The Legends Story
The Legends of the Game is a group of men who play 16-inch softball. Although the statement is simple, concise, and true, it does not fully identify who we are. It does not fully represent the spirit, pride, and friendship that bind this team. This story goes beyond the softball field. It transcends the game itself.
To better understand us, you have to go back to the beginning. The team's roots were planted in the summer of 1968 when a group of 18-year-old high school boys, living within a stone's throw of the corner of Park and Windemere Avenues in Brookfield, wanted to join a 16-inch softball league. In order to fund the entry fee, they persuaded a local establishment, Enzo's Pizza (later called Santino's and now a CVS Pharmacy) in Brookfield, into sponsoring them, and adopted it as their official team name. Little did they realize that when they joined the Brookfield Recreation Men's Softball League that summer, the Enzo's team would still playing competitively into the new millennium as the Legends of the Game.
Besides Enzo's Pizza, the team played under a number of other sponsors' banners during their first 24 summers. Some of them were Accurate Automotive, Brixie's Tap, Ziebart, The Sanctuary, Irish Pub, Jake's Pizza, and Baker's Dozen. Initially the games were well attended by the players' girlfriends and later, when the marriage bug hit, many of those ladies in the stands became their wives. Later when the stork began arriving, the sound of children's voices joined the cheers from the bleachers.
As far as wins and losses were concerned during the early years, it was a two steps forward, one step back proposition. However, in the process the boys found out what it took to win consistently. Indeed, there were seasons when the team lacked the talent to grab the brass ring of a league title. However, it became clear to them that effort, spirit, and enthusiasm were the key ingredients to producing victories. More often than not, that energy was enough to keep them in the title hunt until the end of the season, and along the way they developed a reputation as being a tough game on every opponent's schedule.
Once in 1973, the league attempted to oust the Enzo's team from the league for the sole reason of adding a team that had political clout within the village. The eviction, however, only lasted a few days as the fathers of the boys rallied together, stormed the Village Hall, and insisted the team be reinstated.
Although many of the original founding players continued to play regularly, the team tweaked its roster every few years by adding a player or two, but it took only a short time for the new players to immerse themselves into the camaraderie of the team. Most softball players look to play for a team that they feel comfortable with, one that they can be proud of, and one that has the ability to snag a title. These guys were evolving into such a team. Not only were they unified on the field, but also they became unified away from the diamond.
Social events began to spring up from this softball friendship. It started simply as a couple of parties at Lynn's house, a get together at Brookfield's Fourth of July fireworks show, and a lasagna party at Pat's. In the winter, poker parties began to bring the guys together during the off season and then when players began to purchase houses or move to new apartments, impromptu moving parties sprung up. Whatever they did, they did it together and when new players joined the team, they immediately felt comfortable enough to join right in.
Three picnics were held annually for over 25 years on a two-acre piece of land in Bloomingdale, Illinois. They were held on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Being that the Memorial Day Picnic was in the spring, rain occasionally made an appearance, but never lessened the turnout or the spirit and fun. In 1983 the first Bloomingdale World Team Horseshoe Championship was held at the Fourth of July picnic, and this fall the 25th edition of this event will take place. The Fourth of July Picnic also spawned an impromptu evening Legends fireworks show that sometimes grew into somewhat of a frightening proportion, and they became an annual event. Historians will write that it was remarkable the town of Bloomingdale was not burned to the ground during those back yard sky shows. The Labor Day Picnic was special for it's gonzo volleyball, touch football, and huge season ending bonfire. Picnics as well as all Legends activities were always open to the players, friends, and relatives of the team. At any given picnic one could expect as few as 10 to as many as 85 attendees. Participants at those picnics cherish many memories of the event, particularly of the Spartan facilities that included only a homemade outhouse and a garage with no electric, gas, or water service. Nonetheless, the charcoal grills burned all day long and the fun continued well after dark.
