By Phil Hecken
With the NBA tipping off a short while ago, and the college basketball season kicking off last evening, (and if you missed Paul’s ESPN College Hoops Preview, click here), it’s time to devote at least one column this fall to hoops. And of course, when I think of the NBA, the first thing I think of is “Pittsburgh.”
OK, no it’s not, because there is no NBA team in Pittsburgh — but that doesn’t mean there was never professional basketball played there. I’m very pleased today to bring you a thoroughly researched column on professional hoops played in the ‘burgh, and one of Uni Watch’s top Yinzer researchers, Jerry Wolper (the man who is responsible for the AMAZING Buc-Tracker Project [writeup] and [project]) is here today to tell you all about the NBA’s admittedly thin, but quite interesting, history in Pittsburgh. Here’s Jerry…
The NBA in Pittsburgh
By Jerry Wolper
Leagues don’t enter the sporting landscape fully formed. Teams move, fold, and enter as conditions warrant. In some cases, games are played at neutral sites. Sometimes an arena owner (especially when it’s privately owned) will have a date to fill. Sometimes a promoter feels that he can make money by buying the right to sell tickets in the neutral city. And sometimes a team wants to expand its geographic footprint. Often, these are all true. We still see it with NBA and NHL exhibitions, and even NFL games in London and Toronto. And leagues can look at attendance to help gauge fan interest in putting a team in a new city.
From the 1950s to the ’70s, Pittsburgh was one site for NBA games:
When the Basketball Association of America, which became the NBA, started in 1946-47, the Pittsburgh Ironmen were one of the teams. Their colors were red and white, and they apparently wore red for their first few home games. By December, they had white uniforms with a “P” on the shorts. Their best player early was Brooms Abramovic, Coalby Gunther was their leading scorer, and the Ironman who went on to be most famous was Press Maravich, whose son had a better career. The newspapers noted as the season came to a close that the Ironmen started with a loss and never climbed out of last place. They folded after one season.
Neutral site game – Duquesne Gardens
On March 11, 1953, the Philadelphia Warriors defeated the Milwaukee Hawks 72-69 in overtime in front of a sold out crowd. The sellout was because of the second game of the doubleheader, where the Globetrotters once again beat the Generals, and here’s how the next day’s Pittsburgh Press covered the event. This game was rescheduled because the first time it was played, the Hawks had too many players foul out and when they were down to four players, the officials let the wrong fouled-out player play, and the Warriors’ protest was upheld. Oddly, the first game was played in front of a sellout crowd in Chicago Stadium, and the sellout was again for the Globetrotter game that followed.
When the Civic Arena was about to open in 1961, John Harris, who owned the AHL Hornets, talked seriously to the NBA about an expansion franchise. He met with the league at the All-Star game and decided not to invest the $200,000. (A group from Chicago did acquire a franchise. After two years, the Packers/Zephyrs moved to Baltimore, and today we know them as the Washington Wizards.)
When the NBA franchise fell through, another group started a team in the new rival ABL. The Renaissance (better known as the Rens) were able to sign Connie Hawkins, and they lasted the entire year and a half that the league did.
Neutral site games – Civic Arena
After the ABL folded, the NBA started playing some games at the Civic Arena. On February 18, 1964, the Celtics beat the 76ers in front of 7,902 fans. December 15, 1964, Wilt Chamberlain scored 40 while playing with a mask over his broken nose, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the 76ers, who won 119-112 before 5,242. (Note that the ad mentions that it’s “a regular scheduled game – not an exhibition”.) On January 11, 1965, Jerry West’s 41 points weren’t quite enough, as the Pistons edged the Lakers 128-127. On February 15, 1966, the 76ers played the St. Louis Hawks the night after Wilt passed Bob Pettit for the NBA’s career scoring league. A sellout crowd of 11,601 (with another couple thousand supposedly turned away) watched Philadelphia beat the Hawks 121-109.
76ers six-game series
Wilt scored 42 against the Bullets, including 18 for 18 from the field. The Sixers went on to win the championship that year, and were popular enough to average 8140 fans. There was even local radio coverage of the Pittsburgh games.
In 1967, the ABA started, and Pittsburgh had a franchise. Connie Hawkins led the Pipers to the first ABA championship in front of a large crowd at the Arena. Unfortunately, large crowds were a rarity, and the team moved to Minnesota for the 1968-89 season (replacing the Muskies, who had become the Miami Floridians.) It didn’t work out in Minnesota, and the Pipers moved back to Pittsburgh for the 1969-70 season. The NBA signed Hawkins, though, and the team wasn’t very good. A conglomerate called Haven Industries bought the team in 1970, and held a “Rename the Team” contest. The winner was “Pioneers”, but Point Park College already called its teams the Pioneers, and they threatened to sue. So the team became the Condors, and they played poorly for two more years in front of very few fans before they mercifully folded in 1972.
