Monday, January 8, 2018

Milestone #7 - American Basketball League I

As the 1930-31 ABL season wore on, the Great Depression was really taking a bite out of attendance. Despite the rapidly declining revenue and the withdrawal of one the most prominent and financially viable clubs in the the league (the Cleveland Rosenblums), in February of 1931 the ABL announced plans to expand to 16 teams for the 1931-32 season, with eight teams in the Eastern U.S. and eight teams in the Midwest. However, this would never come to be. The Depression deepened in the spring of 1931, and the ABL ceased operations shortly thereafter. The teams would join lesser leagues, stay independent or even fold. The idea of a grand national professional league was dead, as the sport struggled in the 1930's and remained largely regional. It wasn't until the Basketball Association of America formed in 1946 that the attempt for a truly national basketball league would come to fruition.

John O'Brien started the Metropolitan League in 1931, which played a limited schedule and featured teams around the New York City area. The league limped through two seasons, and in 1933 O'Brien was able to convince the Eastern League's two best teams, the Philadelphia Hebrew Associations (SPHA's) and the Trenton Moose, and the independent Newark Bears, to join with five Metropolitan teams to form a new ABL. Smaller in scope than the first ABL, it still managed to attract the best players in the country and was the highest-caliber basketball in the professional ranks. Players at this time were still trying to scrape by, and many would not only play in the ABL, but also with other clubs in leagues the Pennsylvania League and the Eastern League.

This second incarnation of the ABL is referred to in this blog as ABL-II. I will keep the two separate despite a lot of common ties. I have also found that newspaper coverage of this league was pretty sparse at the onset, so there may be lots of changes and updates to information along the way.

As for ABL-I, here are the numbers for the six season run:

Number of ABL-I players:  274
Unidentified/unknown whereabouts:28
Surviving ABL-I players: 0. If one of the 28 unknown players is still alive, they would be at least 107 years old. Not likely at all.

Of the 274 players, 28 players (10.22%) lived to see the age of 90. 22 men (8.03%) died before the age of 50. (Numbers could obviously change as unknown players get identified.

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