Veterans’ Association of the  Chicago & Northwestern Railway
Organized December 9, 1924
The C&NW 16-Inch Softball Team
The   game   of   softball   started   in   Chicago   on   Thanksgiving   day   1887   at   the   Farragut   Boat   Club,   when   Yale   &   Harvard   alumni, waiting   for   the   ticker-tape   score   of   their   annual   football   game,   wrapped   up   a   boxing   glove   with   tape   &   started   hitting   it   around inside the gym with a broom-stick.  Those   men   formalized   rules   &   eventually   the   game   moved   outdoors.      In   Chicago   the   parks   &   school   grounds   were   small,   so   the ball   had   to   be   bigger   to   stay   in   the   park.      The   16-inch   diameter   became   the   size   of   choice   and   the   game   of   choice   during   the "Great   Depression"   since   all   you   needed   was   a   bat   &   a   ball.      16-inch,   or   "NO-GLOVE,"   softball   has   been   famous   only   in Chicago since the 1920's. 16-Inch   softball   remained   a   Chicago   game   and   is   played   without   gloves.      Starting   back   in   the   1920’s,   the   C&NW   fielded   a   team made   up   of   Ravenswood   office   employees   which   lasted   into   the   1990’s.      In   2008,   Jim   Hallgren   submitted   the   team’s   application for   induction   into   the   Chicago   16-Inch   Softball   Hall   of   Fame   and   in   2009   this   application   was   accepted   and   the   team   became part   of   the   Hall   of   Fame   Class   of   2008.         This   application   for   this   honor,   repeated   below,   and   succeeding   pages   on   this   web   site tell the story.  Our thanks to Jim Hallgren who made this material available.
To the Board of Directors of the Chicago 16" Softball Hall of Fame Re: The Chicago & North Western Railroad (also the "C&NW" or the "Railroad") Softball Dynasty. Thank   you   for   the   opportunity   to   describe   to   you   why   the   C&NW   should   have   the   honor   and   distinct   privilege   of   being inducted   into   the   Chicago   16"   Softball   Hall   of   Fame.      The   primary   reason   for   the   induction   is   the   team's   remarkable   string   of victories   and   Championships   under   Hall   of   Fame   Manager   Joe   Umana   (inducted   2004)   from   1965   to   and   through   1992.   But those teams were the pinnacle of a gloried history that started in the 1920's. Records   of   games   played   by   C&NW   teams   in   the   Twenties   demonstrate   a   "roaring"   and   successful   team   that   captured   the essence   of   that   decade. A   photograph   of   the   1925   C&NW   team   includes   visage   of   its   player/manager   23   year   old Abe   Saperstein (bottom   row   second   from   the   left).   Mr.   Saperstein   played   shortstop   and   managed   that   team   the   year   before   he   became   the leader of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1926. In   the   Thirties,   the   Railroad   recruited   workers,   despite   the   Great   Depression,   based   on   their   prowess   on   the   diamond. Employees   were   retained   regardless   of   their   work   skills   (or   lack   of   work   skills)   until   the   softball   season   ended.   The   records   of their   games   were   unfortunately   lost   to   time,   but   legends   remain   about   the   teams   and   hundreds   of   dollars   won   and   lost   on   the field and in the stands on wagers, at a time when one dollar was an acceptable daily wage. But,   it   was   in   the   60's   when   the   C&NW   truly   became   Joe   Umana's   "Monster   of   the   Midway."      In   1965,   Umana   entered   the Chicago   &   North   Western   team   in   the   Clarendon   Park   Industrial   League.      The   team   took   first   place.      From   1965   to   and through   the   1992   season,   "Joe's   Team",   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   Railroad   16"   Softball   Team,   won   26   Industrial   League and   Men's   League   Park   Championships;   2   Grant   Park Tournament   of   Champions   City-Wide   First   Place Titles;   one   City-Wide Industrial   first   place   finish   at   Thillens   Stadium,   2   Grant   Park   Tournament   of   Champions   Second   Place   finishes;   with   a   total   of 7   Final   Four   finishes   in   the   Grant   Park   Industrial   Tournament   of   Champions   from   1969   through   1977.      There   are   few,   if   any, teams with records that even come close to the C&NW's record of success during those years. Some highlights worth recounting include the following: ·                           In   1969,   Manager   Umana   led   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   16-Inch   Softball   Team   to   an   undefeated   regular   season   at Welles   Park.   This   was   followed   by   the   team   capturing   the   City   Championship   of   16-Inch   Industrial   Softball   at   the   Grant   Park Industrial Tournament of Champions. ·                           In   1970,   the   C&NW   repeated   as   the   City-Wide   Champions   by   once   again   taking   the   Grant   Park   Industrial   Tournament of Champions. ·                           In   1972   and   1973,   the   team   repeated   its   success   at   the   highest   levels   of   Chicago   16-Inch   Industrial   softball   by   winning   the first five games of the Grant Park Tournament. In both years, the team took second place at the Tournament. As   a   result,   during   that   five-year   period,   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   16"   Softball   Team   finished   first   or   second,   four   years out of five. ·                           In   1990   Joe   Umana   entered   his   railroad   team   in   the   City   Wide   Industrial   Tournament   at   Thillens   Stadium.   