Was Chi StudeBakers' Hillery Brown Another Barrier Breaker?

NBL, BAA, and others

Was Chi StudeBakers' Hillery Brown Another Barrier Breaker?

Postby Keith Ellis » Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:35 pm

This is a question related to the integrated Chicago Studebakers team that played in the NBL in the early 1940s: On 20 December 1942 the Hammond Times reported that "the StudeBakers is the first team in modern professional basketball that includes both white and colored players."

"The squad includes Sonny Boswell, Mike Novak, Bernie Price, Jim Evans, Duke Cumberland, & Roosy Hudson. Hillery Brown is coach of the squad & is rated as one of the nation's finest playing guards."


If correct, this account places Hillery Brown as pro bkb's first black coach of a mixed-race team, eight years ahead of Chuck Harmon's claim to've been first w/ Utica of the ABL in 1950. I've never seen it corroborated in any other source, but then again haven't spent that much time looking. Have any other fans of Hillery Brown's days in Toledo, w/ the Rens, Chicago Crusaders/Savoy Big Five, or the Globies found articles to support this?
Keith Ellis
 

Postby rlee » Wed Apr 08, 2009 11:20 pm

Johnny Jordan is generally reported as being the coach of the Studebakers, including in the generally reliable "Biographical Directory of Professional Basketball Coaches" and the Neft & Cohen Encyclopedia.

Also, see this from Basketball Digest story by Douglas Stark from 2001:

Toledo wasn't the only NBL franchise to integrate in 1942. After the 194142 season, football great George Halas folded his Chicago Bruins franchise, but the league was able to maintain a Chicago franchise when the local chapter of the United Automobile Workers at the Studebaker factory chose to front a new team.

The Studebakers signed Harlem Globetrotters players Duke Cumberland, Bernie Price, Sonny Boswell, Roosie Hudson, Tony Peyton, and Hillary Brown. Unlike Toledo, the Chicago team chose to sign black players based solely on their talent. The Studebaker factory had been converted into a defense plant, meaning its workers and players were exempt from the draft.

Chicago finished the season with an 8-15 record and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Fort Wayne. Some reports claim that the team was fractured by racial conflicts. Individuals associated with the Studebakers, however, dispute that assertion. "There was no strife [on the team]," head coach Johnny Jordan recalled. "All the blacks were treated well by players and fans. People knew the Globetrotters were great ballplayers. They were well received."




Perhaps Hillary was an assistant coach to head coach Jordan.
Last edited by rlee on Thu Apr 09, 2009 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Keith Ellis » Thu Apr 09, 2009 1:42 am

Thanks, Ray. Looks like Jordan was Chicago's head coach, which leaves Chuck Harmon as first African-American to coach an integrated pro bkb outfit, followed by fellow ABLer John McLendon, followed much later by Bill Russell in the NBA. I've been wondering aloud about Hillery's coaching status w/ the StudeBakers for several years & expected you or Brian might have the answer.
Keith Ellis
 

Postby Brian Gaynor » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:38 pm

In my research of the Chicago Studebakers, I came upon references to "player-coach Hillary Brown." I don't have my materials in front of me now, but I think those references were from the Chicago Daily Tribune files that can be found on ancestry.com and other sites. So, like Ray, I went to my basketball encyclopedia and found Johnny Jordan's name. And, of course, Johnny Jordan was quoted in Peterson's epic "Cages to Jump Shots" and given the title of head coach.

I think Hillary Brown was an immense figure in pro basketball history and might — I say 'might' — get the nod as the first black coach based on this information. My hunch is that Johnny Jordan, a white man, was handed the role of head coach, but that Hillary Brown was leaned on as an assistant coach or even took complete control of the coaching duties whenever Jordan was absent. Jordan had been coach of Notre Dame, so if he was still living in South Bend, the logistics of attending all the Studebakers' games might have proved difficult.

Interesting side note on 'Hillary': His name was spelled 'Hilary', 'Hillary', 'Hilery' and 'Hillery' in various newspapers and other historical documents and game programs. I read somewhere that he was born 'Hilary' but added an 'l' during his playing career. So I went with 'Hillary' in my story.

