This past Saturday the former Mayor of Crestwood, Chester Stranczek, passed away at the age of 85. He was mayor of Crestwood for 38 years from 1969 to 2007. The former minor league baseball player was the primary reason that professional baseball has a home in Crestwood as the construction of Standard Bank Stadium would not have been possible without him.
Stranczek’s minor league career would span four seasons in six years. He played one season in 1951 with D-League (now Rookie League) Iola Indians before being drafted into the Army. He spent 17 months on the Army baseball team during the Korean War. He was back in minor league baseball from 1954 to 1956 reaching as high as B-League (now Class A-Advanced) Burlington Bees before tearing a ligament in his knee, which ended his baseball career.
Stranczek’s baseball days were a big part in why he wanted professional baseball in Crestwood. In December of 1997 he convinced Will County Cheetahs owner David Arch to bring his baseball team to Crestwood with the promise of a new baseball stadium. Standard Bank Stadium, then Hawkinson Ford Field, opened on June 2, 1999, as the Cook County Cheetahs blanked the River City Rascals 1-0 in front of a sellout crowd. The 6.5 million dollar ballpark, which was paid for in cash, was the first ballpark built specifically for a Frontier League team. The opening of the park was a major source of pride for the Mayor as he was constantly seen working on the landscaping around the ballpark. (pictured above is Mayor Stranczek throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Night 1999) His first son Michael was part of the ownership group that purchased the Cheetahs in 2003 and changed the club’s name to the current ThunderBolts.
Chester Stranczek was old school, innovative, sometimes controversial, but always overwhelmingly elected as Mayor of Crestwood election after election, and put the needs of Crestwood first. The entire Windy City ThunderBolts organization sends their condolences to his wife Diane, sons Michael & Robert, and to their families for their loss.
Visitation will be held from 5 – 9 pm Thursday, September 10th at Hickey Memorial Chapel, 4201 147th Street in Midlothian, with the funeral to begin at 10 am Friday, September 11that St. Christopher Church, 4130 147th Street in Midlothian.