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Basketball Always Big in Hamilton
By Bee Jay
Basketball was “big business” in Hamilton as early as shortly after the turn of the century. At that time a
team known as the Independents represented the city in top senior and open competition. It was
considered to be the best team in the general area of Ontario and across the border to the South.
Before roaring crowds of from 2,000 to 2,500 spectators at the old Alexandra Hall on James Street
South, the Independents won more than their share from the best teams available, including exciting
games with one of the best-known teams in New York State, the Buffalo Germans.
A team, made up chiefly of the players from the Independents, represented the city at the St. Louis
World’s Fair in 1904. It finished third among 40 competing clubs from all over the continent and
Among the players were Cliff Morden, who was also an Olympic medallist in 1904, Fred Arnold, Art
James, Frank Harvey and men named Chadwick, McKeown and Thompson.
The attendance records set at Alexandra Hall by the Independents still stand. Perhaps largely because
there has been no gym available with an equal or greater capacity.
One of Hamilton’s most successful senior cage teams was the one that played under the auspices of the
Hamilton Y.M.C.A. With the exception of the interruption caused by World War One, this team
dominated basketball in Eastern Canada during the period from 1911 to 1921. Five of that original
team still survive. They include Wally Lees, George Madgett, now of Toronto, Ed Veale, Alex
Stevenson, now in Napanee and Dan Webster. Chief among the officials in those years were Jack and
Bert McKay. The team followed the Independents and played at Alexandra Hall, before moving into
the “Y”.
One of the high spots in the career of this “Y” team was its visit to Detroit, when they defeated the
Detroit Athletic Club, handing them their first defeat in many years, during which they reigned as
champions of Michigan. Coached by Frank Harvey, who formerly played with the great Independents,
the boys were so excited they couldn’t sleep a wink on the trip home.
This team introduced many innovations into the hoop game, such as using five different styles of play;
first to introduce the spin and jump shot. They played mostly man-to-man and easily disposed of
opponents who tried to employ a zone defence, being the first to pack one side and breaking up the
zone. The team ruled the district roost and beyond from 1910 through 1915 and again in 1920 and
1921. One of its members was one player, who is rated as Hamilton’s second-best all-around athlete
of all time, namely Edgar Smith, with Walter Knox generally rated in the number one spot.
Two noted teams in the thirties were the Golden Flashes and Somie’s Pets. The Golden Flashes
boasted of some of the most illustrious names in Hamilton sports annals. They included Kitch
MacPherson, now a most noted basketball official, the brothers Seymour and Jimmy Wilson, Earl
Moore, who was also a Canadian Olympic mile runner and Harry Sheldon, a 7'3" giant and now a
guard at the Barton Street jail. Another great athlete who joined this team later was the great U.S.
import quarterback, Clem Faust, who played at Western, coached at St. Jerome’s in Kitchener and
who was a fine basketball player. So dedicated were these boys, that when they found their gym at St.
George’s church too small, they dug out the floor and deepened it with their own hands to provide
greater height. Eddie Runge, now a well-known American League baseball umpire, was also a noted
member of the Golden Flashes.
At this time an excellent House League was playing some fine basketball at the “Y”. One of the most
noted of its teams was the “Y Aces”. Coached by Don Beckett it included such players as Art and Bus
Wills, Harold Lee and Sammy Hunter. It was the only Hamilton team up to that time to capture a
Canadian Intermediate A title.
One of the most colourful teams in Hamilton cage history was Somie’s Pets. Many of these players
were the products of strong Church teams that were playing in the city. Coached by Jerome Gibson,
managed by Max Rotman and sponsored by Jim Somerville, some of the players were George Lambo,
Ray Roach, Johnny and Jerry Gibson, Johnny Namath, Ben Slaven, Joe St. Anne, Claude Eldridge,
Puddy Valvasori and Baldy Laidman. They were most prominent in the years from 1936 until the end
of World War Two and in 1937-38 captured the Canadian Senior B Championship. Another example
of the dedication of these young men to a sport they loved, was provided when, though the “Y” was
their home gym, they could not afford to own a basketball of their own! So they practiced with an old
sock stuffed with rags. In games they always had to play with the other team’s ball.
