Editor’s note: This is another entry in the Rockford Register Star’s exploration of the region’s greatest athletes since the end of World War II. We have selected the best players in several sports like football and basketball. This is the eighth in our baseball series. Links to previous stories are below.
George Feeley helped put Dale Greenlee on the right track.
Greenlee, who became a starting guard on the Kansas team that reached the 1974 Final Four and captain of the Jayhawks the following year, he also thought he might have a bright future in baseball.
“George Feeley made me realize that I wasn’t going to play baseball anywhere; I better stick to basketball,” recalled Greenlee, an all-conference pitcher for Guilford in 1971. “We had a hell of a team and I was a decent pitcher, but George was such a good hitter. He took me yard. That didn’t happen a lot.
Especially at Guilford in 1971, where there was no fence and the outfield was so large that a regional tournament photo from that year shows a girl riding a horse through the grass beyond center field.
“George hit me a ball once it’s still rolling,” Greenlee said. “I challenged him with a fastball. He jumped on it and hit it 380 feet on the left field line. Foul. The receiver started waving at me, calling for a curveball. I shakes, thinking I’m a man. I’m a fast pitcher. He hit a practice line over my head. Our center back took a step back and stopped. He didn’t. ever had. That ball rolled 500 feet. It was just gone. I tell people the ball is still rolling, 50 years later.
Feeley had a big bat, but was known for an even bigger arm and is our pick as one of three outfielders on our Rockford-area baseball all-time team for the past 75 years.
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Athletic talent from an early age
The first mention of Feeley’s name in the Rockford Morning Star came at age 11 when he qualified for the state Junior Olympics with a record throw of 284 feet in the midget throwing division. baseball.
“George Feeley was one of the best outfielders that ever played in the conference,” said former Harlem and Freeport coach Don Tresemer. “He had a great arm, just a great arm.”
“He was always a threat,” said Dan Humay, who was Freeport’s head coach for more than 30 years. “He was always a real threat. He was a complete outfielder. He could go get the fly ball. He could run. He had a really good arm, was a good base runner and a good power hitter. He was the complete package.
Feeley started batting in the No. 8 hole for West High as a junior, but moved up to No. 3 mid-season and led the conference — then known as the Big Eight — at bat with a average of 0.432.
Then, as a senior, he and star left-hander Dan Domski led West to his greatest season ever.
West, which converted to college in 1990, won its last conference title in 1971. The Warriors also became the fourth Rockford team in history to reach statehood that year, joining the team of Guilford in 1968, East’s semi-finalist in 1962 and Boylan’s. Quarter-finalist in 1964.
Part of the dominant team of 1971
Feeley and Domski led West (26-5, 14-2) every step of the way. Domski (15-0) was unbeatable on the mound from start to finish. It started with the first perfect game in conference history, a 2-0 win over Belvidere in Game 1 of the Big Eight. He then pitched 33 consecutive no-hitter innings to start the season, finishing with a 0.23 ERA in 113 innings and 196 strikeouts. , three shy of Auburn’s Dan Scarpetta, who broke Domski’s conference record in 1972. In his last game, Domski pitched all 11 innings of a 1-0 win over Kankakee Eastridge in the first round at State .
West won that game on Feeley’s RBI double at the base of the fence, 390 feet from home plate. Feeley also ran on a liner down the center and held the runner on third to help Domski, who retired the next two batters, escape a loaded, no-out situation in the first inning.
“He’s the best all-around player I’ve ever had,” West coach Charlie Wild told Morning Star’s Dave Shultz after the game. “He can hit, he can throw and he can chase anything near him in the outfield. And I’ve never seen a child with so much desire.
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Without Domski, who was drafted in the 31st round by the Washington Senators this spring and later pitched for the Wisconsin Badgers, on the mound, West was crushed 10-0 the following day by eventual state champion Waukegan. West made six errors, including five in the first three innings. Everything went wrong for the Warriors, everything except George Feeley. He doubled on his only at-bat for West’s lone hit.
Both Feeley and Domski were named to the All-Tournament Team, joining the Guilford trio of Glen Nowicki, Brad Blair and Nick Janicki as Rockford’s only All-State Tournament players at the time.
Feeley had come in big for West all year. In Domski’s 3-0 win over Auburn, Feeley was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. In a 5-1 win over Freeport that moved West to a tie for the Big Eight lead with Boylan at 8-1, it was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs. “He broke our backs,” Freeport’s Dan Humay told the Morning Star.
He then hit a two-run homer to beat Harlem 4-2 the next day and put West in first place single-handedly to stay – even if the teams tried to run around him.
“You tried not to let him fight you,” said Gregg Marinelli, Boylan’s coach at the time. “Move the ball and don’t throw kicks at it. If he pursues them, he pursues them. If not, we’ll take it for a walk and go from there.
The road to professional baseball
Still, Feeley hit .363 for the year and seemed to get almost all the big hits for West. That included six hits in a double header against Peoria High. Kansas City Royals Midwest head scout Art Stewart was at that game to check on Peoria High’s Dan Goodwin, whom the White Sox selected a few months later as the No. 1 overall pick in the 7th Annual Draft. But after that game, the Royals – and usually several other teams – had a scout at each of West’s games the rest of the season.
Kansas City picked Feeley in the sixth round, making him the third-highest drafted player in NIC-10 history behind only Boylan’s Jake Smolinski and Auburn’s Dan Scarpetta.
He quickly signed with Kansas City.
“Money is not the main thing for me,” he told Shultz, who worked for the newspaper for more than 50 years. “Playing means the most. All my life I’ve wanted to play major league baseball.
Feeley didn’t make it. He started 3 for 30 as a pro in the Appalachian League before hitting a three-run homer for Kingsport. After batting .145 his first season in Rookie Ball, he improved to .246 with 24 RBIs in 114 at-bats his second year in Rookie Ball, this time for Billings, Montana. But even if he improved considerably, that was it. He left professional baseball at age 19.
Still, he had one of the greatest high school careers in Rockford history and was one of Rockford’s highest drafted players. He at least had a chance to achieve what he had always dreamed of.
“Nothing means more to me than playing professional baseball,” Feeley told the Morning Star the day he signed with the Royals. “I never had any other ambitions.
Matt Trowbridge is a sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com.
About this series
The Rockford Register Star writes about the area’s greatest athletes in various sports since the end of World War II. Previously, we have selected the greatest football players, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys tennis, girls tennis, boys golf and girls golf, as well as the greatest football games, boys basketball and girls basketball.
Their entire career, from high school to pro, is counted, but only players from schools that are in the newspaper’s current coverage area are considered, so players such as Kirkland wide receiver Gene Lamont and Rock Falls pitcher Seth Blair were ineligible. . For baseball, we chose nine position players and four pitchers. All players were chosen by sportswriter Matt Trowbridge with input from NIC-10 history blog writer Alex Gary and local coaches. Players who have been used in multiple positions during their career have been placed where they fit best in this team. A player will be revealed each day.
Launcher: Drew Dickinson, Freeport
Launcher: Dan Scarpetta, Auburn
Seeker: Nick Shields, Harlem
First base: Matt Dettman, Auburn
Second base: Sean Lyons, Byron
Third Base: Andrew Wilhite, Stillman Valley
Shortstop: Jake Smolinski, Boylan
Outfield: George Feeley, West