An NHL franchise also took the Civic Arena ice in 1967. (And, no, that jersey’s nothing more than part of an early illustration.)
Another 76ers six-game series
With the Arena available, six 76er games were once again booked for 1972-73. Wilt was long gone, the Doctor was still in the ABA, and the team was less successful both on the court and in the stands:
The loss to the Pistons was the team’s 73rd, a record that still stands. (My brother is proud that the only NBA game he ever attended, against Cleveland, included the losingest team in league history.) The Hawks featured Pete Maravich’s return to town, and people responded. Connie Hawkins’ return with the Suns was less successful, and the average attendance of 3,977 was enough to discourage more games.
There have been exhibitions since, but no more regular season games.
(All images are from the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the Google archive.)
50 Years Ago…This Weekend
Last year, Rick Pearson took us “back in time” to bring us his look at the featured television college football match-up from 50 years ago. (If you’re not familiar with it, this was the inaugural post of “50 Years Ago” from last year — after that, it became a recurring feature on UW for the remainder of the season). Last year, Rick looked at the 1961 season, and fortunately for us, he “uni tracked” the games from 1962 as well, documenting the game via his “kid cards”. Each week this fall, he’ll do the same, again.
Ah, a look at Purdue. … Helmet TV numbers positioned up higher than typical … Braided trim at neck and sleeve ends … Northwestern-striped stirrups under crews with a wide old gold top … Boilermakers were one of the few teams still using back shoelaces (here’s the uni, largely unchanged, on Bob Griese in ”˜65). … Earlier we’d seen Spartans in their warm-weather jerseys with half sleeves and no stripes. … This time they wore ¾ sleeves with Northwestern stripes. … Also wore white stirrups with three equal kelly stripes in the November weather. … Donald Brooks didn’t play pro football. … Wingback Lonnie Sanders spent seven seasons as a DB in the NFL (five with the Redskins, two with the Cardinals).
If you lived in Minnesota or Iowa you got a SECOND game on TV this Saturday. … Because Gophers and Hawkeyes were battling for #1 in the nation, interest was so high that the NCAA allowed a special network telecast. … The game aired on the educational channels (later known as PBS) in both states, which meant no commercials. … Gophers wore single-striped crew socks. … Iowa in those great jerseys that DIDN’T have the Northwestern stripes of their homes. … Gophers’ Myron “Mo” Rognlie became a Minneapolis cop. … Hawkeyes’ Cloyd Webb was one of the early cleat “spatters” and, like most players at the time, played both offense and defense. … Drafted by the Bears and Bills as a TE, he signed with Buffalo but didn’t make the club, and spent a couple seasons in the CFL, first with Winnipeg, then Hamilton.
Thanks Rick! Great job with that as always, and a double dose to boot!
Robert’s Rules of Rups
Want to win a free pair of ‘rups?
Of course you do.
Comrade Marshall, our patron saint of hose (well, after Nap Lajoie, that is)…has a very special segment today, and make sure you read it all, because there is a free set of stirrups each week just there for the taking. All you have to do is show some creativity — I’ll let Robert explain it all…here’s Comrade:
Phil has been a champ showing Stirrup-Friday pixtures, which I personally love, but I wanted to add a little incentive in the way of free UW stirrups to sort of up the anti. What does that mean? I will be sending out the stirrup at the UW header to those who really do something special in polaroids sent to Phil. They can be “in action“, at the office, or about town (yes, if it is a pixture you sent to me in the past few years, you can send it to Phil). I would like to say there will be a weekly winner, and I hope there is in these cold dreary months.
Let’s next turn to “new” offerings. I know Phil has always wanted this at the dead centre of the imaaa…er, stirrup in the bottom right. So let’s go with that since the Irish are looking for an olde school alt-green miracle. This also happens to be the inverse of the classic duck look, which was unchanged for 40+ years more or less before their shenanigans. Now I could be wrong, but speaking of UW ‘rups, let me go out on a limb and say I would bet dimes to doughnuts that this kelly green and gold model would be the UW stirrup if a certain New York far right leaning hooligan could go back in time. Silly 7ist scum, with his flashy 7″ stirrups, he betrays the true believer’s 5″.
Okay, enough funning around, let’s get to serious with the world’s champeeen Giants. I am out of these, so it only seems right proper to re-up, and give people who root root root for them the discount. And since Christmas is right around the corner, let’s bring back the Oaks.
