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ABL PLAYOFFS, 1926 and 1927 
by John Hogrogian
The American Basketball League was the premier professional circuit
for six seasons between 1925 and 1931. Most of the best professional
teams and players played in the league during that time. Just as in
today’s NBA, a post-season playoff determined the ABL championship.
I hope to discuss all six playoffs in the future.
1925-26
In the ABL’s first season, eight teams completed a thirty-game league
schedule, divided into a sixteen-game first half and a fourteen-game
second half. The Brooklyn Arcadians and the Washington Palace Five
represented the East Coast, the Rochester Centrals and the Buffalo
Bisons represented upstate New York, and the Cleveland Rosenblums, the
Ft. Wayne Caseys, the Detroit Pulaski Post Five, and the Chicago Bruins
represented the Midwest. The Boston Whirlwinds competed in the first
half and then were expelled from the league. Operating outside the ABL
were the Original Celtics, the New York Renaissance, and the Philadelphia
Sphas, all outstanding independents that would have been championship
contenders had they joined the league.
In the ABL’s first half race, the Brooklyn Arcadians finished first with
a 12-4 record, edging out Washington (11-5) and Cleveland (10-6). In the
second half race, the Rosenblums won their first eight games and captured
first place with a 13-1 record. The Arcadians dropped to fourth place
with a 7-7 record, perhaps complacent after locking up a post-season
playoff berth. The five-game ABL championship playoff pitted the
Cleveland Rosenblums against the Brooklyn Arcadians. 
CLEVELAND ROSENBLUMS
23-7 : 868 PF, 691 PA : Marty Friedman 
                  Pos Hgt   Wgt Age  College
Nat Hickey         F  5’11  190  26  none
Carl Husta         F  5’11  176  23  none
Rich Deighan       C  6’3   200      none
Honey Russell      G  5’11  187  22  none
Dave Kerr          G  6’2   195  30  none
Len Sheppard       G                 none
Marty Friedman     F  5’8   165  36  none
Walter Guenther*   F                 Springfield
Abe Schreiber      G                 Ohio Northern
Gil Ely@           C                 Michigan 
* = from Boston
@ = from Detroit, playoffs only 
             G  FG  FT  PTS  AVG  HI  
Russell     30  68  80  216  7.2  22
Hickey      30  68  62  198  6.6  15
Husta       30  50  68  168  5.6  14
Deighan     29  35  55  125  4.3  11
Sheppard    23  19  27   65  2.8  11
Kerr        24  21  13   55  2.3  10
Friedman    16  10   2   22  1.4   6
Guenther     7   7   5   19  2.7   6
Schreiber    1   0   0    0  0.0   0 
BROOKLYN ARCADIANS
19-11 : 882 PF, 800 PA : Garry Schmeelk 
                  Pos Hgt   Wgt Age  College
Red Conaty*        F  5’11  160  21  none
Rody Cooney*       F  5’8   140  23  none
Joe Wallace        C  6’4   200  24  Dickinson
Elmer Ripley       G  5’8   170  34  none
Buddy Bushman      G  6’    170  22  none
Rusty Saunders@    F  6’2   205  19  none
Garry Schmeelk     F  6’    220  34  none
Tubby Raskin       G  5’8   160  24  CCNY
George Glasco@     F  5’11  150  24  none
Tillie Voss#       C  6’3   204  26  Detroit
Waite Hoyt         F  6’    180  26  none
Horse Haggerty*    C  6’4   225  32  none 
* = from Washington
@ = to Washington
# = from Rochester 
             G  FG  FT  PTS  AVG  HI
Ripley      30  59  96  214  7.1  19
Conaty      22  57  33  147  6.7  14
Wallace     22  37  29  103  4.7   9
Bushman     29  29  39   97  3.3   8
Cooney      20  28  40   96  4.8  13
Saunders     8  19  23   61  7.6  14
Schmeelk    15  18  12   48  3.2  18
Raskin      18  13  20   46  2.6   8
Glasco       8  12  19   43  5.4  10
Voss         6   8  10   26  4.3   9
Hoyt         1   0   1    1  1.0   1
Haggerty     2   0   0    0  0.0   0 
Game one of the championship series took place at the Public Auditorium
in Cleveland on Wednesday evening, April 7, 1926. About nine thousand
fans attended despite bad weather. The teams played two forty-minute
halves, the standard for all ABL games. Although Cleveland led in the
early going, Brooklyn led 22-19 at halftime. A report in the Washington
Post stated that, for the last eight minutes of the first half, "the
Brooklyns showed more speed and a better offense and managed to break
through the Cleveland guard at opportune times, sending one or two long
shots through the meshes, and being especially efficient in passing."
