Joe Speaker’s love of softball was created at an early age, right out of high school. He began playing in the Joliet Park District Church League.
“I lived for Monday nights back then,” Speaker said.
This team, in a few short years, played in the championship game of the Prestigious Joliet City Tournament.
“Even though we got beat, my desire to get better and play better competition grew,” he said.
In the 1980s, Speaker played with Jim’s Peppers (C Level) and Brown and Lambrecht (A/B Level), where he was introduced to the USSSA game. He played with many of the best players in Illinois, and team and individual success followed.
In 1989, Speaker began playing for the Fraternal Order of Police in Joliet. He played on eight city championship teams in the 90s. That winter, he was invited to join the Bank of Westmont.
“I credited the players and managers on the Brown and Lambrecht, FOP and Bank of Westmont teams for teaching me the game of softball,” Speaker said. “Keeping the team involved and playing well was much more important that individual play.”
Playing on the Bank of Westmont, Mid-America Concrete, Belchers, Kings, Illusions, Tron Piping and Ken’s Beverage, Speaker was on numerous State Championship teams. While enjoying much success at the World Tournament level, mostly in A and B divisions, there was never a National Championship.
In 1994, Speaker began playing in the USSSA 35 & Over division. Numerous State Tournaments were won with great sponsors like the Bank of Westmont, Mid-America Concrete, Tron Piping and KBI. Then, in 1996 and 1997 they won back-to-back World Series titles in the 35 & Over division.
“The ‘95 win was by far my greatest softball memory,” Speaker said. “To come back and beat Mountain Top twice was unbelievable.”
Speaker hit over .600 in his USSSA career with over 700 home runs. He was also an excellent defensive first baseman.
“The USSSA is the big leagues of softball,” Speaker said. “Tournaments were always organized and well run.”
“I was blessed to play for great sponsors, great coaches, with great teammates and a great family,” he said. “Team success had to come before individual honors, and wow, did I play for some great ones.”
You’re still winning, Joe, by being inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. Congratulations!