Obituary Feed

Obituary: Ossie Schectman, Jewish Basketball Player Who Scored NBA's 'First Basket'

Ossie Schectman LIU
Ossie Schectman. Photo courtesy of Long Island University Athletics.
Oscar "Ossie" Schectman, the Jewish basketball player who scored the first basket in NBA history, died July 30, 2013 at age 94, according to the New York Times.

Schectman grew up in tenement housing in New York City, and perfected his shooting by arcing balls through a rung on a building fire escape, according to the NY Times remembrance.

He played college basketball at Long Island University, becoming an All-American and leading LIU to the 1939 and 1941 NIT championships, according to the SportingNews.com.

The SPHAs Book Cover
The SPHAs book cover. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

According to his Wikipedia bio, after college Schectman played for the Philadelphia SPHAs (short for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) in the American Basketball League. The team, billed as "basketball's greatest Jewish team," was owned by basketball Hall of Famer Eddie Gottlieb, who was also Jewish.

The team's exploits are chronicled in Douglas Stark's book The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, which is available on Amazon.com.

“Ossie was one of the pioneers of basketball, certainly Jewish basketball, in the 20th century,” Stark told The Jewish Exponent

Shechtman then joined the New York Kicks, as an original member and captain of the team, which was then part of the Basketball Association of America, a precursor of the NBA, according to his obituary on the Knicks' web site.

In the league's first game, on November 1, 1946, between the Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, Schectman scored the game's first basket. Thus he become the first player in league history to score a point, according to this remembrance on NBA.com.

"Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. Scoring the league's first basket, Stern said of Schectman, "placed him permanently in the annals of NBA history."

The now-famous bucket, which Schectman told Charley Rosen, author of The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA, came on "a two-handed underhand layup," according to the NY Times

The shot, according to The Jewish Ledger, inspired the title of David Vyorst's documentary film, The First Basket, which chronicles Jews' contributions to the early history of professional basketball. Video of Schetman's feat is part of the film's trailer, available below.

Peter Schectman, Ossie's son, tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that Ossie was injured diving for a ball during the season. The injury, combined with his ability to earn money while not having to travel led to Ossie's decision.

Following his departure from the Knicks, Peter says Ossie played part-time with the Patterson (New Jersey) Crescents on the ABL, where he earned all-star honors.

Schectman was a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the LIU Athletics Hall of Fame, and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. He was awarded LIU's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013, an honor that Peter Schectman says deeply moved 

Jewish basketball collectors can purchase a variety of memorabilia associated with the scorer of the NBA's first basket.

Ossie Schectman Pack War
Ossie Schectman Remar Bread tribute card. Photo courtesy of packwar.blogspot.com.

Beckett.com lists no card available for Schectman, and no cards or memorabilia are available for sale on the Beckett Marketplace.

Because of his lack of pasteboard presence, the sports card blog Pack War created a tribute card for Schectman, based on the design of the 1946 Remar Bread trading cards.

While it exists only as an image on the blog, the "virtual card" (pictured right) is well-done and would make a nice addition to Jewish basketball enthusiasts' photo collections.

At the time of this posting, eBay offered little in the way of Schectman collectibles for sale. The auction giant's lone listing was for a signed signed index card.

Closed auction results included a Schectman signed basketball that had sold for $127.50. This is a bargain price, in my opinion, for an autographed piece associated with such an important figure in Jewish sports and NBA history.

Ossie Schectman signed ball
Ossie Schectman signed basketball. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Certainly, patient Jewish basketball enthusiasts will be able to find other Schectman memorabilia that is bound to pop up on eBay in the future. This might include 1946 Knicks memorabilia, like yearbooks, programs or ticket stubs.

As always, buyer beware.

Book collectors have numerous options for adding Schectman memorabilia to their shelves.

While Schectman is, surprisingly, not included in early editions of Great Jews In Sports (my copy is from 1983, and Schectman is not mentioned), he does, have a brief bio in the Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports.

Other books available on Amazon.com featuring information about Schectman include the previously mentioned The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA; New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History; and, The Mogul: Eddie Gottlieb, Philadelphia Sports Legend and Pro Basketball Pioneer.

