PEORIA — The Peoria Chiefs have an outfield fence with a handful or retired uniform numbers honored on it at Dozer Park.
But as the Class-A Midwest League team hits the final month of its fourth decade, we thought we'd help them build a Hall of Fame.
At least, a virtual one.
The Journal Star's Dave Eminian and Dave Reynolds have presented the franchise's all-decade teams in weekly installments over the last few weeks.
It's time now to tie those teams up into the final Top 50 Chiefs players of all-time. Ranked in order, just to make it hard and make you mad at us.
Or maybe you'll agree.
For our part, we were unanimous on the order in which the first seven players should go. For the all-decade teams, and for this final list, we of course weighed the major-league careers these guys went on to have.
Some of them, like Greg Maddux and Mark Grace, give us a complete picture. Others, like Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, are still playing, but there's no doubt where they belong.
The deeper you go down the list, the more incomplete the picture gets. There are guys who had nice careers, and guys who are early on and projectable to do big things, and could one day push their way into the Top 20.
What we found is the Chiefs have had a remarkable amount of big-league talent roll through their ranks over 39 years, especially for a team operating at the low-A level.
Our top three all-time Chiefs include a Hall of Famer (Maddux) and two more guys who will likely join him in Cooperstown (Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina).
"I have a lot of fond memories of Peoria," said Maddux to the crowd at then-O'Brien Field the night the Chiefs brought him back to retire his number in 2010. "It's where I had to learn how to grow up. First time away from home and everyone here treated me well. I appreciate that. Pete and Rocky (Vonachen), thank you. This is pretty special."
He added later, in another Journal Star interview: "If there was an experience you have, you pass it down. All the mistakes they are making, I've already made 100 times. Everybody's pretty good. The guys who make the fewest mistakes are the ones who move up."
Pujols rode out into Busch Stadium in a red Mustang convertible on the Cardinals' Opening Day in 2001 -- one year after making his debut at third base with the Chiefs at low-A Peoria.
He homered and earned a curtain call.
"I try not to think too much about it (where he was just a year before)," Pujols said in a Journal Star interview. "Since I started playing (professionally), my goal has been to make the big club, but I never thought it would be this quick. I'm not surprised with what I've done because I've worked hard and I know what I can do. ... It's not easy to get here, and it's even harder to stay here."
We all know how that worked out.
One man who knew these great players and watched them up close over the years was late Chiefs owner Pete Vonachen.
And of course, he had stories, and he shared them with the Journal Star in 1998.
On Mark Grace: "We had two guys assigned to pound on Gracie's door and get him up for the appearances we had him do. One day, he overslept and we had a road trip to Burlington. After the team bus left (Peoria), I see him trying to crawl through the clubhouse window to get his uniform.
"I told him, 'Gracie, just get in your car and go and don't worry about your uniform. (Chiefs manager Pete) Mackanin won't let you play, anyway.' "
On Rafael Palmeiro: "Palmeiro picked up his check soon after he got here and said to me, 'You know, Pete, I don't make much money, do I?' I said, 'You see that check? That's the very reason I'd be playing my butt off to get out of Peoria, Illinois.' "
On Maddux: "Maddux bought an old beater of a car while he was here and every night after the game he'd have the hood up trying to get it started. One night, I couldn't get it jump-started and told him 'Mad Dog, you need a new battery.' He looked at me square in the eye and said 'Pete, I don't have the money for a battery.' So I went and got him a battery. When he signed his first million-dollar contract, I congratulated him, and he said, 'Hey, I'll send you the money for the battery now.' "
Great players, great stories. Great owner in Vonachen. And big-time managers, too, from Joe Maddon to Joe Kruzel, Tom Lawless, Brad Mills, Steve Roadcap, Jim Tracy, Pete Mackanin and more.
Make room for all those guys in our mythical Hall of Fame. And here's the players we would pick to join them. You can weigh in with your thoughts online with this story at pjstar.com or with the story on the Journal Star sports Facebook page.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.
Dave Reynolds can be reached at 686-3210 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at davereynolds2.
Top 50 players of all time
1. Greg Maddux, RHSP, 1985: Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, 355 wins, four Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves.
2. Albert Pujols, 3B, 2000: Hit .324 with 17 HR in 109 games for the Chiefs, and has gone on to hit 648 MLB home runs in 2,778 games, with a career .301 average.
