Illinois Public Media News
The first African-American to wear a major league baseball uniform in Chicago said the sport was ingrained in his blood at an early age, and he owes everything to it.
May 1 marks 60 years since Orestes "Minnie" Minoso broke the city's color line with the White Sox in 1951. He is also the first black-Latino in the major leagues, breaking through with Cleveland two years earlier.
Minoso was honored on the University of Illinois campus Thursday night as part of events commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. He was part of a panel discussion on the Latino integration of baseball, part of two days of events entitled 'Pioneering Latinos: Building a Legacy On and Beyond the Playing Field.'
Minoso said he has always learned to keep a smile on his face, no matter the circumstances. He recalled working in sugar fields as a child in Cuba.
"I had to cut the sugar, clean the sugar field, and plant the sugar field, everything you do, you name it" Minoso said. "I had to get up at 3 o'clock to get ready to make $2.50 a day to find out God opened the door for me to play baseball."
Minoso was honored with an award from the U of I's Latina/Latino studies department, reading: "In recognition of the courage, spirit, and excellence demonstrated as the integration pioneer for the Chicago White Sox."
Appearing with Minoso in Thursday's panel was filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, Chicago Cubs outfielder Fernando Perez, and moderator and U of I History Professor Adrian Burgos.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure went to his old school Tuesday morning, and told students at the Centennial High School gym in Champaign what his plans are for the fall.
"I'm here to announce that I will forgo my senior season at the University of Illinois, and enter the 2011 NFL draft," Leshoure announced to cheers from the assembled students.
Leshoure rushed for 17 touchdowns last fall, and set Illinois' single-season rushing record, with 1697 yards, breaking the mark set by Rashard Mendenhall three years earlier. He said he has done everything he can do at the college level, and is ready for professional football. He also said he is not deterred by the possibility that a labor dispute could lead to a player lockout that curtails his first season in the NFL.
"I definitely thought about all those things in my decision, took a long time to think about it, prayed on it," Leshoure said. "I still woke up with the same decision that I made today. So, I'm willing of the risks and I know, you know, what's at stake."
The 6-0, 230-pound Leshoure is projected to be taken anywhere from the first through fourth rounds in the April draft.
Although he is giving up his senior year in college, LeShoure said he still plans to eventually earn his degree in communications. He told the athletes in the Centennial High student assembly to study hard if they want to reach their goals and have a good life beyond the playing field.
"Sports won't be here forever," Leshoure said to students. "Regardless of how good you are and what you think, it won't be forever. You need a backup plan and it starts here at Centennial."
Leshoure's old high school coach was on hand for the announcement. Centennial High School Football Coach Mike McDonnell cited Leshoure's maturity as a high school player.
"I was always impressed with his character and his maturity, because he was always older than what he was," McDonnell said. "I think that's part of his success, because he understood the importance of working out during the off season, getting his grades."
McDonnell credited Leshoure's mother, with instilling her son with self-discipline at an early age.
Illinois football coach Ron Zook also had praise for Leshoure. An article posted on the U of I's Fighting Illini website quoted Zook: "I am extremely proud of how Mikel has matured as a young man and leader for our football team since his arrival at Illinois. He'll be remembered here as one of the greatest running backs in Illinois football history. We hope he has a long and successful NFL career."
Leshoure's announcement comes a day after Illini junior linebacker Martez Wilson said he'll also enter the NFL draft.
(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)
Mikel Leshoure ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns as Illinois earned its first bowl victory since 1999, beating Baylor 38-14 Wednesday night in the Texas Bowl.
The Illini spoiled the Bears' first bowl appearance in 16 seasons. Both teams finished at 7-6.
Leshoure had a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter, a 13-yard score in the third quarter and another 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth period. The performance gave him the school single-season rushing record with 1,697 yards.
The Illini built a 24-0 lead and Leshoure's last touchdown put the game out of reach.
Baylor's Robert Griffin III threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, but his two fumbles in the first half put the Bears behind.
Leshoure was chosen the most valuable player and wore a cowboy hat as he hoisted the trophy above his head after the game while the small but vocal group of Illinois fans cheered.
The Bears cut the lead to 24-14 when Griffin found a diving Kendall Wright on a 39-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 early in the fourth quarter. But Illinois continued its dominance in the rushing game after that and extended its lead to 31-14 on Leshoure's last touchdown.
Illinois finished with 291 yards rushing and 533 yards of total offense to give coach Ron Zook his first bowl win as a head coach in his fourth try.
Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase got off to a sensational start, completing all of his 13 passes in the first half, and finished 18 of 23 for 242 yards. He scored on a 55-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds to play to make it 38-14.
Illinois opened the second half with an 87-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Leshoure. Leshoure also scored the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 24-0 and set the Illinois single-season scoring record.
Baylor finally found its offensive touch on its first possession of the second half. Griffin completed five of seven passes on that drive, which ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jay Finley to get the Bears within 24-7 with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Illini held Finley in check for most of the night and Baylor's 1,000-yard rusher finished with 12 carries for 63 yards.
Illinois led 9-0 before a 5-yard touchdown run by Leshoure about 10 minutes before halftime stretched the lead to 16-0. That score was set up by a 52-yard reception by Ryan Lankford a play earlier.
Baylor was driving with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half when a pass by Griffin was intercepted by Terry Hawthorne. But the Bears got a second chance when Corey Liuget was penalized for roughing the passer, giving Baylor the ball back.
The Bears still came away empty though when Griffin fumbled a few plays later to give Illinois the ball back on its own 32.
