SAVOY – Lee Paul "Coach" Eilbracht, 88, of Savoy passed away Wednesday (Jan. 2, 2013) at his residence.
He was born March 22, 1924, in St. Louis, Mo., a son of Viola Nixon Eilbracht and Winfield Charles Eilbracht. Lee was raised in Waterloo, Ill., and graduated from Waterloo High School in 1942 where he was an outstanding athlete in basketball, baseball and tennis.
He attended the University of Illinois. In 1944, he married Mary Anderson and spent the next three years in the U.S. Army serving in the European Theater fighting in the Battle of the Bulge as a tank driver and interpreter during World War II.
In 1945, he returned from the war and resumed his education and baseball career at the UI. In 1946, he was the Big Ten batting champion with a .484 batting average, and a great catcher.
For the next five years, Lee played minor league baseball in the Chicago Cubs farm system with a short stint in the big leagues.
Most of his MLB career was as a player-manager. He was known for having lots of "pepper," working hard, playing hard and sleeping fast.
In 1952, his mentor and coach from the UI, Wally Roettger, passed away. Lee became one of the youngest Big Ten head coaches and had immediate success. The Illini were the Big Ten Co-Champions in 1952 and 1953. His teams won the Big Ten Championships outright in 1962 and 1963. The Illini narrowly missed a trip to the College World Series in 1963.
Eilbracht received numerous awards in College and Amateur Baseball and was an Olympic Coach in 1964 for the U.S. baseball team in Japan.
Lee Eilbracht served as the first executive director for The American Baseball Coaches Association. Lee coached many superior players including Tommy Fletcher, Kenny Holtzman and Tom Haller.
Lee remarried in June 1967 to Euline Wilson and they had a wonderful life together. They traveled to Germany, Holland, Nicaragua and Japan doing baseball clinics and managing teams.
Upon retiring from coaching Lee worked as a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also worked as a technical director and had a bit part in the baseball movie "A League of Their Own."
Lee Paul Eilbracht is survived by his son, Kurt Paul Eilbracht and special daughter-in-law, Brenda Kay Eilbracht, of Champaign; and daughters, Ellen Lee Eilbracht of Springfield, Ore., and Ann Eilbracht Thompson and husband, David Thompson, of Minneapolis, Minn.
Lee also leaves behind two children from marriage, Deb Wolf and husband, Dale Wolf, and Doug Wilson and wife, Pam Wilson. Lee and Euline Eilbracht together leave behind 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6, at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church. The interment will take place in Roselawn Cemetery, Champaign.