As eloquent with his words in the English classroom as he was competitive on the baseball field, Chuck Hasenstab cast a large shadow during his days at Belleville West High School.|
Hasenstab, 65, died Thursday at his home after a lengthy battle with cancer.
From 1967 to 2002, the West baseball program was in the capable hands of Hasenstab.
"Chuck's been ill for about a year, and he fought it just like he coached baseball – ferociously," said West Athletic Director Bill Schmidt, who played on Hasenstab's 1973 baseball team that finished second in what was then a single-class state tournament.
"You don't become a Hall of Famer in your chosen profession without being one of the best there ever was. I got to play for Chuck and coach in the same athletic department with him. We'll all miss Chuck around here."
Hasenstab is survived by his wife, Patricia, daughters Deanna Schoen, Maura Ingle and Meg Hasenstab, and son Derek Hasenstab. Also surviving are his mother, Lillie Hasenstab, and three brothers.
Visitation is from 2 to 8 p.m. today at George Renner & Sons Funeral Home in Belleville. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday.
Hasenstab coached the Maroons for 36 seasons. West has had only three coaches since 1949, including Al "Boots" Budde (1949-1966) and current coach Lee Meyer (2003-present).
Hasenstab's 647 wins are the fifth-highest total in state history and he's also a member of the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
He's also in the Belleville Hilgards American Legion Hall of Fame.
Under Hasenstab's guidance, West had two second-place finishes at the state tournament (1973 and 1992 in Class AA) with three other appearances (1984, 1993, 1997, all in Class AA).
His teams won 13 regionals, five sectionals and endured only two losing seasons.
"I want to go out as quietly as I can," he told the News-Democrat when asked about his retirement. "I've just been happy to have been able to do it for 36 years. Not too many people can say they've stayed in one place for that long."
There was nothing fancy about Hasenstab. He signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $25,000 in 1959 after a strong career at Cathedral High in Belleville.
Hasenstab spent five years in the minor leagues, eventually finishing his education and preparing for a teaching and coaching career.
Hasenstab's teams were often blessed with talent, but he also prepared them well. He gave them the tools they needed not only to succeed on the ball field, but in life.
Hasenstab coached future major leaguer Brian Daubach, who played for the Boston Red Sox and several other teams.
He also sent numerous players into the college and professional ranks.
One of Hasenstab's best friends was longtime West volleyball coach and English teacher Charlie Rodman.
"He had innate nobility of character," Rodman said. "He was extremely generous with his time and his knowledge and expertise and integrity.
"He was old-fashioned – do it the right way, and stand up for what you believe in."
Rodman also was a big part of two of Hasenstab's passions – golf and tennis.
"Any day that it wasn't too cold, we would go and play tennis," Rodman said. "It never really mattered who won, we were out there competing."
Schmidt also enjoyed spending time with Hasenstab.
"You could just see his competitiveness," Schmidt said. "The guy was in his 60s and competing toe to toe with guys 15 to 20 years younger than him on the tennis court and the golf course."
Both Schmidt and Rodman remembered Hasenstab's trademark faded maroon jacket, the one he'd wear while making the long walk from the old Belleville West High School to the school's baseball facility across the street.
The temperature could have been 36 or 96, but Hasenstab would have that jacket on.
"Chuck didn't like to be cold," Schmidt said. "That was a part of his personality, he would deck himself out even on a very warm day with a long-sleeve shirt and a jacket.
"He definitely didn't mind the hot weather whatsoever."
That included trips to Tunica, Miss.
"It would be 102 degrees down there and he'd be outside playing tennis," Schmidt said.
"There were five or six English teachers that were teachers and coaches and mentors to me, and Chuck was one of them," Rodman said.
Rodman said Hasenstab began complaining of back pain during tennis before the illness was discovered about a year ago.
"There's so many cookie-cutter kinds of coaches out there," Rodman said. "Chuck was a true renaissance man. He had unbelievable passion for everything he did."
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Dec. 18, 2006