Looking for a place for my work

NBL, BAA, and others

Looking for a place for my work

Postby jlwinn771 » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:33 pm


I am a historian/professor and other than teaching my research interest is basketball history. I have recently (over the last year) been conducting research into the NBL (1898-1904) but running into a scarcity of sources other than newspapers. I also interviewed the grandson of Fred Cooper (Trenton Basketball Team 1890s) and am currently waiting on interview responses from some other decedents associated with those early players. The problem I am having is a place to put my work. I have recently written some pieces on Fred Cooper, the early Trenton Basketball League, etc. but there appears to be no outlet for it aside from starting my own basketball history blog. I have planned on doing this in the future but was wondering if anyone knew of any blogs history blogs or sites that might be interested on research into very early pro basketball.

Right now I do write for a Chicago Bulls fans site (Bulls Zone) where I cover Bulls history.

Thanks for any help
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Re: Looking for a place for my work

Postby Mike Goodman » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:05 am

This may be the place to test fly your stuff. More people read than respond here, I think. If there's a flaw in your facts, another pertinent angle, etc, some APBR old hands may yet come around to offer suggestions or alternatives.
Oh, and welcome to APBR! Never mind the relative silence. Just put it out there; it can't hurt.
36% of all statistics are wrong
Mike Goodman
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Re: Looking for a place for my work

Postby deanlav » Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:50 pm

We would love to host your work. I can work with you to find a place to put in on apbr.org.

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Re: Looking for a place for my work

Postby jlwinn771 » Sat Jul 19, 2014 4:31 am

Thanks for the feedback. Below is an unpublished piece I wrote after I interviewed Fred Cooper's grandson Fred Smith about his grandfather's basketball career in Trenton and some of his activities after. The interview was in addition to my research with the Daily True American newspaper in Trenton that covered the team. I still hope to one day write a biography on Fred Cooper but the available sources are so scarce I work on it as they come available. Forgive the format. This is copied from the dashboard of the blog I write for, so there are probably errors that are not in the original.

Basketball's First Star

By Lee Winningham

It was a time before jump shots, dunks, and fast breaks, when dribbling was controversial, high scoring games were in the twenties, and the tallest man on the court might be six-feet tall. In 1890s, basketball was merely a blip on the sports radar, but despite, in many ways, the game being a disorganized, violent mess it had its share of popular teams, heated rivalries, and star players. Basketball began in the YMCA gyms but by 1896 an infant professional game had developed, originating in Trenton, N.J., recognized as the location of the first pro game in 1896. By most accounts Trenton had the best team in the region and arguably the best collection of basketball players in the country, one of which was Fred Cooper, a forward and later the coach of the Trenton basketball team. As a player and coach he was not only coveted and praised in his time, but also left notable contributions to the game of basketball that have largely flown under the historian's radar for over a century.

Pottery brought Fred Cooper, Trenton, N.J., and basketball together. Like so many others in the latter part of the 19th century, he was a kid when he arrived with members of his family from Stoke-on-Trent, a pottery center in England, and Trenton was a major pottery center in the United States until the 1930s. Fred Cooper and numerous other Englishmen worked in the potteries in and around Trenton, playing numerous sports and games, especially soccer. Basketball came to Trenton around 1892 where Cooper and another standout, Al Bratton, formed the core of a team that by 1896 many considered the best basketball team in the region, one that had claimed the symbolic "national championship." In 1896 Fred Cooper played in what is recognized as the first professional basketball game, and in 1898 he was named coach of the team that would represent Trenton in the National Basketball League, the first professional basketball league in America.

Frank J. Basloe in his memoir I Grew Up With Basketball called it the "unruly bear cub in the family of sports" because of the lack of any uniform rules, lack of any real system, and rough play. The concern was that basketball would never develop into a scientific game and that violence and roughhousing would hamper its development, but changes started taking place in 1893 when Fred Cooper along with his teammates, especially Al Bratton, began applying the passing principles of soccer to basketball, a rapid style of passing the length of the court.

