Twelfth Street Players

Founded Founded in 1977
Affiliations ;
Colors Black and White
Primary ethnicities White
Symbols Shield, Playboy Bunny, and Cane
Status Active

The Twelfth Street Players are perhaps the most ferocious suburban created gang in history. The Twelfth Street Player’s story begins in 1967 when the Cicero Esquires were formed at the intersection of Roosevelt Road (12th Street) and Austin Avenue (The Island) in the suburb of Cicero.  Many of the original Esquires were Czechoslovakian.  The Esquires were put together just like other Cicero greaser gangs at this time to battle against the gangs of Little Village like the Ridgeway Lords or against black gangs from nearby Austin and North Lawndale like the Vice Lords since the Esquires were very close to city limits.  I don’t know how long it took but Esquires ended up spreading to the neighboring suburb of Berwyn at the intersection of Oak Park Ave and Riverside Drive at Mraz Park.  The Esquires grew to be one of the more popular gangs in Berwyn and Cicero in the late 1960s and early 1970s as they developed quite a reputation.

The other part of the story lies with the “Berwyn Greasers” also known as “Berwyn Kings.”  I don’t know how far back the Berwyn Greasers go but I have seen old articles from the Berwyn newspaper dated in May of 1969 where they are mentioned and how the town of Berwyn was having issues with them.  In one of the the articles it mentioned “Junior BKs” who were aged 11 to 14 years old.  I would have to say if there were already Junior members back in ’69 the organization must go back at least to the mid-60s, maybe even further back.  Back in the early days of the 60s this group was known as “Berwyn Kings” and the “Berwyn Greaser” name came later.

The Berwyn Kings were big shots in Berwyn and were perhaps the largest gang in the community as they had influence Roosevelt Road to 28th Street and from East Ave to Oak Park Ave.  At some point the Berwyn Kings began hanging out at a Burger King at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Oak Park Ave in Berwyn and this is how the Berwyn Kings ended up crossing paths with the Cicero Equires as the two clubs reached the end of their territories at Lombard Avenue which is the border of Cicero and Berwyn.

In the year 1977, Berwyn Kings and Cicero Esquires had reached this unity down Roosevelt Road that started as the 28th and East Ave BKs were hanging around the Esquires from Mraz Park, then you had Roosevelt Road of course so these clubs were just right near each other’s vicinity in two places between Berwyn and Cicero.  In this year the Noble Knights of Cicero were growing larger and their reputation was about to surpass the Esquires and the Arch Dukes, now the Noble Knights wanted to establish themselves in Berwyn; therefore, they asked the BKs and the Esquires if they would like to join the NKs but both clubs declined but wanted to keep a friendship with NKs.  As the year progressed the majority of the members of the BKs and the Esquires decided to come together as one organization based on Roosevelt Road (12th Street).  The name of this new club would be named after Roosevelt Road but not by the main name but by the less known name of 12th Street; therefore, they became the “Twelfth Street Players” in 1977.  The Players took on the colors of the Berwyn Kings of black and white and the cane symbol.  The BK symbols were a top hat with cane and gloves, the Players adopted a symbol that usually goes with cane, gloves and top hat which is the playboy bunny but Players omitted the top hat and gloves.  The Players also adopted the shield symbol from the Esquires.  The Twelfth Street Players were now based in both Cicero and Berwyn and especially had a large gathering by that Burger King on Roosevelt and Oak Park Ave.  After this creation the Esquires faded into a small gang that went extinct a short time later and the BKs that didn’t become Players all kept their operations in Berwyn only and went by the name “Berwyn Greasers,” they would live on well into the 1980s.

Twelfth Street Players were allies with Noble Knights and Arch Dukes as they all fought their main enemies from Little Village the Ridgeway Lords, Two Six and Two Two Boys.  In the year 1979 as Latin Kings were first settling Cicero, the Twelfth Street Players allied with them because of a mutual friendship with Noble Knights and the fact Latin Kings were enemies with Two Six, Two Two Boys and Ridgeway Lords.

In the year 1980, the first Mexican families began moving into Cicero in the Grant Works area.  These Mexican families came from the nearby Little Village neighborhood in the city if Chicago which bordered the suburb of Cicero.  Even though Player territory was a distance away from Grant Works the Players still attended the same schools as these newly arrived Mexican youths.  Among the first Mexican families came members of the Two Sixs, Two Two Boys and Imperial Gangsters, especially the Two Two Boys.  Just like their allies the Noble Knight the Twelfth Street Players were going at it hard with these three gangs which would only grow in intensity year by year in the early 80s.  During this same time the Players became more popular in Berwyn and opened a chapter at 37th and East Ave near Freedom Park.

In the year 1981, the Noble Knights, Twelfth Street Players and Latin Kings came together to join the alliance the Latin Kings were part of known as the “People” alliance because of mutual hatreds of common enemies.  The Two Sixs, Two Two Boys and Imperial Gangsters were part of the rival Folk alliance so the Twelfth Street Players and Noble Knights joined People at the same time as Folk and People was being spread all over the streets in 1981.

