The trophy-maker

Staff photo by Tom Graham

For 37 years, one could see Bill Cary on the baseball field, coaching Rivet for the first 11 seasons and North Knox in the last 26. Now the retired coach fills his time making trophies and plaques at his business in Bruceville, 'The Trophy Case.'

Cary has his hobby after a 37-year coaching career

Some things stick out in a childhood, even if it's unexplainable.

For Bill Cary, it was a doorway in the house of his grandfather, Leo Steimel.

"He was a carpenter, and all the Steimel boys played basketball," Cary said. "They won all these trophies, and they had this doorway that was extra long. (Leo) had remodeled the room and cut a piece of wood into an arch. The trophies fit perfectly on it, with the tallest one in the middle.

"I was so fixated on that back when I was little. When I got to middle school, my brothers, Mitch, Joe and Paul, started winning all of these little trophies. A friend had given us a bookcase about six feet tall and only about a foot wide, but it had adjustable shelves," Cary said. "So we did the same thing, we put all of our little trophies on it, and we called it 'The Trophy Case.' "

More than half of a century later, 'The Trophy Case' still lives. It is Cary's business, his hobby and his calling card after coaching baseball at Rivet and North Knox for a combined 37 seasons. He tallied 446 wins in his career that ended in retirement in 2015.

Cary said he would still answer the phone to help a school as an assistant baseball coach. But the calls he gets now are to make trophies and plaques for mostly the county schools, the fair and some of the area sports leagues. He started making a Sun-Commercial Player of the Year trophy on his own for North Knox basketball and baseball winners in the late 1980s. Feeling guilty a couple of years later that he did only those sports, Cary began to make it for all North Knox sports winners and eventually all area winners.

It may not be as exhilarating as calling for a double steal, but Cary gets plenty of joy from making trophies.

"Kids are just thrilled when they win one. I know my grandkids when they get a trophy, they send me a picture from their phone right away," he said. "It's important to them, and I just enjoy doing it."

The Trophy Case started in 1985 as supplemental income to his Rivet teaching job. Two years later, Cary went to North Knox to teach and coach baseball. The Trophy Case, on Main Street in Vincennes, moved to Cary's garage where it stands today.

The combination of teaching, coaching and making trophies didn't always go well together.

"Those days were tough. I would go to school, go to baseball and come home and make trophies all night, I mean like one, two in the morning. But it had to be done," Cary said.

"Now being retired, there's no more clocks, no more bells, but there's still calendars. I don't have these tight deadlines anymore. Like the fair is two weeks away. I can finish what I need to do right away, or do a little at a time."

He has a supply room, with all the trophy bases, the metal strips, tubing and the figurines neatly placed for the next job. Some supplies have been on the shelf a lot longer than others.

"Baseball is my weakness. I order a ton of baseball stuff, I mean it's only just the most important sport in the world," Cary said with a laugh. "Then I get a call and they want something else.

"I still have a case of karate guys I ordered back in '85."

The trophy business has had its changes through the year. It's younger brother, the plaque, has made its inroad into the award lineup and is a lot more versatile than its older sibling. But Cary said that schools, for the most part, still pick the trophy because it's bigger than a plaque.

Cary hasn't changed his allegiance, either.

"I like the trophy. I like that little statue. The little figure on the top has always intrigued me," Cary said.

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