Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘EBA’ tag

April 6, 1968 – Allentown Jets vs. Wilmington Blue Bombers

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Allentown Jets vs. Wilmington Blue Bombers
April 6, 1968
Louis E. Dieruff High School
Attendance: ?

Eastern Basketball Association Programs
32 pages


Deciding Game 3 of the 1968 Eastern Basketball Association (1946-1978) semi-final playoff series between the Allentown (PA) Jets and the Wilmington Blue Bombers from Delaware.   The Jets bested the Bombers 132-111 to advance to the championship series, where they would ultimately knock off the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Barons to win the 1968 league crown.

Although confined to high school gyms Pennsylvania and a few neighboring states, the EBA was the country’s top minor league, playing just one notch below the NBA and the fledgling American Basketball Association.  The EBA helped guys like Mike Riordan make it to the NBA.  Riordan spent the winter of 1967-68 in Allentown with the Jets as a rookie out of Providence College.  A few months later Riordan earned a roster spot with the New York Knicks and spent the next decade in the NBA, winning a championship with New York in 1970.

More often though, the EBA was a destination for players on their way down from the NBA.  Jets captain Andy Johnson, posed on the evening’s game program, was one such player.  Johnson had a strange career.  He was drafted into the Korean War after college at the University of Portland.  After the war, he spent some time with the Harlem Globetrotters before finally making it to the NBA with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1958.  He spent four seasons in the league, before being shipped off to the Philadelphia Tapers of the short-lived American Basketball League in 1962 on the eve of his fifth campaign.  After the ABL folded, Johnson never got another shot at the NBA and played out the remaining half dozen years of his pro career as a fan favorite in Allentown, earning $75 a night.

As the NBA’s fortunes surged in the late 1980’s, efforts were made to broaden the league’s pension system to take care of aging players from the league’s pioneer days.  The cut off for a pension was five seasons, which brought the tangled path of Andy Johnson’s career to the attention of New York Times writer George VecseyJohnson was a year short.  Military veterans who went directly to the NBA out of the service were apparently credited with time served towards their pension.  But because Johnson went first to the Globetrotters, his two years in the service were not counted.  Nor was the season he played in the American Basketball League after an odd transaction that Johnson characterized as a “loan” from the NBA’s Chicago Packers to the ABL’s Philadelphia Tapers.

Andy Johnson passed away in 2002.  His son Mark Johnson published a biography of his father entitled Basketball Slave: The Andy Johnson Story in 2010:





April 4, 1978 – Lancaster Red Roses vs. Long Island Ducks

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Lancaster (PA) Red Roses vs. Long Island Ducks
April 4, 1978
J.P. McCaskey High School Gym
Eastern Basketball Association Programs
32 pages

A couple of years ago, we acquired a big collection of memorabilia from the old Eastern Basketball Association (1946-1978), a post-war bus league that labored in obscurity in and around Pennsylvania for nearly forty years.  There was this guy – I’ve long since lost his name and info – who kept emailing me through our e-Bay store wanting to know if any of the material contained a numerical roster for the 1977-78 Long Island Ducks.  The Ducks were a one-year wonder that played just a single season at the old Long Island Arena in Commack during the winter of 1977-78.  This fellow must be one of only a handful who remembered the team, but I had nothing for him at the time.

Today, this 1978 EBA playoff program from the Lancaster (PA) Red Roses arrived in the post office box and – lo and behold – it was for a game against the Ducks and contained a numerical roster.  So – if you’re still out there, Ducks fan – this post is for you.  And here is the Ducks 1977-78 numerical roster for you.

Interesting thing about the Ducks name – it is something of a fetish in Long Island.  The basketball Ducks were owned by Al Baron, who seemingly named the team in a fit of nostalgia for his old hockey team, the Long Island Ducks (1959-1973) of the Eastern Hockey League who also played at Long Island Arena in their day.  Baron not only owned the hockey Ducks, but he called their games over the radio.  In a wonderful 1969 Sports Illustrated profile, Baron toldSI’s Dan Levin: “This is the only rink in organized hockey where the players stand on the ice and watch the fights in the stands.”

Unlike the hockey Ducks, who were an institution on Long Island for fourteen seasons, the basketball Ducks vanished after a single winter of play.  In the summer of 2000 Frank Boulton and Bud Harrelson launched the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.  The baseball Ducks have proven to be remarkably popular, averaging nearly sellout crowds for over a decade in Central Islip.


1977-78 Long Island Ducks Roster




Written by AC

June 20th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

December 14, 1975 – Lancaster Red Roses vs. Connecticut Stars

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Lancaster (PA) Red Roses vs. Connecticut Stars
December 14, 1975
McCaskey High School Gym
Eastern Basketball Association Programs
4 Pages

Here we go with part two of today’s two-poster about the long tradition of the Lancaster Red Roses name in both minor league baseball and basketball in the small Pennsylvania city.  Pennsylvania was the birthplace of the Eastern Professional Basketball League (EPBL) in 1946.  For four decades, the Eastern League offered the country’s best minor league basketball in high school gymnasiums and recreation centers around Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut.  The original Red Roses joined the league for its first season in 1946 and played until 1949 and again from 1953 to 1955.

In the fall of 1975, a former Eastern League ballplayer (1958-1967) turned CBS Sports NBA commentator named Sonny Hill revived the Red Roses and entered the team into the Eastern Basketball Association, which was simply a new name for the old EPBL.  This rare program is from the Red Roses debut home game at Lancaster’s McCaskey High School Gymnasium on December 14th, 1975 against the Connecticut Stars.

The Eastern League was bruised by the formation of the American Basketball Association in 1967, which attempted – quite successfully – to rival the NBA for top talent from 1967 to 1976.  The arrival of the ABA more or less doubled the number of top flight professional teams and drained away the top talent from the Eastern League.   But by the time the Red Roses re-formed in December 1975, the ABA was in perilous condition.  The league had only about six months to live and now there was a glut of talent with no place to play headed back in the other direction – back to the Eastern League.

On opening night 1975, Hill’s Red Roses roster boasted a couple of talented ABA refugees, including Willie Sojourner who was once part of a trade with Julius Erving and served as the best man at Erving’s wedding.  6′ 7″ forward Tom “Trooper” Washington won an ABA title in 1968 with the Pittsburgh Pipers and appeared in the 1969 ABA All-Star Game.

Hill got out after a year or two of ownership, but the Red Roses soldiered on in Lancaster for five seasons until the spring of 1980.  The franchise went on something of an odyssey after that, moving to Philadelphia, back to Lancaster as the Lancaster Lightning from 1981 to 1984, and then on to Baltimore, Pittsfield, Massachusetts and finally Illinois.  The club that started out as Sonny Hill’s Lancaster Red Roses on this night in December 1975 played its final game in Rockford, Illinois as a member of the Continental Basketball Association in 2009.   Those stories are too long and too many to get into here, but we have written before on Fun While It Lasted about the bizarre year the club spent in Philadelphia, when the team was briefly acquired by the dentist-turned-cocaine smuggler Dr. Larry Lavin and used as a clearing house for drug money.

Written by AC

April 1st, 2012 at 2:47 pm


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