Stavrakas rebuilds Lane baseball tradition

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Stavrakas rebuilds Lane baseball tradition

Dean Stavrakas is 68 years old, perhaps a bit late to be starting from scratch, but he is determined to rebuild Lane Tech's baseball fortunes. And he is off to a pretty good start.In his first year, Stavrakas took his team to the championship game of the Public League playoff for the first time since 2002. The Indians finished 21-11, and prospects for the 2013 season are positive with 17 juniors and five sophomores returning to the varsity squad.Not the least of whom is pitcher Jack McLaughlin, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander who posted an earned run average under 2.00 this season despite an 0-4 start. He could be the best pitcher in the Public League in 2013."He could beat anyone in the city on any given day," Stavrakas said.Lane Tech's once-dominant baseball program, which has a long tradition dating to the 1930s and 1940s, has struggled for the last decade. Like most sports in the city, with the exception of basketball, baseball has been on a steady decline."It's taken a huge drop," Stavrakas said.It isn't the way it used to be.Lane Tech won state championships in 1945 under Percy Moore and 1956 under George Wallenta. Jerry Szukala's 1994 team finished fourth. Ed Papciak, perhaps the school's most successful coach, was one of the first eight inductees into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame in 1978.The Indians were perennial contenders for the city title and a berth in the state finals. But they haven't qualified for the state tournament since 2001.The baseball program has produced at least a dozen major leaguers, including former Chicago Cubs star Phil Cavarretta, Buzz Capra, Irv Medlinger, Ben Church, Frank Dasso and Jim Woods, who pitched Lane Tech to the 1956 state title. Other standouts included Shotgun Becker, Bud Felichio and Lou Ryniec.Stavrakas is convinced that this year's team, which lost to Simeon 2-1 in the Public League final, "took a big step to bringing Lane Tech back in baseball. We have 73 kids in the program on three levels, 28 on the varsity. Now we have jelled has a ball club."And the Indians soon will have a new home field. The Chicago Cubs have announced that they will build a new 4 million facility at the school. It will be named Kerry Wood Field in honor of the recently retired Cubs pitcher who donated 1 million to the project.Stavrakas still is learning what Lane Tech is all about. He is a South Sider, raised near 84th and Wolcott, in the Calumet High School area. Growing up, his greatest memory was watching the Prep Bowl football game between Calumet and Leo before a crowd of more than 66,000 at Soldier Field.He loved the military so he attended Morgan Park Military Academy, then graduated from Howe Military Academy in Indiana in 1961. He majored in business at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.He won over 400 games while coaching baseball at Hales Franciscan for one year, St. Benedict for 10 years and Lake View for nine years. Since 1998, he has operated his own post-construction and festival cleaning business."I played baseball for as long as I could, in college and semi-pro," he said. "I love the game with a passion. I coached semi-pro teams for many years and helped to send eight players to the major leagues, including Ron Kittle, Al Levine, Scott Spiezio and Joe Fasano."How did he end up at Lane Tech?"(Athletic director) Rich Rio and I have been friends for years," said Stavrakas, whose son George is head coach of the girls softball team at Lane Tech. "He said I was welcome to come to Lane Tech and end my career."He resigned from Lake View last year. In 2008, the principal said he was bringing too much notoriety to the school."We qualified for the city final for the first time since 1977," Stavrakas said."He didn't like the fact that baseball was getting so much publicity."It was very frustrating. He turned his back on sports. He couldn't deal with the fact that we had been so successful. It hurt me. "The day after I resigned, Rich Rio said he'd like me to come to Lane Tech to end my career. It gave me five years of additional life. I'd love to do it for a couple more years."

Iconic 1985 Bears coach Buddy Ryan dies

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Iconic 1985 Bears coach Buddy Ryan dies

Buddy Ryan, the architect of arguably the most dominant defense in NFL history, has passed away at the age of 82.

Ryan was the defensive coordinator under head coach Mike Ditka for the 1985 Bears squad that dominated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

Ryan engineered the infamous "46 defense" and was carried off the field after the Super Bowl alongside Ditka.

Ryan started his career with the Bears in 1978 but left after that '85 Bears season to become the Philadelphia Eagles head coach from 1986-1990.

His two sons are current NFL coaches: Rex is the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Rob is Rex's assistant head coach.

Ryan also won Super Bowl III with the New York Jets, where he served as the defensive line coach.

Preview: Cubs try for two in a row at Reds tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs try for two in a row at Reds tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Reds on Tuesday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6 p.m.

Catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (9-3, 2.10 ERA) vs. John Lamb (1-4, 4.78)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Preview: White Sox­-Twins tonight on CSN+

Preview: White Sox­-Twins tonight on CSN+

The White Sox take on the Twins on Tuesday night, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.

Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.04 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (0-5, 6.05 ERA).

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.