One of the best-known organizations, that both in men’s and ladies’ basketball kept the name of
Hamilton in bold type on the sports pages were the Zion Ramblers. The best year in the record of their
men’s teams was when they went to the Eastern Canadian final, losing out to Toronto Simpson Grads
in a well-played series. Coached by Mac Dingwall, managed by Stan Burns, one of the best-known of
the Ontario Amateur Basketball Association officials, and with both Mac and Bud Dingwall in their
lineup, the Ramblers, along with the distaff side of their fine organization, Zion Ramblers have made the
gym at Zion United Church a truly historical landmark of basketball. More championship series in many
categories have been played there than at possibly any other single gym.
Back in 1950 with Wilf Johnston and Flo Shields handling the coaching chores Zion Lady Ramblers
captured the Eastern Canadian title, but lost in the national final series at Vancouver. Among the players
of this fine team were Marion Hawley, Dolores Ross, Jo Brennan Parkinson, Joan Smedhurst, Joyce
Coles, Fern McAndrews, Dot Peall and Winnie Kurelek. Several times the Zion Lady Ramblers
reached either the Ontario or Eastern Canadian final, only to find those champions from British
Columbia an unyielding stumbling block. Finally in 1961 with Larry Kaiman at the coaching helm, the
Ramblers won the Eastern Canadian and then went west, determined to bring the national title to
Hamilton. But this time there was a change in sponsorship. Quigley’s, a real power in modern Hamilton
basketball, took over the team under the name of Quigley’s Tigerettes. Making the trip were players
Boots Spurr, Marion Hawley, Donna McDiarmid, Fran Wigston, Marg Deas, Lorna Messecar,
Doreen Park, Jo Brennan Parkinson and Mary MacDonald. And this fine team, no doubt the strongest
assembly of basketball ladies to ever carry Hamilton colours, did the trick and won!
Stan Burnes coached two fine Zion Lady Rambler teams, one in 1940 with Kay Fox, Mary Blanche,
Claire Newman, Edna Smith, Mary Creighton, Gladys Taylor and Margaret Torek, this team defeated
Montreal for the Eastern Canadian title. Myrtle Cook, famous Canadian Olympic athlete and
sportswriter came to Burns before the game and told him “If you can score more than 100 points in the
two games it has never been done before, not even by Edmonton Commercial Grads, the country’s
greatest for many years.” The Ramblers did just that. And in 1948 they defeated Cornwall for the
senior crown with Ethel Kelly, Esther Grey, Jean Woodley, Midge Ireland, Megan Jones, Marion Fox,
Vi Graham, Edna Smith and Dorothy Peall.
Beginning in the 1957-58 season Quigley’s entered the local cage circles, with Ray Jones as manager
and Denny McColl as coach, they captured the Ontario Intermediate A championship. Among their top
stars were Al Slosser, Mike Fraser and Frank Kinder. In 1963-64 with Wes Hicks, former Central
Secondary Schools and McMaster star, as coach, they won both the Ontario and Eastern Canadian
titles. Former well-known high school and church league stars Brian Middlemiss, Jim Dynia and Bob
Tatti headed a fine club. The following year with Paul Traynor the coach, Quigley’s won the Ontario
senior championship. The two Brians, Middlemiss and Hotrum, along with Doug Harrison, sparked the
In 1965-66, again with Wes Hicks in the coach’s role, a junior A Ontario championship was attained.
Leading players were Vic Vinerski, Peter Coulen and Peter Della Riva. Finally, last season with Ray
Jones doubling as manager and coach, Quigley’s won the Ontario Intermediate A crown, aided by such
players as Brian Middlemiss, Cliff Goodwin, Darryl Bowman and Bill Wall.
