Inductees This former Caterpillar standout may be the only Peorian to have a significant basketball career without playing either high school or college ball.
Only 5-foot-9 and skinny when he graduated from Spalding in 1943, having played only intramural ball, he joined the Caterpillar apprentice program, shot up to 6-foot-4 very quickly and played so well in the Cat plant league Diesel coach Marv Hamilton invited him to tryout for the big team.
Bill Dempsey quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and was a forward for the Diesels through the 1949-50 season when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
At the end of the 1948-49 season he was voted the most valuable player of the District AAU Illinois tournament and played a key role in the Diesels finishing third in the National AAU tourney in Oklahoma City.
He was considered a strong candidate for the all-tournament team in the 1950 national tourney, but Caterpillar was ousted after three games.
Dempsey was out of the army in January 1952 and rejoined Caterpillar for the second half of the season that resulted in the Diesels winning their first national AAU title in Denver.
He played in the Olympic Trials tourney in New York after the AAU tournament and was named an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team for the 1952 games in Helsinki.
He later played on independent teams in Peoria and also played baseball and softball for may years, playing with the Caterpillar Tractors in the Sunday Morning League. He passed away late in 2002.
This former Caterpillar standout may be the only Peorian to have a significant basketball career without playing either high school or college ball.
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.”