Inductees This former Caterpillar standout may be the only Peorian to have a significant basketball career without playing either high school or college ball.
Only 5-foot-9 and skinny when he graduated from Spalding in 1943, having played only intramural ball, he joined the Caterpillar apprentice program, shot up to 6-foot-4 very quickly and played so well in the Cat plant league Diesel coach Marv Hamilton invited him to tryout for the big team.
Bill Dempsey quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and was a forward for the Diesels through the 1949-50 season when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
At the end of the 1948-49 season he was voted the most valuable player of the District AAU Illinois tournament and played a key role in the Diesels finishing third in the National AAU tourney in Oklahoma City.
He was considered a strong candidate for the all-tournament team in the 1950 national tourney, but Caterpillar was ousted after three games.
Dempsey was out of the army in January 1952 and rejoined Caterpillar for the second half of the season that resulted in the Diesels winning their first national AAU title in Denver.
He played in the Olympic Trials tourney in New York after the AAU tournament and was named an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team for the 1952 games in Helsinki.
He later played on independent teams in Peoria and also played baseball and softball for may years, playing with the Caterpillar Tractors in the Sunday Morning League. He passed away late in 2002.
This former Caterpillar standout may be the only Peorian to have a significant basketball career without playing either high school or college ball.
Good athletes often excel in more than one sport. Harry led a Lewistown, Ill. high school basketball team to a berth in the Sweet Sixteen Tournament at old Huff Gymnasium in Champaign. During the war, he played baseball for the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, and the Iowa Seahawks Navy basketball team before heading for Bradley.