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Peoria Chiefs

Peoria Chiefs
Founded in 1983
Peoria, Illinois
Team logoCap insignia
Current Single-A (1983-present)
Minor league affiliations
League Midwest League (1983–present)
Division Western Division
Major league affiliations
Current St. Louis Cardinals (1995–2004, 2013–present)
Minor league titles
League titles 2002
Team data
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
Manager Joe Kruzel
President Rocky Vonachen

The Peoria Chiefs are a Class A minor league baseball team, affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, from Peoria, Illinois. They play in the Midwest League.

The team's inaugural year in Peoria was 1983, as the Peoria Suns, a California Angels farm team that relocated the Angels' previous Midwest League farm team in Danville. 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.

In 1985, Joe Maddon, current manager of the Chicago Cubs, managed the Chiefs.

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 Randy Wells.

A 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 Ryne Sandberg, baseball Hall of Famer and former Cub infielder, 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 3,800 per game. Sandberg returned to manage the Chiefs in 2008 with hitting coach Ricardo Medina and pitching coach Rich Bombard. He is now managing MLB's Philadelphia Phillies.

A Midwest League single-game attendance record was set on July 29, 2008 when the Chiefs drew a crowd of 32,103 to Wrigley Field in Chicago for a game against the Kane County Cougars.

On August 21, 2012, it was reported that the Chiefs would lose their affiliation with the Cubs to the Cougars (also in the Midwest League) following the 2012 season.[1] On September 18, the Chiefs signed a four-year affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals.[2]


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.

From 1891 to 1911+, Frank E. Murphy, From Green Bay Wisconsin became involved with base-ball, beginning with the Purchase of the Peoria, IL team of the Midwest League which he renamed the "Hoosiers. Later, Mr. Murphy became president of the Green Bay team in the Wisconsin-Illinois League; and was an ardent Chicago Cub fan.

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 Chiefs in action in 1990

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.[citation needed].

The 1988 team, managed by future major league manager Jim Tracy was the subject of the Joseph Bosco book "The Boys Who Would Be Cubs".[3]

The team's renovated stadium was renamed in 1992 in honor of Pete Vonachen, who bought the team after the 1983 season. Vonachen died on June 10, 2013.

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.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6]


Peoria Chiefs roster
Players Coaches/Other


  • 21 Will Anderson
  • 46 Fernando Baez
  • 43 Tyler Bray
  • 28 Jack Flaherty 10px
  • 33 Austin Gomber
  • 48 Kyle Grana
  • 29 Nick Lomascolo
  • 16 Zack Loraine
  • 18 Blake McKnight
  • 37 Matt Pearce
  • 36 Luis Perdomo
  • 41 Dewin Perez 10px
  • 39 Jhonny Polanco
  • 32 Daniel Poncedeleon
  • 44 Robby Rowland


  •  8 Steve Bean
  • 30 Luis Cruz


  • 34 Alex De Leon
  •  7 Danny Diekroeger
  •  4 Oscar Mercado
  • 15 Richy Pedroza 10px
  • 35 Justin Ringo
  •  3 Darren Seferina
  •  5 Andrew Sohn



  • 13 Joe Kruzel


  • 11 Jobel Jimenez (hitting)
  • 22 Dernier Orozco (pitching)
  • 26 Brian Pruitt (coach)

10px 7-day disabled list
* On St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster
∞ Reserve list
§ Suspended list
‡ Restricted list
# Rehab assignment
Roster updated April 16, 2015
More MiLB rosters
St. Louis Cardinals minor league players

Major League affiliations

1983-1984 1985-1995 1996-2004 2005-2012 2013-Present
California Angels Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals



  • Dinda, J. (2003), "Peoria, Illinois, in the Midwest League,"
  • 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.

External links