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'Pioneer' inducted into Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame

Christopher Rocco, a "pioneer" in the sport of softball, recently was inducted into the Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame during the 17th-annual Hall of Fame Inductee Dinner at The Drury Lane Conference Center in Oakbrook Terrace.

Rocco was born on Sept. 30, 1931, and died Dec. 30, 1997. Before his death, he was living in Cicero and working for the police department.

His younger brother, Peter Rocco, currently lives in Lombard and played the sport alongside Chris. Peter describes his brother as "a nice guy. He was very vocal."

Chris began playing softball when he was about 13 years old.

"That’s what we did in those days," Peter said. "After school and in the summertime, we would go and play ball or basketball. Everybody in our neighborhood and surrounding Oak Park, they all played softball."

In his earlier days, Chris mostly played third base and batted in the middle of the order.

"He was a line-drive hitter and a very good fielder," Peter said.

Throughout his life, Chris played on a number of different teams. He played on a neighborhood team when he was about 16 years old.

By 1948, he was playing in the Cicero league. Two years in a row, his team won the Herald American Tournament at Grant Park.

By 1954, Chris and Peter were playing at Chicago and Kedzie, the major leagues of softball. They played together until 1956. When the team broke up, Chris went on to play under manager Nick “Moose” Camillo, where the team won the Garfield Park League championship in 1957.

"When he worked at Penlin, they (Chris’ team) won the championship in the Industrial League in 1962," Peter said. "We were the oldest team to win a championship in 1975 in the Cicero and Clyde Park League."

Angela, Peter and Chris’ sister, nominated Chris for the Hall of Fame. Peter provided the material regarding Chris’ sports career and she wrote a biography.

The committee reviewed the information and decided to induct Chris into the Hall of Fame.

Chris was inducted as a "pioneer" athlete into the 1950-63 era, according to the Hall of Fame website. Peter's son, Dan, accepted the award during the April 13 inductee dinner.

"I just wish he could be around to accept it," Peter said of his brother's award. "He helped out a lot of people and he had a good heart."

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