First Basket cover
The First Basket DVD. Photo courtesy of TheFirstBasket.com.

As also mentioned, Schectman is featured in The First Basket documentary.

Movie buffs can buy a DVD for $21.99 on the film's web site, which also includes other collectibles associated with the movie.

Amazon.com offers DVDs of The First Basket, as well as movie posters for the film. The DVD costs $19.99, the poster sells for $9.99.

At the time of this posting, no copies of First Basket were listed on eBay. CDs of the movie soundtrack, however, were available for approximately $10. The soundtrack is available as part of a collectors package on the First Basket web site.

Ossie Schectman
Ossie Schectman.
Photo courtesy of LOhud.com.

Jewish sportswriter Howard Megdal authored a profile of Schectman in March for LOhud.com (access to the article requires a paid subscription).

In an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com at the time, Megdal indicated that Schectman and his son, Peter, were interested in selling Ossie's memorabilia collection.

Peter Schectman tells JSC the family consigned numerous items to Lelands.com. The Ossie Schectman collection was included in the company's Spring 2013 auction, which closed June 8, 2013. A catalogue of the sale is available on the company's web site.

Ossie Schectman Contract
Ossie Schectman Contract. Photo courtesy of Lelands.com.
Among the items that gaveled during the sale were Schectman's 1946-1947 Knicks original, signed contract, which hammered for $2,062.76.

Schectman's 1939 and 1941 NIT Tournament winners watches sold for 722.98 and $657.25, respectively.

His New York City Basketball Hall of Fame induction trophy realized $358.50.

A 50th anniversary Knicks jersey, autographed by Schectman, failed to sell. Perhaps a lucky bidder will win this wonderful piece of Jewish basketball history in a future auction.

With Schectman's passing, Peter tells JSC that the family may put the remainder of Ossie's memorabilia collection up for auction or private sale. We'll report on future offerings as details become available. 

In a recent online discussion about on the Jewish Sports Collectibles group on Yahoo, noted collector Neil Keller says he met with Schectman more than a dozen times at his home in South Florida. Keller says he and Schectman played "trash can basketball at his place in Delray Beach with a tennis ball."

Peter Schectman says his father was active in the South Florida Basketball Fraternity, a group of retired players , many Jewish, who met for weekly breakfasts on Tuesday and an annual black tie dinner. An article on JNS.org confirms this, describing Schectman as "one of basketball’s great ambassadors." It sounds to me that Schectman was a generous and charming man. 

Did you ever have the chance to meet Ossie Schectman? What Schectman memorabia do you have in your Jewish basketball collection? What other Schectman collectibles do you know about? 

Let JSC.com readers know by commenting below.


Obituary: Marv Rotblatt

Marv Rotblatt 1951 Bowman
Marv Rotblatt 1951 Bowman. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Former Jewish Major Leaguer Marvin "Marv" Rotblatt died July 16, 2013, at age 85, according to this obituary from the Weinstein Funeral Home in Wilmette, IL and this remembrance from the New York Times.

Rotblatt pitched for the University of Illinois while in college. In 1948, he struck out 18 Purdue batters, a Big Ten conference record, according to Day by Day in Jewish Sports History

The strikeout record stood until 1965, according to Matt Wille, assistant sports information director at University of Illinois. Rotblatt remains among the Illini's top pitchers, according to the school's 2013 media guide.

Standing just 5'6" tall, Rotblatt was "one of major league baseball’s shortest pitchers," according to the NY Times. Tim Wiles, The National Baseball Hall of Fame's director of research, states that both Lee Viau and Dinty Gearin were shorter, with each measuring just 5'4" (the Weinstein obituary states that Rotblatt was "the shortest pitcher to ever play major league baseball").

Rotblatt's height, or lack of it, earned him same infamy. He pitched as "Little David" for the House of David exhibition team while in college and once struck out 17 in a game against the Harlem Globetrotters, according to The Big Book of Jewish Baseball

Playing three seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Rotblatt pitched in 35 games, tallying a 4-3 record and notching two saves during the 1948, 1950 and 1951 campaigns. Rotblatt also initiated a triple play during his time in The Bigs, according to the obituary from the funeral home.

