Doo-boyz in Il-i-noy: An interview with Brian Dubois & Brandon Dubois

July 22, 2016

Brian Dubois and Brandon Dubois (pronounced doo-boyz) combined for a high school record of 72-18-1. Together they pitched over 600 innings, struck out over 1000 batters, and threw at least 9 no-hitters. If you had two choices for an all-time Will County rotation you couldn’t do much better than the Duboises. And you’d be fine against any combo ever assembled in Illinois.

WillCountyBaseball.org was honored to spend some considerable time talking to Brian and Brandon about pitching, their historic high school careers, and professional baseball lives. WCB.org encourages any baseball fan to listen in on a conversation with two very cool guys who set state records that will never be broken. This article was about a quest to find Brian Dubois. It ended up being an education about Will County baseball.

A conversation with former MLB pitcher/Reed-Custer ace Brian Dubois and Beecher legend Brandon Dubois.

The name “Dubois” appears 13 times on the IHSA pitching records website. It should be 14.*

Brian and Brandon are tied for sixth all time in career wins with 36.

Brandon is 10th all-time in innings pitched with 309.2. Brian is 12th with 295.

Brian is tied for 5th for most innings pitched in a game at 16.

Brian is 2nd all-time in career strikeouts with 626.

Brandon is 17th all-time in career strikeouts with 423.

Brian is #1 all-time in strikeouts for a season with 262.

Brian is second all-time in strikeouts for a game with 32.

Brian is second all-time with a .06 season ERA in 1985.

Brian is second all-time in career no-hitters with 6.

Brian and Brandon are tied for third all-time with most no-hitters in a season. 3 apiece.

*The IHSA website did not record Brian Dubois’ 36 career wins.

Sometimes folks in the suburbs closer to Chicago forget about the incredible baseball that is played in the more distant corners of Will County. Some schools simply don’t have enough students to be perennial contenders in football or basketball. Baseball is still king in smaller communities. And if you go down to places like Braidwood, Wilmington, or Beecher you better be ready to play.

The Stuff of Local Legends

Every summer produces local legends. All the competitive baseball players in an area know each other through summer baseball. They go their separate ways for high school, but traditionally the hot months of the year dry out the fields and they become battlegrounds for regional talent. Travel teams now barnstorm across broad swaths of the Midwest and beyond.

Back in the day Pony League was a big deal. Between junior high and high school, baseball players would hack it out on diamonds with a 54 foot mound and 80 feet bases. Those two years (13-14) separated the serious players from the pack. Pony Leagues represented the best local talent produced by any town, or side of town.

On June 25th of 1998 The Chicago Heights Star printed this story:
brandon_pony

Striking out 17 in a seven inning game is a big deal; and it would get you copy in a local newspaper.  That was a big deal. And the Sampognaro Auto Braves didn’t go out for ice cream. Brandon Dubois iced up his arm and prepared for his next complete game. The next spring Brandon would start his remarkable high school career.

After Pony League Brandon Dubois went on to pitch for Beecher High School from 1999-2002. He rewrote Beecher’s pitching record book and put his name all over IHSA records. Brandon graduated from Illinois Wesleyan after a four year pitching career for the Titans.

Kenn Krizan, Coach K, coached at Beecher for 36 years in a 40 year career. He talked fondly about Brandon’s uncanny control and leadership.

Kenn Krizan Inducted In Baseball Hall of Fame

Introducing Krizan was legendary coach Gordie Gillespie. Gillespie was Krizan’s coach when he played for three seasons at Lewis University. Gillespie also influenced Krizan’s development as a coach with his spring clinics.

Listen to Hall of Fame Head Coach Kenn Krizan talk about Brandon Dubois’ career and his amazing senior season. Brandon went 50 innings without walking a batter and walked five hitters all year in 2002.

In Search of Brian Dubois

Sometimes Will County’s summertime legends made the Chicago papers.

Pitcher`s Brilliant Effort Gives Reed-Custer Title

June 06, 1985 By Jerry Shnay, Chicago Tribune.

SPRINGFIELD — This was Brian DuBois` state baseball tournament–lock, stock and strikeout.

