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The numbers add up: Essig a Hall of Famer
 

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The numbers add up: Essig a Hall of Famer
 

Stat geeks take heart. One of us is being inducted into a hall of fame.

The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association welcomes new members into its hall Saturday at Illinois State. Going in as a "Friend of Basketball" is Charlie Essig, West Aurora Class of 1948, who for two decades has compiled "The Essig Report" ratings system for boys basketball teams.

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Another "Friend" being inducted is Ken Johnson of Elburn, whose brother is none other than former St. Charles boys basketball coach Ron Johnson; official Dave King of St. Charles also will be honored.

"I'm certainly appreciative of the association for honoring me in this way," said Essig, 82. "I just hope that all the years I've done this, which I've done as a hobby, has been appreciated by just the average basketball junkie ...

"Every year I keep saying, 'Why do I do this?' and come November I'm starting to make preparations, thinking, 'Aww, I'll do it.' I've kept it going all these years, enough to put together a history."

Back in the early 1990s, freshly retired from the Stephens-Adamson conveyor manufacturer in Aurora, Essig bought a new Apple IIe computer. His sons, frustrated with rankings by The Associated Press -- how could a writer way up north accurately assess the value of, say, Collinsville? -- implored him to devise a more realistic system. Strength of schedule, and success playing that schedule, is the crux of The Essig Report.

"Once I started I just couldn't stop," Essig said.

Now that he splits his time between Yorkville and Sarasota he's got a friend, Bob Schmidt, who helps produce the report and work the website. Essig can get the results he needs by newspaper Internet accounts and The Associated Press. Starting with simple rankings the report now includes conference and sectional sections, two different historical charts and strength-of-schedule summaries.

"They say, 'You don't watch any games.' That's the smart thing I do," Essig said. "I don't let that get in the way, I don't have any judgments to make at all. All I have are the scores."

He is a very interesting man and, in his day, a class athlete. Essig led West Aurora's boys basketball team with about 15 points a game as a senior in 1948 though he played only the last three games the prior season. Coach Ken Zimmerman asked his players if they had smoked or drank, Essig recalled, and Charlie was among half the squad who didn't get suspended.

He went on to play at Bradley but maybe more intriguing was the YMCA youth league game in which his team won 106-1 -- while being outshot from the foul line.

A first baseman on a fastpitch softball team sponsored by Sealmaster Bearings, a division of now-closed Stephens-Adamson, Essig played in seven world tournaments and helped his team win four championships, as his website biography points out. In 1953 Essig was a first-team selection from the runner-up squad at the National Baseball Congress of America's Illinois State Tournament.

"I didn't have much when I was a kid, my parents didn't have a lot of money, but we didn't know that," he said. "Softball allowed me to go all over the country. I played every place from Sacramento, California, to Providence, Rhode Island, and a lot of places in between."

He's a member of the Illinois Softball Hall of Fame and the West Aurora High School Hall of Fame. He received "Best of the Best" honors by the Illinois Park District Association for coaching Little League Baseball the past 32 years and serving as board secretary for 20. In fact, he's not leaving for Normal Saturday morning until his Minor League team finishes practice.

A curious person, when he started coaching Little League Essig wondered how it got started in Aurora. Thus began an ongoing research project that currently lists more than 15,000 Little League, Pony League and Legion players since Little League started in Aurora since 1952, as well as managers' won-loss records.

"I have a fascination for numbers and maintaining historical data," he said.

An engineer by trade, he worked 42 years for Stephens-Adamson, which among other things built moving sidewalks used at Hollywood Bowl, the San Diego Zoo, Milwaukee County Stadium and, in the late 1950s, Wrigley Field.

"I was the one who coined the word, 'speed ramp,'" Essig said.

He spent his first 10 years in retirement in Aurora with his wife, Shirley, who died in 2002 of lung cancer. A few years later Essig moved to Yorkville to be closer to his daughter, Judy, undoubtedly proud of her dad for this latest honor by the IBCA.

"I'm in the West Aurora Hall of Fame, which I'm also honored to be, obviously," Charlie said. "But you look down the list of people, there's a lot of people you're glad to join."

Just thinking

This state's high school athletic associations all could benefit from a "Friend of" hall of fame distinction. From announcers like Rudy Dubis, Kurt Wehrmeister and Neal Ormond to others such as late Wheaton Academy fan Sue Alley, the IBCA justly honors people who make the entire experience worthwhile.

Flying Tiger

Alert Daily Herald correspondent Darryl Mellema found a winning performance this writer missed during the college roundup of March 30.

Rosary 2010 graduate Olivia Scott won the 100-meter butterfly at the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis. The Auburn junior public relations major won in 51.64 seconds, out-touching former Olympian Rachel Bootsma by .04 seconds. According to the Rosary braintrust that's the closest finish in the event in NCAA history.

A seven-time all-American, Scott set Auburn's school record with that time. She became the second former Rosary swimmer to win an NCAA title following Georgia's Mary Descenza, who between open and relay swims won 14 of them. At the IHSA state meet in 2009, Scott eclipsed Descenza's state record in the 100-yard butterfly by .02 seconds, winning in 53.09.

Call it a record

Bulking up to 17-2 and 11-1 in the Suburban Christian Conference entering Friday's game against Montini at Benedictine University, Aurora Central Catholic's baseball team reeled off 15 straight victories. Chargers coach Sean Bieterman can't confirm this is a program record, however. Nor can Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association hall of famer Mark Lindo, who went 229-53 leading ACC from 1983-91.

"I talked to Mark and when Mark doesn't know, who else to ask? Mark's like the guru," said Bieterman, no slouch himself in his 11th year as head coach and first with the Chargers after seven with Driscoll and three at Lincoln-Way Central.

Lindo fielded teams that went 31-4, 27-3, 27-5 and 26-4, but can't recall if there was a 15-game streak in there somewhere.

"If I were a guessing man, I'd say it is" a record, he said of this 15-game streak.

The Chargers needed to rally from dire straits against IC Catholic, St. Edward and Ottawa Marquette to keep their run alive. On Monday ACC lost its first game since March 30, an uncharacteristic 11-0 drubbing by Chicago Christian. Wednesday ACC repaid the favor with an 11-1 win to start a new streak.

Bieterman said pitchers Matt Rahn and Matt Miller each are 3-0 on the year with Miller -- also the No. 3 hitter -- striking out 48 batters in 22 innings. Among others, Steve Belovich and Phil Schuetz provide great offensive support. Former Chargers multisport athlete Luke Brauweiler is among Bieterman's assistants.

"It's just a really good group of guys that work extremely hard," Bieterman said. "They don't always do everything pretty, but they fight to win."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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