Anyone else have some leads on Hillary Brown, who, of course, also played for the Harlem Globetrotters?
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

More Johnny Jordan from Pioneers of the Hardwood

Postby rlee » Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:11 am

rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Keith Ellis » Fri Apr 10, 2009 4:46 am

Another barrier-breaking nod should go to Pop Gates of the NBL Dayton Rens, first Afro-American to coach in an integrated league, except his club was not integrated but intentionally all-black.

Ray'd pointed out Pop to me. The pros really didn't seem to have coaches for a while, partly on account of gate-splitting economics, partly because bkb pros don't need coaches. Who was the first coach in a pro bkb league that wasn't the team owner or named the traveling secretary?
Keith Ellis
 

Postby rlee » Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:39 pm

From Ron Thomas' "They Cleared the Lane":

The National Basketball League (NBL) was formed in 1937 of thirteen teams in the Northeast and Midwest. It had teams in some big cities but was dominated by small-town teams from places that one would never imagine having an NBA franchise today, like Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Hammond, Indiana. Because so many players
were in military service, the NBL finished the 1942-43 and 1943-44 seasons with only four teams. Nonetheless, several short-lived instances of roster integration occurred. "The war effort brought them together because of player shortages and the disbanding of certain teams because of travel restrictions," Himmelman said. "So
as the teams shrunk, players hooked up who hadn't hooked up before."

At this time manufacturing companies often sponsored NBL teams. The 1942-43 season began with five teams, one of which was the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets. To make up for players he had lost because of the war, team owner Sid Goldberg signed five black players: Al Price, Bill Jones and Casey Jones (who were unrelated), Shannie Barnett, and Zane Wast. The team broke up after losing its first four games.

One of the teams, the Chicago Studebaker Champions, was the first thoroughly integrated pro team with its four white players and six black players. The latter all were former Harlem Globetrotters, according to Michael Funke's article "The Chicago Studebakers" that appeared in Solidarity Magazine published by the United Auto
Workers. In an era of company-sponsored pro teams, the Studebakers were unusual because they were sponsored by a union and wore the UAW logo on their shorts.

Studebaker was a major automaker in Indiana that had built a factory in Chicago to manufacture military airplanes. Its player-workers were exempt from the military draft. A white NBL star, Mike Novak, already was employed by Studebaker. "And it was outside that plant where Roosie Hudson was standing one day in 1942 while another Globetrotter, Duke Cumberland, was inside applying for a job," Funke wrote. "Hudson was invited inside by a company official who recognized him from seeing him play with the Trotters at Studebaker's South Bend, Indiana, plant. Urged to contact some other Trotters, Hudson called Bernie Price from an office phone. Price, in turn, contacted Sonny Boswell. In the meantime, Novak contacted Dick Evans and told him he could
get a job at Studebaker and play ball, too. Hillary Brown, another Trotter, got wind of the plants and joined up. Tony Peyton was rooming with Duke Cumberland, and he was the last of the Trotters to join the team. Paul Sokody, who had played NBL ball with Sheboygan, and Johnny Orr [not the one who later coached at Big
Ten schools], who'd played college ball, rounded out the team.

Everyone, except the security guards Evans and Novak, was a UAW Local 998 member. "It's disputed whether three other former Trotters – Babe Pressley, Ted Strong, and Al Johnson – also played for the Studebakers.

Evans, a Chicago native who played college ball at Iowa, said Novak informed him about the team because they had been teammates on the NBL's Chicago Bruins during the previous season. To Evans the fact that there would be black players on the team wasn't important. "He told me who the [former Trotters] were and we knew each other, but I don't recall the emphasis being on integration," Evans said. "It's just that these guys are [at Studebaker] and this is the kind of team that we have. We had a lot of respect for those guys."

Evans said he hadn't known any of the black players personally but believes he had seen them play with the Globetrotters several times. Novak was on the Chicago Bruins team that lost the 1940 World Championship to a Trotters team that included Price, Boswell, and Cumberland.

