with the team “Still Cruisin” in the Glenview league with HOF players Wally Pecs, Mark Frighetto, Tim Decker, Jerry Rhea and Stan Bachusz. They finished tied in the regular season for first place in 2016.
Phil would like to thank his teammates and his brother Tony for their competitiveness and friendships. He would like to thank his bride, Jan, for forty years of support, patience and love! Phil and Jan live in Elmwood Park. They have two terrific sons and daughters-in-law, Daniel (Anna) and Jason (Jen) and are blessed to have three terrific grandchildren, Tessa, Lukas, and Joseph.