The Twelfth Street Players are perhaps the most ferocious suburban created gang in history. The story of this organization goes back to the suburb of Berwyn not Cicero at the intersection of Oak Park Ave and Riverside Drive and 23rd and Oak Park Ave at Mraz Park. In this area a Czechoslovakian gang formed called the “Esquires,” and I do not know whom the founder is. This gang started in 1967 for the purpose of keeping African American and Latino gangs out of Berwyn.
By 1968 the need was more in the suburb of Cicero next door and that is when the Esquires colonized the busy intersection of Roosevelt (12th Street) and Austin Avenue “The Island” on the northern part of Cicero. After the Martin Luther King riots of 1968, there were fears that African American gangs were going to completely invade Cicero and being in such close proximity to the gang ridden North Lawndale neighborhood it seemed very feasible. The Cicero Esquires soon began taking in Italian members into the gang since Italians made up the largest ethnicity in the area. The Esquires then allied with the Arch Dukes of the Grant Works section to battle black gangs and any Little Village gangs that invaded from the south east. The worst Little Village invading offender was the Ridgeway Lords.
In 1972 the Esquires went extinct because older members grew up and got married and had families. The “Little Equires” who were the younger members and of Italian ancestry still wanted to keep up with the gang life so they started the “Twelfth Street Players” which was a basic conversion from Esquire to Player, which is why the Twelfth Street Players are accredited as the first gang in Cicero. The older Esquires left the organization to the Little Esquires and the Little Esquires changed the name, the colors and the symbols. The Esquire colors were black and green with a shield emblem with a knight helmet on top and unicorns on each side. These were replaced by black and white sweaters with a playboy bunny which looked a lot smoother.
The Twelfth Street Players allied up with the Arch Dukes that formed right after the Esquires and also the Noble Knights that started in the early 1970s as well. As the 1970s progressed the Twelfth Street Players grew to take all the area between Roosevelt Road to 16th Street and Austin Blvd to Cicero Ave which meant now the Twelfth Street Players were settling into the Grants Works section.
In the year 1980, a Latino invasion of Cicero began with a small wave that settled in the Grant Works section. These Latinos came from the nearby Little Village neighborhood in the city if Chicago which bordered the suburb of Cicero. The wave brought mainly two gangs, the Latin Kings and the Two Two Boys.
The Two Two Boys came in stronger than the Kings and recruited very heavily starting at the corner of 14th and 49th Court. The Players, Noble Knights and Arch Dukes were infuriated with the arrival of the Two Two Boys especially because they were within the Folk Nation and allied with the Two Sixs and Ridgeway Lords. The Players especially hated Two Six.
The Latin Kings came in peace and were soon hanging out with these original Cicero mobs and as a result they convinced the Twelfth Street Players and Noble Knights to join the People Nation alliance in the year 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!
- Who was the founder of the Esquires?
- Who was the founder of the Twelfth Street Players?
- What exact year did the Chicago Clearing chapter first open?
- What is the time line of leaders up to the year 2000?