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Association for Professional Basketball Research

Team and League History

???, 1947
Maurice White, owner of the National Basketball League's Chicago Gears, withdraws his team from the NBL. Joining forces with 15 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 7, 1947
Harry D. Wilson, vice president of the PBLA, announces that Fred Lewis will be player-coach of the Birmingham franchise. A 2-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 beginning.

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

October 8, 1947
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.

October 13, 1947
A "Name the Team" contest is begun, offering $100 and 2 season tickets to the winner. Once a name has been selected, the team name will be unveiled at the first home game.

October 30, 1947
The team wins their first home game 51-42 against the New Orleans Hurricanes and will now be known as the Birmingham Skyhawks.
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 12, 1947
In a surprise announcement, league officials state 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 and that all players will immediately become free agents.

The folding of the PBLA leaves the country with 2 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."

Lewis 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."

The Chicago Gears were undefeated in their 8 games and could be considered the PBLA's champion.

November 13, 1947
Lewis announces the Birmingham Skyhawks will play 2 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.

Lewis remained shocked by the news of the league's 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."

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

November 14, 1947
Lewis announces the Atlanta Crackers series has been cancelled due to the majority of the Atlanta players leaving to accept other offers.

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

Shortly after the announcement was made that the league had folded, St. Joseph, Oklahoma City, Springfield, Kansas City, Tulsa, and Des Wines began a 2 week series of exhibition games with plans to begin league play on December 1st.

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

Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: May 11, 2018