Inductees AFTER SWEEPING through an eight-game unbeaten season in 1942, Coach Ennio Arboit took his Spalding Institute team to a 9-0-0 season in 1944, the fourth unbeaten season in the school's history, but the first that finished with nine wins and no ties.
Four days prior to its opening game, the team was involved in a near fatal accident when the truck transporting the team to Bradley Park for practice tipped over on Main St. Several serious injuries were incurred, including starting halfback John Kenning. However, a "green" sophomore and future college "Little All-American" Bob Flanagan took over his position.
The Irish had much more trouble than its 1942 counterpart, scoring 211 points while yielding 63. It was involved in a one-point win over Manual and a two-point decision over St. Bede Academy.
Shutouts were produced over Bloomington Trinity and Quincy Notre Dame while the most lopsided win was over Eureka, 34-6.
The Irish placed five players on the all-Greater Peoria first team: tackle Ed Uranich (All-State and later to be the school's head football coach), All-State guard Tom Hecht, center Tex Weicherding, end Ed Dwyer and quarterback Harry Sonnemaker (team and city MVP). Named to the second team were guard Willie Densberger, tackle Hank Donnelly, halfback Tom Gorsage and fullback Ed Ritter.
THE 1944 SEASON
Spalding 32, Bloomington Trinity 0
Spalding 26, Pekin 6
Spalding 19, East Peoria 7
Spalding 20, Quincy Notre Dame 0
Spalding 32, Central 12
Spalding 34, Eureka 6
Spalding 15, Manual 14
Spalding 19, Woodruff 6
Spalding 14, Peru St. Bede 12
AFTER SWEEPING through an eight-game unbeaten season in 1942, Coach Ennio Arboit took his Spalding Institute team to a 9-0-0 season in 1944, the fourth unbeaten season in the school's history, but the first that finished with nine wins and no ties.
A two-sport star (baseball and basketball) at both Limestone High School and Illinois Central College, Thome went on to a legendary baseball career as one of the top sluggers in Major League Baseball history. A 13th-round selection by the Cleveland Indians in 1989, Thome made his MLB debut in 1991. After a 22-year career with Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles, Thome ranks seventh in Major League history with 612 home runs and 24th with 1,699 runs batted in, while boasting a .276 career batting average. He was a five-time All-Star and received Most Valuable Player votes in nine different seasons. Thome helped Cleveland to World Series appearances in both 1995 and 1997 and he hit 17 career postseason home runs. Thome led the American League in slugging in 2002 (.677) and the National League with 47 home runs in 2003 and he received a 1996 Silver Slugger Award. Thome also was the 2006 Americal League Comeback Player of the Year. Recognized for his integrity, sportsmanship and community involvement, Thome received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in 2001 and 2004, as well as the 2002 Roberto Clemente Award and the 2004 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The Cleveland organization dedicated a statue of Thome outside Progressive Field following his official retirement in 2014.