When Betty Kollar is inducted into the Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame April 13, she will give a tip-of-her-hat salute, with a sly grin, to "Tina."
When Kollar was 14, she was approached about playing in a women's league when one of the teams needed players. But since league rules at the time stated that all players had to be at least 18 years old, Kollar played under someone else's identity.
"Everyone called me Tina," Kollar said, years later.
Opposing teams were so impressed with "Tina" that one team, in fact, asked her to switch and play for them the following season. Kollar agreed, so, the following season, team personnel called Kollar's home … and asked to speak with "Tina."
Kollar's mom, who answered the phone, replied: "There's no Tina [living] here."
It was quickly discovered that "Tina" was simply Kollar's on-the-field persona due to age issues.
Kollar played softball, basketball and ran track for Lane Technical High School (she graduated in 1978). She attended University of Illinois at Chicago where she played basketball for four years and for three years played softball and ran sprints in track.
Now 52 and living in suburban Beverly, Kollar is still swinging for the fences on her field of dreams. She plans to continue playing for another season or two.
Kollar and Cheryl Teale are the two Hall of Fame inductees from the Class of 2012 representing the women's division. The Hall of Fame ceremony will be held at Drury Lane in Oak Brook, honoring players, teams, umpires, managers, media members and more.
"The Hall of Fame induction is very exciting," said Kollar who, in October 2012, had a civil-union ceremony with her partner of 21 years, Julie Iverson. "I pretty much know all of the other women who have been inducted [into the Hall of Fame]; it's a small, tight-knit community, and when you've been playing for as long as I have, you have either played with, or against, most of the best players. Sixteen-inch softball is a sport that is truly unique to Chicago.
"I'm so overwhelmed that I got selected."
The Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame was founded in 1996, and this was the first year Kollar was nominated.
"I'm honored to be inducted," she said. "It's hard to stop playing, though my body says it's time to retire. But I still love it."
Kollar played the 16-inch, gloveless version of softballas opposed to the now more-common, glove-mandated 12-inch version of softballthroughout the city, including at Grant Park and Thillens Stadium. She also has played in countless suburbs.
Kollar guessed she has played on 10 or 15 teams throughout her career, including a championship-winning team one year at Wells Park.
Kollar also played soccer, even in Europe. Softball, though, was more recreational, more fun, she said. "[Softball] was competitive, but a good time," Kollar said.
When she eventually retires from playing, Kollar said she plans to pursue coaching options. But first, she plans to return to the field in the spring with her team named Hangovers.
"It's always been a great game to playin the park, in the school playground, literally everywhere," Kollar said. "I'll admit, one of the really neat things [about the Hall of Fame honor is], years from now, my family will see my softball legacy; they will see how I loved the game; that's thrilling."
Kollar said her softball career highlights include countless, multi-game, weekend tournaments, played every season. "The adrenaline really starts pumping when you play in tournaments, which often are very competitive," she said. "Often, those tournaments are hot days and your body is spent at the end of the day. We'd often play at Grant Park, which was gorgeous."