Lee Paul “Coach” Eilbracht
Lee Paul “Coach” Eilbracht, 88, of Savoy, died Jan. 2, 2013.
He was born March 22, 1924, in St. Louis, son of the late Viola Nixon Eilbracht and Winfield Charles Eilbracht.
Coach Eilbracht was raised in Waterloo and graduated from Waterloo High School in 1942, where he was an outstanding athlete in basketball, baseball and tennis.
He attended the University of Illinois, and in 1944, he married Mary Anderson and joined the U.S. Army. He served in the European Theatre during World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, and working as a tank driver and interpreter.
He returned from the war and resumed his education and baseball career at U of I. He was the Big Ten batting champion in 1946, with a .484 batting average, and was a great catcher. For the next five years he played minor league baseball in the Chicago Cubs farm system, with a short stint in the big leagues. Most of his MLB career was as a player-manager. He was known for having lots of “pepper,” working hard, playing hard and sleeping fast.
After Coach Eilbracht’s mentor and coach from U of I, Wally Roettger, passed away in 1952, he became one of the youngest Big Ten head coaches and had immediate success. The Illini were the Big Ten co-champions in 1952 and 1953. His teams won the Big Ten Championships outright in 1962 and 1963, and narrowly missed a trip to the College World Series in 1963.
Coach Eilbracht received numerous awards in college and amateur baseball and was an Olympic coach in 1964 for the U.S. baseball team in Japan. He served as the first executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, and coached many superior players including Tommy Fletcher, Kenny Holtzman and Tom Haller.
He remarried in June 1967 to Euline Wilson and they had a wonderful life together. They traveled to Germany, Holland, Nicaragua and Japan doing baseball clinics and managing teams.
Upon retiring from coaching, he worked as a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also worked as a technical director and had a bit part in the baseball movie, “A League of Their Own.”
Survivors include his children, eldest son Kurt Paul Eilbracht and special daughter-in-law Brenda Kay Eilbracht of Champaign, Ellen Lee Eilbracht of Springfield, Ore., and Ann Eilbracht Thompson and her husband David Thompson of Minneapolis, Minn.; two children from marriage, Deb (Dale) Wolf and Doug (Pam) Wilson; and together with his wife, Euline, they leave behind 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was Jan. 6, at Morgan Funeral Home in Savoy.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 7, at St. Mathews Catholic Church.
Interment immediately followed.