Peoria Chiefs

Peoria Chiefs
Founded in 1983
Peoria, Illinois
Team logoCap insignia
Current Class-A[1] (1983–present)
Previous Class B (1953–1957, 1937, 1919–1935, 1904–1917, 1895–1898)
Class A (1894, 1902–1903)[2]
Minor league affiliations
League Midwest League (1983–present)
Division Western Division
Previous leagues
Three-I League (1953–1957, 1935, 1937, 1917, 1919–1932, 1905–1916)
Central League (1937, 1914, 1904, 1900)
Mississippi Valley League (1933)
Western League (1902–1903)
Western Association 1894–1898)
Iowa-Illinois League (1892)
Northwestern League (1891, 1883–1884)
Central Interstate League (1888–1890)
Major league affiliations
Current St. Louis Cardinals (1995–2004, 2013–present)
Minor league titles
League titles (1) 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)
Woodruff Field (1925-1957)[3]
Grant Park Stadium (1922-24)[4]
Lakeview Park (1883-1921)[5]
Peoria Chiefs Baseball LLC
Manager Chris Swauger
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 Western Division of the Midwest League.

After beginning play in 1983, there was strong baseball history when the franchise restarted in 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 1984, 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, drawing 256,612 fans in their first season as a Cubs affiliate since 1994.

Peoria Franchise Alumni include: Baseball Hall of Fame members Tony Lazzeri, Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux; Major League Most Valuable Players:Bob O'Farrell, Phil Cavarretta, Ryne Sandberg, Albert Pujols and Josh Donaldson ; Cy Young Award Winners: Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe; Rookie of the Year award winners: Rick Sutcliffe, Jerome Walton, Kerry Wood, Nomar Garciaparra, Scott Williamson and Albert Pujols. Other players of note include: Devon White, Mark Grace, Joe Girardi, Plácido Polanco, Coco Crisp, Rafael Palmeiro, Dan Haren and Yadier Molina. In addition, there are numerous other Major League All-Star players with Peoria Roots. Former Cubs catcher, Jody Davis, managed the 2006 team.

On December 5, 2006 Ryne Sandberg, Baseball Hall of Famer and former Cub infielder, was hired to Manage the 2007 Chiefs. 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. He later became manager of 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.[6] Subsequently, on September 18, the Chiefs signed a four-year affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals.[7]


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..

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".[8]

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 Dragons batter Zack Cozart in the head, accidentally hit Gian Guzman, a teammate, in a collision when chasing a ball. After Denis Phipps and Devin Mesoraco had an RBI base hit and double, he hit Angel Cabrera in the arm, and just nearly hit another Dragons' player in the head. This got the Dragons' manager, Carmelo Martinez to start to argue with the umpire which brought out the Chiefs' manager, Donnie Scott. 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. Brandon Menchaca then tackled Castillo from behind as both benches cleared and the game was delayed for 69 minutes. After the game Chiefs' pitcher Julio Castillo was arrested for felonious assault.[9] 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.[10] 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."[11][12]

Notable Alumni

Hall of Fame Alumni

Alumni: Most Valuable Player Award

  • Bob O'Farrell (1916) 1926 NL Most Valuable Player
  • Phil Cavarretta (1934) 3 x MLB All-Star; 1945 NL Batting Title; 1945 NL Most Valuable Player
  • Albert Pujols (2000) 2 x GG; 10 x MLB All-Star; 2001 NL Rookie of the Year; 3 x NL Most Valuable Player (2005, 2008-2009)
  • Ryne Sandberg (MGR: 2007-08) 9 x GG; 10 x MLB All-Star; MLB MGR; 1990 NL Home Run Leader; 1984 NL Most Valuable Player; Baseball Hall of Fame (2005)
  • Josh Donaldson (2008) 2 x MLB All-Star; 2015 AL Most Valuable Player

Alumni: Cy Young Award

  • Greg Maddux (1985) 18 x GG; 8 x MLB All-Star; 3 x NL Wins Leader (1992, 1994-1995); 4 x NL ERA Leader (1993-1995, 1998); 4 x NL Cy Young Award (1992-1995); Baseball Hall of Fame (2013)
  • Rick Sutcliffe (1991) 3 x MLB All-Star; 1982 AL ERA Leader; 1979 NL Rookie of the Year; 1984 NL Cy Young Award

Alumni: Rookie of the Year Award

  • Jerome Walton (1987) 1989 NL Rookie of the Year
  • Rick Sutcliffe (1991) 3 x MLB All-Star; 1982 AL ERA Leader; 1979 NL Rookie of the Year; 1984 NL Cy Young Award
  • Albert Pujols (2000) 2 x GG; 10 x MLB All-Star; 2001 NL Rookie of the Year; 3 x NL Most Valuable Player (2005, 2008-2009)
  • Scott Williamson (2006) MLB All-Star 1999 NL Rookie of the Year
  • Kerry Wood (2005, 2007) 2 x MLB All-Star; 1998 NL Rookie of the Year
  • Nomar Garciaparra (2005) 5 x MLB All-Star; 2 x AL Batting Title (1999-2000); 1997 AL Rookie of the Year

Notable Alumni

Current Roster

Peoria Chiefs roster
Players Coaches/Other


  • 30 Tyler Bray
  • 26 Steven De La Cruz
  • 25 Nicholas Frey
  • 46 Luke Harrison
  • 18 Ryan Helsley
  • -- Harley Holt
  • 47 John Kilichowski
  •  5 Dailyn Martinez
  • 19 Juan Perez
  • 36 Jorge L. Rodriguez
  • -- Jery Then
  • 41 Davis Ward
  • 43 Bob Wheatley
  • 21 Ronnie Williams
  • 39 Josh Wirsu
  • 33 Jake Woodford


  • 12 Chris Chinea
  • 27 Jose Godoy
  • 32 Brian O'Keefe


  • 15 Eliezer Alvarez
  • 29 Matt Davis
  • 35 R.J. Dennard
  • 37 Jose Martinez
  •  4 Leobaldo Pina
  • 40 Josh Swirchak



  • -- Chris Swauger


  • -- Donnie Ecker (hitting)
  • 22 Dernier Orozco (pitching)

7-day disabled list
* On St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster
# Rehab assignment
∞ Reserve list
‡ Restricted list
§ Suspended list
† Temporary inactive list
Roster updated December 2, 2016
More MiLB rosters
St. Louis Cardinals minor league players

Major League affiliations

1983-1984 1985-1994 1995-2004 2005-2012 2013–Present
California Angels Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals



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