In the second half, Elmer Ripley hit a long shot soon after the opening
tip. Rody Cooney’s "nifty shot from the side" a few minutes later put
Brooklyn ahead 27-19. Five minutes into the half, Honey Russell scored
from the floor and ignited a Cleveland rally. The Rosenblums methodically
took a 33-30 lead with three minutes left to play. As the Post described
it, Brooklyn’s Elmer Ripley "broke through the Cleveland defense and
caged a long one that put his team within one point of tying, and a
minute later the classy Flatbush guard counted one from the foul line
that evened the count" at 33-33. The Rosies worked the ball and, with
seconds left, got it inside to 6’3 center Rich Deighan. At the buzzer,
the silver-haired Deighan sank a game-winning basket in traffic. His free
throw after time expired made the final score 36-33 in favor of the
Rosenblums.
According to the 1926 Reach Official Basket Ball Guide, "Hickey played
one of the best games of his career. Time and again, this fleet-footed
forward made his way through the Brooklyn defense and added to his team’s
score. Cooney and Ripley stood out in the Brooklyn lineup, while Conaty
and Voss also contributed in a large measure to the New Yorkers’ showing."
Game One Boxscore
Brooklyn     FG FT PT   Cleveland    FG FT PT
Conaty,lf     1  4  6   Husta, lf     2  2  6
Cooney, rf    2  6 10   Hickey, rf    3  6 12
Voss, c       1  4  6   Deighan, c    1  5  7
Bushman, rg   0  1  1   Kerr, lg      2  0  4
Ripley, lg    3  4 10   Russell, rg   3  1  7
Wallace, c    0  0  0
Schmeelk, lf  0  0  0 
Brooklyn   22 11 - 33
Cleveland  19 17 - 36 
While the first game was close, the second game was a blow-out. About ten
thousand fans attended the game in the Public Auditorium on Thursday
evening, April 8. The Post reported that the Rosenblums beat the Arcadians
37-21 "in a one-sided and very listless game." The Rosies scored the first
seven points of the game and led 23-9 at halftime. According to the Post,
"Cleveland’s guarding and checking was nothing short of a miracle." The
Reach Guide called Rich Deighan "the defensive star" of the game. Cleveland
maintained its lead in the second half and finished the game with its four
substitutes on the floor.
Game Two Boxscore
Brooklyn     FG FT PT   Cleveland    FG FT PT
Cooney, lf    2  4  8   Hickey, lf    3  6 12
Conaty, rf    1  0  2   Husta, rf     3  1  7
Voss, c       0  2  2   Deighan, c    3  4 10
Bushman, rg   0  2  2   Russell, rg   2  0  4
Ripley, lg    1  2  4   Kerr, lg      1  2  4
Wallace, c    1  1  3   Guenther, lf  0  0  0
                        Friedman, rf  0  0  0
                        Ely, c        0  0  0
                        Sheppard, lg  0  0  0 
Brooklyn    9 12 - 21
Cleveland  23 14 - 37 
On Friday evening, April 9, the Rosenblums and Arcadians faced off in
the 71st Regiment Armory, located on Park Avenue between 33rd and 34th
Streets in midtown Manhattan in New York City. The Arcadians usually
played their home games in Arcadia Hall (capacity about 2,500) in
Brooklyn. A disappointingly-small crowd of about 2,000 fans assembled
in the much larger Armory and saw a very close contest. At one point of
the first half, Brooklyn led 9-4, but Cleveland came back to lead 11-10
at the intermission. In the second half, the teams traded the lead back
and forth. With eight minutes left to play, the Rosenblums led 19-18.
