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Hoops Thru The Years

Meet HoTTY

Welcome to the home of Hoops Thru The Years, or as the Commish likes to call it: HoTTY. 

HoTTY is a basketball sim league using Fast Break Basketball 3 from Grey Dog Software. HoTTY is playing through the history of pro basketball from the early days of the industrial-based National Basketball League in 1937-38 thru today's high-flying NBA. The twist here is the HoTTY will use fictional players in a historical framework. Will a wizard of ball-handling show up and team up with a defensive master to lead the HoTTY Celtics to glory in the 50s? Will a giant among men debut to shatter scoring records as the game transitions in the 60s? Will there be a high-flying scoring machine to dominate the 90s? All of these questions will be answered as we take a trip through the history of pro hoops!

 

1944-45 Recap

BACKGROUND

As the fall of 1944 came around there was a general sense that the war's end was in sight and perhaps a return to normalcy would soon be coming. That positive outlook took a couple of dents in the winter and early spring, but proved to be the case as the 1944-45 season would be the last to be heavily impacted by the Second World War. The National Basketball League reflected the positive outlook of the nation at large as it began to rebound from the ravages of war that had reduced it to a mere four teams in the previous season. 

1944-45 would see the NBL expand back to six teams adding the Pittsburgh Raiders and the Chicago American Gears to the fold. The Cleveland club changed sponsors and the Chase Brassmen simply became the Allman Transfers while the trio of Oshkosh, Sheboygan and defending champion Fort Wayne held fast as the core of the circuit. One major rules change occurred as goaltending was outlawed. The rule hadn't been needed before but a new generation of big and agile centers was starting to appear and these men were able to play above the rim.

The Zollner Pistons were expected to repeat as league champions following a season that saw them dominate league play, win the postseason series and then go on to defeat the Philadelphia SPHAs of the American Basketball League in the "World's Championship." True, the team would miss star guard Larry Gladstone who was inducted into the Army in June and got to Europe in time to participate in the final part of the Battle of the Bulge in early January. They were favored to repeat due to the addition of promising guard Fritz Haslsteiner (who had been born in Germany before emigrating to the U.S. with his parents in 1933) and the emergence of fellow guard Gus Pierce to support the stellar frontcourt of Abe Zinkoff, Al Ceron and Freddie Thomas.

The American Gears looked like a promising addition. Team management had built a largely local roster and had found a hidden gem in 28-year-old Marv Albertson. They also pounced on Mack Smith, a former Zollner Piston who was fresh out of the Navy and though not much of a defender had very good scoring ability. What's more, the Chicago owner Maurice White was, like Fred Zollner, willing to open his wallet to get good players and wasn't afraid to tell everyone exactly that.

 

THE 1944-45 SEASON

 

Those predicting success for Fort Wayne probably didn't quite expect things to unfold exactly as they did - the Zollner Pistons won 27 of 30 games and ran away with the regular season title. Abe Zinkoff continued to emerge as the league's brightest young star, posting a 13.1 average (good for 2nd in the NBL) and grabbing 8.6 rebounds per game as well en route to winning his first Most Valuable Player Award. With Lenny Hendrix back from the Army and adding 10.2 ppg and rookie Fritz Haslsteiner chipping in with 9.4 per game, the Pistons scored a robust 53 points as team and though Sheboygan was slightly better in that regard (average 53.6) the Pistons allowed a measly 40.6 per game, by far the fewest in the league (a full six points per game fewer than the Redskins whose 46.6 mark was second-best).

Sheboygan won the West, where their 20-10 mark easily bettered the American Gears' 13-17 and the surprisingly weak showing by Oshkosh (12-18). The East also had no other teams over the .500 mark with Cleveland going 13-17 and Pittsburgh struggling mightily and finishing with an anemic 5-25 record. A new star was emerging in Cleveland, where pivot Theo Bastian led the league with 14.7 points per game (largely due to there being no other offensive options on the Allmen Transfers).

For Joe Palladino, long the league's most accomplished player, the season saw his scoring average dip into single-digits for the first time since the league's first season as he finished with 8.9 points per game. At 33 years of age, the Sheboygan star was finally starting to show his age, though he remained the league's all-time leading scorer, finishing the season over 400 points ahead of Larry Gladstone.

