One of the great coaches in University of Illinois history has passed away.
Champaign-Urbana and the UI lost one of their favorite sons last week with the death of former longtime Fighting Illini baseball coach Lee Eilbracht.
Gracious, entertaining and enthusiastic, Mr. Eilbracht, who was 88 when he died, was an All-American baseball player for the UI who became the school's head baseball coach for 27 years. When he retired after the 1978 season, Eilbract had won 515 games and four Big Ten titles.
Later, he was a color commentator on radio broadcasts with play-by-play announcer Dave Loane.
Somewhat of an institution in the community, Mr. Eilbracht coached hundreds of players over the years. As several of them indicated after his death, Mr. Eilbracht's coaching style taught them lessons they were able to use long after their baseball careers were over.
One of Mr. Eilbracht's most endearing qualities was his love of baseball and his willingness to talk about it on almost any occasion. A real baseball man, he knew the game inside and out and was always happy to discuss its intricacies no matter if the person he was talking was an expert, like him, or a fan.
Even after his retirement, Mr. Eilbracht stayed close to the game, working as a consultant with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Most important, however, was his generous, affable nature. It's hard to imagine that he ever met a stranger. Mr. Eilbracht liked people, and they liked him in return. That's why he'll be missed by so many.