WINCHESTER - George O'Donnell, 83, formerly of Winchester, IL passed away peacefully at Regency Nursing Center in Springfield, IL on December 19, 2012. He was the son of Dana and Gertrude O'Donnell of rural Winchester. He is preceded in death by his wife Marianne (Freidl), parents, sisters Emily, Agnes Ann, Regina, Marcella and brother Patrick.
He is survived by; two sons Chris (Teresa Adams) and Dennis (Susan) of Springfield; grandchildren John, Ryan, Aimee and Brady; sisters Margaret, Lorraine, Mary Lou, Virginia, and Janice; brothers Jim, Joe and Emmett.
An outstanding pitcher in high school baseball, his father sent him to a training camp in 1948 and then he signed with the St. Louis Browns. His professional career began the next year with the Olean Oilers in the state of New York and followed with teams in Mayfield KY, Appleton WI, Waco TX, Charleston SC, New Orleans LA and in Hollywood CA. Known for his knuckleball, he was brought up into the majors in 1954 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Following the Pirates he went on to play in Hollywood CA, Columbus OH, Salt Lake City UT, Spokane WA and Syracuse NY.
His achievements included posting 22 wins with the 1951 Waco Pirates, 20 wins in 1953 Hollywood Stars in which he was name the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and to the PCL All-Star Team. During some winters, he played in Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. He was a member of the St. Louis Browns, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Senators organizations.
Upon retirement from baseball in 1961, he moved back to central Illinois and worked for area farmers, married his Columbus German Sweetheart, Marianne Freidl and started a family. Employed by the Illinois Secretary of State as Chief Hearing Officer, he raised his sons and even coached a summer girls softball team. He retired in 1991 and enjoyed small town life in Winchester following various sports teams. A gentle and kind man, he loved reminiscing about his career in baseball with the great players of the era as his teammates or foes. After moving to Springfield in 2002, he continued to follow Winchester teams as well as his grandchildren and great nephews participating on Pleasant Plains and Springfield teams. He was also known for his weekly Friday routine of traveling to Winchester to "visit with the boys." He had many friends and will be sorely missed.
A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 am Monday December 24, 2012 at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Winchester. Burial will be in St. Mark's Cemetery in Winchester. The family will meet with friends from 3 until 6 pm Sunday at the Coonrod Funeral Home in Winchester. A prayer service will be held at 3 pm. Memorials can be made to St. Mark's Alter Society or the West Central Sports Boosters.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.airsman-hires.com