A Red Orchid Theatre’s Chicago Theatre Softball League team Credit: courtesy ctsl

Again, as it has been for 41 summers, it’s “once more into the breach” for the Chicago Theatre Softball League and its unique Chicago brand of this goodly sport of the weighted orb. Who will emerge crowned with the leafed wreath of starry triumph? The Starving Comedians, wunderkinds of wit; the steeled spirits of Writers Theatre; the risk-taking Strawdogs company; the cloak-and-dagger suspects of Murder Mystery; the Factory’s stalwarts; the sturdy Blue Man Group; or the ever-inventive iO (once known as “ImprovOlympics)?

With unbridled passion and grit, using the 16-inch clincher (played with bare hands) that has imparted many a crushed knuckle as it collides with this “too, too solid flesh,” the players march on. An exception is granted for the “lovelies,” as Nelson Algren called his adored Chicago women, who have the option of using a glove. This style of softball is played only in one place: the City of Broad Shoulders.

Over the decades the Chicago Theatre Softball League has become much more than just a high-spirited competition. The league has evolved into a community bonded by affection and kinship. You need look no further than the posts on the League’s Facebook page, where thanks and prayers are offered up for an injured damsel, donations requested and given for a player’s funeral expenses for his father, a proffer of gratitude for helping raise a fine daughter in this, his League family. Operative word: family. Henry V: “Onward, brave soldiers!” v

The All Star Game concludes the league season on Monday, September 16, 6 PM, at Clarendon Park, 4501 N. Clarendon.