Another power that has been steadily developing in the basketball scene has been McMaster University
Marauders. Though an Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship has so far
eluded the Macmen, several interesting teams have worn their colours. Many times the old Drill hall
gym was packed to capacity, while now the beautifully-apportioned gym will see new attendance
records set. Les Prince served as coach for several seasons. He was succeeded by Ivor Wynne, now
Dean of Men at the university with Les Prince now director of physical education. Dean Wynne
believes that his team of 1951 was probably the strongest Mac team to date. It included Lorne
Wrigglesworth, Ken Stanley, now a Scott Park High School principal, Jerry McTaggart, Mel Hawkrigg
and Lee Munn. Bill Huycke followed Ivor Wynne, and Bill Fowler is present coach. Mac’s second
team, the Buccanners, with several freshmen usually on the roster, is coached by Wes Hicks. Many fine
players have worn the maroon and grey including Gene Rizak, a former Assumption star, Russ
Jackson, famous Ottawa Rough Rider quarterback, Doug Marshall and Bob Leedale, now a prominent
high school coach.
Ivor Wynne, himself, was a member of two Canadian championship teams, the Meralomas and the
Clover Leafs, both of Vancouver, in 1946-47 and 1947-48. He was captain of the McMaster team in
1939-40, when Al Imrie and Ron Waterman were team-mates.
No story of McMaster would be complete without a reference to Bert Raphael and his brothers. Bert
was a big scoring star, he and his brother, Bob, who also played at McMaster, played with Ron
Weston’s fine teams at Central S.S. Brothers Jerry and Stan were also noted stars, who performed for
Westdale S.S.
An organization that has played a leading role in junior basketball in Hamilton has been the Catholic
Youth Organization. Sponsored by Montclair Motors, in the campaigns of 1958-59 and 1961-62, with
Coach Paul Traynor at the helm, C.Y.O. captured the national junior championships. The first team
included Al Schlosser, Pete Isaacs, Frank Spadoni, Bob Nordoff, Len Wright, Henry Horyn, James
Johnson, Paul Barnes, Ron Custeau, Bill Sullivan, Oscar Horbach and Bob Peet. The second group of
champs consisted of Gord Davidson, Bill Wilson, Doug Forsyth, Brian Hotrum, Jerry Raphael, Alex
Savickis, Doug Harrison and James
Russell. The two clubs were a veritable “Who’s Who” of former great high school stars. Carl
Malcolmson managed the first club, with Stan Burnes as adviser, while Vern MacDonald managed the
A great deal of credit for the popularity of basketball in Hamilton and for the production of very many
fine players must go to the Church Leagues. In the early days of these leagues the officials used to wear
black stockings with white plus fours, a rather striking ensemble. The Church teams were often a
source of personnel for junior and intermediate teams. One of the outstanding junior teams was back in
1932-33. It was known as Kelly’s Meat Pies. Leading hoopsters with the “Pies” were George Rimmer,
Billy Mowat, Bobby Turner, Jack New and 7'3" Harry Sheldon.
The Mormon Missionaries had a team in the Church League for two years, Ascension Church gym bad
just two side walls, the other two sides were wire meshing. The subs, scorers and such had to stand
outside the wire meshing. Joe Long coached a Wentworth Baptist team to a junior title. MacNab,
Livingstone and Zion have been leaders over the years, often contenders for the provincial honours in
different classifications.
Centenary United produced a noted team known as the Nomads that had among its players Ted
Jocelyn, also a well-known baseball star, Bill and Charles Thomas, Howard Bradfield, Ed Young and
Jimmy Larmour. The Zion Church Saturday night triple-headers used to pack the gym to capacity and
was a hotbed of budding basketball stars.
No doubt most of the excitement at basketball games is found in the high school contests. Their games
usually see wildly enthusiastic students. The final playoffs always pack McMaster’s court to the limit.
