NeveHarms Bruce Saurs, the successful local businessman and avid sports fan who saved professional hockey for our city, has been named winner of the 1990 Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports Award.
Saurs' purchase of the debt-ridden Peoria Rivermen on July 1, 1989 began a success story beyond imagination that has brought the team to prominence on the Peoria sports scene. To immediately stabilize the team, Saurs signed a three-year lease with the Peoria Civic Center and a six- year affiliation with the NHL St. Louis Blues. Under his leadership, the team showed a profit in its first fiscal year of operation.
A life-long Peorian, Bruce graduated from Peoria High School where he lettered in baseball for three seasons, making two state tournament appearances. He returned to teach and coach at Peoria High after graduation from Bradley University. He was the head baseball mentor for six years, and also served as assistant in both basketball and football. From1950 to 1955 his baseball teams compiled an impressive record of 121-62, making two trips to the Illinois State High School Tournament.
In 1951, working with the late Ed Stonebock and Harold Llntz, Bruce was instrumental in helping to establish the first Little League Baseball Program in Peoria. He later followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Eddie Saurs, a 1968 Neve Harms winner, taking over as Manager of the
Cohen team in the Sunday Morning League for several seasons. He started playing A.M. ball at age 14 ending his career at age 21, when, as Bruce often states, "I built such a great team - I couldn't make it myself."
For the Peoria Rivermen, Bruce Saurs developed a marketing plan geared to good hockey, entertainment, and a family audience. The club drew a franchise record 190,000, and drew praise from League Commissioner Tom Berry.
So far, the 1990-1991 season has been an even bigger success story, highlighted by the 18-game winning streak that gave the Rivermen the longest winning streak in Professional Hockey history, while bringing to Peoria national media attention.
Bruce Saurs, the successful local businessman and avid sports fan who saved professional hockey for our city, has been named winner of the 1990 Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports Award.
Jim Lewis served as Athletic Director, head football, golf, basketball, and baseball coach at Pekin Community High School during his career from 1933-1955. Jim received his BA from the University of Illinois and a masters from the University of Iowa. During his days at the University of Illinois he played football and basketball. Jim also served in the military. Jim Lewis started his coaching career at Pekin in 1933 with the baseball team. He compiled a record of 118-71-1 in eleven seasons under his direction. Lewis led Pekin to six regional titles in his seven seasons as basketball coach, including state trophies in 1947 (4th place) and 1948 (3rd place). Jim coached football for eleven seasons with a 71-30-1 record. The 1951 unbeaten Pekin football team was the first team in the history of the school to win ten games. The 1951 team was considered the mythical Number 1 team in the state. Pekin won both the Greater Peoria Illini Conference and the Big 12 Conference titles that year. Jim's golf teams excelled, winning a 3rd place (1948) and a 2nd place (1949) in the state tournament during his seven years as coach. Jim Lewis was one of the driving forces behind building Pekin Memorial Stadium. Jim was a member in three Halls of Fame, the Pekin High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and the IBCA Hall of Fame. Even by today's standards, Coach Lewis' coaching achievements are legendary.