Founded in 1983
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Midwest League (1983–present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||St. Louis Cardinals (1996–2004, 2013–present)|
Chicago Cubs (1985–1995, 2005–2012)
|Minor league titles|
|Nickname||Peoria Chiefs (1984-present)|
|Previous names||Peoria Suns (1983)|
|Ballpark||Dozer Park (2002-present)|
|Previous parks||Pete Vonachen Stadium at Meinen Field (1983-2001)|
|Peoria Chiefs Baseball LLC|
|General manager||Rocky Vonachen|
The team's inaugural year in Peoria was 1983, as the Peoria Suns, a California Angels farm team that replaced the Angels' previous Midwest League farm team, the Danville Suns. The following year, the team was given the more traditional name "Chiefs", in reference to the Peoria Indian tribe for which the city was named.
The Chiefs' first home park was Meinen Field near the Bradley University campus, built in 1968; it was renovated before the 1992 season and renamed Pete Vonachen Stadium in honor of the Chiefs' owner. The team moved to a new park in downtown Peoria, O'Brien Field, on May 24, 2002; they set a franchise attendance record of 254,407 in the new park's first year and also won the midwest league championship. The team then broke the attendance record in 2005 with 256,612 fans in their first season back with the Chicago Cubs since 1994.
Former players include Wally Joyner, Devon White, Mark McLemore, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, Joe Girardi, Plácido Polanco, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Eric Patterson, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, Sean Gallagher, Carmen Cali, Dan Haren, Yadier Molina, and Chris Duncan. Rehab appearances have included J. D. Drew, Rick Sutcliffe, Kerry Wood, Steve Kline, Mark Prior, Nomar Garciaparra, Henry Blanco, Wade Miller, Ángel Guzmán, Reed Johnson, Aramis Ramírez, Ted Lilly, and most recently Randy Wells.
Former Chicago Cubs catcher Jody Davis managed the team during the 2006 season before moving to the Single A Daytona Cubs.
It was announced on December 5, 2006 that former Cub and hall of famer Ryne Sandberg would manage the Chiefs in 2007. The team went 71-68 and finished the second half 40–30 in a tie for the division title but missed the playoff on a tiebreaker. At the gate in 2007, the Chiefs broke their season attendance record with 259,794 fans and an average of 3800 per game. Sandberg returned to manage the Chiefs in 2008 with hitting coach Ricardo Medina and pitching coach Rich Bombard.
On August 21, 2012, it was reported that the Chiefs would lose its affiliation with the Cubs to the Kane County Cougars (also in the Midwest League) following the 2012 season. On September 18, the Chiefs signed a four-year affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Peoria has had a long and somewhat spotty history of professional baseball. The earliest teams included the Peoria Reds, the Peoria Canaries and the Peoria Blackbirds, who played in several early leagues during parts of 1878–1895.
The first ballpark used by the early teams was reportedly called Sylvan Park and was located "approximately where the St. Augustine Manor is today" (Benson, p. 293). That would put it at the corner of Northeast Glendale Avenue and Spring Street. In 1883, the club move a few blocks toward Peoria Lake, to a facility called Lake View Park, which would remain the home of various Peoria clubs for the next four decades.
The 1895 club was dubbed the Peoria Distillers, referencing the Hiram Walker plant. That nickname would stick with the various Peoria clubs for the next couple of decades, including their first stretch with the Three-I League during 1905-1917. The Three-I suspended operations in 1918, as many minor leagues did during the peak of American involvement in World War I.
When the Three-I resumed play in 1919, the name Peoria Tractors gained favor, with the growth of the nearby branch of the company later called Caterpillar Inc.
In 1923 the team opened a new ballpark called Woodruff Field, name in honor of a long-time mayor of Peoria. The new park was just across the street from Lake View Park.
The Tractors played in several leagues before folding after the 1937 season. The city was then without professional baseball for the next 15 years.
The name Peoria Chiefs first appeared with a new franchise in the Three-I League in 1953. This club disbanded after 1957, and Peoria was again without professional ball, for the next 25 years until the current Chiefs set up shop. Woodruff Field itself continued to be used for high school baseball. The stands were removed in the 1970s, but the playing field still exists, as Woodruff Park, which sits between Northeast Adams Street and Peoria Lake, southeast of where Abington Street T's into Adams. The teams's current logo featuring a fire station dog was developed by Valentine Design of Minneapolis, Minnesota..
In 2013, the Chiefs changed affiliations. They made an extremely subtle logo change removing the Chicago Cubs logo from the fire dog's sleeve, due to becoming a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. The name of the stadium also changed to Dozer park after Caterpillar bought the naming rights to the field.
Chiefs' brawl on July 24, 2008
During a game on July 24, 2008 against the Dayton Dragons, Chiefs' pitcher Julio Castillo, during the first inning, hit a Dragons' batter in the head, accidentally hit one of his own players in a collision when chasing a ball, hit another Dragons' player in the arm, and just nearly hit another Dragons' player in the head. This got the Dragons' manager to start to argue with the umpire which brought out the Chiefs' manager. The two argued for a few minutes with the head umpire breaking it up. But apparently in anger Julio Castillo, the Chiefs pitcher who had hit three people before during a rampage, fired a ball at the Dayton Dragon's dugout.
The ball missed the dugout but struck a fan who had to be immediately taken to a hospital. At this both benches cleared and the game was delayed for 69 minutes. After the game Chiefs' pitcher Julio Castillo was arrested for felonious assault. The fan, Chris McCarthy, suffered a concussion but has since recovered. On August 8, 2009 Castillo was convicted of felonious assault causing serious physical injury and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. In April 2010 a judge released Castillo from probation "on the condition that he leave the United States and not return for a minimum of three years."
Peoria Chiefs roster
Major League affiliations
|California Angels||Chicago Cubs||St. Louis Cardinals||Chicago Cubs||St. Louis Cardinals|
- Report: Chiefs losing Cubs affiliation to Kane County
- Baliva, Nathan (September 18, 2012). "Chiefs Sign Affiliation Agreement with St. Louis Cardinals". Peoria Chiefs. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
- "Arrest made after Minor League fracas" MLB.com July 25, 2008
- Associated Press, "Castillo gets jail, probation", ESPN, August 6, 2009.
- "No jail time for minor league pitcher in brawl" USA Today Retrieved May 7, 2010
- Dinda, J. (2003), "Peoria, Illinois, in the Midwest League," http://www.mwlguide.com/cities/peoria/index.html
- Peter Filichia (1993), Professional Baseball Franchises, Facts on File Books, New York.
- Michael Benson (1989), Baseball Parks of North America, McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina.
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