Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

Basketball Cages

June 29, 2021

While reviewing the chapter on the 1908 season from my upcoming book on the complete history of the Carlisle Indian School football team, my wife thought Warner having the football team practice in the basketball cage seemed strange. What was a basketball cage anyway? I had often wondered that myself. As a boy, I would check the local newspaper’s, the Alton Evening Telegraph, “Cage Schedule” to find when the high school basketball games were being played. Much later I learned that basketball games were once played in cages. Of course that meant little to me.

To better answer Ann’s question, a little research quickly found that basketball was once played in 12-feet-tall wire mesh cages that surrounded the courts. Players complained of having tic tac toe  grids imprinted on their bodies from being slammed into the cages. Later, rope mesh replaced the metal, probably because they cost less. But why did they need to cage the players away from spectators?

We have to go back to basketball’s roots. It was invented in 1891 by James Naismith to fill the gap between the end of football season and the beginning of baseball season. In Springfield, Massachusetts where the game was created, only indoor sports were practical that time of the year. Naismith borrowed some rules from other sports, including football’s then out-of-bounds rules. In football, the ball is fumbled out of bounds relatively infrequently but errant and tipped passed are common in the roundball game.

The first few rows of basketball spectators sat just outside the out-of-bounds lines, which meant that players routinely tussled with opponents and fans, who were partisans of one team or the other, for the ball. This quickly became unacceptable to basketball officials, who solved the problem by erecting cages. Why differing from football on out-of-bounds rules wasn’t considered is anybody’s guess.

Mannie Jackson

February 17, 2021

While watching a basketball game on the Big 10 network—my wife went to Michigan and I went to Indiana for grad school—when a name crawled across the bottom of the screen that caught my eye: Mannie Jackson. The reason his name grabbed my attention is because he played in the first basketball game I ever saw. The game was the culmination of March Madness. Our high school, Edwardsville, was playing defending champion Rockford West in the Illinois state championship game and the game was broadcast on television. We lived in a village of 150 people and the elementary school we attended was one of several feeding the junior and senior high schools in the consolidated district. About all I remember from the game was a Rockford West player making free throws and our cheerleaders crying when our team lost the state championship 67-65. The first time I saw a game in person was in junior high when I played bass clarinet in the school’s pep band. I don’t remember much from it beside the noise we could make stomping our feet on the wooden floor and Betty Van Winkle poking me in the back with her trombone slide, saying, “Sit up straight. Don’t slump.”

I recall reading where Mannie Jackson and teammate Governor Vaughn played for the University of Illinois along with Don Ohl, who was two years ahead of them in high school. I had no idea that he and Vaughn were the first black players to play on the Illinois varsity. I vaguely recall reading that Mannie was playing for the Globetrotters some time after graduating from college but had no idea what he accomplished after that. Mannie Jackson’s life story is absolutely amazing and can easily be found on the internet.

Here is a link to the video from the 1956 championship game: 1956 IHSA Boys Basketball Championship Game: Rockford (West) vs. Edwardsville (H.S.) – Bing video

Yet Another Eagle Feather

July 9, 2016

Dennis Hildebrand 1924

After the dissolution of the Oorang Indians NFL team after the 1923 season, Eagle Feather’s name next appeared with Jim Thorpe’s in a December 18, 1927 article in The Sunday Repository out of Canton, Ohio.  This Eagle Feather was playing on Jim Thorpe’s World Famous Indians basketball team. The article discussed an upcoming game with the local Orphans team that consisted of former college and high school stars. Something different about this article was that it gave two names for the WFI players. Jim Thorpe was Bright Path, Nick Lassaw was Long Time Sleep, and Dennis Hildebrand was Eagle Feather. Could Dennis Hildebrand be the same Eagle Feather who played football with Thorpe on the Oorang Indians NFL team?

Since The Sunday Repository piece listed Hildebrand/Eagle Feather as having attended Haskell Institute, that institution would be a likely place to look for him.  The World-Herald of January 12, 1924 featured a photo of the Haskell basketball team. Dennis Hildebrand was one of the eight Haskell players dressed in the school’s basketball uniforms in the photo. Another was the famous football star John Levi, who played center on the basketball team. Articles written while Eagle Feather played for the Thorpe’s WFI said he was captain of the 1925 Haskell hoops squad and was a North Carolina Cherokee native of Oklahoma. (The 1905 census listed him as having been born in Oklahoma but living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona.) The December 21, 1927 edition of The Canton Daily News claimed that Hildebrand had attended Indiana University not Haskell. The Daily News was clearly wrong about him not attending Haskell because his playing on that team is clearly documented. But did he also play for IU at some point? Finding out if he did or not is my next task.

*** UPDATE ***

Mary Mellon of the Indiana University Archives responded to my inquiry about Dennis Hildebrand:

I’ve checked into your question about Dennis Hildebrand. The IU registrar’s office has no record of him attending IU, which would have been a requirement to play for the basketball team. There’s also a handy online IU basketball database:

Although it covers the years Hildebrand might have played college basketball, neither version of his name appears.



No Super Bowls for Carlisle Indians

February 2, 2009

Carlisle Indian School football players retired from football decades before Super Bowl I in 1967. In fact, many, including Jim Thorpe and Lone Star Dietz, if not the majority, were already dead. The closest tie to either of this year’s competitors: the Cardinals and the Steelers, is that Jim Thorpe played for the Cardinals in 1928. Thorpe was over 40 then and came out of retirement, after hanging up his cleats at the end of the 1927 season as player-coach of the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels, for what was probably the last time to help the hapless 1-4 Cardinals in a Thanksgiving charity game against their cross-town rivals, the Bears. Big Jim was well past his prime and didn’t play much in this 34-0 pasting, their fifth shutout loss of the year and third in six days. Thanksgiving Day games didn’t replace a Sunday game in those days, they were just inserted into the schedules. The Cardinals lost to Frankfort 10-0 on Saturday, November 24, 19-0 to the New York Yankees the next day, and closed out their season on Thursday, November 29 against the Bears. Thorpe didn’t have enough left in his tank to help a team that gave up 63 unanswered points in these three games.

The Chicago Cardinals were a charter member of the NFL, which originally called itself the American Professional Football Association, but weren’t the Chicago Cardinals in 1920 when the league was first formed. The oldest and losingest team in the league traces its roots back to a sandlot team in Chicago before the turn of the last century. The team claimed its name in 1901 when, a derisive description of his team’s faded maroon jerseys that had been surplussed by the University of Chicago, caused team owner Chris O’Brien to spin that lighter color into cardinal red. They have been the Cardinals ever since. At the time the pro league was formed they were known as the Racine Cardinals because they were located on Racine Street. In 1960 they moved to St. Louis and in 1988 to Arizona. Along the way they won two championships, but one, for 1925, is disputed by the Pottsville Maroons faithful. Thorpe didn’t have much time to think about the loss because his All-Indian basketball team started its season on December 2 against the Detroit Tool Shop Club.