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 Team and League History


??? 1947

      Maurice White, owner of the National Basketball League's Chicago Gears, withdraws the team from the league. Joining forces with fifteen other businessmen, White's group establishes Commercial Sports Advertising, Inc. and in turn forms the Professional Basketball League of America.

The Gears were the National Basketball League champions last year.


October 1947

    Harry D. Wilson, vice president of the PBLA, announces that Fred Lewis will be player-coach of the Birmingham franchise. A two year contract will be in effect.

An outstanding player for Sheboygan, Lewis was voted the Most Valuable Player in the National Basketball League last season. Lewis played for the Eastern Kentucky Teacher's College prior to his professional career began.

Wilson also announced the team will play in the Municipal Auditorium.

    Coach Lewis announces that Elmo Morganthaler, the tallest professional basketball player in the nation at 7' 1" has agreed to join the Birmingham team. Morganthaler led the nation in scoring in 1945-46 while at Boston College. Last year, Morganthaler played with the Providence team in the Basketball Association of America.   
    A "Name the Team" contest is began, offering $100 and two season tickets to the winner. Once a name has been selected, the team name will be unveiled at the first home game on October 30th.   

The team wins their first home game 51-42 against the New Orleans Hurricanes and will now be known as the Birmingham Skyhawks.


 1947-48 Professional Basketball League of America  

  Northern Division   Southern Division  
  Chicago Gears   Atlanta Crackers  
  Grand Rapids Rangers    Birmingham Skyhawks  
  Kansas City Blues   Chattanooga Majors  
  Louisville Colonels   Houston Mavericks  
  Omaha Tomahawks   New Orleans Hurricanes  
  St. Joseph Outlaws   Oklahoma City Drillers  
  St. Paul Saints   Springfield Squires  
  Waterloo Pro-Hawks   Tulsa Ranchers  

November 1947

    Officials announce that the Professional Basketball League of America has folded. James O. Brooks, attorney for Commercial Sports Advertising, Inc. made the announcement. Brooks cited poor attendance as the main reason for terminating the league. All players will immediately become free agents. 

The folding of the PBLA leaves the country with two basketball leagues, the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America. 

Henry A. Foote, an executive director of the league, said he "couldn't add any more to the statement except that the league has disbanded."

Fred Lewis, the Skyhawk's player-coach, was stunned to discover the news. "It was a complete surprise to me and the players. Naturally, I have no comment to make until I get confirmation from league headquarters," Lewis said.

The Chicago Gears were undefeated in their eight games and could be considered as the PBLA's champion.

    Lewis announces the Birmingham Skyhawks will play two more games, a home-and-home series with the Atlanta Crackers. If enough interest is shown at each game, the teams would be willing to play a few more games.

The Chicago Gears, who withdrew from the NBL last year, are in negotiations to return to that league. 

Lewis remained shocked by the news of the league failing. "We were given assurance the league would not fold. The players and I were caught by surprise when we read it in the (Birmingham) News that the league had disbanded. It's a tremendous blow to the boys and me," Lewis said.

    Lewis announces the Atlanta Crackers series has been cancelled due to the majority of the Atlanta players leaving to accept other offers.

Lewis said the Skyhawks players would remain in Birmingham to await the outcome of a move to develop a new basketball league.



      Shortly after the announcement to fold, St. Joseph, Oklahoma City, Springfield, Kansas City, Tulsa and Des Wines began a two week series of exhibitions with plans to begin league play on December 1st. 

However, attendance was poor and after playing games through November 27th, they decided to quit for good.

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Last Update: February 16, 2008