Chicago Has Some Big Stuff Too
The tag line: “Everything is Bigger in Texas” is probably based on some factual data compiled by…well…I’m guessing someone in Texas. But I can see why the statement can resonate with people who live or visit The Lone Star State. Hey…It’s really BIG. But with all due respect to the good people of Texas, Chicago also has some big stuff; big food (think deep dish pizza), big burgers (everyone has some sort of giant burger on their menu these days), big disappointments (Cubbies), and big criminals (I don’t have time for this list). However, one of my favorite Chicago BIG things is probably also the least known…the 16 inch softball. If you’re from Chicago, you know that the “Clincher” is a big Chicago thing. Heck, just knowing what a “Clincher” is…is a big Chicago thing.
16 Inch Softball is a Chicago Thing
Softball is not a Chicago thing, but the 16 inch game seems to be. It started here, some say back in the late 1800’s, and worked well in the smaller Chicago parks. It can even be played indoors, so our unpredictable weather can’t even get in the way. It still enjoys significant popularity today, although it’s heyday is likely the 1950’s. I have played softball for many years, and whenever I talk with someone from outside of our lakeside city about the game, the first comment is usually something like “you guys play with that goofy pillow ball”. Well, truth be told, I rarely play the 16 inch variety, although I do enjoy it. However, I like my fingers when they all point in the proper direction, so I stick to the 12 inch variety. NOTE! If you are not familiar, the bigger ball is played without gloves, and the hard core guys (and girls) occasionally receive battle wounds that you might expect if someone were to shoot watermelons from a cannon at your face and expect you to catch them. (Broken fingers are as common as beer bellies and clogged arteries on THESE fields of broken dreams)
Why Isn’t 16 Inch Softball More Popular?
There is an attraction to the game besides the fact that it can be played in smaller spaces, especially for those with declining skills. While this may sound crude, some really good 16 inch softball players are far from being “fit”, athletically speaking. This would seem to put the 16 inch game in the same category as bowling…or playing poker if you still want to consider that a sport. Speed or endurance are of minimal use when playing 16 inch softball. The ability to crush the ball is still important; throwing and catching…yes. But it is certainly a different game than the 12 inch variety, and perhaps light-years away from baseball, which more or less spawned the softball world. Thanks to it’s larger mass, the 16 incher is more susceptible to the forces of nature, like friction and gravity, so the game tends to be slower, much like the people that play it. This begs the question…why isn’t the game more popular? The older our population gets, the more people there “should be” in the potential player pool…right? But with the exceptions of a few odd locales mostly west of Chicago, the game seems to be confined to the greater Chicagoland area.
At The End of The Day
At the end of the day, while everything may be bigger in Texas, Chicago has the right to claim a few big things of it’s own. Would it be inappropriate to say we have bigger balls? I don’t think so.