In the fall of 1906, Charles Powers, the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, spearheaded the formation of the Central Basketball League, the most ambitious professional basketball organization to date. The new league began play with five western Pennsylvania teams located in and around Pittsburgh and one team in the eastern Ohio community of East Liverpool.
Greensburg and East Liverpool established themselves as pre-season favorites by importing their entire squads from the talent-laden Philadelphia area. The four other teams, Butler, Homestead, McKeesport, and South Side, chose to begin the season with mostly local players. East Liverpool showcased a dazzling collection of stars. The offense featured Joe Fogarty, Snake Deal, and the multi talented Bill Keenan at center, while Eddie Ferat and Winnie Kinkaide menaced opposing players from their guard slots. Greenburg signed a strong squad of young Easterners, including Ed Toner, Ollie McLaughlin, and Kid Dark who had led the Philadelphia League in scoring the previous season.
In the early weeks of the season, East Liverpool and Greensburg dominated the locally-stocked teams. Former powerhouse South Side was the first of the remaining teams to upgrade their squad. They lured Harry Hough west with the highest salary ever paid a professional basketball player to that date, $300 a month, Hough’s impact on the race was immediate as he single-handedly pulled his team from fifth place into contention for the top spot. The race for the championship remained close until the last two weeks of the season, when the veteran East Liverpool squad pulled away from Greensburg and South Side to take the title.
The original thirty-game season proved so successful (and financially lucrative) that a second twenty-game season was added. By the beginning of play in the second half of the season, almost all of the teams had followed the example of East Liverpool and Greensburg by signing additional imported players. McKeesport dropped its entire original squad and signed the strong independent team from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, that featured Fred Mulliner, Allie Getzinger, and Charley O’Donnell. Homestead declined to participate in the second season and was replaced by a team from Canton, Ohio. With Harry Hough in charge from the beginning, South Side won 16 of 19 contests to quickly run away with the second season title. East Liverpool finished second, while the revitalized McKeesport club took third.
A playoff between the high-scoring first-half champion East Liverpool and the accomplished defenses of second-half champion South Side never materialized because of a dispute over referees and playoff shares. Despite this disappointment, the Central League’s initial campaign was a tremendous success financially. Attendance figures were the highest yet to be seen in the pro game. Crowds of 1500-2000 were common occurrences with games between the powerful South Side and East Liverpool clubs frequently drawing over 3,000 fans. For the first time an entire league was stocked with players employed as basketball players on a full-time basis.
The new Central League made serious inroads into the player pool of the five-year-old Philadelphia League. Defending champion De Neri was stripped of its best players by the upstart league. The powerful Conshohocken squad, which had dropped out of the league last season to tour, returned to the fold. The Iron Men, featuring high-scoring Steve White and defensive star Bill Herron, won the title. Manayunk was runner up for the second year in a row.