Cleveland then froze the ball for about four minutes until Red Conaty
stole it and scored to put Brooklyn ahead 20-19. Carl Husta quickly
scored twice from the floor to put the Rosies ahead 23-20. The Arcadians
closed the gap to 23-22 on a basket by Rody Cooney with one minute to
play. With a few seconds on the clock, Conaty went to free throw line
for one shot on a foul by Husta. Conaty missed the shot, Cleveland won
23-22, and the first ABL championship went to Cleveland. Despite the
absence of the Celtics, Rens, and Sphas from the league, the Rosenblums
had a creditable claim to the world championship of professional
basketball.
Game Three Boxscore
Cleveland   FG FT PT   Brooklyn     FG FT PT
Husta, lf    3  1  7   Cooney, lf    1  3  5
Hickey, rf   2  4  8   Schmeelk, rf  1  1  3
Deighan, c   0  0  0   Voss, c       0  1  1
Kerr, lg     0  2  2   Conaty, lg    2  2  6
Russell, rg  3  0  6   Ripley, rg    1  5  7
                       Bushman, rf   0  0  0 
Cleveland  11 12 - 23
Brooklyn   10 12 - 22 
Playoff Statistics (Total) 
Cleveland 
             G FG  FT PTS  AVG  HI
Hickey       3  8  16  32 10.7  12
Husta        3  8   4  20  6.7   7
Russell      3  8   1  17  5.7   7
Deighan      3  4   9  17  5.7  10
Kerr         3  3   4  10  3.3   4
Sheppard     1  0   0   0  0.0   0
Friedman     1  0   0   0  0.0   0
Guenther     1  0   0   0  0.0   0
Ely          1  0   0   0  0.0   0 
Brooklyn 
             G FG  FT PTS  AVG  HI
Cooney       3  5  13  23  7.7  10
Ripley       3  5  11  21  7.0  10
Conaty       3  4   6  14  4.7   6
Voss         3  1   7   9  3.0   6
Bushman      3  0   3   3  1.0   2
Schmeelk     2  1   1   3  1.5   3
Wallace      2  1   1   3  1.5   3
1926-27
Competition in the ABL went up a notch in the league’s second season.  The
Original Celtics joined the league, and so, in a way, did the Philadelphia
Sphas. The ABL began the season with nine teams, but Detroit dropped out
after six games. The Cleveland Rosenblums, Ft. Wayne Hoosiers, and Chicago
Bruins were the ABL outposts in the Midwest. The Buffalo Bisons left the
league after the first season, but the Rochester Centrals continued to
represent upstate New York.
Of the four eastern teams this season, only the Washington Palace Five
returned from the first season. A new team named the Orioles set up shop in
Baltimore. Eddie Gottlieb, the managerial force behind the Sphas, shut that
team down and entered the ABL with a new Philadelphia team called the
Warriors. Two stars of the 1925-26 Sphas, Chick Passon and Tom Barlow,
played for the Warriors. Another star of the Sphas, Dave Banks, joined the
Original Celtics. The Celtics started the 1926-27 season as independents,
but they joined the ABL as the Brooklyn representative after the Brooklyn
Rockets went 0-5 and went out of business. After making the ABL
championship series in 1926, the Brooklyn Arcadians moved out of Arcadia
Hall, assumed a new name, lost Red Conaty and Rody Cooney to the Brooklyn
Visitations of the Metropolitan League, and lost Elmer Ripley and Tillie
Voss to the Washington Palace Five.
As it did last year, the ABL used a split schedule format. In the first
half race, Cleveland (17-4) edged Washington (16-5) by one game. Champions
of the ABL last year, the Rosenblums beat the Palace Five twice in January
to win first place. The Rosies had three stars in Nat Hickey, Carl Husta,
and Honey Russell. After assuming the Rockets’ 0-5 record, the Celtics went
13-3 in the first half to finish in fourth place with a 13-8 mark.
