Pete Vonachen was interviewed by the Peoria Journal Star on June 23, 2010 to mark Greg Maddux Day at O'Brien Field. (Photo courtesy Peoria Journal Star/YouTube)
By Eric Stock
PEORIA - The man known as Mr. Baseball in Peoria, Harold "Pete" Vonachen, has died.
The Peoria Chiefs have announced that the team's founder died this morning at age 87. He made his last public appearance on Friday when the Chiefs held a ribbon-cutting for the newly renamed Dozer Park.
Vonachen bought the Peoria Suns in 1983 and renamed them the Chiefs in 1984 and brought the Chicago Cubs affiliation in 1985. The Midwest League franchise later became a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate and Vonachen helped secure the site and funding for the downtown stadium that became O'Brien Field and now, Dozer Park.
The Chiefs moved into the stadium in 2002 and switched back affiliation to the Cubs before rejoining the Cardinals' organization this season.
According to a statement from the Chiefs, Vonachen has been named Midwest League Executive of the Year and The Sporting News Class A Pro Baseball Minor League Executive of the Year. He served on the Peoria Park Board for over six years and was the President of the Peoria Pacers in the Central Illinois Collegiate League. He also served on the board of the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame of which he is a member, elected in 1988.
Vonachen owned and operated Peoria Blacktop, general partner and developer of Days Inn Motel 1978-85, developed and managed Vonachen's Hyatt Lodge 1965-76, built Vonachen's Junction restaurant in 1955. Among his many community endeavors: Director of Peoria Cerebral Palsy Board, OSF St. Francis Medical Advisory Board, Peoria Park District trustee, Bradley University Chiefs Club and Board of Trustees, Children's Hospital of Illinois Medical Center Chairman and Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign director.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.