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Birmingham Skyhawks logo Boutwell Municipal Auditorium
Association for Professional Basketball Research

Team and League History


August 13, 1947
Maurice White, owner of the National Basketball League's Chicago Gears, withdraws his team from the NBL. Joining forces with fifteen other businessmen, White's group establishes Commercial Sports Advertising, Inc. and in turn forms the Professional Basketball League of America. White will also serve as the league's president.

"We feel that the National league as well as the Basketball Association of America do not have the same objectives as does the Gears organization," White said. The PBLA would not have a working relationship with either league.

The Gears joined the National league in 1945 and finished second in their division. The next year the club failed to make the playoffs, but were the National Basketball League champions last year.

Plans are to have a 24 teams split into four divisions. Teams will play a 66-game schedule with half of those being home games. Each team will play their division members three times and all of the other division teams at home once.

"The Professional Basketball League of America will strive for the triple goal of attracting the highest type of athlete into the sport, presenting the athletes with an opportunity to enter an attractive graduate career, and having assembled these high type athletes, to present professional basketball of the highest caliber," White said.

October 7, 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 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 12, 1947
Paul Walk, president of the National league announces that his league will sue any player that jumps to the PBLA.

Additionally, the NBL will ban for life any player that plays a single game in the PBLA.

October 13, 1947
A "Name the Team" contest is begun, 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.

October 30, 1947
The team wins their first home game 51-42 against the New Orleans Hurricanes and will be known as the Birmingham Skyhawks.

Glass backboards were used for the first time. 
 
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 Omahawks    New Orleans Hurricanes   
   St. Joseph Outlaws    Oklahoma City Drillers
   St. Paul Saints    Springfield Squires
   Waterloo Pro-Hawks    Tulsa Ranchers
   
November 12, 1947
After meetings that ran late into the night, the Professional Basketball League of America has folded.

James O. Brooks, attorney for Commercial Sports Advertising, Inc. read the announcement...

"Effective November 13, 1947, the Professional Basketball League of America will be terminated and all games will be cancelled."

Brooks cited poor attendance as the main reason for terminating the league and that all 160 league 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."

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 eight games and could be considered the PBLA's champion.

November 13, 1947
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.

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 possible new basketball league developing.

Epilogue
Shortly after the announcement was made that the league had folded, St. Joseph, Oklahoma City, Springfield, Kansas City, Tulsa, and Des Wines began a two 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.
 
 
 
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Last update: August 07, 2018