On Thanksgiving week, the team still holds its traditional Turkey Bowl football game. In the early years, it was a tackle football game without pads. Then age, good sense, and the need to go to work on Monday morning won out, and the game evolved into two-hand touch affair. Also every January, the team participated in a charity outdoor softball tournament in Pleasantdale and Hodgkins until the villages discontinued the fund raisers. In its last go round, Legends' participation in it helped raise $1200 for Helping Hand Charity.
Rolling into the late 80's and early 90's, the team's performance was best exemplified by the numerous times they left opposing teams of 20 and 30 year olds at the field, incredulous over having been beaten by a bunch of 40+ year-olds. However, by the summer of 1992 the team had not yet won a title, although it had posted a number of strong second place finishes. Things were about to change…
During the winter of 1991-92, Brookfield Recreation, which had already been on a downward spiral during the preceding few years, announced that they might be unable to field a league the following summer. With a heavy heart, the Brookfield team investigated other local leagues and finally chose to enter the Men's Softball League in LaGrange rather than take the chance of having their streak of 24 consecutive playing seasons interrupted. The new league would play on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the LaGrange YMCA just east of the intersection of Ogden Avenue and LaGrange Road in LaGrange. Years later it would be noted how significant that decision would be to re-energize and rededicate the team, starting with its name.
The team felt that entering a new league demanded a new team identity. What name would best exemplify what the team was about? “Legends” was a nominated suggestion because the team had 24 years of 16-inch softball history under its belt. Other players wanted a name more representative of the present or future. Consulting Webster's Dictionary, it was discovered that one definition of legend is “a person that inspires legends”. This was what they were looking for. “Legends of the Game” became the adopted name not only to extol its longevity, but also to encourage its players to compete in such a manner as to inspire new legends.
The newly named Legends of the Game made their debut in LaGrange on a 45-degree Tuesday night in May of 1992. Their first performance, however, was not the stuff that legends are made of. In their inaugural game, the Mustangs pounded them 21-13, and left them wondering why they had left Brookfield in the first place. Thankfully, the story doesn't end here. The Legends, living up to their namesake, refused to give up and won 16 of their next 19 games while allowing their opponents 5 runs or less in 13 of the contests and finishing tied for first place with the Mustangs. The following season the Legends won the title outright with a 19-1 record and were promoted up to the next higher division. Two years later they were promoted again after winning that division with another 19-1 record…and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1992 the Legends decided to expand to two teams by entering a team into LaGrange's 39 & Over League, which plays only on Friday nights. It was created for those Legends players and friends who were no longer able to crack the roster of the main squad or had schedules that conflicted with the midweek team. Now they could still enjoy the camaraderie of playing softball while still carrying on the Legends tradition in their own way. Also, the players from the midweek league will occasionally join the Friday team for a game in order to catch up with their good friends. With either team on any given night, it's not uncommon to see a few of the players' wives, children, relatives, friends, or grandchildren in the stands… and of course, the single guys still bring out their significant others.
In 1992 the Legends celebrated their 25th anniversary with a special patch on their left uniform sleeve. In 1993 the team began a bi-monthly newsletter called, The Legend that continues yet today. In June of 1998 the team entered a float in LaGrange's Pet Parade and walked along side of it on a rainy day. Their children and grandchildren had a great time riding aboard it while the team handed out Legends Frisbees and 16-inch softballs along the parade route. The Suburban Life Newspaper was impressed enough to run front-page stories about the team in their sports section in June of 1992 and again in September of 1995. In January of 2000, the Legends of the Game went high tech with the debut of their web site at http://legends-softball.com/ which garnered over 700 hits in less than 90 days and over 3,000 in it's first two years. On any given day you can check that web site for information on Legends related events, schedules, statistics, records, news, the The Legend newsletter, pictures, and the very popular player profile which features a bio and photographs of different Legends players.