Although having a totally integrated team was a first at least in the pros, Evans said he didn't receive any criticism from friends about having black players as teammates. "They thought it was pretty good to play on a team like that," Evans said. "I never remember anybody saying, 'How can you play with those guys?' because we had a lot of respect for them. And people who saw the games thought it was great. They [the black players] were just like us. Some good guys and some were wise guys. They were just like we were."

Evans said that neither the white nor the black players dominated the team. "We respected those guys and they showed respect for us," Evans said. Funke acknowledges that there was a dispute between Boswell, who supposedly took too many shots, and Novak, who demanded that Boswell pass the ball to his teammates.

Evans said he knew nothing about it, and that may be possible since he played in only nine games. In Cages to Jump Shots by Robert W. Peterson, Hudson was quoted as saying their disagreement "had nothing to do with race," and the four players that Funke interviewed, including Evans, all agreed that the integrated team got along well.

"I had some good friends [among] the blacks and some I just got along with and some I didn't do nothing with,"
Evans said. "That's normal with any group of people, a church group or a group out of school."

The team with the UAW logo on their uniforms finished the season last in the league with an 8-15 record. Yet they had functioned in an integrated team environment that the NBA wouldn't see for another twenty years, when during the 1962-63 season both the St. Louis Hawks and the San Francisco Warriors each had six black players on their rosters.
rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Brian Gaynor » Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:14 pm

By the way, the reference in Gould's book to the Studebakers opening the 1942-43 season at Fort Wayne is wrong (see Ray's Google Books post). I went online, looked at old clippings and NBL standings, going game-by-game, and was left without a doubt that the Studebakers opened the 1942-43 NBL season at Sheboygan.

There is a chance, of course, that Gould was referring to an exhibition game before the NBL season started.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby Brian Gaynor » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:56 am

Keith, an Al Johnson played one game and scored two points for the 1942-43 Studebakers. I don't know if this is your Al Johnson, but it probably is.

http://www.sport-stat.ru/basketball/tea ... 943&t=0103

Johnson was not part of the trailblazing six who walked out onto the floor in Sheboygan on that November night in 1942 (I've seen the boxscore). He joined the team later. A question for anyone: Was Ted Strong black? If so, Chicago had a total of eight black players, six of whom were the first to integrate major-league organized professional sports.

Where is Studebaker researcher Funke these days? Does anyone have a copy of Funke's excellent story (or so I've heard) about the Studebakers that he wrote for the UAW magazine called Solidarity? If so, please PM me. Thanks.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby rlee » Sat Apr 11, 2009 7:21 am

rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Jon Scott » Sat Apr 11, 2009 1:55 pm

Brian,

FYI, the reference says the article was titled "The Chicago Studebakers" and was published in Solidarity Magazine June 1992, p. 17.

You could always contact Ron Thomas and see if he could relocate his copy and make a copy for you, but generally for something like that I would suggest to just contact the UAW directly. I briefly checked their website and they claim to still have a library so I would bet they maintain back issues of their own magazine.

http://www.uaw.org/contact.cfm - phone number

http://www.uaw.org/about/pres.html#library - mentions their library

http://www.uaw.org/solidarity/index.php - main page for magazine with limited back-issue information

Unfortunately, something like that I doubt people keep old back issues stored in their house very long which eventually end up on ebay (like a lot of other publications do) and I doubt many libraries carry it either, so I would say contacting the UAW is the best option.

Of course even if they have the complete set of archives, the real key is knowing where to look, which in this case you do. (June 1992).

