Former Peoria Chiefs president and general manager Pete Vonachen is set to be honored as the newest recipient of the Paul "Dizzy" Trout Award by the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago at a banquet set for Jan. 28 in Rosemont, Ill.
The Paul "Dizzy" Trout Award is an ambassador award for excellence and commitment to the game of baseball. Past winners have included White Sox executive Roland Hemond, pitcher/broadcaster Steve Stone and White Sox organist Nancy Faust.
Vonachen was nominated for the Trout Award by Roland Hemond and selected by the entire Pitch and Hit Club which consists of more than 150 members. The main requirement for the award is a long and outstanding contribution to the game of baseball. Pete joins his son, Rocky, as Pitch and Hit Club Award recipients. Rocky, the Chiefs president, was named Minor League Executive of the Year in 2002 after the Chiefs moved downtown to O'Brien Field and won their first Midwest League title.
Pete Vonachen has long been associated with baseball in Peoria and helped bring the Chiefs to town in the 1980s. He purchased the team in September 1983, renamed it the Chiefs and set up an affiliation with the Chicago Cubs. He made national headlines by sitting on top of the clubhouse during a 20-game suspension and often was talked about on Cubs broadcasts by good friend Harry Caray. In 1992, the stadium the Chiefs called home was renamed Pete Vonachen Stadium.
After selling the team in the late 1980s, Pete led a group to repurchase the Chiefs in 1994 and set up an affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals. He served as the Chiefs general manager and president until 1998, when his son, Rocky, took over the day-to-day operations. Vonachen delivered the eulogy at Caray's funeral in Chicago in February 1998, which was broadcast on WGN. The efforts of Pete, Rocky and the other Chiefs investors led to the opening of O'Brien Field in 2002, and the street in front of the stadium was renamed Pete Vonachen Way.
In August 2005, in association with his 80th birthday, a statue of Pete was unveiled just inside the main entrance at O'Brien Field.
The Pitch and Hit Club of Chicago was founded in 1942 as a social organization by a group of Major League players and scouts. The club has expanded throughout the baseball community to become a professional baseball organization and now includes umpires, broadcasters, front-office executives, coaches, managers and owners. Throughout the last 65 years, the role of the club has grown to include sponsoring various teams and tournaments that showcase the highest level amateur baseball talent in Illinois and the Midwest.
Each year, the Pitch and Hit Club holds an awards banquet. In addition to Vonachen, other 2007 honorees include Brandon McCarthy, Bryan Anderson, Greg Walker, new Cubs president John McDonough (Bill Veeck Lifetime Achievement Award), former MLB player and executive Bob Watson (Humanitarian Award), Ned Colletti (MLB GM of the Year) and numerous Minor League, amateur and high school players from the Chicago area.
The 61st annual banquet will take place on Jan. 28 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont and will be emceed by Steve Lyons and Tom Shear. Cocktail hour starts at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5:30 and the program begins at 7 p.m. Former Major Leaguer Maury Wills is the featured speaker and more award winners will be announced in the near future by the Pitch and Hit Club. The event includes a silent auction and autograph session.
Tickets are limited and selling for $40 by the Pitch and Hit Club at 847-781-8039 or visit their website at www.pitchandhitclub.org.