Illinois Public Media News
Dozens of fans have left flowers, candles and notes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gates in memory of two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon.
The makeshift memorial began taking shape within hours after Wheldon was killed Sunday in a massive crash during an IndyCar race in Las Vegas.
Fans continued stopping by the Indianapolis track early Monday, including one that WISH-TV reports left a bottle of milk _ the traditional drink by Indy 500 winners that Wheldon dumped over his head after winning the race in May.
Fan Beckie Jeffrey tells WTHR-TV that Wheldon was a friendly driver who made time to talk with fans, especially children.
Boston Red Sox executive Theo Epstein has agreed to a five-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, according to multiple media reports.
The 37-year-old Epstein would leave the Red Sox with a year remaining on his contract as general manager and take over what is expected to be an expanded role with the Cubs, who have gone 103 years without a World Series championship.
Radio station WEEI in Boston, ESPN the Magazine and SI.com all cited unidentified sources in reporting that Epstein has agreed to a deal. Details, which could include compensation to the Red Sox, were still being worked out.
The Cubs declined comment Wednesday and Red Sox officials could not be reached by The Associated Press. On Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation told the AP that Epstein was likely to join the Cubs within 48 hours.
With Epstein at the helm, the Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series championship drought in 2004 and won the title again in 2007.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts fired GM Jim Hendry in July.
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins hooked up on two long TD passes to lead No. 19 Illinois to a 41-20 victory Saturday at Indiana.
Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is bowl eligible, and is off to its best start since the 1951 team was 7-0. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) lost its third in a row, still has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season and has lost 13 consecutive games against Top 25 teams since a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006.
Sparked by Shane Wynn's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead early.
But Illinois came back with a 77-yard scoring pass to Jenkins, took the lead on Tavon Wilson's 66-yard fumble return for a TD and made it 27-13 at the half on Nathan Scheelhaase's 67-yard TD pass to Jenkins. Defensive end Whitney Merciless now leads the nation in sacks after dropping Hoosier quarterbacks three times.
"I was notified about two weeks back that I as starting to lead," he said. "It's a challenge to stay up there. Each week, when I go into it, I'm just thinking I want to keep contending to be in the lead with everybody else. Definitely I want to bring something to this program."
Merciless also forced a fumble which Tavon Wilson scooped from the turf and returned 66 yards to give Illinois its first lead.
"I feel like that was the momentum changer of the game," said Wilson. "Coach (Ron) Zook is always talking about turnovers, and helping the offense out with points."
The 6-0 Illini return to Champaign next Saturday afternoon against Ohio State.
Former All-Star third baseman Robin Ventura is replacing the fiery Ozzie Guillen as manager of the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox say that Ventura agreed to a multiyear deal on Thursday.
A longtime star with the White Sox, Ventura was hired by the club last June as a special adviser to director of player development Buddy Bell. Ventura is the 38th White Sox manager overall, including 17 who played for the team.
Guillen was released from his contract with one year remaining after eight seasons with the White Sox and immediately was hired by the Florida Marlins as their manager.
Ventura was a first-round draft pick of the White Sox out of Oklahoma State in 1988 and spent the first 10 seasons of his 16-year career with Chicago.
Known for his slick fielding, clutch hitting and left-handed power, Ventura also played for the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was six-time Gold Glove winner and an All-Star in 1992 and 2002.
Ventura's selection came as a surprise. Most speculation had the White Sox's top candidates as either Tampa Rays coach Dave Martinez or Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. Both are former White Sox players.
"When I met with the media as our season ended, I identified one person at the very top of my managerial list," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said in a team release.
"I wanted someone who met very specific criteria centered around his leadership abilities. Robin Ventura was that man. His baseball knowledge and expertise, his professionalism, his familiarity with the White Sox and Chicago and his outstanding character make him absolutely the right person to lead our clubhouse and this organization into the seasons ahead."
Ventura, who has also dabbled in TV commentary, said he welcomed the chance to return to the city where his major league career started.