Jon

PS, also since the article is fairly recent, it might be worthwhile trying to locate and contact Mr. Funke directly.
Jon Scott
 
Posts: 237
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:16 am
Location: Philadelphia Area

Postby Brian Gaynor » Sun Apr 12, 2009 5:50 am

Thank you, Ray, for the information on two-sport star Ted Strong (a 6-foot-6 SHORTstop in the Negro Leagues). :D

And thank you, Jon, for your information about Funke and the Studebakers. I have been in contact with Ron Thomas, who, while very helpful and engaging, did not have a copy of Funke's article. I will contact UAW. Perhaps we can get to the bottom of whether Hillary Brown ever functioned as a head coach (in Johnny Jordan's absence) or as an assistant to Jordan for the trailblazing Chicago Studebakers.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby Keith Ellis » Tue Apr 14, 2009 3:15 pm

FWIW, Mr Funke told me he never learned anything about Hillery Brown coaching the StudeBakers for one or any games.
Keith Ellis
 

Re: Was Chi StudeBakers' Hillery Brown Another Barrier Break

Postby Jon Scott » Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:17 am

Keith Ellis wrote:This is a question related to the integrated Chicago Studebakers team that played in the NBL in the early 1940s: On 20 December 1942 the Hammond Times reported that "the StudeBakers is the first team in modern professional basketball that includes both white and colored players."

"The squad includes Sonny Boswell, Mike Novak, Bernie Price, Jim Evans, Duke Cumberland, & Roosy Hudson. Hillery Brown is coach of the squad & is rated as one of the nation's finest playing guards."


If correct, this account places Hillery Brown as pro bkb's first black coach of a mixed-race team, eight years ahead of Chuck Harmon's claim to've been first w/ Utica of the ABL in 1950. I've never seen it corroborated in any other source, but then again haven't spent that much time looking. Have any other fans of Hillery Brown's days in Toledo, w/ the Rens, Chicago Crusaders/Savoy Big Five, or the Globies found articles to support this?


I don't know if this has been discussed before in the past, but one thing I recently ran across that may prove interesting is that the 1942-43 season there was an NBL All-Star game (actually a game of NBL All-Stars against the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons) and Sonny Boswell was named to that All-Star squad. Beyond that Boswell was the leading scorer for the All Stars, which lost the game to the Pistons 49-48. (Bobby McDermott of the Pistons led all scorers with 13.)

Here's the link to the game summary and boxscore.

http://www.newspaperarchive.com/PdfView ... mg=7128701

(Newspaper Archive # 7128701, Sheboygan (WI) Press, March 12, 1943)

For those without access, the players on the squad were as follows (with points scored)

NBL All Stars ( 48 )

Vaughn 4, Boswell 11, Jeannette 10, Dancker 4, Edwards 3, McDonald 10, Shipp 3, Suesens 3

Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons ( 49 )

Armstrong 6, Hamilton 0, Bush 5, Pelkington 7, Towery 6, McDermott 13, Birch 6, Schaefer 6

Is this the first instance of an integrated professional All-Star game ?

Jon
Jon Scott
 
Posts: 237
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:16 am
Location: Philadelphia Area

Postby Keith Ellis » Fri Apr 17, 2009 2:28 am

Labor/Basketball writer Michael Funke had this to say recalling preparation of his story about the Chicago Studebakers (reprinted w/ permission):


Every few years I get an email regarding the 1992 story I wrote about the Chicago Studebakers. I'm always glad to see that someone is paying attention to them, as they remain largely unheralded in the integration of professional basketball. Official NBA history, in my view, is particularly dismissive in this regard. Not to take anything away from Earl Lloyd and other pioneers of the 1950s NBA. But the NBL players came first, the BAA was never integrated in its brief life to my knowledge, and moreover you can track more present-day NBA teams back to the NBL than to the BAA. Yet, somehow, the NBL isn't considered part of NBA history.

I had the good fortune to meet and interview four members of the Chicago Studebaker Champions (inaccurately called the Studebaker Flyers by some) in 1992. Thanks to William Himmelman I was able to track them down and meet them in Chicago for a day of interviews and photos.

Roosie Hudson and Bernie Price lived in Chicago at that time. Tony Peyton flew in from Texas and Dick Evans flew in from Florida. The UAW helped to pay for this one-day reunion that brought the four of them together for the first time in 50 years. It was really a pretty amazing day and I still remember much of it. I especially recall the old gym where we went for photos. While we were waiting for the photographer to get set up, they passed a ball around. Hudson lobbed it to Price, who proceeded to swish a two-handed set shot from about 20 or 30 feet. I mean, the guy was 77 and told me he hadn't shot the ball in eight years!

