The Rizza Rockers, a team made up of public
service employees from North Riverside and
Riverside - Brookfield High School graduates,
started playing in 1986 in the North Riverside Fall
Ball Rec. League. The next year they struck gold
when they won the North Riverside Summer
League. With confidence firmly in hand, they
started playing some softball tournaments.
Because of their great play, they won an “A”
bid to the ASA Nationals in Indiana, taking fourth
place in their first “A “Nationals despite having
only two players who had played in a national
tournament before. They were led by pitcher
(Chops) Chiappetta and First-Team All- American
Jeff Berger at shortstop.
Fresh from their success at the “A” Nationals,
the Rockers looked to challenge themselves to be as
good as teams like the Blues, Jinx, and Touch, so
they started playing in the toughest leagues around
Chicago, including Forest Park, Bensenville, and
Mt. Prospect. In 1993 they won the Suburban Life
Tournament. That year they played in the No
Gloves Nationals, the Hawthorne Tournament, the
Grant Park Tournament, and in the ASA Nationals.
They appeared in the ASA Major and “A”
Nationals from 1987 to 1999. They also played in
the short-lived Sports Channel Television League.
As many teams climb the ranks of competitive
softball, they often abandon the players they
started with in favor of stronger players from other
teams. The Rockers believed in an opposite
formula - stick with younger players. This strategy
paid off because they were able to develop their
talent. It often failed, however, when some of the
top teams would recruit these younger players. For
a number of years, the Rockers seemed to be a
farm team for some of the top teams.
Their strategy of sticking with younger players
and playing in the toughest leagues began to pay
off as the Rockers started to hold their own with
the era’s top teams, the Whips, Sports Station, Bud
North, Dollhouse, Primetime, Splinters, and Bucks.
In the late-90s, they went head-to-head with
Lettuce and were able to hold their own against
this legendary team. In 1998 they won the No
Glove Nationals, beating Lettuce in the semi-finals
and Pugliese in the finals. That year they were led
by short center and Forest Park MVP, Greg Ziegler.
Ziegler also played with the Rockers the longest
and formed a bond with the Rockers’ manager that
will last a lifetime. Many fine young players wore
the Red & Black of the Rockers. It was said that
manager Lane Neimann had the biggest phone
book in the game.
With a great sponsor like Joe Rizza Ford, the
Rockers were always well stocked with players
and looked sharp on the field. Joe Rizza continued
his sponsorship during the entire time the Rockers
played softball. His only requirement was that they
looked good. And they did.