1940s Pro Basketball History
The original Tri Cities Blackhawks, a professional team, played mainly in a variety of different stadiums, field houses and even high school gyms encompassing a couple hundred miles around the Chicago area. But also played against teams in Rochester and Syracuse and in Madison Square Garden in NY, vs the Boston Celtics, in the Chicago Stadium, the Convention Hall in Philadelphia.
The Tri Cities basketball team played just two seasons in the National Basketball League before merging into the newly formed National Basketball Association in 1949.
In the NBA’s inaugural season, 1949-50, Red Auerbach coached the Tri Cities Blackhawks to a 28-29 record. In a total of 19 seasons of coaching, Red Auerbach never had another losing record. And, his Boston Celtics of the NBA won 9 World Championships, including 8 straight, 1956-57, 1958-66.
NBA History by Basketball Historian
In Moline Illinois they played in the Wharton Field House which usually drew a full, noisy crowd of 6,000 fans, give-or-take a few hundred. In Wisconsin, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks played in high school gyms in the Sheboygan and Oshkosh areas, generally before a few 100 fans. In Waterloo and Sioux City Iowa the stadiums were newer and nicer and held around 3 or 4 thousand and usually were 3/4s full.
They also played in Fort Wayne Indiana where the players had to walk down to reach the court, the fans – they sat high.
Prior to the 1947 the Tri Cities team played in a tournament hosted by the now defunct Chicago Herald American Newspaper. The players were paid $400 plus expenses for two games, Wednesday and Sunday. If you advanced to Round 2 you collected $800, and the winning team’s players received $1,600, the runner up got $1,200. Nice money for this era. The Herald American tournament was advertised as having the top 8 pro teams in the country.
Start of the NBA by basketballhistorian.com
The life of a pro basketball player during the 1940s
John Ezersky played in NBL with NY Gothams and Tri Cities and in the NBA with Baltimore Bullets, Boston Celtics until 1950 and later with Wilkes-Barre thru 1952. Proudly served in US Military during World War II.
6 ft 3 inch Johnny Ezersky grew up during the 1930s depression in Washington Heights in NY and lived right around the corner
from baseball legend Lou Gehrig.
John Ezersky starred in baseball and basketball on a scholarship at Power Memorial High School, tried out with the Detroit Tigers baseball team along with Buddy Kerr, but Ezersky didn’t make the cut. Played pro basketball with Laurels, 1946, after serving in
Signed with the New York Gothams, 1946, and played against future Hall of Fame basketball star Dolph Schayes. ‘Probably the best player I ever seen,’ said John Ezersky, who also played against the Rochester Royals and Chuck Connors, who later starred on TV as ‘the Rifleman.’ ‘I covered Chuck Connors, who was a big guy with a bigger reputation,’ said Ezersky. ‘He was amazing though, an actor even then, the way he’d sit around bars and recite poems and stories.’ Note: Chuck Connors is listed in NBA record books as 6 ft 5 inches 190 pounds, played 3 years in NBA before joining the Chicago Cubs Baseball Team and then played the Rifleman. .
When John Ezersky played for the Tri Cities Blackhawks in 1947, he recalled, ‘when we trained all we got paid was meal money. We were so broke until we played in regular season games. And, the travel was bad. It was hard to sleep on the road, most of the hotel beds were too small for us.’
John Ezersky drove a cab during the off season and started driving full time in early 1950s after quitting Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League. ‘Drove in New York 30 years, and Howard Cosell flagged me down once on Central Park West near the ABC Studios,’ recalled Ezersky. ‘He opened the door, looked at me, and without batting an eye, said ‘John Ezersky, how have you been?’ ‘Later drove in San Francisco for over 15 years, and I’m still driving at age 74.’
Another time, I was in Chicago, and there was Sweetwater Clifton driving a cab,’ said John Ezersky. ‘He said to me, ‘John, we’re both gonna die behind the wheel of a cab,’ but he said it smiling.’
‘I defend players of today. We had no option, no free agency, and get no pension,’ stated John Ezersky. ‘They sent you a contract and it was take it or leave it. My second year with the Boston Celtics, they sent me the same contract as the first year. I sent it back unsigned, and I didn’t hear a word from them. When I called, I was told they assumed I didn’t want to play.’
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A quick moving guard, Bob Wanzer delighted Rochester Royals fans during his 10 year professional basketball career. Always hustling on offense and defense he averaged 12.2 points per game is an era of low scoring games years before the 24-second clock.
Bobby Wanzer played a major role in the successes of the Royals. He helped Rochester reach and play in the 1949-50 NBA Championship, eventually losing in 6 games to a George Mikan led Minneapolis Lakers. Then in 1950-51, with well-regarded teammates Bob Davies, Arnie Risen, and Jack Coleman the Royals defeated the New York Knicks in 7 games to win the NBA Crown.
Bobby Wanzer gained status among teammates and media and was chosen a NBA All-Star three consecutive seasons - 1951-1952, 1952-1953, 1953-1954, and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.