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Former Illinois coach Lee Eilbracht passes away

Lee Eibracht IllinoisCHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Legendary Fighting Illini head coach Lee Eilbracht passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 2, at his residence at The Windsor at Savoy at the age of 88. Eilbracht is the winningest coach in Illini baseball history and earned All-America honors as a collegiate player. He compiled 515 wins in 27 seasons at the helm from 1952-78 along with being a three-time letterwinner as a player (1943, 46-47). The St. Louis, Mo., native won four Big Ten titles and led the Orange and Blue to the NCAA District Playoffs three times.

“We have lost a great part of our Illini family,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “Lee was always very visible and really cared about the Illinois baseball program. He has tremendous knowledge of the game of baseball and was always well respected by his peers. He not only brought great recognition to baseball at Illinois, but also at the national and international levels.”

As an Illini player, he was tabbed an All-American in 1947, picked up team MVP honors in 1946-47 and led the Big Ten in hitting in 1946 with a .484 batting average. Following a career in professional baseball as a player and manager in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, Eilbracht was named Illinois’ head coach in 1952. He guided the Illini to conference titles in his first two seasons (1952-53), followed by two more Big Ten championships in 1962-63. His UI squads also reached the NCAA District Playoffs in his debut season along with two more appearances in 1962-63.

Eilbracht was an Olympic coach in 1964 for the United States baseball team in Japan and served as the first executive director for the American Baseball Coaches Association. He retired following the 1978 season and also worked as an analyst on Illini baseball broadcasts starting in the 1990s. For several major league spring trainings, Eilbracht was a consultant for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Eilbracht is survived by five children and many grandchildren. The memorial service will be at the Morgan Funeral Home in Savoy, Ill., on Jan. 6 from 5-7 p.m., and the funeral will be held at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Champaign, Ill., on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m.

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