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Baseball Fri Jun 21 2013

Thillens Stadium is No More

Thillens Stadium in West Ridge has lost its landmark baseball -- as well as its name. The Thillens family requested their name be taken off the ballpark, which is now just now known simply as the Stadium at Devon and Kedzie. Mel J. Thillens told DNAinfo the family made the decision due to the poor upkeep of the park. The Park District removed the baseball sign and other Thillens signage from the park June 13.

Photo by Proxy Indian on Flickr

The 2200-seat stadium was built by the Thillens check cashing and armored car company in 1938, at a cost of $6 million, as a baseball field anyone could use for free. The first Little League in the city was organized at the field, and in 1950, WGN-TV made television history by putting a camera in center field for to televise Little League and 16-softball games, a technique that quickly migrated to the majors.

The field was maintained by the company until 2005, when Thillens announced the Thillens Stadium Foundation was out of money and could no longer support it financially, and donated it to the Chicago Park District, who renovated it with support from the Cubs. It reopened in 2006, renamed "Cubs Field at Thillens" at least for a time.

Countless baseball, 12- and 16-inch softball games were played there over the years, including occasional games for the Chicago Bandits women's pro fastpitch softball team. While the field will obviously remain, it's sad to see a Chicago landmark and famous family name disappear.

Here's a column from 1972 by Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Ira Berkow, talking about the early days of Little League baseball at Thillens Stadium in 1952.

Ira Berkow, Turning 'Pro' in Little League

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Carlotta / June 22, 2013 3:19 PM

Thillens spent $6 million to build it in 1938? Wow. It's still lot of money today but even more so back then. That's a real testament to Thillens' community spirit.

Me, I remember the donkey baseball that was played in the late 70's and early 80's -- a real hoot!

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