I believe all four of them have passed away. The only one I'm not sure about is Evans.

I recall that I specifically asked the four of them how they joined the Studebaker team. Granted this is all based on their memories from 50 years earlier, and from just one season among several, but...

Evans had played for George Halas's Chicago Bruins the year before, along with another white player named Mike Novak. Price, Hudson and Peyton said they had all been playing for the Globetrotters the year before.

Novak got a job at Studebaker first and he contacted Evans. Both got hired as security guards at the plant.

Hudson said he was outside the plant while another Globetrotter Duke Cumberland was applying for a job inside. A company official recognized him from when the Globetrotters had played at Studebaker's South Bend, IN, plant and invited him inside. (Jordan may have been part of all this, but none of the players mentioned his name when they told this story.) Hudson was hired and urged to contact some other Globetrotters. He called Price. Price contacted Sonny Boswell. None of the guys could recall how Hillary Brown found out, but he did and soon got hired too. Peyton was rooming with Cumberland at the time, and so he got offered a job too. Two more white guys -- Paul Sokody and Johnny Orr -- completed the roster.

I'm sure you realize that these early pro industry teams often provided jobs for players. These guys all apparently had real jobs in the plant and worked there beyond the one Studebaker season to the end of the war.

Three other African-American players -- Ted Strong, Al Johnson and Babe Pressley -- can be found on some Studebaker roster lists. But Peyton, Price and Hudson (who knew Strong, Johnson and Pressley and had played with them on other teams) say they weren't on the Studebakers.

None of them mentioned Brown having coached any games instead of Jordan.

Now, we have to keep in mind that these guys were asked to recall one season amid many from half a century earlier. In fact, the hardest part of the interview, for me, was keeping them focused on the Studebakers season. But, my memory (also impacted by the good old aging process!) is that they did a pretty good job of remembering stuff, all things considered.
Keith Ellis
 

Postby Brian Gaynor » Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:49 am

A couple impressions/responses:

-- Dick Evans died about a year ago (Funke said he did not know whether Evans survived).

-- The Chicago Daily Tribune never used "Studebaker Champions" in its game reports, just "Studebakers." I wonder who used "Champions", which, of course, is a misnomer for an 8-15 team?

-- Himmelmann mentioned to me a meeting he had "30 years ago" with the Studebaker players. Wonder if this 1992 meeting was what he meant or if another reunion took place?

-- I can empathize with Funke. It can be incredibly difficult to keep the old ballplayers on task. Usually, they like to wax about their college days, because back then, college basketball was a much bigger deal.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby Brian Gaynor » Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:52 am

This has probably been covered on this board before, but ...

Did the Chicago Bruins become the Chicago Studebakers or were they separate franchises? I see that Mike Novak and Dick Evans were two Bruins-turned-Studebakers.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby rlee » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:15 am

