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updated: 9/3/2020 10:03 AM

Jim O'Donnell: 'Amazing' growth for The Mike Spellman Scholarship Fund

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  • Mike Spellman's sister, Peggy Jacobs of San Francisco, her husband, Craig, left, and brother Neal Spellman attend a gathering prior to the running of the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, held in honor of the late Daily Herald sports writer, at Arlington International Racecourse in 2019.

    Mike Spellman's sister, Peggy Jacobs of San Francisco, her husband, Craig, left, and brother Neal Spellman attend a gathering prior to the running of the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, held in honor of the late Daily Herald sports writer, at Arlington International Racecourse in 2019.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 

THE HEARTENING, ORGANIC GROWTH of The Mike Spellman Scholarship Fund continues.

Despite no formal organization or annual fundraising event behind it, the core endowment for the supplemental source at St. Viator High School has passed $180,000, according to Mike's brother, Neal Spellman.

"It's really kind of amazing," said Neal, who recently retired after 30 years as a probation officer with the Cook County courts system.

"With the exception of $25,000 from my mother, all of that represents contributions from friends, co-workers at The Daily Herald and an awful lot of good-hearted people we really haven't had the pleasure to meet yet."

Former Daily Herald sports writer Mike Spellman.
Former Daily Herald sports writer Mike Spellman. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Mike Spellman was a most memorable, mirthful jack-of-all-trades at The Daily Herald. He died suddenly on his 51st birthday in January, 2015, in the midst of his first season as the organization's Blackhawks beat writer.

At St. Viator (Class of '82), Spellman was a star catcher in Chico Pirman's baseball program, a fair-haired protégé of the iconic Pat Mahoney and a fellow properly noted for having "a genius for friendship."

A key driving force behind the scholarship fund has been best bud Bill Piet.

Friends and family members have a toast following the running of the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, held in honor of the late Daily Herald sports writer, at Arlington International Racecourse in 2019.
Friends and family members have a toast following the running of the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, held in honor of the late Daily Herald sports writer, at Arlington International Racecourse in 2019. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Since Arlington Park's annual $100,000 Mike Spellman Memorial race was wiped out when the oval went stakes-free this summer, Piet will host a private Kentucky Derby Day soiree on Saturday.

Contributions to The Mike Spellman Scholarship Fund can be made c/o: St. Viator High School, 1213 East Oakton Street, Arlington Heights, IL. 60004.

Said Neal Spellman: "It's all so gratifying, so kind. Mike would be amazed."

IF THE BULLS ARE STILL chasing, the price for Wes Unseld Jr. as their next head coach went up Tuesday night.

That's when the gold-starred Denver lead assistant and the Nuggets completed a remarkable comeback from down 1-3 to pop Donovan Mitchell and Utah, 80-78, in Game 7.

They advance to a Western Conference semi vs. the L.A. Clippers (Game 1, TNT, Thursday, 8 p.m.; Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller).

The dramatic flip showcased both Unseld's capacity for defensive tweaks under pressure and his fluidity in helping maintain the confidence and focus of such game-changing young talent as Jamal Murray.

Big Q. in the NBA air: With at least four other HC jobs open -- and a fifth possible as Quin Snyder now hangs by a ski pole with the Jazz -- would Unseld want to enter Chicago's forlorn house of "The Curse of the Breakup?"

STREET-BEATIN':

Michael Jordan's new equity deal with DraftKings is an eminently dissectable one. His Airness represents quality and success in assorted fields -- but is mainstream sports gambling consistent with his fastidious brand maintenance? ...

Tony Dungy is in and Doug Flutie is out of NBC's Notre Dame football booth. (Semi-seismic shamrocker, although ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick still looks like a global-class goof for the nonsensical dismissal of platinum-plus sports information director John Heisler last year.) ...

Tony Romo -- CBS's $100 million man -- and Jim Nantz will work the Tom Brady-free Patriots-Dolphins easterner on the NFL's opening weekend. (From the Betty Friedan football file, Beth Mowins is now listed as No. 8 play-by-play voice on The Fisheye depth chart.) ...

News that Vegas Stats and Info has dispatched young Danny Burke to host a nightly Sirius show from a regional Illinois casino reminds: More than two years in, vsin.com masters Brian Musburger and Bill Adee have yet to develop a breakout broadcast personality. (Their daily online written content remains crisp.) ...

Chicago-based Michele Steele has signed a contract extension to enter decade two with ESPN national. The University of Illinois economics grad consistently generates some terrific stuff ...

Dave Hoekstra has a grand tribute about Mary Frances Veeck -- who turns 100 this week -- on his davehoekstra.com. (The tireless talent has also been commissioned by the state of Illinois to generate content for the 2021 Lincoln Library exhibit "The State of Sound"; First interview subjects were seminal Illinois rockers The Cryan' Shames and The New Colony Six.) ...

Michelle Nelson of Sports Outlet Express in south Arlington Heights (sportsoutletexpress.com) reports a predictable surge in sales of all things White Sox. (The late Andy the Clown might call it "bandwagoning.") ...

Dave Corzine is threatening a restraining order if there's one more column mention of the night Prospect upset Hersey for the first Mid-Suburban League crossover basketball championship. (Not really -- Don Lewis and the Knights just had a very memorable evening.) ...

And Scott Thomson -- on the chance to pay $300 to socially distance outside at Arlington Park on Saturday and watch the Kentucky Derby on TV -- deadpanned: "Geez, and then will they have $200 pony rides out in the parking lot afterward?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.