From each according their stirrvp, to each according his strype.
Thank you Comrade. And now, for today’s offering of…
Because we love the stirrup here at Uni Watch, this section is devoted to those of us who sport the beautiful hose on Fridays — a trend popularized many years ago by Robert P. Marshall, III. For many of us, it’s become a bit of an obsession, but a harmless one — a reflection of our times. Where we once had Friday ties, which has been replaced by Casual Friday — we now have Stirrup Fridays. It’s an endearingly simple concept — no matter where you work (or even if you don’t) — break out a fresh pair of rups to compliment (or clash with) your Friday attire.
So, in the order in which they were received (and we’ve got two weeks worth here) … here we go (click on each thumbnail for a glorious, full size image):
I haven’t been active on Uni Watch the last few years but I checked in and saw the Stirrup Friday post. I loved getting the ‘rups a few years ago through the bulk orders. I didn’t do a ‘rup Friday but I did want to send this pic along as I think I may be the only rugby ref in America, perhaps anywhere, to rock the ‘rups while reffing. Once I ended up with the jersey (we got it for reffing the 2008 Can-Am tournament) I knew I had to pair it with the 70’s A’s stirrups from the order a few years back.
Thanks as always for the great blog posts.
I hope all is well.
Today’s stirrups were a part of my Halloween costume – 1980s Astros.
Today I’m wearing the black and orange to congratulate the Giants on their World Series victory, and Romo, their closer, on his great baseball fashion sense.
How long till pitchers and catchers report?
James T. Huening:
It would make sense if you could see my shirt.
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
Happy Stirrup Friday!
Glad the surgery went well, Paul.
Wearing old-school Senators’ stirrups in honor of election day (I forget what year RPM lists them as). It may come across as a cliche, but I have spent enough time all around the world that I try not to take our elections for granted, warts and all.
My stirrup Friday routine ended with the World Series in previous years, but I plan on at least running once through the collection this time before formally going into the offseason. That does not quite get me to pitchers and catchers.
Heal quick Paul, and continued support to family, friends, and all still being impacted by Sandy.
Jessie & Marty Buccafusco, Phil Hecken, Ross Bergman:
Just your semi-average Uni Watch gathering at the Sheep Station in Brooklyn. I’ve identified the four stirrup-wearers in the front — there may have been other similarly hosed folks in the back, but they weren’t showing leg. So there ya go. Here’s a photo id chart for easier reference.
And that ends today’s look at Stirrup Friday — all of you who participate, send me your pics and a brief (~50 words) description of their relevance, and I’ll run ’em here on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday too!).
If you’re not a member of Stirrup Nation and want to join, just visit Comrade Marshall’s house of hose (and you can see the available selections here) or if you have any questions about the availability of stirrups, drop him a line at email@example.com. Here’s what’s NEW this week:
So, comrades — why don’t you pick up a pair or three and show us your rups!
“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.
Cue the Singers: “You Gotta Be A Football Hero…”
Click to enlarge
Sat. AM Uni Watch
Since I was on sabbatical last weekend, with an injured Paul ably handling the duties, one of the fall Sunday favorites was on hiatus as well — Sunday Morning Uni Watch. But that doesn’t mean Terry Duroncelet was taking the weekend off too — nay, he was busy compiling a SMUW for us that was so good, I’m going to run it anyway…even if it’s for the games played last weekend. So, as a special Saturday treat, here’s TJ:
Hey guys. I thought I’d give you guys a (slightly shorter) rundown of the games from week 10 (we’re in week 11 now). Let’s get right into it:
• Ohio and Eastern Michigan played each other on Thursday (Nov. 1st), and… omai. So much green. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, green is one of my favorite colors, but… damn. I kinda like it, but… I don’t know.
• Miami wore mono-orange against Virginia Tech. Unless I’m wrong on this, the last time that they wore mono-orange was against Florida in their 1985 season opener. They lost and — except for their 2010 Nike Pro Combat uniforms (which were coincidentally worn against VT) — haven’t worn that look since until Thursday night (Nov. 1st). Big thanks to LI Matt for finding that 1985 pic and posting it in the comments on Thursday (Nov. 1st).
• Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky went color vs. color on Thursday (Nov. 1st). Now, I hate screenprint graphics on uniforms, and I dislike that tapered thing on MTSU’s pants, but it’s rare that they’re the better-dressed team, because without red helmets, WKU in mono-red is a bad look for them.
