John Lilly lent his name and financial support to the best softball team Illinois has ever produced. Though Lilly Air Systems played in an era before technology forever altered the power hitting game, no other team in Illinois history has crafted a pedigree that compares. Lilly Air Systems put Illinois softball on the national map.
In 1978, John had the simple but ambitious goal of making Lilly Air Systems the best team it could be. By the early-80s, they were defeating the best teams of the era, teams like Howard’s Furniture, Jerry’s Catering, Elite Coatings, Campbell’s Carpets and Steele’s.
Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductees Ron Olesiak, Benny Holt and Al Van Gampler played for Lilly’s, as did Wisconsin USSSA Hall of Fame inductees Phil Higgins and Ron Donaski. Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductee Pete Williams was their manager.
Before disbanding in 1986, Lilly’s would win three USSSA Major NIT Championships, compete in six consecutive USSSA World Tournaments and bow out with the 1986 Illinois Class A State Championship. In 1985, Lilly’s finished third at the USSSA Super Majors, beating both Steele’s and Howard’s in the process. Finally, in 1984, Lilly’s captured the National Major Title from that other softball organization.