Chicago Cubs coast connection strong thanks to Passeau, Steele - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Chicago Cubs coast connection strong thanks to Passeau, Steele

Claude Passeau Sr.'s game-worn jerseys from 1945. Claude Passeau Sr.'s game-worn jerseys from 1945.
A sign displaying Claude Passeau Sr.'s name at George County HIgh School. A sign displaying Claude Passeau Sr.'s name at George County HIgh School.
A photograph of Claude Passeau Sr., who played for the Chicago Cubs. A photograph of Claude Passeau Sr., who played for the Chicago Cubs.
LUCEDALE, MS (WLOX) -

For the city of Lucedale, the Passeau last name is literally a part of its past, present and future baseball history.

After all, the ballpark at George County High School is named "Claude Passeau Field."

Casey Passeau was the first Rebels player to hit a home run in GCHS's park that was constructed in 1995. His entire family was there to witness it, including his grandfather Claude Sr., who played 13 seasons of Major League Baseball from 1935-47.

After making his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1935, he spent the next 3+ seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. However, he played the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs. 

In fact, Passeau Sr. pitched a one-hit shutout in Game 3 of the 1945 World Series that the Detroit Tigers eventually won in seven games. That was the last time prior to 2016 that the Cubs reached a World Series.

"He was a fitness freak back when it wasn't the thing to do," said Claude Passeau Jr., who was two years old when his father also pitched games six and seven of that series. "You had to stay in shape [and] you had to run. He won 162 games but he had 188 complete games."

"He never wanted to come out and he always wanted to finish a game," Casey Passeau said. "I read in a book one time that Claude may not have been the best pitcher but when he crossed those white lines, he was the meanest pitcher."

Passeau Sr. was a four-time All-Star and received votes for Most Valuable Player three separate times. The former Moss Point and Millsaps College pitcher reached double-digit wins in the majors 10 different times, including a 20-win campaign in 1940.

The eldest Claude wasn't the only standout baseball player of the family. Claude Jr., who won multiple SEC championships with Mississippi State from 1964-66, was one of four MSU players drafted by MLB teams in 1966 and eventually signed with the Cincinnati Reds but never made it to the big leagues.

Claude Sr.'s game-worn apparel from that 1945 World Series is still guarded by pride in Lucedale. George County is probably one of Mississippi's most obvious Cubs territories, but even moreso after 2014 GCHS graduate Justin Steele was drafted by the Cubs in 2014.

"I was on cloud nine. It was great, nothing better," Steele said. "Then it kind of dawned on me that I played on Claude Passeau Senior field. That's such a great honor just to think about it. It's crazy to think about sometimes."

Steele spent the past season with the Cubs' Full-A affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, winning five of his 19 starts and sporting a 5.00 earned run average in 77.1 innings.

Confidence in the Chicago Cubs is as high as its been in a long time. That's one of the many reasons why Steele and the Passeau family feel so fortunate to be connected with the franchise.

"I think the most surprising thing is how superstitious and how baseball means to Chicago," Steele said. "Being a part of the Chicago Cubs organization is an unbelievable experience. It's fantastic and I wouldn't want to be a part of any other organization."

"I know that the people of Chicago are just all over themselves and are just so excited about this," said Passeau Jr. "The team that they have, and the young ballplayers with a blend of a few veterans and free agents, they might be there for years. 

"I feel like Justin will be there before too long. I think the Cubs will be right at the top."

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