Remebering Pete Vonachen

Jun 10, 2013

Peoria legend, Harold “Pete” Vonachen died Monday at age 87. Known as, “Mr. Baseball,” he was responsible for building up the sport in the city with the purchase of the Peoria Suns in 1983. He re-named the team, and they’ve been affiliated with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals since that time.

Vonachen, who was great friends with the late Harry Caray, was instrumental in getting the downtown stadium built. He retired in 1998, leaving the organization to his son, but remained a major fixture at the park. Vonachen fought for the facility to stay afloat as recent as last month urging the city of Peoria to forgive the ball park’s bond debt. He spoke to Peoria Public Radio after the city approved the deal.

“All we gotta do now is talk the fans into coming out to see the games. We need butts in the seats. It’s as simple as that. If they don’t want to support us, we’ve done everything we can, but you gotta have butts in the seats.”

Pete Vonachen made his final appearance at the newly named Dozer Park Friday for a ribbon cutting. An observance before last night's game began with a moment of silence and a balloon release. It closed with the ceremonial first pitch as a row of children passed a baseball from Vonachen’s statue to the pitcher’s mound. The statue, known as Mr. Baseball, represents Pete Vonachen’s habit of giving baseballs to children. The Chiefs beat the Bandits 5-1.