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The Other Akron Team - The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots (NBL)


The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots

Surprisingly, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids were not the only NBL team based in Akron and were owned by an automotive company. From 1937-1942, Goodyear (the rubber tire company) had a team in the NBL known as the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots.


Before we start, I wanted to point out that we will only be discussing the Wingfoots' NBL Career. However, if you are interested in their other ventures in different leagues, I'll attach a source where you can read up on the Wingfoots' success in other leagues.


Source: Many of the references are missing, so a lot of the information could be outdated or wrong, so take in the information with a grain of salt.


Fun Fact: The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots helped promote one of the first shoes made for athletes, the Wingfoot.

 

Table of Contents:

 

1937-38: An Immediate Championship

In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' first season, they went 13-5 (77.2 W/L%). Yup, whereas teams nowadays play 82 regular-season games, back then, NBL teams only had to play 18. Their record put them as the second seed in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall. Although that's really good, the Wingfoots did not meet expectations. Apparently, the Wingfoots were expected to go 18-0...?


The Wingfoots weren't the best scoring team. They only had the sixth-highest PPG (35.8). However, their defense made up for their scoring as they held their opponents to 27.7 POINTS! To put how little 27.7 points is into perspective, SIX NBA players in 2020-2021 are averaging 27.7 points or above by themselves:

  • Stephen Curry: 32.0 Points

  • Bradley Beal: 31.3 Points

  • Damian Lillard: 28.8 Points

  • Joel Embiid: 28.5 Points

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 28.1 Points

  • Luka Doncic: 27.7 Points

  • Teams PPG Against the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots: 27.7. Points

Head Coach: Lefty Byers

The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' were led by Coach Lefty Byers. Before coaching, Byers participated in basketball, track, AND baseball for Kansas State University. Byers was more well-known for basketball (obviously), and in his Junior and Senior season, he was selected to be on the All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team.


After college, he would actually play professional basketball for the other Akron team, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, for two seasons (1930-32).


Four years after his professional basketball career with the Non-Skids, Byers would be given the position of head coach for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots. In his first season with the Wingfoots, he would help them win a Championship in the Midwest Basketball Conference.


He would continue coaching for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots from 1937-39, but I won't talk about their record yet to avoid spoilers. After 1939, he kind of just disappeared.


Now back to the Wingfoots...


The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' Big 3 consisted of Raymond Morstadt, Charles Bloedorn, and Talmadge Bennett. They averaged:


Raymond Morstadt:

8.1 Points

2.8 Field Goals

2.6 Free Throws


Charles Bloedorn:

7.3 Points

3.2 Field Goals

0.9 Free Throws


Talmadge Bennett:

5.8 Points

1.9 Field Goals

2.1 Free Throws


Although these were the Top 3 Scorers, only Charles Bloedorn would make an All-NBL Team (First-Team). Morstadt and Bennett probably didn't make it because they only played 20-30 games, whereas Bloedorn played 50+.


Besides Bloedorn, Charley Shipp, the fourth-leading scorer (5.6 Points), was also selected in the All-NBL First Team. Only in this era of basketball could you averaged 5.6 Points and be considered one of the best...


The players weren't the only ones to win awards. Lefty Byers would also win Coach of the Year this year.


In the first round of the playoffs, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots were against the other Akron team, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids. The Wingfoots easily beat the Non-Skids, 2-0. In the second round of the playoffs, the NBL Championship, the Wingfoots beat the Oshkosh All-Star, 2-1, to become the first-ever NBL Champions.


This would also be their only NBL Championship.


It's surprising how the Wingfoots were able to win the Championship because the whole team played worse than their regular-season performances.


The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' Big 3 all played worse. In fact, one of them, Raymond Morstadt, the leading scorer, wasn't even participating in the playoffs. As for the other two, Bloedorn scored 0.7 points less than the regular season, and Bennett scored 0.8 points less.


The only player that performed better in the playoffs was Russell Ochsenhirt. Ochscenhirt averaged 4.1 points in the regular season, and in the playoffs, he averaged 5.2 points.


1938-39: Downfall... Kind of

In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' second season, they went 14-14 (50 W/L%). Obviously, nowhere near as good as last season, but still good enough to place them second in the Eastern Conference.


Last season, the Wingfoots were an, at best, mediocre scoring team. This season, they were THE WORST scoring team in the NBL (34.1). However, like last season, their defense balanced out their offense as they had the best OPPG (35.5).


The Wingfoots were expected to be pretty bad this season (10-18), so they definitely exceeded expectations. As the second seed, you would think they would make the playoffs, but this was no ordinary NBL season. For some reason, only the first seed on each team made it into the playoffs. Basically, it was just an instant Finals appearance.


Unfortunatley, as a result, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots would not make the playoffs.


On a brighter note, the Wingfoots had two players that were a part of the All-NBL Second Team. Charles Bloedorn and Charley Shipp. They averaged:


Charles Bloedorn:

8.2 Points

3.2 Field Goals

1.8 Free Throws


Charley Shipp:

5.9 Points

2.5 Field Goals

1.0 Free Throws


Ray Morstadt, the leasing-scorer last year, was one of the worst players on the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots this season. He only averaged 2.3 points this season, whereas last season, he averaged 8.2 points.


1939-40: Downfall... Kind Of (Part 2)

In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots third-season, they had the same record as last season (14-14). However, this time, they were the third seed in the Eastern Conference. This is titled 'Downfall... Kind Of (Part 2)' because the Wingfoots didn't do worse. It's just that the rest of the league got better.


Like the past few years, the Wingfoots were a bad scoring team but a good defending team. The Wingfoots were the third-worst in PPG (37.4) and second-best in OPPG (37.0).


