National League crowds were rowdy, informal, and highly partisan. They regarded referees as unnecessary interlopers, whose sole function was to throttle the noble aspirations of their hometown heroes. A lack of uniformity in the rules brought further confusion to fans and increased the strain on the officials. The interpretation of the rules depended largely on where the game was played and who refereed.
Trenton crowds enjoyed a particularly unsavory reputation for their behavior towards officials. In late December of 1900, referee Harry Platt brought down their full wrath on himself when he ruled a contest forfeited to the visiting Pennsylvania Bicycle Club after he had a half-time run-in with Trenton star Harry Stout. The fans went wild and besieged the hapless ref in his dressing room until he fled the arena under police escort. Platt’s ordeal was far from over. He was then surrounded by a mob of over 200 crazed fans who stormed the nearby train depot, where he had taken refuge, and tried to overwhelm his escort. Club-wielding police reinforcements had to intervene before Platt could finally flee the city.
Referees were never very safe among the players either. A highly dangerous part of the actual game was the center jump, held after each basket, when the referee tossed the ball up between the opposing centers. Many players used the play as an opportunity to deliver an “accidental” blow to a disliked official.
The National League began its third season with New York and Trenton as heavy favorites to take the title, but both teams got off to sluggish starts. The Wanderers missed offensive star Sandy Shields who had left the team to take a coaching job in Pittsburgh. Veterans John Wendelken and W.C. Reed gradually took up the slack and finished the season among the league’s best scorers. Kid Abadie, his younger brother Bob, and “Mother” Dietrich concentrated on playing solid defense. New York capped its mid-season resurgence with ten victories in their last eleven games and claimed their first National League title.
Trenton’s internal problems carried over from the last season, as they muddled through the early season at barely a .500 pace. Fred Cooper had been ousted as coach, and Al Cooper and Harry Stout continued to feud. The team hit bottom the last week in December when they were humiliated 41-11 in a game at Bristol. There was just too much talent on the team for it to remain down for long. Despite their personal differences, frontcourt performers Cooper and Stout remained the heart of the Trenton team. Cooper was the league’s most charismatic performer. He led the league in scoring, but was also a fine passer and able defender, who provided the team with aggressive leadership. Stout’s talents were limited primarily to the offensive end of the court where he ably complemented Cooper. Gus Endebrock was one of the smaller centers in the league, but he always performed with an intensity that made up for his limited physical abilities. Guards Bill Lindsey and Chris Stinger were strong defenders. Trenton won ten of its final twelve games, but had to settle for second place behind New York.
Finishing third was Millville who finally legally signed Hilly Wallace, one of the league’s best-all-around players, and the focal point of the previous season’s squabbling. Youngster Frank Hitchens also proved a valuable addition, but veteran Walter Barber remained the centerpiece of the Millville attack. Barber, one of the earliest pro performers in New Jersey, was widely respected in the league for his gentlemanly play. Bristol finished in fourth place with second-year pros Charlie Klein and Bill Everingham leading the club in scoring; however, an audacious youngster, Harry Hough, established himself immediately as the key to the club’s long-term success. Hough, in his first National League season after being signed out of a Trenton city league showed a remarkable natural grace and aptitude for the game. Camden owner-coach Bill Morganweck completely rebuilt his team. Star performer Snake Deal was exiled to the lowly Pennsylvania Bicycle Club, and Hilly Wallace was sold to Millville. Youngsters Charlie Carr, and Bob Dippy were promoted to starting role, and veteran Eddie Ferat was moved from a defensive slot into the role of offensive mainstay. Morganweck also signed Charlie Bossert who had starred for the Pennsylvania Wheelman of the Interstate League; the new combination produced five straight wins to open the season. The team gradually was muscled aside as the season progressed and eventually finished in fifth place. An inept Philadelphia squad finished last.
The Massachusetts League began its third season without last season’s two strongest teams, Marlboro BAA and Fitchburg. Both teams, while successful on the court, had not done well financially. Teams in Hudson, Millbury, Webster, Worcester and South Worcester returned to the fold. Two new teams were added in Lowell, a hotbed of enthusiastic and knowledgeable basketball fans. The two Lowell clubs led the league in attendance, with PAC drawing over 2,000 fans for some games, big numbers for turn of the century sports. The two new clubs brought energy and some fine young players into the Massachusetts League, but there was also a persistent antagonism between the Lowell teams and the rest of league that only worsened as the season went on.
Webster dominated the new season. The key to the success of the young team was former Fitchburg star Anthony Conlon. He was the best all-around player in the league, who was respected by his teammates and wildly popular with fans throughout the league. Holdover youngsters Stan Mathieu and Mike Thompson matured into fine players under Conlon’s guidance. Webster also signed Tom Davies, captain of the powerful Holyoke YMCA team and Mike Godley, an outstanding defender from Fitchburg to complete their squad.
South Worcester finished a distant second with a 21-19 record. Tom Horan was strong presence at center and 5’8”, 200 pound Ducky Holmes proved a substantial defensive presence in the backcourt. The Lowell Burkes finished third. They featured the league’s best offensive team behind the talented play of young stars Pete Regan and Slats Healy. The Lowell PAC began the season with a fine 10-4 mark, behind the play of Fatty Allard and 5’3” spark plug guard Bucky Halloran. The PAC’s season was disrupted, however, by a simmering feud between League president Fred Sawyer and Lowell PAC manager M.F. Sullivan that finally boiled over in mid-February. Sullivan, infuriated by Sawyer’s ruling on the signing of a disputed player, withdrew his team from the league. After much negotiation, Sullivan returned to the fold three weeks later, but the distracted PAC won only two more games the rest of the season.