1936-1937

Three teams stood out as pre-season favorites in the American Basketball League, the Brooklyn Visitation, the Jersey Reds, and the defending champion Philadelphia Sphas.  Owner John Donlin diligently prepared his Brooklyn roster for the new season by adding many talented new prospects including Nat Frankel and Allie Esposito. The Visitation, however, suffered a fatal blow just four games into the season when star Bobby McDermott quit the team to barnstorm with the Original Celtics.  With his departure, Brooklyn was through as a contender, leaving Philadelphia and Jersey to battle for the title.

Jersey won eight straight games to begin the first half of the split season before suffering its first loss in Philadelphia, but the Reds had built up enough of a first-half lead to withstand the Sphas’ challenge to their hold on first place.  In the second half, Jersey once again jumped off to a big early lead, but this time could not hold off the surging Sphas who came from behind to take first place.

The Reds jumped off to  a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven game championship series. Game five in Philadelphia was a microcosm of the ABL in the thirties. Thirty-five hundred fans saw  two fistfights between players, a club-wielding police intervention, brutally rough play (the Sphas’ Gil Fitch suffered a broken leg), , and forty-five minutes of first-rate action.  The Sphas led 27-17 early in the final period, before Jersey’s Moe Spahn scored 13 points, including a driving basket to tie the game at 33-all. Then with just a few seconds left in the game, the Sphas’ Cy Kaselman took a swan dive under the basket that drew a whistle from referee Chuck Solodare and howls of disbelief from the Reds.  Kaselman calmly sank the free throws to give the Sphas the win.  Philadelphia scored the first seven points of game six and then went on to upset the Reds on their homecourt in Union City to force a deciding seventh game back in Philadelphia.

The 4,000 fans that jammed the Broadwood Hotel court saw the Reds, led by Paulie Adamo, outplay the Sphas for most of the game.  Only extraordinary free shooting (18 for 20) kept the Sphas in the contest and allowed them to tie the game at the end of regulation time.  Two quick baskets by Red Rosan at the beginning of the extra period finally gave the Sphas control of the game and the cushion necessary to capture a narrow 44-43 victory for the championship.

The Midwest Conference dropped teams in Buffalo and Windsor, but reorganized for its second season by adding five company-owned teams: the Fort Wayne G.E. Electrics, Warren (Ohio) Penn Oilers, Columbus Athletic Supply, Whiting (Indiana) Cieser All-Americans, and a second team in Akron, the Goodyear Wingfoots.  The Goodyear team, already well-established as a Midwest industrial   basketball power, dominated the league, winning 16 of 18 contests. The Wingfoots were a well-rounded club with excellent depth. Standouts included fine defensive center Bob Cope, 6’2”, 220-pound forward Ray Morstadt, who powered his way for rebounds and playmaking guard Charlie Shipp. The Akron Firestone team suffered three straight defeats at the hands of its cross-town rival, but compiled a 13-2 record against the rest of the league to easily capture the second spot in the East behind Goodyear.

The defending Western Division titlist Indianapolis Kautskys, handicapped by the frequent absences of star Johnny Wooden because of his duties as a high school coach, were never a factor in the current race. The Dayton Metropolitans won the Western Division crown by two games over second place Fort Wayne, despite the late season desertion of star forward Leroy Edwards to the independent Oshkosh, Wisconsin team. Dayton and Fort Wayne split the first two games of the Western Division playoff, before Dayton forfeited the deciding game in an argument over box office receipts.  Goodyear easily downed the Firestones in two straight games to move on to the best-of-three game playoff final against the dark-horse Fort Wayne G.E.’s. The Goodyears opened at home with an easy 28-22 victory. In game two at Fort Wayne, the Goodyears fell behind 21-7 in the third quarter, before staging a miraculous rally in which they outscored the G.E.’s 20-3 to take the game and the league crown by a 27-24 margin.

AMERICAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

MIDWEST BASKETBALL CONFERENCE

PENNSYLVANIA STATE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

TRI-COUNTY BASKETBALL LEAGUE

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