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Peoria Sunday Morning League Celebrates 100 Years

 

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications 

The MSBL Peoria Sunday Morning League is the oldest amateur baseball league in the United States.  Started in 1916 as a league for businesses to provide a recreational outlet for their employees, it was originally called the Peoria Commercial League and started with six teams.  The PSML is celebrating their 100th year of battle in 2015. There were no age requirements back then so it was all hands in deck.  Regardless of age, this Sunday morning baseball outlet was exclusively designated for all employees in the area and their friends.

On May 4th of this year in the Peoria Civic Center, current league president Tim Cundiff presided over a banquet celebrating the achievements and the players who helped get this distinguished league to this point.  Over 250 people attended, including Peoria mayor Jim Ardis, Tim Wiles, former Director of Research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, past players, family members and friends and also MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler.  "I spent a wonderful evening at the banquet honoring the 100th league anniversary of the Peoria Sunday Morning League. Over 250 people attended the evening festivities honoring the leagues achievements and notables. The speeches were heartfelt and inspiring. I wish the league another 100 years and congratulations on a great job by the event organizer and League President Tim Cundiff,” Sigler elaborated.

The crowd was comprised of fans from grade school through past players now in their 80’s.  The theme for the night was to promote an overall sense of pride while celebrating baseball and the longevity of the league.

The league saddled up with MSBL in the late 80’s and continues today with seven teams playing in an 18-over age bracket.  The league has a history of attracting players right out of high school and college so the quality of league play is pretty high.  Cundiff, in his third year at the helm, explains.  "We are a wood bat league that is probably 60% collegiate players or have played in college.  There is a player named John Santor who is in his early 30’s and was drafted by the Cardinals.  The level of play in our league is very good.” 

Tim started playing in the league in 2001 when he graduated high school.  His brother Ed is fifteen years older and played in the league in the early to mid nineties, while also serving a stint as president.  "The Sunday Morning League is very special to our family," explained Cundiff.  "I used to watch Ed when I was a kid and then he moved to Kentucky in 1996 and continued to play in a league that he founded in Bowling Green." 

The Sunday Morning League has remained just that: a Sunday morning fixture. Throughout war years and other worldly events that have been thrown their way over the past 100 years they have remained true to their roots.  "We play on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights but we are primarily a Sunday morning league and will remain true to that format,” explained Cundiff. 

Tim Wiles was the keynote speaker for the evening.  Tim was the Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame from 1995 to 2014 and came appropriately suited up as Casey at the Bat! The mayor, Jim Ardis, was also present and though the Governor couldn’t attend, he has made a proclamation that every May 24th from 2015 forward will be Peoria Sunday Morning League Day in Peoria.  There will also be events throughout 2015 helping to commemorate the league.  "On July 11th Dozer Park, the Peoria Chiefs Class A facility, is allowing us to take over the stadium for a community day at the ballpark while they are on the road,” said Cundiff.  "We will be playing an alumni game and a local celebrity softball game with the mayor being the captain of one team and the general manager of the Chiefs the other.  Admission is free and there is also a big party to celebrate the past 100 years.” 

The Peoria Sunday Morning League also boasts a rich history of a special baseball playing family named Thome.  Though recently retired Major League veteran Jim Thome wasn’t able to attend, his father, Chuck Thome Jr. was present.  Jim played for three years before being drafted into his storied MLB career and his dad Chuck played for many years and was inducted into the league’s Hall of Honor is 2010.  Jim’s grandfather, Chuck Sr. played in the league from 1923 to 1959 and was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 1975.  Jim’s uncle Art also played and is a 1978 inductee to the Hall. 

So what has made this league so successful of late under the MSBL banner? "The people we have involved are what makes the league so special.  I would be lost without our commissioner Brian Quinn,” said Cundiff.  "Brian handles the day to day stuff and we literally could not operate without him.  The other guy who is invaluable is Daryl Klusendorf,” Cundiff continued. "He is a former league president and totally committed to the league.  He played in the 80’s and 90’s and is now retired but he is an invaluable member of our advisory board.  He also assembled tons of photos and articles for the banquet and table upon table of old programs, ticket stubs and other memorabilia. ”

The icing on the cake is a documentary being filmed throughout this summer highlighting the 100 year milestone.  (Click here to view the trailer)  They will be taking a deeper look into the league’s history with footage and interviews with some of the early players.  The film will premier this fall.  "They have an interview scheduled with a guy in his 80’s who was a sports reporter who covered the early games,” said Cundiff.  "That should really be special.” 

There was a wonderfully in-depth article written in 2012 spotlighting the league published by Peoria Magazines.  It is titled ‘For the Love of the Game.’  You can read the article by clicking here.

"We are hoping that the publicity from the banquet, the news articles and the airing of the documentary will create some awareness that may lead to even further growth,” said Cundiff.  "It’s not about me or what we’re doing right now.  It’s about the history and those who carried it forward.  I hope we can add even more to the legacy in the years ahead.”

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