A former Maine Township baseball coach who holds a spot in Illinois High School Association record book as the only coach to win three state championships -- including back to back titles in 1958 and 1959 -- has died.
Albert Carstens taught and coached for 31 years in Maine Township schools, including six at Maine East and 25 at Maine West. He died Friday, at the age of 88.
Former Daily Herald sports writer Marty Maciaszek, who now works for the National Sporting Goods Association, described Carstens' repeat titles as "monumental" in Illinois high school athletic history.
"They not only have withstood the test of time but significant changes in equipment, outside player development and multiple class expansion," Maciaszek says. "There was no question Maine was the class of the state back then since only one champion was crowned."
Carstens' daughter says coaching was a labor of love.
"He loved baseball, and he maintained a really strong bond with his former players," Carol Carstens said.
She points to the 1963 team at Maine West, which earned Carstens his third state championship. They returned to the area two weeks ago for their 50th class reunion, and members of the team -- the first state champs in the school's history -- carved out time to visit their beloved coach.
Carstens compiled a 355-167 record at Maine West and had more than 500 wins overall in a career that earned him induction to the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. During his coaching career, he had multiple students go on to play in college and sign with major league farm teams, but just one who played in the big leagues.
Jim Lindeman played under Carstens at Maine West, where he graduated in 1980, and was the top draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983. He played first base and outfield for the Cardinals for most of his 13 years in the majors, including the 1987 World Series.
Lindeman now coaches baseball at Rolling Meadows High School, where he draws on some of the drills and game strategy used by his former coach.
"Coach Carstens was passionate and worked hard in order to help his athletes on and off the field," Lindeman said. "He set a great example of how a high school baseball program should function."
Ironically, Carstens' first love was football. Both he and his twin brother, Dick, played football at Maine Township High School, where they graduated in 1943. Military service in the Navy during World War II ensued, before both returned and played football at Knox College in Galesburg while earning education degrees.
Dick Carstens would go on to teach and coach football at Downers Grove North High School, where he was one of the winningest coaches in the West Suburban Conference, while his brother was setting records coaching baseball.
During summers and after he retired in 1984, Albert Carstens worked for the Des Plaines Park District, managing Rand Pool and multiple athletic programs as well serving as supervisor at Lake Opeka for many years.
Carstens was preceded in death by his wife, Arlette. Besides his daughter Carol, he is survived daughters Debbie Carstens, Julie (John) Lillquist and Cathy (David) Meyer; as well as five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at G.L. Hills Funeral Home, 745 Graceland Ave., before an 11 a.m. funeral service on Wednesday at Christ Church, 1492 Henry St., both in Des Plaines.