Boxed Out of the NBA: Local Authors Write Book on Eastern Basketball League
SCRANTON, Pa .– The Eastern Basketball League began the year after WWII ended and lasted 25 years, until it rebounded in 1970 as the EBA. The teams consisted of a road map of our region: Sunbury, Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton. In the 1965-66 season, the NBA had only nine teams, about 100 players. The Eastern League was boxed from the NBA.
“If the Eastern League era players could play the way they do today when there are around 450 players in the NBA, a lot of them would be All Stars,” said the co-author of the book, Jay Rosenstein. “So it’s a shame that these players, that these great, great players of the 50’s, 60’s are just a pity that they couldn’t play in the NBA and the fact that these guys did that for $ 35 a game or whatever it was for the love of the game. “
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âYou know you mentioned Julius McCoy who was awesome,â added co-author Syl Sobel. “He was a 6’2”, 6’3 “player who could score inside on anyone. Before there was an Elgin Baylor, a 6” 5 “forward who had shots that could score inside, you had Wally Choice. You had Hal ‘King’ Lear. I mean what a great nickname, King Lear! Dick Gaines who was a bull. Before there was Charles Barkley, there was Dick GaInes who was about 6’3 “, 230, 240, 260. Who for all the careers, all the jobs he had, he was the leader of. recreation in a jail in New Jersey. I mean, he was a tough guy, doing a tough job, surrounded by tough people. “
The Scranton Miners are among the flagship teams of the old EBL, later those of Apollo. Upon entering their old gymnasium, the Scranton CYC brings back so many memories. Memories of great players like Willie Murrell, Willie Somerset, my favorite “Swish McKinney, and even Jim Boeheim the Syracuse coach. Team owner and sometimes coach Art Patcher always on the sidelines with a cigar firmly planted in his mouth.
âThe Eastern League’s red Auerbach,â Sobel explained. âHe was so present with a cigar at the end of the bench. Not just the enthusiasm and character, but you know what is the legacy that sets me most apart about Arthur, what the players have said. The respect he has. had for his players, for his community. He lost a lot of money on the home stretch, but he wanted Scranton to have professional basketball. “
So what has been the downfall of the league?
â20 or 30 of the top Eastern Leaguers went out to play in the ABA and that was the beginning of the beginning of the end, I guess you could tell,â Rosenstein explained. “For the families of Scranton and the Eastern League, it was difficult.”
Blue collar and city teams, the EBL was a slice of Americana, oriental style.
âWe’ve seen some of the greatest basketball players in the world, at CYC and at Sunbury High School,â Sobel said. “What an incredible experience we had!”