In a performance fit for the record books or a movie script, DuBois, a 5- foot-9-inch senior left-hander for Reed-Custer, pitched the Braidwood school to the state Class A title Tuesday night.

Brian Dubois learned he was drafted in the fourth round of the MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles when they flashed the news on the scoreboard after his State Championship game.

Brian played at Reed-Custer from 1982-85, and he set some truly unbelievable state and school records during his high school years. This writer faced Brian from sixth grade until we were 16 in local Colt Leagues.

I played out in Minooka. Brian played for Braidwood. The first time I faced Brian in sixth grade I ripped a solid line drive single up the middle. I always thought I could hit Brian after that.

Like Brian says, “Hitters are dumb.”

By the time we were 16 Brian was dominating the county with his wicked high 80s fastball and nasty overhand curve. He was the type of pitcher that makes baseball so humbling.

On his worst day on the mound, says Reed-Custer coach…

June 04, 1985 by Jerry Shnay, Chicago Tribune.

SPRINGFIELD — On his worst day on the mound, says Reed-Custer coach Jerry Cougill,

“Brian DuBois is the best pitcher most people will ever see.”

Jerry Cougill was Reed-Custer’s legendary Hall of Fame head coach in a career that spanned five decades starting in 1973. After winning his second State Championship this spring he retired from coaching.

After 43 years, Cougill to hang coaching hat

Cougill has previously been honored as a finalist for the National Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. In addition, he was also awarded Illinois Class A Coach of the year, and has been inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Back in April WCB.org wrote a feature about Reed-Custer baseball, “Jerry Cougill and four decades of baseball at Reed-Custer.” I asked Coach Cougill about Brian Dubois. He told me in April the same thing he told me a couple of days ago.

“Every coach should have the chance to coach a kid like Brian Dubois.”

WCB.org talked to Coach Cougill about his experience coaching Brian. Cougill talked about Brian’s dominance and also about a surprising side to such a ferocious competitor.

Listen to Coach Cougill talk about Brian Dubois’ career:

Brian was the consummate athlete on the mound and he played with fire. His name is all over Reed-Custer’s offensive record book. He is among the top five in home runs, triples, and stolen bases. He was a pitcher, center fielder, and running back.

On a summer evening in 1990 I turned on Sunday Night Baseball. Brian Dubois was the starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. I nearly fell off the couch. I always wondered what happened with his career. All of a sudden I found out. He made it.

But Brian’s major league experience wasn’t everything he thought it would be. And it really wasn’t anything like baseball fans think.

brian_hagIn the summer of 1985 Baltimore signed Dubois. Brian got on an airplane for the first time in his life and landed in Bluefield, West Virginia to pitch in the Appalachian Rookie League. He was 18 and from Braidwood – a town of about 3,500.

Brian has a refreshing way of speaking directly. He wasn’t any different in 1986 when he was interviewed by a Bluefield Telegraph reporter about his experience playing for the Bluefield Orioles.

“The team needs to look out for its players better once they get to town instead of turning us loose by ourselves.”

Brian says the same thing today. He finished the Bluefield interview with some really sage advice.

“You’re so excited when you’re drafted to play ball that you don’t think about coming to a place like Bluefield. It ends up hitting you all of a sudden. You have to be careful it doesn’t hit you too hard or you won’t be playing ball anymore…”

Les Norman was a sophomore on Brian’s 1985 state champion Reed-Custer team. Les played major league baseball himself after his own record setting career at Reed-Custer. Les is now a syndicated sports talk show host, TV analyst, author, and motivational speaker in Kansas City. WCB.org talked to Les and he answered a couple of questions via email about Brian and Reed-Custer baseball.

WCB.org: You played on the 1985 Reed-Custer championship team with Brian Dubois. He was a senior and you were a sophomore. Brian was a fiery guy. As such a dominant pitcher and team leader did he test you when you were a sophomore? And can you remember a time when an opposing player or coach might have said or done something that really fired Brian up?

Les Norman: “Brian was definitely fiery and a team leader, and he was awesome at challenging me.  He made me feel like one of the guys, but never allowed me to settle for second best.  He had this quality about him that whenever I was around him, I had to do my best.  I never wanted to let him down, and his effort and talent became my standard. He was the absolute best to me, so it was always my baseball target.