In the second half of the schedule, the Celtics asserted their dominance
with a 19-2 record. The Celtics had perhaps the league’s best overall
player in Nat Holman and perhaps its best center in Joe Lapchick. The other
starters were Dutch Dehnert, Dave Banks, and Pete Barry, with Chris Leonard
the sixth man and manager Johnny Whitty available to play in an emergency.
Scoring ace Johnny Beckman played with the Celtics in the first half of the
season, but he then left to become the coach and star player of the
Baltimore team. The Cleveland Rosenblums stumbled to a 9-12 record in the
second half, smarting from the loss of Honey Russell. Team owner Max
Rosenblum had a personal falling-out with Russell and sold his contract to
the Chicago Bruins. The Rosies finished ten games behind the Celtics in the
second half race, a disquieting fact as the two teams met in the ABL
championship series. 
BROOKLYN ORIGINAL CELTICS
32-10 (actually, 32-5) : Johnny Whitty 
                  Pos Hgt   Wgt Age  College
Davey Banks        F  5’8   150  25  none
Dutch Dehnert      F  6’    185  28  none
Joe Lapchick       C  6’5   175  26  none
Nat Holman         G  5’11  160  30  Savage
Pete Barry         G  5’10  170  30  none
Chris Leonard      G  6’    180  36  Manhattan
Johnny Beckman also played (to Baltimore in Feb.) 
             G  FG   FT  PTS  AVG  
Holman      34  82  135  299  8.8  
Banks       36  76   94  246  6.8  
Lapchick    32  35  131  201  6.3  
Barry       35  59   59  177  5.1  
Dehnert     37  46   78  170  4.6  
Leonard     17  11   11   33  1.9   
CLEVELAND ROSENBLUMS
26-16 : Marty Friedman 
                  Pos Hgt   Wgt Age  College
Nat Hickey         F  5’11  190  27  none
Gil Ely            F                 Michigan
Rich Deighan       C  6’3   200      none
Carl Husta         G  5’11  176  24  none
Dave Kerr          G  6’2   195  31  none
Cookie Cunningham  C  6’3   210  22  Ohio State
Lloyd Kintzing     G                 none
Red Skurnick       F                 none
Marty Friedman     G  5’8   165  37  none 
Honey Russell (to Chicago in Feb.), Vincent, and Olszewski also played. 
             G   FG   FT  PTS  AVG  
Hickey      41  103  137  343  8.4  
Husta       41   84  162  330  8.0  
Ely         22   38   46  122  5.5  
Kerr        38   38   41  117  3.1  
Dieghan     32   25   52  102  3.2  
Cunningham  21   25   33   83  4.0  
Kintzing     7   12   17   41  5.9  
Skurnick     4    3    5   11  2.8  
Friedman     6    0    2    2  0.3 
The first game of the best-of-five series was played in the Public
Auditorium in Cleveland on Wednesday evening, April 6. The crowd was
estimated as almost 10,000 (Philadelphia Inquirer), 8,000 (Brooklyn Eagle),
or 7,000 (Washington Post). The teams staged a defensive battle in which
over two-thirds of the points came from the free-throw line. The Celtics
started slowly, misfiring on passes and botching inside shots. Dave Kerr
inspired the Rosies in the early going with a successful set shot from
midcourt. Cleveland let 8-3 in the middle of the first half, but the
Celtics struggled back to a 14-14 tie at halftime. In the second half, the
Brooklyn defense allowed no points from the field and only seven from the
line. The Celtics scored 15 points in the second half to win the game by
the score of 29-21. Nat Holman led the Celtics in scoring and frequently
intercepted Cleveland passes. Of the 29 Brooklyn points, 21 resulted from
free throws. Of the 21 Cleveland points, 15 resulted from free throws.
