1914-1915

The Eastern Basketball League continued to prosper, buoyed by still another thrilling pennant race, this time with Reading and Camden playing to draw after forty games. Both clubs received help from unexpected sources. Horse Haggerty, in his second year with Reading, emerged as the league’s best center after an awkward rookie season, while young Neil Deighen played a key role in Camden’s success, after being plucked from obscurity in a local city league.

Reading displayed its usual strong defense, as well as an improved offense. The Bears received a boost from the play of young Haggerty, a 6’4”, 225-pound bulldozer, who excelled at center taps and rebounding and proved surprisingly adroit at handling the ball. His play was particularly beneficial to Andy Sears, who as usual had to shoulder most of the scoring burden. Camden unleashed its perennially strong offense, featuring shooting stars Jackie Adams, Jimmy Brown, and Eddie Dolin. The key element to the Jerseymen’s success, however, remained Roy Steele, the league’s best all-around player. He excelled at passing and dribbling and almost single-handedly forced his offensive-minded teammates into playing some defense. His task was eased significantly by the mid-season replacement of veteran Bill Herron by rookie Neil Deighen who showed considerable skill as a defender.

Trenton added former New York State League star Kid Franckle to its veteran team. Some of the key performers were starting to get creaky with age, however, and the New Jersey team could only break even in forty games and managed a disappointing third place finish. Despite finishing two games back in fourth place, perpetual loser Greystock, by contrast, looked like a team on the way to a brighter future. Buoyed by the acquisition of Lou Sugarman, a good scorer and valuable all-around floor man, the Grays had their best record in three seasons. De Neri jumped off to an early season lead, but soon drifted into the erratic pattern of play that had marked last year’s club. An injury to center Bill Keenan vanquished any hope of recovery and the once powerful Joe Fogerty and Winnie Kinkaide combination slinked home in fifth place for the second year in a row. Defending champion Jasper slid from the top to the bottom of the standings in just one season, destroyed by the retirement of Dutch Wohlfarth and the mid-season defection of Bill Kummer to a minor league team near his home in western Pennsylvania.

The major disappointment to an otherwise successful Eastern Basketball League season was the impasse that brought the playoff between Camden and Reading to a halt without the championship being settled. After exchanging home court victories, Reading refused to play anymore because of a dispute over the allotment of tickets to the scheduled third and deciding game of the series. The situation highlighted an intrinsic weakness of professional leagues of this era, when league officials possessed little real authority over members. Too often arrangements of schedules and dates were left in the hands of the individual clubs, often with disastrous results.

The New York State Basketball League ran aground in early January of 1915 due to financial difficulties. Two new six-team leagues were formed in the northeast coal-mining region of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Basketball League and the Inter-County Basketball League. The PSL teams signed the majority of the top players in the region, plus a sprinkling of Eastern and New York State League veterans. Pittston, powered by hometown stars Will Clarke and Merle Harris along with Bernie Dunn, a a powerfully built 20-year old rookie embarking on a seventeen year pro career, dominated the PSL. By mid-season, crowds of over 2,000 filled the Pittston Armory to capacity while Wilkes-Barre packed the Main Street Armory with over 3,000 fans for games, numbers that rivaled some major league baseball teams of the era. Pittston easily won the PSL championship with an 18-2 record and finished 31-3 overall for the season including a win over Camden, the EBL co-champion.

The InterCounty Basketball League, with far inferior talent to the PSL,  remained in the background until late January when Carbondale signed two of  the very best players in pro basketball,  Barney Sedran and Marty Friedman, the stars of Utica team of the New York State League until its collapse earlier in the month. Playing under the Carbondale banner, the “heavenly twins” completed a remarkable string of thirty-five straight victories in Inter-County League and exhibition games. The streak finally ended with an early April loss suffered when Sedran was absent to attend his mother’s funeral in New York City. Carbondale faced off against PSL champion Pittston in a post-season championship. All the games were hotly contested, well-played exhibitions of basketball, but the scoring wizardry of Sedran led Carbondale to three straight victories.

During the 1914-15 season, three strong Northeast teams, the Troy Trojans, The New York Nationals and the Oswego Indians crisscrossed through the Midwest overwhelming all opponents. The Trojans went undefeated, the Nationals lost only once, while the Indians lost just a handful of games. The Oswego Indians where the brainchild of Herkimer, New York promoter Frank Basloe who had sponsored touring teams since 1904. His “Indians” traveled to the Midwest every year from 1913 through 1923 with the exception of a two year hiatus during WWI. Basloe’s best players were Jimmy Murname, Jack Nolls and Swede Grimstead. The New York Nationals had previously visited the Midwest in 1912 and 1913. The New York City-based Nationals featured Dick Smyth, Gerry Schmeelk and future Hall of Famer Elmer Ripley.

Unlike the Indians and Nationals, Troy had never previously toured beyond upstate New York and some nearby New England states. Following the suspension of the New York State League, the Trojans embarked on a twenty-nine game barnstorming trip that took them as far west as Billings, Montana. The Trojans were without their best player, Ed Wachter, who did not make the trip, but nevertheless showcased an elite roster that included some of the best players of the era: Jack Inglis, Andy Suils and Chief Muller. Troy handily won every game with the exception of two close calls, a one-point victory over a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin team and two-point victory over a team in Chasta, Minnesota. Fond du Lac Company E was a regional powerhouse featuring George Fogarty, widely considered the best player in the Midwest. The 25-year-old Brooklyn-born Fogarty had first arrived in Wisconsin in 1908 as a member of the New York Tammany Hall squad, one of the first touring teams to venture into the Midwest. Fogarty was famed for his dribbling skills and pinpoint bounce passes.

 

EASTERN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

INTERCOUNTY BASKETBALL LEAGUE

INTERSTATE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

NEW YORK STATE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

PENNSYLVANIA STATE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA BASKETBALL LEAGUE

© Pro Basketball Encyclopedia 2017