There have been many fine coaches and teams in the local high school league. Prominent among them
have been Ron Weston, Central; Larry Sullivan, Dick Tighe and Father Kennedy, the incumbent, all of
Cathedral and Bob Leedale, Hill Park, but now with Hamilton C.I. The last-named got his start at
Livingstone United Church.
Weston’s Central teams captured six senior titles. The best Central team was probably made up of
Murray Atkinson, Peter Gnich, Wes Hicks, Hugh Fidder and George Feaver. Other stars during
Central’s reign were Brian Middlemiss, Brian Hotrum, Oscar Horbach, Jim Dynia, Larry Cunningham,
while Bert Raphael was also a Central ace. Weston recalls how one season when they met Cathedral in
both junior and senior finals on the same day, Ed Bordas, Cathedral star, starred for the juniors in a
losing cause, then returned to lead the Gaels to a senior title.
At Cathedral, Bob Tatti, John Violin, John Bembeneck, Bill Sullivan and Jim Daly were noted stars
prior to the “Kennedy Round,” a good name for the era introduced by the present mentor, Father
Kennedy. His fine 1966-67 team included Paul Mazza, Gerry Simpson, Al Smithson, Pete McPhee,
Pete Hamilton, Danny Buist, Henry Kozak, Mark Walton, Joe Paranczuk, Bill Butcivecius and John
Cacius. Other leading Cathedral players were Ted Walsh, Joe Agro, Kevin Kennedy, Gerry Duffy, an
astounding 7'4" giant, and John Sullivan. The junior team of 1957 on which Eddie Bordas starred, won
a junior championship.
Bob Leedale remembers his Hill Park team of 1965 that won the triple crown, the league senior
championship, the McMaster University Christmas tournament and the provincial championship, with
great affection and pride. He rates his 1964 team as its greatest. It was made up of Martin Oakes, Bob
Croft, Brian Gruhl, Don Campbell, Vic Vinerskis, Ian Jolliffe, Jim Porter, Jim Connor and Larry
Hardman. This team averaged 72 points scored per game as against 45 by opponents. Bob played at
Delta, where he starred. Other noted players at Delta were Pete Isaacs, Ken Omerod, Bob Nordoff,
Doug Harrison, Fred Rheaume, Jim Stewart, Ken Kemp, Jim “Spider” Hart and Ken McKellar. The
Raphael brothers, Jerry and Stan, were the great stars with Westdale. Incidentally that 1965 Triple
Crown winning team consisted of 6'10" Bob Croft, Ian Jolliffe, Larry Hardman, Tarmo Aki, Vic
Vinerskis, Jim Connor, Ron Deans, George Gresko, Dave Schwartz and Dave Elliott.
Like a brilliant comet sweeping across the sky the Hamilton and District Ladies’ Basketball Association
has blazed a shining trail in Canadian basketball. It was formed from church and other groups and for
many years has been a most important contributor to Hamilton basketball. The year 1953 was destined
to see the birth of a team that was to engage in and to win more Ontario and national titles than any
other team in the entire history of basketball in Canada. That team was Local 1005, Steelworkers of
Canada. Along with Parkdale it joined the H and D association. Today working in conjunction with the
Hamilton Recreation Council the operation has expanded to involve some 50 teams in the different age
The basic policy of Local 1005 is to look after girls 17 years of age and under. Every two or three
years it has added a new team. It now competes in the Hamilton Senior League and in juvenile and
midget Ontario playoffs. The record of Local 1005, largely through the guidance of Coach Clarence
Willson, aided by George Deas and Earl Begg.
In 1955 Local 1005 brought Hamilton the first Canadian girls’ title, the junior championship. Boots
Spurr, Lorna Messecar, Joyce Cullen, Carol Simpson and Joyce Buttrum sparked the club.
