1907-1908

The Central League began its second season with an ambitious 70-game schedule. Butler and Canton dropped out, while the Homestead team, which had sat out the second half of the prior season, rejoined holdovers East Liverpool, Greensberg, McKeesport, and South Side.  The teams engaged in a bidding war for the best players from throughout the East.  Harry Hough’s $300 per month salary, considered outrageous just ten months earlier, had become the standard payment for the league’s top players.  With salaries soaring to such unheard of amounts, the Central League managed to complete its sweep of all the of East’s best professional players.

The all-star East Liverpool club, touted as the overwhelming pre-season favorite, performed poorly in the early going when Eddie Ferat reported woefully out of shape and Bill Keenan was slowed by a knee injury.  Quick to take advantage of East Liverpool’s problems was archrival South Side.  Owner John Freund had spent freely to surround his star Harry Hough with a strong supporting cast. He signed veteran Fred Mulliner off the McKeesport roster, and lured Bobby Mayham, an outstanding defensive player, from De Neri of the Philadelphia League. In addition, he retained sharp shooting Jimmy Kane, and the two best local players in the league, Harry Liebau and Henry Nickel.  South Side won ten of its first eleven games, and jumped out to a big lead to rein on top of the standings during the first two months of the campaign. A late-season injury to Hough sapped the team of its strength and they slipped to second place behind hard-charging East Liverpool.

After slumbering through half the season, East Liverpool’s veterans pulled together and played virtually flawless basketball, winning twenty of twenty-one games during the last month of the prolonged season. Three members of the squad, Joe Fogerty, Winnie Kinkaide and Eddie Ferat were at the pinnacles of their outstanding careers. The remarkable threesome now had teamed together on seven consecutive championship teams in five leagues: Camden, 1902-03 National League; Springfield, 1903-04 Western Massachusetts League; South Framingham, 1903-04 New England League; Natick, 1904-05 New England League; De Neri, 1905-06 Philadelphia League; East Liverpool, 1906-07; and the current 1907-08 title.

Third place remained in doubt until the last two weeks of the season when Homestead, built around young star Roy Steele, pulled away from Greensburg.  McKeesport finished a distant fifth.

The Central League’s second season saw professional basketball raised to new heights.  The game on the court was far and away the best quality basketball that had been exhibited anywhere to that point in the history of the game.  Fans were thrilled by the well-played, fast-paced contests, but looming over the success story was the heavy burden of huge payrolls that menaced the circuits’ future. The champion East Liverpool squad was a big money loser despite all its accomplishments on the court.

For the second time in three years, Conshohocken dropped out to perform as a touring after winning the Philadelphia League championship. A new club, representing the Germantown district of the city, took the title.  With all the best players performing in the west, the diluted quality of talent in the league was evident in the new champions, who featured youngsters just out of the amateur ranks, with journeymen veterans such as Al Glassey, John Featherstone, and Ivan Loos.

Central League champion East Liverpool rounded off its season by crushing Philadelphia League champion Germantown in a series of games in Philadelphia, further confirming the vast disparity between the two leagues.

CENTRAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE

PHILADELPHIA BASKETBALL LEAGUE

SCHUYKILL VALLEY BASKETBALL LEAGUE

© Pro Basketball Encyclopedia 2017