Rotblatt's New York Times obituary notes that students at Carleton College in Minnesota play a nearly 150-inning, alcohol-fueled intramural softball game named after the pitcher.

According to the Weinstein obituary, Rotblatt is a member of the The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. The organization's web site, however, does not include him among its inductees.

The same obituary says that Rotblatt is a member of the University of Illinois Hall of Fame. While Rotblatt remains a leader among Illini pitchers 50+ years after he took the mound for the school, University of Illinois Assistant SID Matt Wille tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that no hall of fame exists for U of I Athletics.

My purpose in pointing out these inconsitencies is not to detract from Rotblatt's on the field accomplishments. It is, merely, to set the record straight.

Perhaps fittingly, considering Rotblatt's short stature and brief career,Jewish baseball collectors have a limited number of trading cards depicting Rotblatt.

Beckett.com lists only the 1951 Bowman (#303 in the beautiful series) and card #73 in the 2003 edition of the Jewish Major Leaguers card set among Rotblatt's pasteboard. 

The Bowman card, pictured above right, sells for between $5 and $75 on the Beckett MarketplaceeBay and Amazon.com, depending on condition.

Marv Rotblatt 1950 Hages Dairy card
Marv Rotblatt 1950 Hages Dairy card. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Amazon.com lists another Rotblatt baseball card, a 1950 Sacramento Solons Hages Dairy card (#73), available for $210.

A few Rotblatt signed index cards are available on both eBayand Amazon.com as of this listing. As always, buyer beware.

Determined collectors may also find memorabilia associated with Rotblatt's distinguished minor league career, including vintage programs, on eBay.

Collectors of Jewish baseball books can find Rotblatt featured in The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball's Chosen PlayersThe Big Book of Jewish Baseball, Day by Day in Jewish Sports History, Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players and Jews and Baseball: Volume 2, The Post-Greenberg Years, 1949-2008, all of which are available on Amazon.com.

Rotblatt also appears in the documentary film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. In the movie, Rotblatt described how he idolized Hank Greenberg.

What other Marv Rotblatt memorabilia is available? What do you have in your Jewish baseball collection? Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Mr. Rotblatt.

Share your thoughts with JSC.com readers by commenting below.


Obituary: Art Modell, 'One of the Most Influential Owners in the History of the NFL'

Art Modell
Art Modell celebrated the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl win. Photo courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com, by Laura Rauch/AP.
Art Modell, the Jewish former owner of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns and Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, died Thursday, September 6, as reported by Kaplan's Korner on Jews and Sports. He was 87-years-old.

ESPN describes Modell as "one of the most influential owners in the history of the NFL," writing that "Modell helped mold the foundation of the league."

An advertising and television executive prior to buying the Browns, Modell served as Chairman of the NFL’s Television Committee for 31 years, from 1962 to 1993. He negotiated TV deals worth billions of dollars to the NFL, according to the New York Times. This included working with ABC Television Network to create Monday Night Football and helping to create NFL Films.

Modell was also an ardent supporter of football's expansion. He pushed for new games (including pre-season games and Thanksgiving Day matches), assisted with the 1970 merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, and led league expansion (the Browns moved to Baltimore as an expansion team), according to ESPN

Fellow owners respected Modell immensely, according to a statement from the Baltimore Ravens. From 1969 through 1969, he served as the only elected NFL president in league history, serving in that capacity in 1967-69. As Chairman of the Owners' Labor Committee in 1968, Modell helped negotiate NFL’s first collective bargaining agreement with players.

Despite his prowess as a 43-year team owner and promoter of football, Modell was vilified by Ohio fans, some of whom never forgave him for relocating the Browns to Baltimore.

That's why, despite his more-than-worthy credentials, Modell has not yet been enshrined in Canton, according to Sports Illustrated. Modell has been nominated repeatedly for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but has yet to be elected. JewishSportsCollectibles.com hopes this egregious oversight will be rectified posthumously.