Here are references to Studebaker Champions from two 2007 stories



WHISTLE- STOP REUNION

By Dylan Hernandez
Mercury News
Today, when the Harlem Globetrotters perform at HP Pavilion, a 92-year-old man will be on their bench.
Daniel Serafine of Menlo Park earned his place more than 60 years ago when he reassembled a team broken up by World War II. Finally, he can share the story of ``some of the happiest days of my life.''
``I have memories that I'll never forget,'' Serafine said. ``I coached the Globetrotters. I really did. For 60 years, I've been waiting to let the world know.''
Serafine's story was something not even the Globetrotters knew until November, when team owner Mannie Jackson received a letter from Serafine at his Arizona office. Serafine explained that in 1941 he worked at an aircraft plant operated by automobile manufacturer Studebaker. The plant was in Chicago, which also was the home base of the Globetrotters, and several players worked there.
One day Serafine approached plant manager Bert Fowler with the idea of forming a traveling basketball team to help sell war bonds. Fowler approved and Serafine was made manager and coach of the Studebaker Champions, named after the company's signature vehicle.
In part because Serafine and Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein retained the same lawyer, Serafine was able to persuade Saperstein to release the players who worked at the plant to him. The arrangement called for the players to return to Saperstein after the war.
Saperstein continued to field Globetrotters teams in the interim, but the war and Studebaker had drained it of talent, according to Ben Green's 2005 book ``Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters.''
All these years later, Serafine still recalls his players in vivid detail. Sonny Boswell, he said, ``could shoot from any place.'' Tony Peyton could ``run like a deer. Nobody could catch him.''
The Champions were one of the first professional basketball teams to be integrated, according to Green, but Serafine said ``it was no issue at all. We had no problems.''
The players wore red, white and blue uniforms similar to the Globetrotters'. They played once or twice a week, and rode freight trains to games outside Chicago.
Serafine recalled a trip to Michigan to face a team sponsored by Dow Chemical. On their arrival, the Champions discovered there was just one car to take them from the train station to the game, and that car could accommodate only five people. Serafine picked his starting five and sent them to the game. Serafine and the other players waited at the station until the game was over.
``We beat them,'' Serafine said, proudly.
After the war the team broke up. Many of the players returned to the Globetrotters, and Serafine went on to earn a fortune in real estate. In 1968, he and his late wife, Winifred, left Chicago for the Bay Area.
Over the years, Serafine occasionally tried to establish contact with his former players. But nothing materialized.
Sensing that his life was ``down but not out,'' Serafine reached out to Jackson in November. He wasn't sure if he would be believed, as he lacked photographs or documentation of any kind. But the Globetrotters researched the matter and received confirmation of Serafine's story.
One of the people the team contacted was Peyton, the only living Globetrotter to play for the Champions. Arrangements are being made for Serafine and Peyton to meet.
``I wish I had done this 20 years ago,'' Serafine said. ``I really made a mistake.''
Serafine said he will be nervous today, as the crowd at HP Pavilion will be far larger than the number of people for which the Champions performed.
``It'll be one of the greatest thrills of the last 60 years,'' Serafine said. ``It'll be like coaching them again.''



Serafine returns to his roots
Local to be honored at today's Globetrotters game
By Vytas Mazeika / Daily News Staff Writer
The best seat in the house for today's Globetrotters game will be saved for Daniel Serafine.

"This whole thing is a thrill. Right now I'm excited, but yet I'm relaxed," said the 92-year-old Serafine, a Menlo Park resident who will sit on the bench for the 1 p.m game at HP Pavilion in San Jose. "After 60 years, it's quite an achievement to be honored."

Back in 1941, while organizing the union at Studebaker Corp. in Chicago, Serafine met three former Globetrotters working at the defense plant. They told Serafine there were six of them working at the plant, and an idea sprang into his head.

"I'll go to the plant manager and ask if we can form a team, which is the Globetrotters, and go around the country selling bonds," Serafine said. "And he approved of it."

At the time, Abe Saperstein owned the Globetrotters. He agreed to release the players from their contracts so they could sign with Studebaker. The only condition was they could not use the name Globetrotters, so they became the Studebaker Champions.

"We used the colors of the Globetrotters, we used everything of the Globetrotters except the using of the name," said Serafine, who became the coach and manger.

The Studebaker Champions traveled around the Midwest for a little over three years, playing locales such as the Stockyards Amphitheatre, Chicago Stadium, Armory and Great Lakes. Sometimes they'd get upwards of 5,000 people to show, sometimes it was only a couple of hundred at Cicero Stadium in Chicago.

"Because it was far out in the boondocks and people wouldn't go there, I guess," Serafine said. "But we kept selling bonds, which is what we were there for.

"I had huge concern of them being drafted," Serafine added. "The Good Lord says, and none of them were drafted. I don't know what the reason was, but I think the government wanted them to play basketball. If they wanted them, they would've gone."

"That was his escape instead of being in the war, because he was having so much fun during his time coaching," said Judy Jackson, one of his four daughters.

