Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: April 14, 2019

Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: April 14, 2019

It's a little known fact that of the three men who top college baseball's current all-time list of coaching victories, two have ties to the University of Illinois.

One of them is Augie Garrido, who coached Illini baseball for three seasons, racking up 1,975 wins in 48 collegiate seasons.

The second is a 1944 Illini baseball and basketball letterman named Gordie Gillespie. He ranks third on the NCAA's list behind longtime Florida State coach Mike Martin and Garrido. In 1993, he passed Southern California's Rod Dedeaux, to rank No. 1 on that ledger. Garrido passed Gillespie in 2014.

Born 97 years ago today — April 14, 1926 — Gillespie graduated from northwest Chicago's Kelvyn Park High School and was recruited to the University of Illinois by basketball coach Doug Mills and baseball coach Wally Roettger. Gillespie earned varsity letters as a center on the basketball court and as a first baseman on the diamond.

Following service in World War II, Gillespie transferred to DePaul to play basketball for coach Ray Meyer. He won Blue Demon varsity letters in 1947, '48 and '49.

Gillespie's first coaching job was at Lewis University in 1953. In 24 years, his Flyers compiled a record of 634-244, capped by three straight NAIA World Series titles from 1974-76. Gillespie also coached the Flyers basketball team for 15 years.

He moved on to take the job at St. Francis College, where eight of his Fighting Saints teams earned World Series bids. The highlight of his 19-year coaching stint in Joliet came in 1993 when that squad won 38 of its final 39 games to capture the school's first-ever national championship in any sport.

Gillespie then moved on to Ripon College in Wisconsin where he worked with his son, Bob, the school's athletics director. In 10 seasons, his Red Hawks put together a record of 239-130, including five league titles and six NCAA Division II playoff appearances in seven years.

In 2006, at the age of 80, Gillespie returned to St. Francis to coach the baseball team for six final seasons.

Amazingly, Gillespie also had a successful coaching career in football, serving as the head coach at Joliet Catholic High School for 27 years and compiling a mark of 222-54-6. Five of his teams won Class 5A state championships (1975, '76, '77, '78 and '81).

In 1991, the Chicago Tribune honored Gillespie by selecting him as the head coach of the newspaper's All-Time Illinois High School Football Team. Collegiate Baseball Magazine named him the NAIA Coach of the Century in 1998.

In nearly 110 seasons of coaching sports teams, Gillespie's squads had 2,402 wins, winning nearly 70 percent of the time. His teams failed to record at least a .500 mark only 11 times.

The father of seven, grandfather of 37, great-grandfather of 12 and member of 16 halls of fame died in 2015 at the age of 88.

Top 10 winningest college baseball coach (through April 7, 2019):

Name Wins

Mike Martin 2,006

Augie Garrido 1,975

Gordie Gillespie 1,893

Gene Stephenson 1,768

Ed Cheff 1,705

Mark Marquess 1,627

Jim Morris 1,594

Woody Hunt 1,552

Larry Hays 1,508

Chuck Hartman 1,444

Illini Birthdays:

Today: Chester Frazier, basketball (33)

Monday: Taylor Shegos, swimming & diving (19)

Tuesday: Derek Dimke, football (29)

Wednesday: Jartavius Martin, football (19)

Thursday: Don Ohl, basketball (83)

Friday: Tyler Jay, baseball (25)

Saturday: Antonio Steele, football (33)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is www.SportsLLL.com.

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