Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Playing the Celtics Got Team Ready for Ralph's

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Playing the Celtics Got Team Ready for Ralph's

Article excerpt

"Basketball as she should be played," wrote the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, who had not seen all that much basketball up until that time, which was February 1926.

The hoop game was in its nascence in Jacksonville; high-schoolers played it between seasons of meaningful sport such as baseball and football. Amateur teams pounded the gym floors on off nights, there being no cable television back then, and the finest of the amateur quints in town was named the Greenbacks, for reasons history obscures, except for maybe the color of their shirts.

The Greenbacks were bankrolled by local sportsman Jack Kerns and they played most of the time on a makeshift floor at the Park Theater on the Southside. There, the Greenbacks took on all comers, and on that Groundhog Day the comers were the greatest basketball team the world, and certainly Jacksonville, had ever seen.

The Original Celtics.

The Original Celtics from New York City rolled into town for a one-night stand and right then and there Jacksonville for the first time was exposed to "basketball as she should be played."

Nat Holman, Joe Lapchick (locally spelled "Lopchick" and occasionally "Lopochick") Johnny Beckman, Dutch Dehnert, Chris Leonard. . .

"These names are as well known in cities given to basketball as the names of Cobb, Ruth and Harris are in baseball," said the Journal.

Harris?

And there was more, much more.

For reasons never thoroughly explained, the Original Celtics were bringing with them great baseball clowns Al Schacht and Nick Altrock. Small wonder fully 3,000 locals turned out to watch the roundball game at the Southside showplace.

The vagabond Shamrocks, as the Celtics were interchangeably called, had been on the road a dozen years. They became the greatest team in basketball in 1923, when they won 214 games and inexplicably lost nine. In cities given to basketball, such as Cleveland, they once drew 22,000 (this was before rock 'n' roll, too). …

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