The Redskins put up a fight in the Championship series, pushing the Zollners to five games before finally falling 3 games to 2. Pistons center Freddie Thomas won the playoff MVP.

The seasonal awards went to:

MVPF Abe Zinkoff (Fort Wayne)
Rookie of the Year: G Norbert Robinson (Chicago)
Coach of the Year: Kenneth White (Fort Wayne)
All-League Team: C Theo Bastian (Cleveland), F Al Ceron (Fort Wayne), F Abe Zinkoff (Fort Wayne), G Jim Smith (Sheboygan), G Lenny Hendrix (Fort Wayne) 

 

1943-44 Recap

BACKGROUND

 

The big news, of course, was the war that was raging across the globe. With many of its players now continuing to serve in the military in far-off locales as the Allies began to push back Axis forces in both the Pacific and European theaters, the NBL prepared for a 1943-44 season that would see just three teams continue from the previous campaign. The 1942-43 season had ended badly for the Chicago Studebaker Flyers and the resulting acrimony and backbiting ultimately led the UAW to pull its support, meaning the team could no longer continue. The Jim Whites, despite playing for the championship against powerhouse Sheboygan, also could not continue due to financial issues. Both Sheboygan and Oshkosh were municipally owned teams, similar to the Packers of the NFL, and this "community" support enabled them to survive in the lean years of the war. The Zollner Pistons survived on the willpower and financial acumen of owner Fred Zollner, who kept the team going despite a tough end to the 1942-43 season. Rounding out the quartet of teams for '43-44 would be a new entry from Cleveland, Ohio - the Chase Brassmen (sponsored unsurprisingly by the Chase Brass Company).

 

THE 1943-44 SEASON

The Zollner Pistons rose to the top of the heap with a 15-7 mark in league play. The team had found a gem in rookie forward Abe Zinkoff who fetched the Rookie of the Year award at year's end and teamed with pivot Freddie Thomas, veteran forward Al Ceron and guards Larry Gladstone & Gus Pierce to give Fort Wayne the league's strongest starting quintet. Zinkoff's emergence filled the massive void left when the team's former star Joe Novak shipped out with the U.S. Army prior to the previous campaign.

Second-place was a familiar place for Oshkosh - but this time they were looking up at Fort Wayne and down at Sheboygan, which was news. The All-Stars finished at 13-9 with old standout Mo Feingold leading the way once again. Feingold's 12.7 ppg were tops in the league, beating out Larry Gladstone by two-tenths of a point for the scoring title. Forward Billy Nock somewhat controversially earned Most Valuable Player honors for his solid all-around play, but there were plenty of candidates to be found and perhaps the voters just felt it was Nock's "turn" to grab the MVP trophy.

The Sheboygan Redskins finished third and that disappointing 11-11 mark meant they would not have a chance to earn a fourth-straight postseason championship. Joe Palladino was again the best player for the Redskins, but his 12 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game weren't enough for a team that was missing several key components of their title teams of the past due to military call-ups.

Cleveland attempted to build its roster on retreads from the league's powers. Theo Bastian came on board as a castoff in Oshkosh (where he had been stuck behind established stars) and rose to the occasion in Cleveland, giving them 10.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game from the big forward position. But injuries and inconsistent play doomed the other two players the Brassmen had claimed off the rubbish heap in Alphonse Berube and Hank Watkins. Rookie Don Richards showed glimpses of a promising future, but overwhelmed by the NBL's core of quick small forwards.

The Zollner Pistons capped their stellar season with a two-game sweep of Oshkosh for their first-ever NBL championship. Rookie Zinkoff claimed the MVP award in the championship series.

The seasonal awards went to:

MVP: F Billy Nock (Oshkosh)
Rookie of the Year: F Abe Zinkoff (Fort Wayne)
Coach of the Year: Kenneth White (Fort Wayne)
All-League Team: C Charlie Moss (Oshkosh), F Billy Nock (Oshkosh), F Abe Zinkoff (Fort Wayne), G Jim Smith (Sheboygan), G Joe Palladino (Sheboygan)