"Of course, other teams 'passed the ball. But Trenton had something more than just throwing the ball around. The Trenton system of passing was definite. Its objective was to get the ball right up to the opponents basket. . . .With this development, basketball was rescued from its chaotic pell-mell scrimmages. It took on a system even while nine-man teams were the rule." - Frank J. Basloe in I Grew Up With Basketball

Robert W. Patterson in his book Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years, relied upon the reminiscences of Marvin Riley, a Trenton homer, newspaper writer, and basketball referee, which detailed the passing techniques of Cooper and Bratton that ran opponents from the court, ball movement that left opponents "pass-drunk" and "cross-eyed."

"I have see Cooper and Bratton...pass the ball back and forth between them...and score agains the efforts of the entire opposing team. I have seen them do this trick away from home and witnessed the spectators rise en masse and cheer the brilliant exhibition in spite of the fact that it was being done by invading players." -Marvin Riley in Cages to Jump Shots

Stars from Trenton such as Fred Cooper, Al Bratton, Newton Bugbee, and Albert Mellick were largely credited with the team's success in those early years and it was not uncommon to see the Trenton defense shut out a team while their high octane offense ran up a thirty or forty point night. In 1898, Fred Cooper was selected by manager Frank Smith to coach the team that would represent Trenton in the first professional basketball league, during which Trenton brought home back-to-back league titles. Trenton played a key role in the formation of this new league, a league that its creators believed was essential to basketball's development as a major sport alongside football and baseball. For Trentonians, their team would obviously be the face of the league and they took great care in putting together at team that would represent the city well. The fact that Fred Cooper was named coach underscores the regard with which people held his basketball knowledge and abilities.

After a century there are very few people left to ask about Fred Cooper, but the stories that are available reveal a man that was well-known, respected, and coveted for his playing and coaching ability not only in Trenton but throughout the region. To P.E. Wurflein, a sports editor in the area and Secretary Treasurer of the National Basketball League, Cooper was the X-factor for Trenton, the veteran who had taught most of Trenton's stars how to play the game, whose presence could overcome any shortage of players. Trentonians, never hesitant to tout the success of their team to anyone that would listen or dared question it, were convinced rival teams were afraid of Cooper. Outside of Trenton, newspapers such as the Philadelphia Enquirer praised attempts by Pennsylvania teams to lure the coach away. Gleefully, the Daily True American reported on December 8, 1898 that Cooper was "beyond doubt the greatest basketball coach in the country" and that "players who are today recognized as first-class players have received their ideas and playing abilities from Cooper."

The research from this point forward is incomplete, but Fred Cooper went on to coach at what is known today as Rider University and and at Princeton from 1904-1906. According to his grandson Fred Smith, Cooper's enthusiasm did not stop with basketball. He came here playing soccer but he also played baseball, Tennis and just about any other game or sport. As evidence would suggest, he taught the games as well as played them, even teaching Cy Young and Connie Mack baseball, for which he was thanked in a telegram read to me over the phone by his grandson. Cooper stayed active his entire life and remained well-known up until his death at the age of 80, when he was still involved in the Trenton Parks and Recreation Service.

One might think it ridiculous to associate the word superstar with an era in which players shot two-handed set shots and were less than six feet tall. However, superstar is a relative term defined by its era and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries fans in Trenton, N.J. watched the largest collection of basketball talent in the country. In terms of legacy, he is no Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan, but Fred Cooper's contributions to the game are no less important. Most fans think that basketball history begins with the NBA, but stars such as Fred Cooper came first and none of what basketball fans enjoy today would be possible without his contributions as a player, teacher, and motivator. Today, in the few sources out there, he is recognized as the first professional basketball player, but the story of his life, career, and contributions to the game of basketball remain incomplete and it's time one of the founding fathers of basketball got his due.
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