3. Yadier Molina, C, 2002: Played for Chiefs title team and has earned nine Gold Glove awards in the majors.
4. Rafael Palmeiro, OF, 1985: Hit 569 HRs (13th all-time), with 1835 RBIs (17th), four-time All-Star.
5. Devon White, OF, 1983: Won seven Gold Gloves, three-time All-Star, 346 steals in 17 years.
6. Mark Grace, 1B, 1986: Most MLB hits in 1990s, .303 career average, three-time All-Star, four Gold Gloves.
7. Wally Joyner, 1B, 1983: Hit 204 HRs with 1106 RBIs, .289 average in 16 years.
8. Joe Girardi, C, 1986: Played 15 years, three-time World Series champ. Managed 11 years, with a 2009 World Series title.
9. Placido Polanco, INF, 1995: Hit .297 for 16 years, two-time All-Star, three Gold Gloves.
10. Mark McLemore, 2B, 1983: Had 272 steals in 19 years, led AL in assists at two positions.
11. Josh Donaldson, C-3B, 2008: Played under manager Ryne Sandberg in Peoria, stayed for 63 games, and went on to a major-league career that now includes 205 home runs.
12. Coco Crisp, OF, 2000: Played 27 games with Chiefs in a quick march up the ladder, hit .276 with 7 steals. Played for the Indians' 2016 World Series team and nabbed 309 stolen bases in his 15-year big-league career.
13. Javier Baez, SS-2B, 2012: Hit .333 with 12 homers and 20 stolen bases in just 57 games for the Chiefs. Went on to win a World Series with the Cubs in 2016, earned NLCS MVP honors in 2016 and an NL Silver Slugger in 2018.
14. Danny Haren, RHSP, 2002: Went 7-3 with a 1.95 ERA on Chiefs title team. Has 153 wins in his 13-year major-league career.
15. DJ LeMahieu, SS, 2009: Spent 63 games in Peoria and was gone, off to earn multiple Gold Gloves in what is now nearly a 900-game big-league career.
16. Jack Wilson, SS, 1999
17. Justin Bour, 1B, 2010
18. Chris Archer, RHSP, 2009
19. Heathcliff Slocumb, RHP, 1987
20. Jose Jimenez, RHP, 1996
21. Terry Adams, RHP, 1992
22. Jerome Walton, OF, 1987
23. Rick Ankiel, P-OF, 1998
24. Paul DeJong, 3B, 2015
25. Jose Molina, C, 1994
26. Rick Wilkins, C, 1988
27. Josh Harrison, 2B-LF, 2008-09
28. Jorge Soler, RF, 2012
29. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B-SS, 2008
30. Darwin Barney, SS, 2007
31. Pablo Ozuna, INF, 1998
32. Kyle Barraclough, RHP, 2014
33. Brendan Ryan, SS, 2004
34. Mike Harkey, RHP, 1992
35. Robinson Chirinos, 2B, 2006
36. Welington Castillo, C, 2007
37. Dwight Smith, OF, 1986
37. Frank Castillo, RHSP, 1988
38. Jeff Samardzija, RHSP, 2006
39. Jerry Blevins, LHP, 2005
39. Matt Walbeck, C, 1989
40. Oscar Mercado, SS, 2015
41. Jordan Hicks, RHP, 2017
42. Brant Brown, OF, 1992
43. Blake Parker, 3B-RHP, 2006
44. Jack Flaherty, RHP, 2015
45. Derrick May, OF, 1987
46. Daric Barton, C, 2004
47. Chris Duncan, 1B, 2000-02
48. Carson Kelly, C, 2013-14
49. Harrison Bader, CF, 2015
50. Matt Franco, OF, 1990
Best of the rest: Zac Rosscup, LHP, 2012; Sandy Alcantara, RHP, 2016; Austin Gomber, LHP, 2015; Luis Perdomo, RHP, 2014-15; Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, 2015; Magneuris Sierra, OF, 2015-16; Mike Mayers, RHP, 2013; Charlie Tilson, OF, 2013; Ildemaro Vargas, SS, 2013; Alex Reyes, RHP, 2014; Rowan Wick, OF, 2014; Ryan Helsley, RHP, 2016; Tommy Edman, SS, 2017; Andrew Knizner, C, 2017; Kramer Robertson, SS, 2017; Eric Patterson, 2B, 2005; Sam Fuld, OF, 2005; Ryan Flaherty, 2B-SS, 2009; Brandon Guyer, OF, 2008; Chris Narveson, LHP, 2001-02; Kyle McClellan, RHP, 2004; Amaury Telemaco, SP, 1992; Kevin Orie, 3B, 1993; Geremi Gonzalez, SP, 1994; Blake Stein, SP, 1995; Kerry Robinson, OF, 1996; Cliff Politte, P, 1996; Armando Almanza, RP, 1996; Hector Villanueva, C, 1985; Dwight Smith, OF, 1986; Shawn Boskie, P, 1987; Alex Arias, SS, 1989.
Assembled by Journal Star writers Dave Eminian and Dave Reynolds