“Another player or coach couldn’t have said anything to fire him up, because he was always fired up. Competition in and of itself got him going, and that’s a great example of athletic integrity. He KNEW he was dominant, yet against lesser teams he never let off the gas.  It would have been an insult to his gift.”

WCB.org: Brian talked about being from a small town and thrown into minor league baseball. He said it wasn’t such an easy experience. How did you adjust to professional baseball? And how did Coach Cougill prepare you guys for all the attention and pitfalls that he knew you would face?

Les Norman: “My transition into pro ball probably wasn’t as tough as Brian’s. I was able to play in the Junior Olympics, college football and baseball, the NAIA World Series twice, and the Olympic tryouts before I signed. The biggest hurdle for me wasn’t the competition so much as hitting with a wood bat. Having traveled so much, I was already used to being on my own, so it wasn’t difficult.

“When I started out my career, I got injured almost immediately, so dealing with failure was something thrown at me early.  Once hurt, I realized just how fast the game could be taken away from me, so my attitude and approach to the game changed.  If anything, it brought me humility.

“I had fun, and refused to play with pressure.  That truly unlocked the door to my greatest abilities, and the rest was history.  Before pro ball I was never really injured. So no coach or situation could have prepared me for it.

“I am a man of faith, so I believe that God was preparing me not for the MLB, but for my life after baseball in serving Him…husband, father, leader, speaker, etc.”

Brian went 3-9 for the Tigers in 1989 and 1990. He posted a 1.75 ERA in 1989. After two Tommy John surgeries and a couple runs at the major leagues Brian hung it up at the age of 29. He said he was just sick of it. But after he quit he regretted it.

Brian Dubois – Baseball-Reference.com

I Wish I Would Never Have Quit

That’s the refrain of this writer and so many other adults who played baseball as a teenager. The problem is that the older you get the more you have hit against the likes of Brian and Brandon Dubois.

But if you played long enough the game never leaves. Every spring when those whiffs of warm air creep across the cornfields something twitches. Later on you learn to appreciate the honor it was to play against guys like Brian and Brandon who could hang a golden sombrero on you in about 15 pitches.

The smells and sounds always tell you it’s baseball season. This spring WCB.org got the chance revisit some old baseball stomping grounds. Visits to Wilmington, Braidwood, Beecher, and Minooka were awesome reminders of my own fleeting glory days. I can still see Brian Dubois bringing it on a blazing summer day in Plainfield just off I55 and Route 126.

brandon_muskies
Brandon Dubois is still chucking for the Beecher Muskies.

On my visit to Beecher I met Brandon. “Baseball remains center stage in Beecher.” To me he was just Beecher’s head baseball coach. He was very understated as he talked about the other legendary coaches in the area at Reed-Custer, Coal City, and Herscher. Of course I asked him if he was related to Brian Dubois. He rolled his eyes and said everyone asks him that.

As I started researching Brian Dubois’ career I noticed another Dubois kept popping up on the IHSA records website. Brandon Dubois.

The name is pronounced doo-boyz. And no. Brian and Brandon are not related. So stop asking Brandon about Brian. Both of their careers stand on their own.

When you talk to guys like Brian and Brandon you realize how much you miss playing the game. Brandon still pitches for the Beecher Muskies semi-pro team in the National Amateur Baseball Federation. Both Brian and Brandon have dedicated their lives to coaching.

Brian coached at Reed-Custer and has most recently been coaching serious travel ball in Wisconsin. Brandon is head coach at Beecher Junior High and Beecher High School. Both men have contributed a lifetime of memories and dedicated their lives to baseball.

On WCB.org’s trip to Wilmington this writer spent some time talking to a group of guys watching along the left-field fence. These gentlemen had no sons in the game and no particular involvement. They were local fans.

In every town the old-schoolers still come out to watch games. One well-dressed middle-aged baseball aficionado reminded me why local baseball is so great. He described a towering walk-off home run hit by a Wilmington kid that landed in the middle of a neighborhood. “As soon as I heard that sound I started walking to the car.”

Guys like Brian and Brandon never have to worry. Someone always saw them play. They’ll tell the stories and the name Dubois will never be forgotten in Will County or Illinois.

Scott Habiger – WillCountyBaseball.org

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