Preps Talk

Remembering Evanston's Dobbie Burton

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Remembering Evanston's Dobbie Burton

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 6:35 p.m.

By Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

In 38 years as Evanston's boys swimming coach, Dobbie Burton won 89 percent of his dual meets and four national championships and produced 25 state trophy-winning teams and 200 All-Americans, including 1956 Olympian Dick Hanley.

An impressive resume for a man who accepted the job in 1947 even though the school didn't have a swimming pool at the time, a man whose former athletes still respectfully refer to him as Mr. Burton, not coach.

"He had a lot of good qualities but motivation was best," Hanley recalled. "I played football through my sophomore year but he convinced me that with the Olympics coming on that I would be better off in swimming. He'd write down the times he expected me to do. It seemed to be way above what I could do. But I would do what he predicted."

William Dobson "Dobbie" Burton, who coached at Evanston from 1947 to 1985, died last Thursday. He was 92. On March 11, his birthday, the swimming pool that was built in 1958 was re-dedicated in his name.

Burton was one of the pioneers of high school swimming in Illinois, an icon who loved to compete against the state's other nationally recognized coaches, New Trier's Dave Robertson and Hinsdale Central's Don Watson. He dominated in the 1950s, winning five state championships and four mythical national titles.

"He was a tremendous influence," said Hanley, who won four state individual titles from 1953-55, set national high school records in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle, won one NCAA title and four AAU titles at Michigan, set one world record and was a silver medalist in the 1956 Olympics.

"He said all the time: 'You have to pay the price.' He could get you up to compete. The ones who didn't compete well? He called them 'ham and eggers.' He said you were no better than your mind and he got your mind where it was supposed to be. You could be the best trained athlete but if you didn't think positively, you won't do it."

The list of other swimmers who earned All-America recognition under Burton's guidance included Tom Alderson, Dave Burgess, Ed Cole, Mike Farmer, Tony Follett, Peter Hammer, Deed Hardin, Jacob Johnson, Doug Lennox, Sean McCaffrey, Skip McCallum, Jeff Moore, Dave Pemberton, Tom Pringle, Tom Schwarten, Terry and Tim Silkaitis, Eric Skalinder, Peter Skoglund, Bill Stiles and Bill Swisher. His son, Patrick, competed on the 1981-83 teams.

Burton, who was inducted into the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969, produced five NCAA Division I national champions, a dual meet record of 418-54, a dozen top 10 national finishes, 17 Suburban League championship teams and six Central Suburban League winners. Aside from his five state titles, he had 11 runners up and nine third-place finishers.

"He was a kind and benevolent disciplinarian. He worked us as hard as he possibly could without being mean. But he was fair. He knew when to encourage and berate. He was our best friend," said Burgess, a member of the class of 1958.

"In those days, he was in favor of having as many kids as possible on the team. There was always so much competition. You always had somebody chasing you. That was part of the motivation. Everybody wanted to be on the swimming team, part of the success."

Stiles, a member of the class of 1959, said Burton's success had nothing to do with his record. He recalls a story that he frequently relates to people about Tom "Hoot" Gibson, a personally troubled and mentally challenged youngster who was a member of the 1959-61 teams.

"Gibson came out for the team and (Burton) got into his head that he could be an outstanding swimmer," Stiles said. "He made him the leader of the team. He told the rest of the team: 'You think too much. If you do what Hoot does, you'll be successful.' He went on to win the 400-yard freestyle (and three seconds) in the state meet.

"In four years, he took someone who you wouldn't think could be successful and made him a state champion. Mr. Burton did that with a lot of people. He was a great motivator. A lot of what he accomplished with his kids had nothing to do with swimming but a lot to do with motivation. He was an inspiration to all of us."

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.