Jackson, like daughter Therese and son Frank, never saw her father coach the Studebaker Champions. That honor was accorded the two older daughters, Terry and Diane - the only ones born before 1950.

"They could really tell you more about the games than I can really, because they were out in the crowd," Serafine said.

One story Serafine will volunteer took place in Midland, Mich. In the dead of winter, the team took the train to an away game, but only one car was sent to pick up the team.

The decision was meant to send only the starting lineup, with the rest left waiting at the train station.

"We lost a couple of games, but not too many," Serafine said. "Nobody likes to lose, but part of their life was losing and winning - and entertaining. And they sure did entertain."

The team practiced every day after work and played once a week, mostly on weekends. Names that roll off Serafine's tongue include Duke Cumberland, Babe Presley, Hillary Brown, Sonny Boswell, Mike Nova, Paul Sotody and Tony Payton (the only one still alive).

"They take the ball on their fingertip, they pass balls like nobody can pass them," Serafine said. "I tried it, I could never do it. They're uncanny."

When the war ended, all the employees at the defense plant were let go and everyone went their separate ways.

Several of the Studebaker Champions went back to the Globetrotters and Serafine was offered a chance to buy the team before Metromedia acquired it.

The Globetrotters suffered through tough times until Mannie Jackson, a former team member, bought the team in 1993. Now, once again, they're flourishing.

"I don't know how he did it, but he did," Serafine said. "It's been great."

Serafine went on to become a land developer, building a couple of golf courses. A couple of his children graduated from Santa Clara University, and during a visit to northern California he made an important phone call.

"I was on the telephone talking to my wife and I said, 'You know, this is paradise. Why do you want to fight all the snow and cold weather in Chicago?'" Serafine said.

Given a choice between Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Hillsborough and Menlo Park, he bought a home and moved to Menlo Park in 1968.

"It's really the best city there is," said Serafine, who today resides in Sharon Heights.

During his time in the Bay Area, Serafine has seen the Globetrotters play at Stanford, but today will be different. Barely more than a week away from his 93rd birthday and for the first in more than 60 years, he'll again have a courtside seat.

"This is a reflection of his glory days," said Jackson, who will be in the stands. "It's a nice send-off to his 93-year-old birthday."

His son, Frank, will be right there with Serafine, who hopes to get an autographed game ball.

"I'm not going to hold my breath," Serafine said. "They've done enough."

The feeling is mutual.
rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Brian Gaynor » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:49 am

Well, then, someone forgot to tell the hometown Chicago Tribune the precise name of the team. ...

Champions: It was a name that was used very sparingly. In almost every instance — in old programs, in accounts from the day — it was almost always simply Studebakers.  
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby Keith Ellis » Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:09 pm

Mr Funke's point in highlighting the name "Champions" is to distinguish it from the monicker "Flyers," which was apparently mistakenly tagged on the Studies at one time or another. Sounds like a mix-up w/ the contemporary war-manufacturer Grumman Flyers of Dolly King fame that Paul Luchter's been writing about.

The Hammond article I quoted to begin this thread doesn't precisely say that Hillery Brown was the formal coach of the StudeBakers, but rather that Hillery was "coach of the squad." Could the term possibly be construed to mean that Hillery was the "quarterback" of the club, or the "coach on the floor" like a point guard might be colorfully called today?

Did pro coaches back in those days do their "coaching" in practices & then let the games be played w/out horning in themselves as we expect them to do today? It's pretty clear that pro coaches in the early days were far less important than highly-paid coaches of high schools & their lower-paid counterparts in colleges were.
Keith Ellis
 

Postby Brian Gaynor » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:14 am

That NBL stats Web site follows what can be found in Neft & Cohen, that Al Johnson and Ted Strong played for the Studebakers, but were not on their opening-day roster.

Old-time ballplayers often have trouble with the facts. Heck, I can't remember each and every player on my high school team some 25 years ago. And I'm not asked to try to remember something from 60 years ago, like these guys are.

