Anyone who grew up in Chicago in the 1950s probably fondly remembers a game of 16-inch softball.
Patrick Murphy, adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar School of Business and former principal at Milwaukee management consulting firm P.J. Murphy & Associates, certainly can. That’s why he and a group of transplanted Chicago natives in Milwaukee formed The Sixteen Inch Society in 2012.
Each year, the society organizes a 16-inch softball game to benefit a local nonprofit organization or charity. The game is held on the second Sunday in June at Milwaukee’s LaFollette Park.
“It’s really about community,” Murphy said. “We try to make the day special for the organization, and just get together and have a good time playing a game we all love from our childhoods.”
The game is played with an enlarged softball, pitched at an elevated are and fielded without gloves, Murphy said.
The Sixteen Inch Society has raised more than $140,000 for local organizations over the past 14 years, and its popularity is growing. One hundred percent of all money raised goes to support the chosen organizations, Murphy said.
Anyone can play, and everyone is encouraged, but not required, to make a donation to that year’s designated organization. Teams are selected in the Chicago schoolyard tradition.
Organizations that have benefited from The Sixteen Inch Society games in the past include: Bridging the Gap Learning Center; Pius High School; Basilica of St. Josephat Grade School; House of Peace; Marquette Law School Outreach Program; St. Ben’s Meal Program; Jay Balcunas Scholarship Fund; The Benedict Center; Repairers of the Breach; The Miracle League of Milwaukee; Messmer Catholic Schools; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; and St. John’s Cathedral and Open Door Cafe.
The designated organizations must have a Chicago connection, Murphy said. That connection usually comes in the form of a person – a board member or employee somehow connected to Chicago and/or 16-Inch softball.
Anyone making a financial contribution of $100 or more earns the right to nominate a charity and become a voting member in designating the organization to benefit from the funds the following year.
“Each organization we support has such a unique story,” Murphy said. “People are invited to come out and support the organization, play the game or just enjoy the atmosphere we create.”
Each player receives a complimentary t-shirt and refreshments and Chicago-style hot dogs are provided for those participating by Martino’s. Martino’s has graciously supported the organization’s efforts since its inception, Murphy said.
The winning team is presented with the Mary Anderson Memorial Trophy, named for the former owner of Martino’s, who passed away in March 2009. The trophy, complete with a photograph of the winning team, is displayed throughout the year at
Martino’s, 1215 W. Layton Ave. in Milwaukee, Murphy said.
“We have great people who help make this event possible,” Murphy said. “Mary was a wonderful friend of the organization. Her son, TJ, and his wife, Cathy, carry on his mother’s tradition.”
Regis Welsh produces the shirts for the organization every year, Murphy said.