16-inch Softball Hall of Fame
As I settled into my new home in Forest Park, IL, directly west of downtown Chicago, I came across a big park area, complete with a museum on the western end. One day I decided to explore this place, which turned out to be the national 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame.
The museum opened in July 2014, and it does a thorough job of documenting the rise of the uniquely Chicago sport. It began more than 100 years ago when some young lads, waiting to hear the result of the annual Harvard-Yale football game, tied two boxing gloves together and began to whack it around with a bat. Thus, the modern sport of softball was born.
It underwent many changes throughout the years, including the explosion of popularity for the harder 12-inch softball variety (this is the type played by girls throughout the country today). Yet the 16-inch softball scene retained its sense of camaraderie and gamemanship. Played with no gloves and a generous underhand pitch to begin each play, it is easy to pick up and hard to put down.
My favorite part of the museum lies with the incredible uniform collection of softball teams past and present. Often sponsored by local companies, the uniforms ranged from the stylish to the wacky, with plenty of room in between. The "Jakes Recreation" outfit shown below may be my favorite, with the matching pants and cap.
Outside, the inducted members of the hall of fame are celebrated with individual cards with information. While some are players, others were well-known coaches, sports writers, even celebrities who helped promote 16-inch softball. It is very well done, and gives a valuable glimpse into the development of Chicago as a city over the years, as well as this sport.
This was a very engaging museum. Is it small? No question. But the rich history combined with the passion of the volunteers who help to run the museum make it a pretty fascinating spot in the Chicago sports history scene.
7501 W. Harrison St.
Forest Park, IL 60130