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1961-1962 Kansas City Steers

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1961-62 Kansas City Steers Media GuideAmerican Basketball League (1961-1963)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Folded: December 31, 1962

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: Kenneth A. Krueger

ABL Championships: 1963* (*Sort of…)

 

The Kansas City Steers were one of the best entries in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League. The Harlem Globetrotters impresario aimed to compete with the NBA in major markets around the country and succeeded in luring top talent to the circuit.

The Steers’ starting five of Bill Bridges (F), Maury King (G), Nick Mantis (G), Larry Staverman (F) and Bumper Tormohlen (C) all played in the NBA. Bridges, a rookie of the University of Kansas in 1961, finished fourth in the ABL in scoring with 21.4 points per game in 1961-62. He was leading the league with 29.2 per contest when the league folded midway through its sophomore campaign.

The Steers posted the best record in the ABL in each of the league’s two seasons.  In 1961-62, the Steers went 28-12. They met the Cleveland Pipers in the ABL championship series in April 1962. The Steers blew out the Pipers by 25 points and 36 points respectively in the first two games in Kansas City. But they could not close the deal on the road in Ohio. The series  was due to return to Kansas City for decisive Game 5 on April 8th, 1962. That’s when things when haywire.

The Steers primary home, Municipal Auditorium, booked the Ice Capades for April 8th. The Steers booked the 1,500-seat Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse on the campus of tiny Rockhurst College for the title contest. Pipers owner George Steinbrenner (yes, that one) was outraged, believing Saperstein promised the series finale to Cleveland. As the teams bickered with each other and the ABL office, the Pipers no-showed for Game 5 at Rockhurst College. Rather than forfeit the game to the Steers, Saperstein decreed the game would now be played the following night, April 9th, 1962, at Rockhurst. This time the Pipers showed and dealt the Steers a crushing 106-102 defeat.

The Steers came back for the ABL’s second season in the fall of 1962. By now the league was on shaky ground. Only three of the league’s eight founding clubs remained in their original cities of a year earlier. Steinbrenner folded the league champion Pipers after a failed attempt to run off and join the NBA.

The Steers were once again the class of the league, racing out to a 22-9 record in the fall and early winter of 1962. But the ABL’s woes proved insurmountable, and the Steers closed their doors along with the rest of the league on New Year’s Eve 1962. The ABL declared the Steers to be league champions for 1963 by virtue of having the league’s best record at the time of closing.

 

In Memoriam

Forward Larry Staverman died on July 12, 2007 at the age of 70. After playing for the Steers, Staverman went on to become the first head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1967.

Steers forward Bill Bridges passed away on September 15, 2015 from cancer at age 76. Kansas City Star obituary

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1961 Washington Tapers

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Washington TapersAmerican Basketball League (1961)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Moved: December 31, 1961 (New York Tapers)

Arena: Washington Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owner: Paul Cohen

ABL Championships: None

 

Doomed entry in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League of the early 1960’s. The Tapers were owned by Paul Cohen, owner of the Technical Tape Company of New Rochelle, New York. Cohen was a millionaire business owner, basketball fan and sufferer from muscular dystrophy. It was Cohen who recruited Jerry Lewis to the cause of muscular dystrophy and helped inspire the comedian’s famous Labor Day telethons in support of the MDA. Cohen previously backed the New York Tuck Tapers (1959-1961) in the amateur National Industrial Basketball League. The Washington Tapers marked Cohen’s first foray into full professionalism in the basketball arena.

The biggest name on the Tapers was Gene Conley, a two-sport star who previously played Major League Baseball for the Milwaukee Braves and pro basketball for the Boston Celtics. Dan Swartz, a holdover from the NIBL, was the Tapers’ top scorer at 24.8 points per game in 1961-62.

The team was a bust in the nation’s capital. After just two months of play, the Tapers announced a midseason move to Long Island’s Commack Arena on New Year’s Eve, 1961, where they would become known as the New York Tapers. Following the 1961-62 season, Cohen moved the team again, this time to Philadelphia. The ABL folded on December 31st, 1962 midway through its second season, taking the Washington/New York/Philadelphia Tapers down with it.

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1961-1962 San Francisco Saints

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Gene Brown San Francisco SaintsAmerican Basketball League (1961-1962)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Moved: 1962 (Oakland Oaks)

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: George McKeon

 

The San Francisco Saints were a One-Year Wonder in Abe Saperstein’s upstart American Basketball League that briefly attempted to challenge the NBA in the early 1960’s.