The   team prevailed   in   come-from-behind   fashion,   by   winning   five   straight   games   then   losing   to   the   U.   S.   Postal   service,   who   had   played their   way   through   the   "loser's   bracket".   Then   defeating   that   same   Postal   Service   team   m   the   Championship   game   11-6.   This Championship Team consisted of many of the same players who were mainstays of the great 1969 through 1977 team. One   of   the   C&NW's   most   memorable   games   at   the   Grant   Park   Industrial Tournament   of   Champions   was   in   1976. The   C&NW came   face-to-face   with   the   fantastic   Chicago   Daily   News   team   that   was   inducted   into   your   Hall   of   Fame   last   year.   Mike   Royko was   on   the   mound   for   the   "Paper"   and   Tim   Weigel   played   left   field   for   them.   The   previous   year,   1975,   that   Daily   News   team was   crowned   City   Champs.   But   that   was   not   to   happen   in   1976.   Instead,   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   team   beat   the   Daily   by 10   runs.   More   incredible   -   the   1975   City   Champs   were   shut   out   by   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   team   10-0.   When   asked   if   he was   going   to   give   his   team   the   "Weigel   Weiner"   on   his   nightly   sportscast,   a   very   gracious   Tim   Weigel   had   nothing   but   praise for   the   C&NW   team,   and   he   admitted   that   in   all   of   his   years   playing   16"   softball,   he   had   never   before   been   the   victim   of   a shutout. Over   the   years   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   Team   played   &   developed   some   great   rivalries   with   many   tough   teams   such   as; The   First   National   Bank   of   Chicago,   Commonwealth   Edison,   Illinois   Bell,   Peoples   Gas,   CTA,   Rheem   Co.,   The   Chicago   Fire Dept,   The   Chicago   Police   Dept.,   S&C   Electric   Co.,   Stewart   Warner,   Zenith   Co.,   Kemper   Insurance   Co.   and   Combined Insurance   Co.   to   name   a   few.      Our   favorite   opponent   was   The   Bank   of   Ravenswood;   in   1982   &   1983   their   team   included   Mr. Cub   himself,   Ernie   Banks.     What   a   thrill   it   was   to   play   on   the   same   field   with   a   Chicago   icon.      Ernie   could   still   hit   the   ball   with authority even at the age of 51. There   was   very   little   worker   turnover   at   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   and   that   carried   over   to   the   softball   team.      It   was   not uncommon   to   field   a   team   consisting   of   a   majority   of   players   that   worked   and   played   together   for   more   than   15   years.      Joe Umana's   guys   were   and   still   are   a   loyal   bunch,   some   say   that   he   taught   us   all   how   to   be   winners.      His   leadership   and   constant striving for excellence brought the team to championship form 29 times in that 28 year span from 1965 to 1992. Here   is   a   list   of   players   that   were   very   proud   to   be   a   part   of   the   Chicago   &   North   Western   Railroad   16-Inch   Softball   winning tradition:   Joe   Umana,   Mike   Coyne,   Billy   Haig,   Wally   Friese,   Sy   Berman,   Bud   Allen,   Joe   Jurkisatis,   Ron   Ambroziak,   Jack Walter,   Noel   Julian,   Denny   Zeri,   Jerry   Steigerwald,   Cliff   Edington,   Larry   Thompson,   Dick   Stewart,   Sal   Pantano,   Tom   May, Ted   Lambrakis,   Vince   Flanagan,   Tony   Handzel,   Jim   Hallgren,   Bob   Franzen,   Rich   Gonzales,   Dave   Knight,   Gary   Ogurek,   Ed Lydiksen,   Tim   O'Brien,   Bob   Madsen,   Gary   Kolbe,   Denny   Madison,   Sylvester   Bobo,   Lee   Bellman,   Jeff   Liggett,   Roy   Kramer, Rich   Ginger,   Paul   Blazek,   Joe   Collins,   Al   Long,   Howard   Schulman,   Joe   Hill,   Ziggy   Wejman,   Dennis   Brauner,   Pat   Fiege,   Nick Poulos,   Larry   Prince,   Bill   Boukas   &   Don   Napen.      The   Chicago   &   North   Western   Industrial   Team   has   an   80-year   commitment to excellence and a record and history that reflects that commitment. It   would   be   a   just   tribute   to   the   Railroad   and   the   honor   of   a   lifetime   to   those   of   us   who   battled   for   the   Railroad   on   the   softball diamonds of Chicago, to have the team inducted into the Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame.   Here’s   the   group   attending   the   2008   Hall   of   Fame   induction   ceremonies.      Standing,   left   to   right::   Dick   Stewart,   Pat   Fiege,   Roy Kramer,   Ed   Lydiksen,   Tony   Handzel,   Jerry   Steigerwald,   Wally   Friese,   Sylvester   Bobo,   Jim   Hallgren   &   Vince   Flanagan.   Seated,   left   to   right:   Tim   O'Brien,   Gary   Kolbe,   Bob   Madsen,   Joe   Umana,   Sy   Berman,   Bob   Franzen,   Joe   Collins   &   Zig Wejman.  Also attending but not pictured: Lee Bellman, Paul Blazek & Mike Coyne.  
Following   the   induction,   commemorative   shirts   were   made   up   and   given   to   all   former   team   members.      Here’s   what   they   look like.  We all got a view of this one, held by Marie Lambrakis, on September 25th at the 2009 Chicago Chapter luncheon.
Championships Championships Team Records Team Records 1925-1977 1925-1977 1980 1980 1983 1983 1984 1984 1990 1990 2005 2005 Top of Page Top of Page