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.
Ulrich has coached in the Junior Football League and youth baseball for 32 years, while also serving as president of numerous youth leagues and director of the Peoria Diocesan basketball tournament. He began volunteering as coach for the Richwoods Browns JFL team in 1971 and served in a coaching or administrative capacity for the Richwoods JFL program from 1971-89. In addition, he served as a coach and president of the Richwoods League League, as well as Pony League, from 1975-85. During that same period, he coached the Bergan All-Star Pony League from 1981-84. In his role as St. Thomas Grade School athletic director for 32 years, Ulrich directed the 11 boys (six) and girls (five) basketball teams for 27 years, scheduling tournaments, ordering uniforms and hiring officials among his many duties. He also served as director of the Peoria Diocesan Tournament for 14 years. Ulrich coached basketball at Peoria Heights Grade School from 2006-11 and he volunteered as manager of a fastpitch team in the Peoria Park District Softball League for 23 years, while also playing on the team for several seasons. He currently is completing his two-year stint as the St. Philomena School 5th Grade boys basketball team and is preparing for his second year of coaching in the Irish youth baseball program.