"When I rejoined the White Sox this June, I said this was my baseball home and that part of me never left the White Sox organization," Ventura said. "My family and I are thrilled to be returning to Chicago. Managing a major league baseball team is a tremendous honor. It's also an opportunity and a challenge."
Pitching coach Don Cooper and first base coach Harold Baines were already re-signed to multiyear contract extensions before the season ended. Hitting coach Greg Walker is not returning.
Ventura batted hit .267 with 294 home runs and 1,182 RBIs over his career. His 18 career grand slams are tied for fifth in major league history.
He appeared in 1,254 games over 10 seasons with the White Sox, hitting .274 with 171 home runs and 741 RBI. He ranks among the White Sox career leaders in grand slams, walks, homers, RBIs, extra-base hits and runs scored.
Ventura led Oklahoma State to the College World Series and still holds the Division I record with a 58-game hitting streak.
Guillen, who was a friend of Ventura's while with the White Sox, left after he couldn't get a contract extension from owner Jerry Reinsdorf. His relationship with Williams had become fractured over the last two seasons.
Expected to be contenders this season, the White Sox finished 79-83 and third in the AL Central as several key players, most notably DH Adam Dunn and center fielder Alex Rios, struggled offensively.
With the managerial search completed, Chicago's next big offseason move could be determining whether to bring back longtime ace Mark Buehrle, who will be a free agent.
(AP Photo/Capital One, David Goldman)
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Chicago White Sox will have a new manager. Pitching coach Don Cooper will step in to manage the team for the final two games of the season. The team announced that it had agreed to terms on a multiyear contracts with Cooper and first base coach Harold Baines. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was released from his contract on Monday to pursue other opportunities.
Guillen had one year left in his deal and was seeking an extension with a pay raise. He had met with owner Jerry Reinsdorf for about 30 minutes earlier in the day.
Guillen said the move shouldn't be blamed on anyone. He requested to be released from his contract with the team.
"Let me go and do what I want to do and the best for me and my family," Guillen said in the press conference Monday night.
Guillen also expressed disappointment at the way the Sox have been playing this season and gratitude for his fans.
"I know they're not going to forget me. They can't. Even if they want to, they can't. They walk through the ball park, my picture will be there. I hope they don't take it down," Guillen joked.
The outspoken Guillen led the Sox to win two American league central titles as well as the World Series in 2005.
The White Sox said in a release they retain the right to compensation should Guillen accept a managerial position with another major league team for the 2012 season. The Florida Marlins are expecting to snag Guillen as their new Manager as soon as Wednesday after Jack McKeon announced Monday night that he was retiring.
Contrary to earlier reports, bench coach Joey Cora will not manage the team for the season's two final games. In fact, Cora won't come to the park for those two games. Cora is a close friend and former teammate of Guillen's and could join Guillen if he takes the manager's job with the Florida Marlins.
Mike Gellinger will serve as bench coach for the final two games.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Fighting Illini football team kicked off their 2011 campaign with a 33-15 win over Arkansas State Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium Champaign.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 267 yards, hitting on 16 of 23 attempts. A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines each eclipsed a hundred yards in receiving, Jenkins with 148 and Millines with 119. Each caught a long touchdown pass from Scheelhaase.
Jenkins said he felt motivated to keep up with Millines in the stats column.
"It's kind of a competition, actually," said Jenkins. "Honestly, when he scored, I knew I had to get me at least one. I wasn't going to let him beat me. Darius is a great receiver, but we all know who's number one. Hopefully next week I have over 100 yards against, and we just keep rolling from there."
For his part, Millines says he enjoys the rivalry with Jenkins.
"We're a duo, but we're also pushing each other as a competition," said Millines, "to see who's going to get the most catches, who's going to get the most yards, who's going to make the better plays. So that will push us to play better and play harder."
Jason Ford rushed for 93 yards, and Trulon Henry sparked the defense with 8 tackles and an interception.