Off the field, Modell was a generous philanthropist, according to the Baltimore Sun. He gave millions of dollars to a variety of causes, including Jewish and Catholic religious organizations, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a variety of arts and cultural groups.

***

Jewish football collectors can honor Modell's enormous legacy with a variety of collectibles.

Beckett.com lists several football cards for Modell. These include 1974 and 1984 Browns team issues, a 1995 Sports Illustrated card, and a 2009 Sportskings Series C "Owner's Box" cut signature card (#TOB-AM).

The last card is particularly intriguing. Sportskings are a modern revival of the 1930s cards by the same name. The vintage design is colorful and eye catching. A Sportskings company spokesperson tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that the cut signature inserts were issued as one-of-a-kind, single printing cards, making this the rarest of Modell memorabilia.

Unfortunately, no Beckett Marketplace retailerss or eBay sellers are offering any of the cards at the time of this posting.

Art Modell SP
Art Modell Signed Photo. Photo courtesy of eBay.
As so often happens after a celebrity death, however, eBay is awash in auctions featuring Art Modell memorabilia.

Listings include Browns and Ravens autographed footballs and mini-helmets, team signed items featuring Modell's autograph, along with a variety of signed photos, business cards and art prints. 

Among the more interesting collectibles are vintage press photos of Modell and a group of signed items offered by seller "jewish-collector" that includes an autographed photo inscribed "Shalom!"

There are also dozens of programs, yearbooks and media guides, tickets stubs, etc. from both the Browns and Ravens for collectors who prefer more generic Modell memorabilia.  

Art Modell SI Cover
Art Modell Sports Illustrated Cover. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Modell was featured on the cover of the December 4, 1995 issue of Sports Illustrated. The magazine details Modell's battle with Cleveland to relocated the Browns to Baltimore. The image is a unflattering caricature of Modell, and the headline reads: "Art Modell Sucker-Punched Cleveland." The cover is not for sale on SICovers.com. Collectors can, however, purchase it on eBay and Amazon.com.

Amazon also offers numerous books about Modell, including histories of Browns and Ravens, along with biographies of Modell. Sadly, there's even a song about Modell -- Blame It On Art Modell -- available for download. On a more positive note, collectors can also purchase a JSA certified Modell autographed index card on Amazon.com.

***

What Art Modell memorabilia do you have in your Jewish football collection? Did you ever have occasion to meet the Browns and Ravens owner? Share your thoughts on the legendary football man by commenting below.


Obituary: Art Heyman, Duke Basketball's 'Ultimate Warrior'

Art Heyman
Art Heyman. Photo courtesy of The Herald Sun.

Art Heyman, the Jewish Sports Hall of Famer who helped the Duke Blue Devils to their first NCAA Final Four appearance and later played in the NBA and ABA, died on August 27, 2012, according to an obituary published on Duke's web site. He was 71-years-old.

Heyman is a Duke immortal, in no small part because he chose the school after committing to play hoops for in-state rival University of North Carolina, as recounted in a Charlotte Observer remembrance. The move, viewed as traitorous by the Tar Heels, led to an ongoing feud throughout Heyman's Duke career.

During his 1960 freshman season, while playing for Duke's JV squad (NCAA rules then prohibited underclassman from playing on varsity teams), UNC players hurled religious insults at Heyman. According to a story in the Durhamn (NC) Herald-Sun, Carolina freshman Dieter Krause went beyond smack talking and attacked Heyman, leading to a fight that spilled over to the coaching staff.

The bad blood carried over to the 1961 season, according to the New York Times.

On February 4, Heyman committed a hard foul against UNC's Larry Brown, a fellow New Yorker and landsman who would later go on to a Hall of Fame coaching career, while Brown attempted a layup.

Brown retaliated by throwing the ball, and a punch, at Heyman. A legendary, 10-minute brawl erupted (the video of which is preserved on YouTube and can be seen below), leading to the suspension of Heyman, Brown and UNC's Donnie Walsh (then a bench player and now head of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers) for the remainder of the ACC season.

