Inductees Marian "Gabby" Kneer has devoted her life to athletics and education. Now a resident of Western Springs, a Chicago suburb and a retired professor from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Kneer was called the "worldí's greatest softbaIl catcher" in the late 1940's. And for a long time, people didn't even know her first name, just calling her "Gabby" Kneer - maybe because of the way she continually chirped encouraging words to her teammates.
A graduate of Woodruff High School and Illinois State University with a doctorate in physical education from the University of Michigan, Kneer was a tireless promoter of sports for girls in Illinois high schools, and was a co-founder and leader for permitting competitive interscholastic sports.
Marian taught at East Peoria High School from 1949 until 1968, going from there to the University of Illinois-Chicago. She gave up sports to concentrate on her teaching career. Her sports honors included membership in the Illinois State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Illinois Softball Hall of Fame, and Illinois Coaches Association for Girls and Women Hall of Fame. A catcher for ten years, her sports career also included basketball, field hockey, and coaching girl's basketball.
A .323 lifetime hitter, she caught for five state and three world championship teams as a member of the Caterpillar Dieselettes. Kneer played basketball locally for the Dieselettes and Gipps Brewery teams. Her professional experience includes numerous publications pertaining to physical education on the State, National, and International levels. She co-authored "Softball-Fast and Slow Pitch" with Chuck McCord, previous Hall of Fame Inductee - now in its fifth edition.
Kneer served in every elective position of the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation as well as with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Currently a Professor Emeritous from the University of Illinois-Chicago, she is a consultant for Physical Education..
Marian "Gabby" Kneer has devoted her life to athletics and education. Now a resident of Western Springs, a Chicago suburb and a retired professor from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Kneer was called the "worldí's greatest softbaIl catcher" in the late 1940's. And for a long time, people didn't even know her first name, just calling her "Gabby" Kneer - maybe because of the way she continually chirped encouraging words to her teammates.
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.”