In 1987, the Players opened up more turf as they spread into the suburbs of Lagrange, Lyons and Brookfield.  Since all of these suburbs were connected, the Players worked with the Latin Kings to viciously battle the Two Two Boys, Two Six, Black Gangster Disciples and Simon City Royals that dominate these suburbs and were allies with each other.  In Countryside, the Twelfth Street Players were the only People Nation gang battling against BGDs and Two Two Boys.

In the year 1990 Countryside, Brookfield and Lagrange sets closed down as police presence was stepped up and many members joined the military.  In the mean time, in Cicero, the Two Sixs, Black Gangster Disciples and Satan Disciples were invading Cicero in heavy numbers and the Players were slugging it out with them.  The Latin Counts were also building up in Cicero since about the mid 1980s but they were a fellow People Nation gang that hung with Players, Noble Knights, Bishops and Latin Kings in Cicero.

In the year 1991, the Latin Kings and Latin Counts erupted into a vicious gang war that escalated incredibly fast.  Both gangs would not accept any allied gang of theirs to be allied with their enemy; therefore, they made Noble Knights and Twelfth Street Players choose to either be allies with Kings or Counts and war with the other.  The Players, Noble Knights, the South Side Insane Popes and Almighty Popes were stuck in this dilemma but they decided to make the decision together except the Almighty Popes who chose to ally with Latin Counts.  The other three decided to let the Counts bring it on as they kept their friendship with Latin Kings.  The Twelfth Street Players’ response to the war was much more harsh than the Noble Knights’ response as the Players gunned at Latin Counts and began killing their members; however, the Latin Counts got revenge by swarming all over “The Island.”  The war between Players and Counts at The Island got so intense that it brought heavy police presence there.  Many Players then began flipping to Latin Kings in the early 1990s and the Players lost numbers then could no longer hold their first set at Roosevelt and Austin and they decided it was not worth retaining anymore.

In the mid 1990s, all hope seemed to be lost for the Twelfth Street Players to the public eye but leader Jake Lane took over and retained the Cicero sets of 18th and 61st and also 14th and Roosevelt Road down to Roosevelt Road and 61st Court.  He also made his way into Chicago right near Midway Airport into the Clearing neighborhood on 63rd street.  They were guided in by the South Side Insane Popes and both gangs became “Cousins” as their alliance was tightened even more.

The Popes were fighting wars with the Almighty Popes, Latin Counts and several Folk Nation gangs; therefore, allies were welcome.  For any other mob in Chicago suburban gang history it has been impossible for a gang to originate in the suburbs then open territory in the city.  The Players were welcomed by the Insane Popes at 63rd and Oak Park Ave as the Players settled two blocks away at 63rd and Normandy to set up their new headquarters and help the Insane Popes battle the Almighty Popes of 63rd and Oak Park.  The Twelfth Street Players are the only gang that has ever accomplished this task of colonizing the city from the suburbs.

The Twelfth Street Players had a lot of hardcore members that were quick to shoot a rival dead and this got them well set up along 63rd from 63rd and Central to 63rd and Major.  The Players also set up at 62nd and Melvina right outside Nathan Hale Elementary School and recruited outside the school as they hung out in Hale Park.  They also set up turf at 62nd and Nagle on the other side of Hale Park. Finally, the Players opened at 64th and Nottingham “Players Alley.” Within no time the Players were making their presence known in their new Chicago home and rivals were angered at the presence of a suburban gang in the city and went after the Players; however, the Players would make many rivals regret it by killing one after another.

On December 14, 1995 a double homicide made the news that the Almighty Popes gunned down two 13 year old girls at 62nd and Melvina because the girls were hanging out with Ridgeway Lords.  The media attention was huge on this story because it involved two white girls getting killed in a mostly white community in a neighborhood where several Chicago police officers resided.

After the shooting Chicago police cracked down hard on any gang that looked like they were Popes.  If they heard the name Pope and/or saw the black and white colors they closed in hard.  Insane Popes were the biggest victim of this police sweep because they wore the black and white colors and carry the last name “Pope.”  The Players were a victim of the sweep too because they wore the black and white and were at 62nd and Melvina.  There was also guilt by association because Players and Insane Popes hung out.

In 1998 charges were handed out to the top leaders of the Almighty Popes and the gang dissolved in the city after that.  It was not enough for the CPD as they took down the majority of Insane Pope territory as well.  The Twelfth Street Players lost all of their turf and had to leave the city entirely because police weakened their numbers so badly they could no longer fight their rivals effectively and still be a profitable organization.  The Players then abandoned their sets but only for a few years.

I usually do not put any 21st century history in my histories but I must mention the Players came roaring back in the year 2000 and reclaimed a lot of territory on 63rd street once again which is another major accomplishment for any gang again because no gang reopens several sets in the city, usually once you are gone, that is it but the Players made it happen.  Eventually the 63rd street sets would not last but the 64th and Nottingham set stayed.

Please send in old school pics.   1970s  pics will be especially appreciated! Please send in 1970s pics and 1960s Esquires pics!

Questions:

  1.  Who was the founder of the Esquires?
  2. Who was the founder of the Twelfth Street Players?
  3. What exact year did the Chicago Clearing chapter first open?
  4. What is the time line of leaders up to the year 2000?