During the tail end of the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, Naperville Little League player John C. Luebke Jr. made quite a name for himself. Multiple All-Star nods and a championship will do that.
Outgoing and candid, Luebke Jr. graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1966. For one year, he worked at his father’s company, John C. Luebke Concrete Company.
But in August 1967, he was drafted into military service. Just six months later, Luebke Jr. was fighting in the Vietnam War as a member of the United States Army.
Nearly four months into his duty, Luebke Jr. was killed in combat in the Thua Thien province of Vietnam.
He was 20 years old and only eight years removed from the Naperville Little League.
He was posthumously honored with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and two rifle marksman badges, among other disctinctions.
Ever since his death, Luebke Jr.’s former Naperville Little League team has been named in his honor.
“It kind of ties it all together, the kind of Luebke tradition,” said Chris Luebke, the nephew of Luebke Jr. “We’ve all played Little League. Even my cousins, although they had different last names.”
It’s a tradition that continues today. Luebke Jr.’s great-nephew, and Chris’ son, Austin Luebke, also plays in the Naperville Little League.
“I just like it,” said Austin Luebke. “It’s fun and nice to be playing, knowing that my uncle and everybody else that’s played all these years.”
Meanwhile this season, the John C. Luebke Jr. team got all the way to the Majors Division title game. As far as records show, that hasn’t happened since the team’s name change.
“We got to meet some of the guys and talk to the team,” said Chris Luebke. “They’re all just a good group of guys; real respectful. And just having someone play that well and represent our family was a big deal.”
But before that game, Austin Luebke, great-nephew of the team’s namesake, came from his game in another part of town to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“It felt pretty cool to throw out the first pitch in honor of my uncle,” said Austin Luebke.
“It kind of brought everything back full circle for him. It made it all a little more personal,” said Chris Luebke. “He already loves baseball. He’s been playing for years already.
“I was proud, and he did such a good job. You’re kind of taken back.”
The Luebke team won 11-7 for the city championship.
Next year, Austin’s younger brother, Dylan, will start his Little League journey. As if you’d expect anything less from this family, with more than 50 years in the game.
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