1909-1910

Two new major league circuits began play this season, in direct competition with the established Central  Basketball League. From the ashes of the Philadelphia Basketball League rose the Eastern Basketball League, with teams in Trenton and Elizabeth, New Jersey, Reading, Pennsylvania, and three teams in Philadelphia.  Elizabeth lost its first seven games and quickly dropped out.  The league filled the void by signing the famous Paterson Crescents to represent Princeton, New Jersey. The Crescents were also members of the Hudson River Basketball League, another first-year organization.

Reading took the early season lead in the EBL, but Trenton doggedly pursued them. CBL veterans Winnie Kinkaide and Eddie Ferat took the leadership roles on the young Reading squad.  Trenton relied on the scoring wizardry of hometown star Harry Hough to keep pace in the league standings. His supporting cast included early National Basketball League luminaries such as Al Cooper, Charlie Klein, and Pete Riley.  During the last four weeks of the season, the two teams took turns in first place and finally finished the season tied. Trenton took three straight playoff games to finally claim the EBL championship.

The HRL, the other new circuit, enjoyed equal first-year success, sparked by a great race between two of the most famous teams of the era, the Paterson Crescents and the Troy Trojans. The Crescents were organized in 1902 and performed virtually intact for the next ten seasons.  The team depended on a well-balanced attack built around John McNabb, Harry Wallum, and big Frank Hill. The Trojans, who featured 6’2″ center Ed Wachter, his brother Lew, and Bill Hardman, had performed together for seven seasons.  Ed Wachter was a towering figure, physically and influentially, in professional basketball.  He was responsible for two important basketball innovations, the bounce pass and the fast break.  Before then, passing consisted of short tosses caught on the fly by the receivers.  The bounce pass introduced by Wachter’s Trojans was a major offensive breakthrough.

Paterson led the standings by a small margin for almost the entire season; however, the Crescents’ decision to also play in the Eastern League proved to be a mistake.  The strain of playing in two leagues simultaneously eventually took its toll, and Troy nosed them out at the wire. A late season game in Paterson was critical to the outcome of the season. At the end of the first half, the Crescents led 20-10, an enormous lead  in a low-scoring era. As the teams trotted onto the court for the start of the second half, some Paterson supporters prematurely unfurled a huge banner that proclaimed the Crescents as the 1910 champions of the Hudson River Basketball League. The Trojans responded to the premature celebration with fury, and proceeded to shut out Paterson in the second half to gain a 20-20 tie and then go on to win the game and the championship in overtime. Years later, Ed Wachter recalled the game as the most satisfying victory of his long career. The financial success of the HRL excelled any pro league to date largely due to playing in modern, comfortable state armories.  Crowds of over 4,000, considered huge at the time, attended some contests.

The CBL for the most part successfully withstood the encroachments of the new leagues.  The four-year-old circuit enjoyed its best season competitively and financially.  Some teams could even afford to build their own playing facilities. A well-balanced race contributed greatly to the league’s success.  Four teams were in the running until three weeks before the conclusion of the season. In the end, it narrowed to a race between the tall McKeesport Tubers, captained by Andy Sears, and the faster Johnstown Johnnies, led by veteran Bill Keenan. During the final week of the season, Johnstown was staggered by a homecourt loss to the torpid Uniontown club. The Johnnies saw their final aspirations for the championship disappear when they lost again at McKeesport, assuring the Tubers of the pennant. Greensburg, behind the outstanding play of Bill Kummer, finished third. Homestead, pennant holder last season, was handicapped by the loss of Bill Powell in a salary dispute, and had to settle for fourth place. Perennially powerful South Side was never a factor because of the defection of key performers Harry Hough and Bobby Mayham to the Eastern League.

CENTRAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE

EASTERN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

HUDSON RIVER BASKETBALL LEAGUE

MOHAWK VALLEY LEAGUE

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