In 1974, manager Gloria Kolbusz’s 16-inch softball team was looking to play some 12-inch softball. She checked around and discovered the Northeastern Illinois Women’s Slow Pitch Softball League, which featured the best women’s teams in the area.
Kolbusz and her team, The Chicagoans, featured great players like Mary Pat McGuire, Mary Schaeffer, Karen Foley, Mary Malpede and Jan Wilson. They were soon playing against the best teams in northeastern Illinois. Wanting to measure themselves against the very best competition that was available, Kolbusz and her teammates were soon looking beyond Chicagoland.
“When you’re a big fish in a small pond, you want to see what else is out there,” Kolbusz said.
The Chicagoans originally played ASA softball, but switched to the USSSA in the mid-70s.
“I didn’t like their tournament set-up,” Kolbusz confided.
The Chicagoans now found themselves playing against nationally ranked powerhouses like top-ranked Little Caesar’s out of Detroit, Michigan and the Cincinnati Knights of Columbus, Ohio. For over a decade, the Chicagoans traveled throughout the country, including many Rockford tournaments.
Though never finishing higher than eighth nationally, the Chicagoans were routinely ranked among the top 20. Here in Illinois, they won three State Class A Titles in 1982, 1984 and 1988. Along with the Lassies and Coors Lite, they were perennial favorites throughout the 80s.
“Gloria’s teams competed in our program longer than any other Class A team,” State Director Brenda Paulson said. “They didn’t just play, they were competitive. That had a lot to do with Gloria Kolbusz.”
Beside the satisfaction of working with and against so many quality ball players, Kolbusz most appreciates the spirit and pride of her colleagues.
“Softball gave me the opportunity to meet and associate with so many great people, both here and around the country,” she said. “There’s so many memories.”