Inductees The 1923-24 Spalding Institute basketball team brought Peoria its first national championship as it won the National Catholic High School Tournament in Chicago.
There is no such thing, in this modern era of high school athletics, as a national champion in any sport. But for a time, Loyola University of Chicago was host to the National Catholic prep tournament in the 1920s.
Spalding's 1923-24 basketball team was coached by the late James "Sport" McGrath and had to be a prohibitive longshot going into the 32-team tournament.
The team was small and during the regular season had only an 8-6 record -but once it began play in Chicago it produced an amazing defense, even in that era of low scoring basketball.
In order, Spalding disposed of Vincennes, 15-12; Creighton Academy of Omaha, 20-17, St. Thomas of St. Paul, Minn., 17-2 (both of the enemy points came on free throws); Ft. Wayne, Ind., 14-7, and then took the championship with a 21-7 win over Marquette of Milwaukee.
Team members were Leo and Fran Duke, Rolland Barth, Tom Penn, Dick Grimm, Al Conrad, Bill Kennedy, Bob Lotze, Joe McGrath, Chuck Carroll, Vince Kaiser, John McCarthy, Tony Lawless and Bill Hughes.
The Duke brothers and Hughes are the sole survivors of the team, and all three are still Peoria residents.
The 1923-24 Spalding Institute basketball team brought Peoria its first national championship as it won the National Catholic High School Tournament in Chicago.
As a man devoted to sports, Mick Donahue contributed an essential (and sometimes underappreciated) service to organized sports in Peoria for decades. His passion for athletics began as a youth as a participant in the Salvation Army Junior League Tournament and Proctor Center Basketball League. At Peoria Manual High School in the early 50’s, he played on the baseball team. After graduating from Manual, he was a player/manager on the LeTourneau-Westinghouse team in the old Industrial League, which was one of the nation’s top amateur sports organizations at the time.
Mick spent much of his life coaching, organizing and officiating youth sports in the area, especially baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball. He volunteered as a coach from 1957-72 for the St. Boniface Mustangs. Additionally he coached numerous Little League and Pony League teams.
Over the next several decades, he volunteered thousands of hours organizing and administering officials for various league play in the community. Beginning in 1972, he supervised adult softball and basketball leagues for the Peoria Park District. He also scheduled officials/umpires for the area’s catholic grade schools as well as many basketball, baseball, and softball games for the Peoria Public Schools. In his over 30 years with the Peoria Park District, Mick trained, assigned, and supervised officials for adult softball games for leagues at Peoria Stadium and Sterling school. He organized a force of volunteer basketball officials for the Prairie State Games.
Even after his passing in 2011, his legacy in sports continued to have a positive impact for a charitable cause. As a tribute and acknowledgement of his decades of dedication to local softball leagues, a Mick Donahue Memorial Tournament was held in August of 2013, on the park district diamonds near Peoria Stadium. Many teams participated and many others, including umpires, volunteered their services. Proceeds from the successful event were donated to the PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) Foundation, a disease being fought by his granddaughter. Concurrent with the tournament, a park bench was dedicated near the large diamond near Peoria Stadium. The small plaque affixed to the bench, reads, “In Memory of Mick Donahue for his dedication to softball and the Peoria Park District.”