Baylor's problems started early with Griffin fumbling on the first possession. Travon Bellamy recovered that fumble and returned it 46 yards. The Illini couldn't get anything going on that drive and settled for a 38-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Illinois added a second field goal on their next drive to push the lead to 6-0 and a third field goal early in the second quarter made it 9-0.
A central Illinois high school has agreed to phase out its cardinal logo after Illinois State University complained that it looked too much like ISU's Reggie Redbird mascot.
ISU's Director of Licensing Jerry Abner said the university has an obligation to protect its intellectual property, saying the Sangamon County school district needs to start scrubbing its website and printed materials of the logo right away.
Pleasant Plains Superintendent Maureen Talbert said that the school district will stop using the logo.
"They have a redbird mascot and apparently our redbird on our equipment and shirts and things is very similar," Talbert said. "They're very kind in understanding we'll work with them to make sure future products or things we sell won't have the same redbird image."
Talbert added that the district did not intentionally copy the image, and at least one parent, Laura Salvacion, in the Pleasant Plains district said the university is being too heavy handed.
"We're a little school," Salvacion said. "We send a lot of kids up there to college. You would think they'd just get a clue."
According to a letter sent to the school, ISU will allow current uses of the mascot image to continue on equipment and clothing until they are due for replacement.
A year after claiming a silver medal, an Urbana woman has returned to an international competition to claim the top prize in table tennis.
82-year old Phyllis Hughes took the gold medal over the weekend in singles competition at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. Hughes had quit playing for more than 50 years as she worked as a psychologist and raised a family. But she only started in competitive play three years ago. Hughes says having a supportive husband and network of friends plays a big role. "It's a very, very good feeling to be able to compete at this point," said Hughes. "We have open tennis night here at the home every Thursday night, and usually all men come to play. I usually enjoy playing their game."
Aside from table tennis, the now-retired Hughes stays active as an artist, musician, and gardener. She was the lone Illinois representative at the senior competition in Utah, which concludes this weekend.
(Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Hughes)
Lots of baseball fans in and around Danville will spend part of their summer attending collegiate games, but the collegiate Danville Dans have only been around since 1989. Much of the early baseball history surrounding the city involves minor league baseball there, and the Three-I League...or Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. The league lasted from 1901 to 1961.
Danville's involvement in the league actually predated Danville Stadium, going back to 1910, but John Dowling's first job as a batboy with the Danville Dodgers came as the park opened in 1946- at age 13. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with the retired educator to discuss his role with the team
The West beat the East 9 to 2 Wednesday night in the Frontier League All-Star Game in Marion.
Two members of the Normal Cornbelters played on the winning side --- pitcher Tyler Lavigne and 2nd baseman Daniel Cox.
The Cornbelters are currently in 4th place in the Frontier League's West Division, with a 21 and 27 record for the season. The team resumes regular season play Friday evening, when they host the Southern Illinois Miners.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation aimed at protecting Illinois student athletes from dishonest agents.
Quinn signed Senate Bill 2542 Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Uniform Law Commission. The group works to make sure state laws are consistent across the country.
The bill requires government licensing for sports agents who want to represent students.
Agents could be investigated and lose their license for misconduct, such as defrauding a client or abusing drugs.
The legislation also would require agents to notify student athletes that signing a contract might endanger their eligibility to compete. Athletes could cancel contracts within 14 days.
The law takes effect Jan. 1.
Ten members of Champaign County's Olympic tradition will be honored Saturday, July 3rd, at the monument built as a tribute to all area Olympians.
Six of the ten people to be inducted at the Tribute to Olympic Athletes are Paralympians, who compete in their own games that run parallel to the Olympics.
One is University of Illinois administrator Brad Hedrick, who was a member of the bronze-winning men's wheelchair basketball team at the 1980 Paralympics in Arnhem, Holldan, and placed second in the marathon in the 1984 games. Four years later, he coached the US women's basketball team to its first Paralympics gold in South Korea.
Hedrick says athletes with disabilities have had an upward climb to win respect over the decades - in fact, it wasn't until recently that Paralympians were recognized on the Champaign monument despite the area's history of Paralympic training. But he says that discrimination is melting away.
Hedrick says as younger generations grow up and attend both the Olympics and Paralympics, "I think the chasm that some may see as being wide will be narrowing in the eyes of future generations."
Hedrick's 1988 gold-medal team included two women who will also be inducted Saturday -- Terri Goodknight and Barbara Yoss.
Hedrick says he's honored to be in the same list as Jack Whitman -- he was known as the father of wheelchair archery in America when he won gold medals at the 1960 and 1964 Paralympic Games, at a time when athletes with disabilities faced widespread discrimination.
"He had such grace", remembers Hedrick. "And I still say he was the greatest 60-year-old athlete, and I owe him a lot."
The dedication ceremony will also honor two speedskaters from the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics, Katherine Reutter and Jonathan Kuck. Also on the list is wrestler Mark Johnson, whose 1980 team never made it to the boycotted Moscow Olympics.
The ceremony begins at 10 AM, Saturday, July 5th, at at the Tribute to Olympic Athletes monument, in Dodds Park in Champaign.
The Los Angeles Lakers have won their 16th NBA championship, dramatically rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 Thursday night in Game 7 of the NBA finals.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting while winning his fifth title with the Lakers, who repeated as NBA champions for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.
Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first 31/2 quarters. Yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest.
With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston's 17 banners for the overall NBA lead.
After the game, hundreds of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans poured into the streets near Staples Center, and Los Angeles Police declared an unlawful assembly.
Police urged people to disperse immediately outside Staples Center Thursday night.
A police spokesman says at least two people have been arrested --- both misdemeanors for drinking in public.
Police massed around the arena before the game, aiming to prevent a repeat of the violence that accompanied the Lakers' victory last year.
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