Nice honor for Pete Vonachen: the owner of the Peoria Chiefs (Low Class A; Midwest League) will be honored by the Chicago Cubs during a Wrigley Field pregame ceremony before Wednesday night’s game; he’ll also lead the crowd in the Seventh Inning Stretch festivities.
On May 11 at Wrigley Field, Pete and his family will be on hand for a pre-game presentation before singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh Inning Stretch. That tradition was popularized by Harry Caray, a lifelong friend of Pete’s who delivered Caray’s eulogy in February 1998.
If anyone’s an institution in Minor League Baseball, it’s Pete Vonachen. He purchased the Peoria Suns in September 1983 and turned the Midwest League franchise into a 1980s powerhouse after renaming the team the Chiefs in 1984. An innovator in promotions and marketing, Vonachen brought the Chicago Cubs affiliation to Peoria in 1985 and set Midwest League attendance records in 1985, 1988 and 1989. With the likes of Greg Maddux, Mark Grace, Joe Girardi and Rafael Palmeiro playing at Meinen Field the Chiefs attendance grew each season from 1984 to 1989 when Pete sold the team. Meinen Field was renamed Pete Vonachen Stadium on April 18, 1992.
He bought back into the Chiefs in September 1994, leading a new investor group and served as the General Manager through 1998. In his first season back at the helm of the Chiefs, the team became affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals and attendance grew by nearly 20,000 fans. Vonachen helped the Chiefs secure the site and money for O’Brien Field while turning over the reins to his son Rocky in 1998. In 2002 the Chiefs moved into their new stadium, won their first MWL Championship, and obliterated the franchise attendance mark.
In 2005 the Chiefs went back to the Cubs and set another attendance mark with 256,612 fans, a record that was broken in 2007 and again in 2008.
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