• Moving on to Saturday (Nov. 3rd), we knew about Mississippi State’s Snow Bowl uniforms, but what we didn’t know was that aTm was going to wear all-black uniforms. The helmet was a predominately black shell, with some kind of maroon sparkle fade going to the bottom. Want more detailed pics? You know where to go. Ehh, I don’t really know how to feel about the lid. That kind of finish really belongs on a drumset, not a football helmet. At least you can tell the two teams apart, so they avoided a “Texas A&M Bulldogs vs. Miss. St. Aggies” joke… this time.
• UCLA wore this against Arizona. It’s like the football program and Violet Beauregarde had a baby together. And I’ll be honest: I actually kinda like this. Now just ditch the TechFit mess, and we’ll be good.
• That wasn’t the only thing happening in LA on Saturday (Nov. 3rd). Oregon and USC had a game together, which of course, will include a big hype machine driven by Volt-colored motor oil. Yes, Oregon went full… well, see for yourself. The shirt’s slogan speaks for itself. Not a bad-looking game, IMO.
• Maryland wore v2.0 of their pride uniforms last weekend. I’m sure most of you know me as a pretty calm guy, and — while I have no problem with saying it in the comments — I pretty much never use the F-word in my write-ups, I’m gonna have to lift the language filter here, so if profanity bothers you, then I kindly ask that you skip over this next paragraph: Maryland, what the fuck?! You had AN ENTIRE YEAR to fix the glaring error of the flag patterns matching! This is one of the most exuberant flags in the United States, if not the most exuberant. Your professional teams give two shits about the flag enough to incorporate it in their uniforms in some facet, even though that almost none of the flag colors match up with the team colors! You make such a big deal about the flag, saying “the flag is our symbol’, “the flag is our heart and soul”, and yet you not only fuck up last year’s uniforms (I gave you the benefit of the doubt then), but you have 14 months of downtime between when they were first unveiled (worn twice in 2011, the first time in early September against Miami), and the version that you wore on Saturday, FOURTEEN FUCKING MONTHS to realize “Oh! We should fix the panels so that it looks more like the flag”, and yet you STILL MANAGE TO FUCK THIS UP? It’s kind of like in the game Ghosts N’ Goblins (I’m mainly talking about the NES version, and know nothing about the arcade version), how it’s O.K. if you’re completely new to the game, and you don’t realize that the knife is the only good weapon, and that’s fine, you don’t know any better, but if you’ve been playing the game for a few days, read and watched the reviews, and you have the levels figured out by now, you should know damn well by now to GET THE KNIFE. It’s like Maryland burned their hand on the stove not knowing that it hurts, but they intentionally burn their hand on the same damn stove over one year later! (except that the stove has since been painted black for one reason or another) Maryland, you’ve had time to correct this glaring mistake, but if you’re not going to take the time to see that the quadrants are supposed to stagger, if you’re going to talk a big game about your State’s flag and how you’re practically willing to die for it, yet you don’t meet the bare minimum requirement of making sure that the uniform looks like this, then I have one bit of advice for you: never wear this uniform or any variation of it. Ever again. Hopefully, I never have to go in on a program like that ever again.
And that will end this make up of week 10’s findings. Hopefully, I haven’t scared any of you away from my rant on Maryland, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Thanks, TJ. I think you really need to come out of your shell more with your feelings about some of these uniforms. I’m getting the impression you’re just going through the motions ;)
That’s it for today, folks. Yes, I know there was college hoop action yesterday, and yes, I’m well aware camo was worn. I’m not going to say anything about the why it was worn (and yes, tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, and it’s a day we should stop and thank a veteran for all the freedoms we enjoy today, at least the Americans reading this), but I will say they all looked like shit. If anyone wants to do up a *review* of those unis, drop me a line and we’ll talk. I’m all camo’ed out, folks.
And one last thing — I was going to do a write up on how I and my friends and family fared through Sandy and the nor’easter, but frankly, I’m too exhausted to do that for today. Maybe tomorrow. Lets just say I’m one of the lucky ones — by lucky, I only lost power for six days, and my mom and aunt both only suffered major tree damage (and they were without power for nine days). There are still hundreds of thousands still without power, thousands without HOMES, and hundreds who lost their lives. Sandy was very, very bad folks, and the recovery and suffering will be prolonged. My heart goes out to anyone affected by this and to any Uni Watchers (and their family and friends) who are still suffering. Peace.
My brother and I got a ton of those things for Christmas in 1980”¦Steelers and Browns as gifts, then Chargers, Giants, Oilers, Falcons, Raiders and Eagles with money from grandma thru the Sears catalog. The numbers didn’t stick for long, and the feet tended to break off, but man were they fun to play with. No wonder I’m obsessed with uniforms.