Illini players said they weren't affected by the hundred degree heat index, but a lot of fans succumbed to heat-related illness. Many more left early from a game that drew a sparse crowd, officially tallied at around 45,000 attendees.
Saturday marked the beginning of the Mike Thomas era. Reporters were eager to know what the new athletic director said to Coach Ron Zook as they walked off the field.
"Congratulations and he's excited to be here," said Zook. "Obviously we're excited to have him here. And I congratulated him because I got his first win as an athletic director."
The Illini return to action at home next week against the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.
The Chicago Cubs have fired general manager Jim Hendry after another disappointing season.
The Cubs announced the move Friday before a game with the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs come into the game 18 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central and 16 games below .500.
Assistant GM Randy Bush will serve as interim manager.
The 56-year-old Hendry was named general manager in July 2002. New owner Tom Ricketts thanked Hendry for 17 years of service to the Cubs. Ricketts says it's time for a "fresh approach in our baseball leadership and our search begins immediately."
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Sales of Illinois lottery tickets grew by 3 percent last year to set a new record.
Officials said Monday that sales totaled nearly $2.3 billion. That tops the old record of $2.2 billion, which was set just a year earlier.
Out of that revenue, $690 million was used to support state programs. Education got most of the money, but statewide construction projects got $54 million and $4 million went to causes like research on breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The sales figures are from the 12 months that ended on June 30. The total of nearly $2.3 billion amounts to more than $177 for every person in Illinois.
Lottery officials say sales have climbed every year for nine straight years.
President Barack Obama is headed to western Illinois during a three-day bus tour of Midwestern states this week.
Obama's itinerary is scheduled to include stops in Atkinson and Alpha in Henry County where he'll preside over town hall-style on Wednesday before returning to the White House.
The White House says President Barack Obama expects to get an earful from regular folks, including supporters, who are frustrated by Congress and some of Obama's decisions.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama expects to hear from people who are fed up with dysfunction in Washington and what he says is the willingness of some lawmakers to put politics ahead of the country.
Earnest also said Obama even expects some of his own supporters to challenge some of the compromises he made during negotiations with Congress to reduce government spending and trim the nation's debt.
Obama plans five events over three days in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The tour begins Monday with a town hall-style event in Cannon Falls, Minn., followed by a second question-and answer session in Decorah, Iowa
Mike Thomas will take the helm of the University of Illinois' athletic department before the season's first football game on Sept. 3.
The 51-year-old Thomas is currently the athletic director at the University of Cincinnati, and before that he had the same position at the University of Akron.
During his tenure in Cincinnati, Thomas is credited with boosting UC's athletic program to national prominence, while raising money for the department's budget by $7 million dollars. He also lowered the annual operating deficit by more than $6 million. Thomas said fundraising will be one of his top priorities at the U of I.
"We need to get out there, and probably raise more money," Thomas said. "With tuition going up every year, it's almost gone up seven percent this year. You know, I think that's going to be key. I think that's a pressing issue, but it always will be."
Thomas added that the U of I's sports teams need to be branded better nationally.
"I think we need to be the king of the state," he said. "If we're doing things the right way, if we're winning at a high level, if we're working with integrity, and our kids continue to get it done in the classroom, our goal is to be a national brand, identifiable from coast to coast."
Thomas replaces long-time U of I athletics director Ron Guenther, who retired this summer after nearly 20 years on the job.
Among the many issues facing Thomas at the U of I are plans to expand Assembly Hall. University President Michael Hogan said that project is still on track to move forward.
"We have hired an architectural engineering firm to evaluate Assembly Hall, and to give us some options on what we might do and what we can afford," Hogan explained. "When Mike gets here, that will be one of his very first assignments."
Thomas' appointment comes one day after the university announced Phyllis Wise would become the next chancellor and vice president of the Urbana campus. Wise is expected to officially start her job Oct. 1, pending approval by the university's Board of Trustees
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
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