 

Heyman rose above the drama, and proved his dominance on the hard wood during his stellar 1962-1963 senior campaign, finishing his Duke career with a season that would go down as legend. He led the Blue Devils to their first appearance in the "March Madness" Final Four. Although Duke lost to Loyola to finish third in the tourney, Heyman was named the tournament's "Most Outstanding Player."

Art Heyman NYT Photo
Duke teammates carry Art Heyman off the court. Photo courtesy of NYTimes.com,
by Herald-Sun/AP.
Heyman's Duke tenure included a 69-14 record, an average of 25.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, and ACC Player of the Year and The Sporting News' NCAA Player of the Year honors in 1963.

“As much as any other human being, Art was responsible for Duke University becoming a national power in college basketball,” former Duke coach Vic Bubas said in a statement released by the university and quoted in the New York Times' obituary for Heyman.

In an article on SportsIllustrated.com, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says Heyman was "one of the elite players to ever wear a Blue Devil uniform." The school retired Heyman's number - #25 - on March 4, 1990, according the Herald-Sun.

Following his college career, Heyman was drafted number one overall by the New York Knicks. Heyman scored 15.4 points per game in the 1963-1964 season, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team, according to his Wikipedia biography.

His star quickly faded, though, in part because of his temper, reports the NY Times. Heyman played just two seasons in New York, before going to the Cincinnati Royals and Philadelphia 76ers.

In 1967, Heyman jumped to the American Basketball Association, where he played three seasons with the New Jersey AmericansPittsburgh Pipers (where he won a league title in 1968) and Minnesota Pipers, and Miami Floridians

Heyman retired from basketball in 1970 with 4,030 combined NBA/ABA points, according to Wikipedia.

***

Heyman's list of available sports collectibles does not match his stature on the basketball court.

Jewish basketball collectors can, however, find a limited, but by no means scarce, amount of Heyman memorabilia. 

Art Heyman Jerry Lucas SI
Art Heyman and Jerry Lucas on the cover of SI.
Photo courtesy of eBay.
Beckett.com lists just a single basketball card for Heyman, a 1968-1969 Minnesota Pipers ABA team issue. No Beckett Marketplace sellers offer the card, however, as of this posting.

An eBay search yields several photos featuring Heyman in his Duke playing days, including one autographed lot. Collectors can also purchase a reproduction Duke #25 jersey on the auction site. 

Patient collectors can no doubt find vintage Duke tickets, yearbooks, game programs and other program memorabilia on eBay.

The Duke online photo store offers a single image of Heyman. Others, no doubt, exist.

Heyman is featured on the cover of the October 28, 1963 Sports Illustrated with Jerry Lucas (read the list of MOTs to grace the cover of SI in this 2011 JewishSportsCollectibles.com posting). SIcovers.com does not appear to offer the cover for sale; collectors can find it easily on eBay or Amazon.com, though, especially by searching for "Jerry Lucas."

 

Duke Basketball Book
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Given his prominence in the history of Duke basketball, Heyman is also featured in numerous books about the storied program, though he is not the subject of an individual biography.

 

A search of Amazon.com shows nearly 200 books on the history of Duke hoops, including An Illustrated History of Duke Basketball: A Legacy of Achievement and Duke Basketball: A Pictorial History.

***

What other Art Heyman memorabilia exists? Do you have any Heyman autographs or memorabilia in your Jewish basketball collection? What's your favorite piece? Do you have an in-person experience meeting Mr. Heyman? 

Share your thoughts with JSC readers by leaving a comment below.


RIP Al Davis

Al Davis, the Jewish owner of the Oakland Raiders, died on Yom Kippur, October 8, 2011. He was 82 years old.

Davis, whom the New York Times described as a "genius in silver and black," was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

From 1963 through his death, Davis served as the Raiders coach, general manager and principal owner. He was also the Commissioner of the American Football League, and helped create the Super Bowl, which his teams won three times.

The Raiders have posted a tribute video to Davis on their web site.

Davis is the subject of several football cards, and his autograph is among the most sought after of the football hall of fame members.

Stay tuned to JewishSportsCollectibles.com for an upcoming posting about Al Davis memorabilia.

In the meantime, rest in peace, Al Davis. May your memory be for a blessing.

To all JSC readers, I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.