Game One Boxscore
Brooklyn     FG FT-AT PT   Cleveland     FG FT-AT PT
Barry, lf     0  2-3   2   Kerr, lf       1  2-3   4
Banks, rf     0  2-2   2   Ely, rf        0  1-3   1
Lapchick, c   1  8-9  10   Cunningham, c  0  2-3   2
Holman, lg    2  7-8  11   Hickey, lg     1  3-5   5
Dehnert, rg   1  2-3   4   Husta, rg      1  6-8   8
                           Deighan, c     0  1-1   1
                           Kintzing, rf   0  0-0   0 
Brooklyn  14 15 - 29
Cleveland 14  7 - 21 
For game two on April 7, about 6,000 fans assembled in the Public
Auditorium. The Rosenblums again played their best at the beginning,
holding an 8-2 lead after about ten minutes of play. The Celtics pulled
themselves together and took a 13-11 lead at halftime. In the second half,
the Celtics again took charge and ran to a 28-20 victory. The Washington
Post reported that Pete Barry was the second-half star, as he "eluded Nat
Hickey in the second period for three field goals in quick succession,
difficult twist shots while traveling at full speed under the basket."
Despite his defensive lapses, Hickey led Cleveland by scoring 13 of his
team’s total of 20 points. The Post observed that "the Rosenblums played
like school boys in the last half as the Celtics started pulling away from
them." 
Game Two Boxscore
Brooklyn     FG FT-AT PT   Cleveland      FG FT-AT PT
Banks, rf     2  1-2   5   Ely, rf         0  3-5   3
Barry, lf     3  3-3   9   Kerr, lf        0  1-2   1
Lapchick, c   1  2-3   4   Dieghan, c      0  0-0   0
Dehnert, rg   1  3-4   5   Husta, rg       0  3-5   3
Holman, lg    2  1-1   5   Hickey, lg      5  3-3  13
                           Cunningham, lg  0  0-0   0 
Brooklyn   13 15 - 28
Cleveland  11  9 - 20 
The Celtics hosted the Rosenblums in Brooklyn’s snug Arcadia Hall on
Saturday night, April 9. A crowd of about 2,500 fans filled most of the
arena’s seats. With both teams strong on defense, the offenses relied
mostly on long set shots. The teams were tied 9-9 during the first half.
The Celtics then made a brilliant run and took a 19-12 lead at halftime.
Facing elimination, the Rosenblums stormed back in the second half to lead
27-25. Down the stretch, however, the Celtics shut down the Cleveland
offense and hit several long shots to win the game 35-32 and sweep the
series in three games. Near the end of the game, Nat Holman and Gil Ely
brawled and were ejected. Nevertheless, the Celtics won the 1927 ABL
championship, adding to the five national championships that they had
claimed in their last five years of free-lance ball.
Game Three Boxscore 
Cleveland   FG FT-AT PT   Brooklyn    FG FT-AT PT
Kerr, f      2  1-1   5   Banks, f     3  2-2   8
Ely, f       1  3-5   5   Barry, f     3  0-2   6
Dieghan, c   0  3-3   3   Lapchick, c  1  3-5   5
Husta, g     3  6-6  12   Holman, g    4  4-7  12
Hickey, g    3  1-2   7   Dehnert, g   0  4-6   4
Friedman, f  0  0-0   0   Leonard, g   0  0-0   0 
Cleveland  12 20 - 32
Brooklyn   19 16 - 35 
Playoff Statistics (Total) 
Brooklyn 
             G FG  FT-AT PTS  AVG  HI  
Holman       3  8  12-16  28  9.3  12
Lapchick     3  3  13-17  19  6.3  10
Barry        3  6   5-8   17  5.7   9
Banks        3  5   5-6   15  5.0   8
Dehnert      3  2   9-13  13  4.3   5
Leonard      1  0   0-0    0  0.0   0 
Cleveland 
             G FG  FT-AT PTS  AVG  HI  
Hickey       3  9   7-10  25  8.3  13
Husta        3  4  15-19  23  7.7  12
Kerr         3  3   4-6   10  3.3   5
Ely          3  1   7-13   9  3.0   5
Dieghan      3  0   4-4    4  1.3   3
Cunningham   2  0   2-3    2  1.0   2
Kintzing     1  0   0-0    0  0.0   0
Friedman     1  0   0-0    0  0.0   0