High school football lost a true friend this week.
Maury Salinger, a long-time statistician died this past week in Wharton at the age of 74.
Salinger’s name might not ring a bell with most high school sports fans, it is well-known to head coaches and sportswriters across Texas.
For the last few decades, Salinger, a Wharton graduate and resident, kept track of records and statistics for high school football programs.
He produced a weekly report for nearly 40 athletic districts.
Former El Campo Head Coach and Texas Hall of Honor member Bob Gillis first learned of Salinger when he was a freshman playing football at the Wharton County Junior College. When Gillis got into coaching, he came across Salinger again, this time providing all the district stats.
“He was really good for high school football,” Gillis said. “He promoted it and really did some good things. I was sad to see his passing.”
Before becoming a stat keeper, Salinger worked at the Wharton Journal-Spectator as the sports editor. During his time there he was named Sports Writer of the Year by the Texas High School Coaches Association in 1980.
After leaving the paper, he started keeping stats for the Texas Junior College Athletic Conference for free, for several years, long-time friend Mike Morgan said.
“Coach (Gene) Bahnsen, told him, you ought to try and turn this into a business,” Morgan said. “He started off small and this was before computers. He took everything by phone or fax machine. Every Friday night they’d send in the (stats) he’d calculate everything and mail a booklet out by Monday morning.”
Salinger’s five decades of district record-keeping earned him an honor last year. The Greater Houston Football Coaches Association gave him the John Kelly Distinguished Service Award at the GHFCA annual awards banquet.
“Even though someone didn’t know who he was, they certainly knew (the work) he did,” Gillis said. “He did provide a real service for the coaches.”
Salinger’s impact on sports was wide-reaching. He touched a lot of people through his stats or his time with the Texas Sports Writers Association.
“He was the life and blood of the Texas Sports Writers Association,” Robert Cessna the Executive Sports Editor of the Bryan-College Station Eagle said. “His tireless work helped high school athletes (earn) all-state honors in football, baseball, softball and volleyball. He also was the state’s best statistician. He must have been the stat guy for 30-plus districts in all major sports. He was a friend to coaches, players and the media. I can’t remember Maury turning down a request. He will be missed by so many. He was the ultimate guy behind the scenes.”
Football will continue to get played next season but without Salinger keeping track of rushing, passing, punting, field goals, yards allowed and lots of other stats might be a little bit harder without him.
“The coaches are really going to miss him, they don’t know just how much they relied on that report each week,” Morgan said. “He was a perfectionist and very professional.”
In this county alone, Salinger recorded stats for El Campo, Wharton, Boling and East Bernard.
–Ryan Dunsmore of the Fort Bend Herald Contributed to this story