Have team, will travel

Gerry Archibald’s Warren NBL basketball team moved to Cleveland, then Detroit

Photo courtesy of nbahoopsonline.com Gerry Archibald, the owner of the Warren Penns.

As much as the 1937-1938 season was a struggle for the Warren Penns, the start of the 1938-1939 season was the polar opposite.

The Penns played a full 28-game schedule that season and started the season 9-5.

One of those wins is recounted in an nbahoopsonline.com photo of an undated clipping from a local newspaper.

Under the headline “Early Lead Big Help As Archibald Outfit Tops Wisconsin Five,” the Penns defeated the Sheboygan Redskins, 37-33, “before a crowd of about 400 fans at the Beaty school gym here last night.”

“Although not an especially rough game, a large number of fouls were called by Referee Jack Norris and much of the time was spent in attempts from the charity line,” the game story reads. “Inability of the Penns to hit the hoop consistently on the free tries well nigh proved their undoing. Warren was able to register only five times ot of 21 in this department….”

Public domain photo Buddy Jeannette would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the 1940s.

Warren ran out to a 15-7 lead on a “real scoring spree” by holdover Walter “Deac” Stankey and newcomer Bill Holland.

In the second quarter, Stankey and Holland “were the only Warrenites to hit the hoop and the intermission found Warren clinging to a 22-19 edge.

“The pace was hot in the third period, with both teams fighting hard. However, by virtue of a couple long ones by Stankey, a bucket by Reno Strand and Bud Jeannette’s foul toss, the Penns managed to increase their lead by one point and went into the final period with a 30-26 advantage.”

Strand, also a newcomer to that year’s Penns, “converted a foul toss and then followed with the clinching bucket.

“While Stankey and Holland led the Penns in scoring, the work of other members of the team cannot be overlooked. The floor work of Laughlin and Jeannette through most of the game and the final period burst by Strand played big parts in the Penns success. Joe Leson also turned in some nice work in a reserve capacity.”

Photo from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame The most famous member of the Penns, Buddy Jeannette would go on to a Hall of Fame career and coach both at Georgetown University and in the NBA.

Laughlin, Jeannette and Lesson were also new members of the 1938-1939 Penns.

And this would just be the beginning for Jeannette, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career through the 1940s.

The second season of the National Basketball League saw the number of teams fall to eight and the rules become standardized league-wide.

The Penns had seen significant roster turnover and were in third place with the 9-5 record, trailing only the two teams from Akron (one sponsored by Goodyear and one by Firestone). The Firestone team — by far the best in the league — went 24-3 that year.

Maybe it was the early success but a sponsor came knocking on Archibald’s door — Cleveland’s White Horse Motors.

That spelled the end for the Warren Penns.

In February, Archibald moved to the team to Cleveland.

A cleveland.com report notes that the team’s first game at the Cleveland Arena drew 7,500 people.

“Reduced to eight teams in 1938-1939, the National Basketball League played only a 28-game schedule and so each team had to book outside games to meet the payroll,” the report explained. “Gerry Archibald’s booking problems were solved when he was invited to represent Elmira, N.Y., in the New York-Pennsylvania League, as well as Cleveland in the NBL.”

Driving all over the regions and between those cities — with a few games back in Warren — the team went 5-9 in the rest of the NBL season, finishing at 14-14, but won the New York-Penn League title.

That half season would be it for the White Horses as Archibald moved the team to Detroit and ultimately sold it in 1940 (or 1941 depending on the source).

He got out at a good time as World War II would ultimately force the team to fold during the 1942-1943 season with most of the roster set to joined the Armed Forces.

Walter Stankey (8.1 ppg), Bill Holland (6.7 ppg), Frank Maury (4.1 ppg) and John Pawk (uncle of Tony Award-winning actress and singer Michele Pawk) were the holdovers from the 11937-1938 season.

They would be joined in that 1938-1939 season by a future Hall of Famer — Buddy Jeannette.

He scored 6.7 points per game for the Penns/White Horses but would go on to finish top 10 in scoring in the NBL four times, finishing 23rd in league history in points. He was all NBL First Team four years and second in a fifth year, all in the 1940s.

Jeannette is described by the Naismith Hall of Fame as being the “top backcourt player” in professional basketball from 1938-1948.

“One of basketball’s pioneers, his dextrous passing, clutch shooting, hard-nosed defense and all-around playmaking earned him four Most Valuable Player awards. He won five championships across three leagues. “In 1947, he was the first-ever player-coach to win a professional championship with the Baltimore Bullets of the American Basketball League.”

A college star at Washington & Jefferson College, Jeannette coached in the NBA, ABA and at Georgetown University throughout that aspect of his career.

A New Kensington, Pa., native, according to the peachbasketsociety blog, Jeannette was head coach at Georgetown in the 1950s and in the NBA for the Baltimore Bullets in the 1960s.

A 1991 Hall of Fame inductee, Jeannette died at the age of 80 in 1998 after suffering a stroke.

The 1938-1939 season was Bill Laughlin’s only professional experience but he made the most of it.

Averaging 8.6 points per game, Laughlin finished fourth in the league in points, sixth in free throws and fifth in field goals.

Laughlin played college ball at Washington & Jefferson College and returned to his hometown of East LIverpool, Ohio. where he was a long-time high school teacher and basketball head coach, according to peachbasketsociety.blogspot.com. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, as well.

Reno Strand’s only pro experience was 2.8 ppg in 15 games that season. Per the blog, he coached at Strong Vincent High School for a time after his playing days and was “also a champion diver and semi-pro baseball player.” He ran a basketball camp at the Erie Boys Club and operated a construction company. He died in 1988.

Art Hyatt’s 5.3 ppg in seven games was his professional debut with his only other professional experience coming the next year in Detroit. Born in Connecticut, the blog reports it’s unclear who he was but he may have played AAU ball for Universal Pictures in 1934-1935.

Joseph Lesson’s 1.7 ppg in 17 games was also only professional experience.

When you own the team, there are privileges and Archibald played in two games that season, though he didn’t score any points.

After selling the team, Archibald ran the family fox farm with his father, Lyman. He also operated an independent team — the Warren Transits — in the 1952-1953 season. He died in 1990 and is buried at the Snyder Cemetery up Fifth Ave.

This is the fifth and final article in a series about ties to professional basketball in Warren.


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