The same girls formed the backbone of Nasco to win the Canadian senior championship in 1958 and
the Quigley Tigerettes who won the Canadian Senior A crown in 1960. Prior to those triumphs, Local
1005 won the Ontario and Canadian juvenile championship in 1957, with Bonnie Isbister, Sandra
Smith and Arlene Wright giving standout performances. They added the Ontario juvenile title in 1959,
then the Ontario and Canadian juvenile championships in 1960. In the latter series Dee Anderson and
Linda Petch were standouts. The same team with Carolyn Gibbs, Sharon Kerr and Carol Rowbottom
added and with the name changed to Quigley Kittens, again won the Canadian Juvenile crown. They
moved up to junior competition and have been in the thick of Ontario and Canadian championship
competition every year. In 1966 Durham Furniture took over the sponsorship. In 1967 they placed six
girls on the Canadian Winter Games team in Senior A competition.
After winning the Ontario juvenile championship in 1953 with Earl Begg as coach, again with Begg at
the helm they won the Canadian title in 1964. Linda Colling, Helen Fyles, Carole Quin, Carol Quinn,
Beverley Pierce, Lynne Wright, Joanne Mills, Heather McDonald, Nancy Giannasi, Gwen Passmore
and Heather Gilmour made up this fine team. Marjorie Kudo was team manager, a role she has filled
through many years. The club successfully defended its title in 1965. Many of the girls were selected for
McMaster University’s varsity team. Local 1005 again won the Ontario Juvenile honours in 1966 and
took both the Ontario and Canadian titles in 1967.
The 1965 Senior Ontario championship was won by Local 1005 with Clarence Willson at the helm.
The players included Gerri Cipolla, Marion Morgan, Linda Hart, Margaret Mamuza, Marianne Jones,
Louise Comen, Marianne Kirk, Sharon, Arlene Savickis and Carol Rowbottom. Ken Walsh was
assistant coach and Donna Lee was manager. Another Ontario and Canadian juvenile championship
was garnered in 1957. Coach Willson had Arlene Wright, Carol Lawson, Janice Woodward, Marilyn
Brusey, Bonnie Isbister, Uwa Pack, Shirley Woods, Barbara Koroscil, Lorraine Soltye, Sandra Smith,
Beverly Hammond, Shirley Dain and Mary Jane Burgess, with Hugh O’Donnell as manager.
The sun has not yet set on Local 1005 as they are the current Canadian juvenile champions. Clarence
Willson led Janice Koppang, Allison Love, Sandra Konior, Mary Copps, Betty McMillan, Diane
Gregory, Melanie Kennedy, Cathy MacAngus, Janet Prentice, Valerie Walters, Darlene Kay, Marilyn
Carter and Janet Bielak, with Kay Kennedy, manager, to the top spot.
Other winning teams were Stefelco girls, who won the 1963 Ontario Intermediate crown and in 1965
Hamilton Tigers captured the Ontario Senior A championship and placed second in the Canadian
championship tournament, held at Edmonton.
Local 1005 organized a midget team, girls 15 and under. They, too, were just like their bigger sisters.
They captured the Ontario and Eastern Canadian titles in 1960-61-62-63-64 and 66.
A Hamilton club has been representing the city at the Women’s Basketball Association of America
International Tournament continuously from 1962 through 1967, the last-named year (the present) at
the Cleveland A.A.U. International tournament. When it comes to basketball in Hamilton it is “Ladies
No history of basketball in Hamilton would be complete without paying tribute to the many officials,
who have played leading roles in the development of the game. Just some 30 years ago, or just about
the time when the centre jump was abolished, there were only three officials in Hamilton. They were
Boley Jeffers, Charles Henderson and Julie Wilshire. It is interesting to note that when the game
between Brazil and the U.S.A. was played in Chicago in 1959 for the Pan-American title, Kitch
MacPherson, of Hamilton, was sent for to call the game, along with a Mexican referee. He was the
first, and, perhaps, the only, Canadian official to work a game in New York’s Madison Square
Garden, when he worked the Russian tour of the U.S. in 1960 and again in 1962. Bert Carrigan, who
often works with “Kitch,” went all the way to San Salvador to work the Central American
championships in 1961.

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