The Saints finished 38-38 in their only season of play and lost to the eventual champion Cleveland Pipers (owned by George Steinbrenner!) in the playoff quarterfinal.  6′ 8″ center Jim Francis out of Dartmouth was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 19.1 PPG.

In July 1962, owner George McKeon announced that the Saints would not return to the league.  The franchise was relocated across the Bay to Oakland as the Oakland Oaks for the 1962-63 season.  The ABL’s sophomore campaign was cut short due to financial difficulties and the league folded on December 31, 1962.

 

==1961-62 San Francisco Saints Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
11/1/1961 vs. Kansas City Steers W 100-88 Program
11/3/1961 vs. Kansas City Steers L 83-77 Program
11/9/1961 vs. Cleveland Pipers L 103-100 Program
11/10/1961 vs. Cleveland Pipers L 97-88 Program
11/17/1961 @ Chicago Majors L 94-91 (OT) Program
2/20/1962 vs. Chicago Majors W 119-116 Program
2/22/1962 vs. Chicago Majors L 118-102 Program

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1961-1962 Los Angeles Jets

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American Basketball League (1961-1962)

Born: 1960 – ABL founding franchise.
Folded: January 18, 1962

Arena: Olympic Auditorium

Team Colors:

Owners: Vito Guarino & Len Corbosiero

ABL Championships: None

 

The Los Angeles Jets were one of six original franchises in Abe Saperstein’s American Basketball League, which planned to debut in the fall of 1960 and take on the National Basketball Association for bragging rights as the country’s premier pro basketball circuit.  Saperstein was the founder and promoter of the Harlem Globetrotters.  His Los Angeles investors were Vito Guarino and his stepson Len Corbosiero.

Guarino promoted the first NBA game in Los Angeles, a 1959 exhibition game between the Philadelphia Warriors and the St. Louis Hawks which also happened to be Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA debut.  But Guarino’s dream of securing an NBA franchise for L.A. was dashed when Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short gained approval to move his franchise to the city in the fall of 1960.  Guarino ended up with the Jets franchise in Saperstein’s new league instead, but found himself shut out of L.A.’s new Memorial Sports Arena by the transplanted Lakers.  The Jets considered a move to Long Beach for the 1960-61 season, but instead the ABL decided to postpone its debut for a year as other cities also struggled to secure arena agreements..

When the ABL finally tipped off in the autumn of 1961, the Jets were still in Los Angeles and struck a deal to play at the city’s Grand Olympic Auditorium on Grand Avenue.   The Jets’ big name was player-coach Bill Sharman, the perennial All-Star guard for the Boston Celtics who left the NBA because he did not want to be exposed to the league’s expansion draft.  Celtics owner Walter Brown vowed to prevent Sharman from playing for the ABL, but Sharman defied the Celtics’ intimidation and Brown gave up his crusade in November 1961.

But Sharman’s reprieve in L.A. didn’t last long.  The Jets made their home debut on November 6, 1961 against the San Francisco Saints.  In a bad omen, only 1,634 souls showed up at Olympic Auditorium to witness a close contest (won by the Saints 116-113) which also included a first half brawl sparked by NBA veterans George Yardley of the Jets and Whitey Bell of the Saints.

The ABL split its 1961-62 season into two halves.  The Jets played their final game of the first half on January 10, 1962, defeating the Hawaii Chiefs 123-122 in San Francisco to run their record to 24-15.  But despite the winning record, the Jets were out of money or hope (or both) and elected not to continue with the season’s second half.  They became the first ABL franchise to fold on January 17, 1962.  At the time, the league claimed the team was just taking the rest of the season off to re-organize and would likely re-appear in Long Beach for the 1962-62.  The ABL would have a team in Long Beach the following autumn, but it would be the relocated the Hawaii Chiefs rather than the Jets, who were never heard from again.

The ABL itself folded midway through its second season on December 31, 1962.  The role of chief antagonist and rival to the National Basketball Association would fall to the far more successful American Basketball Association, which launched five years later in 1967 and ultimately forced a partial merger in 1976.

Bill Sharman would later championships as a coach in both the American Basketball Association and the NBA.  He would enter the Basketball Hall of Fame twice, enshrined as both a player (1976) and a coach (2004).

 

==In Memoriam==

Jets owner Vito Guarino died on July 24, 1991 at age 77.

Jets player and NBA veteran George Yardley passed away at age 75 on August 12, 2004.

Jets player-coach Bill Sharman passed away October 25, 2013.  He was 87 years old.

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Programs

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