Given the information turning up, I would bet that Hillary Brown was an assistant coach for the Studebakers. And I'd also bet that Brown may have served as head coach in the absence of Johnny Jordan, if ever an absence or two occurred. Jordan, after all, may still have been living in South Bend, Ind., from where he had coached Notre Dame. Anyone have evidence to show Jordan had moved to Chicago for the Studebakers' season? Or was he commuting to every Studebaker game?
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby rlee » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:49 am

Earlier in this thread, there was discussion re: H. Brown's first name (Hilary? Hillary? Hiilery?)

I found this recently in a 1991 Chicago Sun-Times story:

" A few days after Brown's death, Watkins, Hawkins and other friends realized they had been spelling his name wrong for a half-century. It was Hillery, not Hillary. Even the Globetrotters spelled it wrong.

'He never questioned it, never said anything,' said Ann, his wife of 50 years. 'That's the way he was.' "
rlee
President
 
Posts: 7292
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
Location: sacramento

Postby Jon Scott » Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:20 pm

Brian Gaynor wrote:Given the information turning up, I would bet that Hillary Brown, at the very least, was an assistant coach for the Studebakers. And I'd also bet that Brown served as head coach in the absence of Johnny Jordan, if ever an absence or two occurred. Jordan, after all, may still have been living in South Bend, Ind., from where he had coached Notre Dame. Anyone have evidence to show Jordan had moved to Chicago for the Studebakers' season? Or was he commuting to every Studebaker game?


Jordan had played at Notre Dame in the 1930's but he didn't become coach of Notre Dame until much later (starting in the 1951-52 season).

From what I can tell, Jordan was the basketball coach at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago from the mid 30's until 1949.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jordan_(basketball)

He did serve a 3 year tour of duty with the Navy during WWII. How much of this was stateside (remember the Great Lakes Naval Station was nearby to Chicago so he might have been there) or away I don't know. It's still possible he may have been coaching the Studebakers during this time. (either as an 'off-duty' job when he was with the Navy or perhaps he was pulling double-duty coaching both Mt. Carmel and the Studebakers.)

FWIW, according to the Wikipedia page above, it mentions an article in the Chicago Tribune about his death published on June 15, 1991. I didn't see any articles on Newspaper Archive, perhaps someone with access to an obituary or good biography of him could give more details about where he was and what he was doing around the time period he's supposed to be coaching the Studebakers in 1942-43.

Jon
Last edited by Jon Scott on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
Jon Scott
 
Posts: 237
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:16 am
Location: Philadelphia Area

Postby Brian Gaynor » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:42 pm

"A few days after Brown's death, Watkins, Hawkins and other friends realized they had been spelling his name wrong for a half-century. It was Hillery, not Hillary. Even the Globetrotters spelled it wrong.


I have Hillary/Hillery Brown's signature. And wouldn't you know it, his very clear writing becomes much less distinct when he comes to the 'a' ('e').

I read somewhere online that he was born Hillery but adopted the spelling Hillary for his professional basketball career.
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Postby Brian Gaynor » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:59 pm

Jordan had played at Notre Dame in the 1930's but he didn't become coach of Notre Dame until much later (starting in the 1951-52 season).

From what I can tell, Jordan was the basketball coach at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago from the mid 30's until 1949.


Thanks for this information, Jon. Johnny Jordan should have been available for head coaching duties with the Studebakers, except for scheduling conflicts with his Mount Carmel High School team or for illness or other reasons. I don't have access to newspaperarchive, but I know that NBL scheduling in the early years was all over the board; they played on a variety of nights. That's why Johnny Wooden couldn't play in the NBL on a regular basis while coaching his high school team in Indiana. Maybe the same happened for Jordan. And maybe Jordan was credited with the full 8-15 record even though Hillary Brown stepped in to guide the Studebakers while Jordan was coaching his Mount Carmel High School team.

I've e-mailed the Hillary Brown question to Michael Funke. We'll see what he has to say. ...
Brian Gaynor
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:15 pm
Location: NBL country

Next

Return to Pre-NBA Leagues

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest