Thillens Stadium Closes
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 22, 2005 8:04PM
Thillens Stadium, the landmark ballpark at Devon and Kedzie has been closed down (6th item on page). Founded in 1938 by late Mel Thillens Sr. -- who made his name in armored car and mobile check cashing services -- the park had been used by an average of 17,000 Chicago area kids a year in the nearly 70 years since then.
In addition to the youth games, the park hosted many other events including the annual Chicago Celebrity Softball games. Those games featured the likes of "Michael Jordan, Chris Chelios, Minnie Minoso, Rich Melman, Fergie Jenkins, Randy Hundley, Billy Williams [and] Moose Skowron".
Mel Sr. died in 1993, but his family had continued to operate the operate the park through a non-profit charitable foundation. With its two baseball diamonds, 2200 seats, P.A. Systems, electronic scoreboards and field lights, the costs of maintaing the park became too steep. Without outside financial help, the foundation was forced to cease operations and shutter the stadium.
The Thillens company, whose web site is covered with baseballs throughout, has removed the link the stadium info from most of its site. However, a picture remains on the homepage and the stadium page does remain live.
Chicagoist hopes this isn't the end for the ball field. Chicago's kids need the park more than ever. Between the combination of drugs and violence on the streets and too much time spent in front of the TV and video games, kids in the city need the safe, outdoor recreation Thillens Stadium offered. We don't know whether the Thillens family already approached him or not, but they may want to get in touch with Dr. David Fletcher, who is trying to get a Chicago Baseball Museum off the ground. His passion for baseball and Chicago, as well as his fundraising operation, may be able to breathe new life into the historic stadium.
Photos via Thillens.com