George Bliss serves as 16-inch softball’s ambassador at large. He publicizes the game through radio, TV and social media. His tireless efforts to raise awareness about softball resulted in Bliss being inducted into the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of the media. 

He also works quietly behind the scenes as curator for the Hall of Fame Museum. Bliss has manned the museum every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. since the day it opened in 2013.

Bliss grew up not far from where the museum is located, in the 600 block of Ferdinand Avenue in Forest Park. He attended Garfield School, Forest Park Middle School and Proviso East High School. 

He earned his degree in education from Northern Illinois University but never taught. He became a “student” instead of the Silicon Valley electronics industry.

Bliss played his first games of softball at The Park. He also attended the first No Gloves tournament which was won by Maywood Agents. 

He was not a No Gloves caliber player. Bliss was a journeyman third baseman, who batted at the tail end of the lineup. This didn’t discourage him from organizing and managing a team called the Skyliners, which competed at Ridgeland Common in Oak Park for 20 years.

Bliss hung up his cleats at the age of 50 but continued to manage the Skyliners. They won the over-50 national championship in 2011 and 2012. In the meantime, he became very involved with the Hall of Fame and emceed many of their events including their annual dinners. Unfortunately, he could not control the length of the inductee acceptance speeches, which tended to wear out the crowd.

Besides speaking at events, Bliss hosted radio shows on WCBR in Arlington Heights and WKKD in Aurora. These were Sunday call-in shows that attracted avid softball fans. Bliss became a regular contributor to 670-AM The Score radio station, providing updates on softball and became close friends with the hosts, Mike North and Jesse Rogers.

They invited Bliss to host his own show on Saturdays. His radio gig led to cable TV broadcasts of 16-inch softball games from The Park for four years. Bliss served as the on-field reporter, providing viewers with updates on injuries, etc. Besides traditional media outlets, Bliss got in on the ground floor of social media. 

Bliss was on the cutting edge of electronics for 45 years, working in sales for three major technology companies. This led to him launching the Slow-Pitch Softball Association Facebook Page. He supplies content to the page by videotaping games live and streaming them for softball fans. 

“It’s been a wild success,” Bliss said, “We had over 70,000 viewers for a national tournament.” 

He will also be broadcasting key games from this years No Glove Nationals tournament. Bliss is serving as emcee at Reunion Day and is hoping for a large turnout of “the sport’s greatest stars.” 

The Hall of Fame Museum will have extended hours during the tournament and Bliss anticipates giving many visitors a tour. Bliss sees the museum as a “hidden jewel in Chicago” and is hoping more softball fans will make it their destination.

As for the current state of softball, Bliss is hoping more high schools will embrace the game. His message to young people is, “Put down the videogame, pick up a Cincher.” 

If any fans wish to contact Bliss with questions or to schedule a museum tour, they can email him at georgebliss@yahoo.comMU.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.