The team continued at full speed into the 90's with events such as overnight canoe trips, Cubs, White Sox, and Rush outings, croquet tournaments and then they further expanded by adding a 12-inch softball team for a few years. Also there is still a golf outing annually, the Legends World Team Horseshoe Championship, winter volleyball nights, Legends Dinner Night Out, and of course, 16 inch softball. These events have always included children, family, and friends.
In November of 2002, the men of story and song along with their significant others invaded Greek Town in downtown Chicago to celebrate their 35th anniversary. It was well attended by Legends, past and present, and needless to say there were an equal number of toasts to past and present glories.
The Legends are proud of their reputation of playing smart, stifling defense and going all out to win while still embracing the code of sportsmanship. Once players join the Legends, they tend to join for life. The midweek team presently rosters players from the age of 20 to 65, including 7 players, each with at least 37 years of Legends seasons under their belts… and now two Legends' sons are playing, turning the team into Legends of the Game, the Next Generation!
In the summer of 2000, another success story occurred when the Legends 39 and over team, also known as the Friday team, climbed it's way to the top of the division to claim it's first title in it's ninth season of existence. The championship was won without sacrificing the principles that the 39'er team was based on...that being that everyone who shows up for the game plays equally. Because the 39'er league rules allow for an unlimited line up, during that championship season there were games in which as many as 18 of the Friday Legends appeared in the batting order at one time and still the team continued to be victorious.
Again during the summer of 2002, the Midweek Legends of the Game added to their reputation when they came from two games back in the final two weeks of the season, posting a 15-3 record and again winning the LaGrange title outright. To do so, they won four of their final five games, allowing only 8 runs total during the stretch run. Again, their trademark defense paved the way.
In 2005 the Midweek team finished in sixth place in the 11 team league. Yet, they proved again that they are to be reckoned with as they swept the league's post season playoffs, knocking off the #11, #3, #2, and #5 seeds, and grabbing the playoff crown. Then to make the year complete, the team took a Fall road trip to the movie location of the "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa. There they took the field, played ball, and met people from around the country, many of which had never seen a 16" softball. It was a moving experience for the Legends, and they appeared to have left their mark on a number of the visitors there. A musical montage of the visit can be found on the website.
In 2008, the Midweek team blazed another trail of success by finishing the regular season with a 12-6 record, placing them 4th in the 14 team division, a division in which they are by a significant margin, the oldest team in average age.
In 2013 the Legends of the Game began their second season in the Berwyn Rec League. In their maiden season there, they surprised the league by finishing second in their division. Incredibly, 2013 marked their 46th anniversary softball season AND their sixth decade of existence. They have played consecutively in the 1960's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's, and 10's! Four Legends who participated in all six decades still play on the squad along side second generation players. Events such as the Legends World Horseshoe Championship, Legends Golf Outing, and Legends Volleyball still populate the calendar along with many other social events.
In 2015, the Legends finished with a 7-7 record in Berwyn Rec. Also in 2015, the team unanimously inducted Nat Pappalardo into our own Legends of the Game Hall of Fame as our first entry ever. Nat was a 16 year Legends veteran with a lifetime .452 batting average and a clutch .531 average in the playoffs! Check the website to view other players that made their way to the Legends Hall of Fame.
On April 16, 2016, the Legends of the Game opened a brand new chapter in their history when they were inducted into the Chicago 16” Softball Hall of Fame.
The Legends also have a proud tradition that they do annually near the end of every season. For one game, they each wear a different jersey from the team's past and call it Turn Back the Clock Night. Then at the end of the game, the team plus all Legends players from the past in attendance take to the field for a team picture.
The next big milestone for this team comes in May of 2022 when they begin their… 55th consecutive softball season!
Is there another title in store for this band of warriors after 54 years in the softball wars? Follow along in our web site or better yet, scan the 2022 schedule calendar online and take in a game. Allow us to proudly welcome you to...
Legends of the Game Softball!