The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' 'downfall' could be attributed to both Charley Shipp and Charles Bloedorn. After last season, Shipp left the Wingfoots and joined the Oshkosh All-Stars. As for Bloedorn, although he stayed, he only played eleven games in the regular season. In those eleven games, he played horribly, averaging 1.8 points per game.


The only good thing that happened this year for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots was acquiring Ben Stephens. Stephens was a rookie and averaged:


10.5 Points

3.3 Field Goals

71.4 FT%


Stephens was the first Wingfoots player to average more than ten points in the regular season. For his impressive play, Stephens was named the Rookie of the Year and was selected to be a part of the All-NBL First Team.


Out of the thirteen players on the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Stephens was the only player to average more than six points. The next leading scorer was Howard Vocke, who averaged 5.2 points.


1940-41: The Worst Season

The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' fourth season was their worst season. They went 11-13 (45.8 W/L%). This was the first, and only time the Wingfoots would have a negative win rate in the regular season. Since there were no conferences this year, the Wingfoots were the second-worst team in the NBL.


This was the Wingfoots' best season in terms of PPG. They averaged 38.6 points and were ranked fourth in PPG. On the other hand, this was the Wingfoots' worst season in terms of PPG. Like their PPG, they were ranked fourth in OPPG with 38.8 points.


The best two players for the Wingfoots this season were Ben Stephens and Jake Pelkington. They averaged:


Ben Stephens:

11.0 Points

4.1 Field Goals

65.9 FT%


Jake Pelkington:

7.7 Points

2.4 Field Goals

67.4 FT%


Ben Stephens was not just the best player for the Wingfoots, but the best player in the league. Stephens led the league in points and field goals and was third in free throws. As a result, Stephens would be selected to the All-NBL First Team and, in his second season in the NBL, was the 1940-41 MVP.


Stephens won MVP earlier than Derrick Rose (who won in his third season). However, Derrick Rose is still the youngest player in the NBA to win MVP. When Stephens won MVP, he was already 25.


Besides Stephens, Pelkington was selected to the All-NBL Second Team! Stephens and Pelkington combined made up 48.4% of the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' total points per game.


1941-42: The Final Season and Redemption

In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' fifth and final season in the NBL, they went 15-9 (62.5 W/L%). This was their first positive record since their first season in the NBL. This put Wingfoots as the third seed overall. However, you could say they were either second/third since the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons had the same record.


This season, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' PPG and OPPG were above-average. The Wingfoots ranked third in both PPG and OPPG. Their PPG was 45.4, while their OPPG was 40.8. The Wingfoots were expected to go 20-4 but obviously did not live to that expectation.


20-4 is much more realistic than their expected 100 W/L% in the first season because, for the first time, the Wingfoots had four players average more than six points in the regular season (kind of):

  • George Glamack: 10.7 Points

  • Ben Stephens: 9.3 Points

  • Floyd Ebaugh: 6.2 Points

  • Rudolph Debnar: 5.9 Points (basically 6.0 Points)

Half of the top four scorers were previous Wingfoots, while the other two weren't (duh). As we mentioned previously, Ben Stephens was the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' best player last season and was the NBL MVP. This mantle has been passed on to George Glamack, who was a rookie.


George Glamack: The Blind Bomber

George Glamack

Glamack wasn't just the best player on the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, but he also had the best nickname. His nickname was 'The Blind Bomber.' It was probably not the best nickname because they were in the midst of World War 2, but the nickname was given to him due to his eyesight.


Glamack got the nickname as he had terrible eyesight. He was nearsighted, so through his perspective, the basketball was a dim object.


In addition, apparently, Glamack never looked at the basket when he scored. Instead, he relied on his sense of distance and direction, as well as the black lines on the court, to take shots.


Besides Glamack...


Rudolph Debnar, the fourth-leading scorer, was also a rookie this season. Finally, the other player that played on the Wingfoots that wasn't Stephens was Ebaugh. Last season, Ebaugh only averaged 1.7 points, so this was a big improvement for him.


Unfortunatley, after three seasons of absence from the playoffs, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots would lose 2-1 to the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons.


What sucks is that the Wingfoots could have definitely won this series as Ben Stephens and George Glamack played amazingly in this series. They averaged:


Ben Stephens:

13.0 Points

4.3 Field Goals

3.4 Free Throws


George Glamack:

12.3 Points

3.7 Field Goals

5.0 Free Throws


Stephens and Glamack scored 55.7% of the teams' points yet still lost. In the end, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons' role players/bench just played much better than the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' role players/bench.


Rudolph Debnar, who averaged 5.9 points in the regular season, did not score a single basket in the series. It wasn't because he wasn't playing. In the three games, he did just decided not to score. He didn't even make a single free throw.


Floyd Ebaugh also underperformed, scored 2.2 fewer points in the playoffs.


To end it on a more positive note, George Glamack would win Rookie of the Year and was selected to be in the All-NBL Second Team. Ben Stephens would also once again be selected to the All-NBL First Team.


Kind of weird that Glamack was on the Second-Team and Stephens on the First-Team because Glamack played better than Stephens in the regular season.


The Aftermath

The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots actually played during the beginning of the 1942-43 NBL season, but after a poor start to the season and a lack of players due to World War 2, the Wingfoots had to disband.


As a result of World War 2, there were only four teams in the NBL for the following two seasons. Since there were only four teams, regardless of what the teams' record was, every team still got to play in the playoffs.


There were barely any players left that Kenneth Suesens, who averaged 3.3 points in the 1942-43 NBL season, was selected to the All-NBL Second Team.


As for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' alumni, not a single player on the 1941-42 Akron Goodyear Wingfoots would be playing in the 1942-43 NBL season.


The only players that would eventually return to the NBL were Rudolph Debnar and George Glamack. Both of them came back in the 1945-46 NBL season. However, Debnar would join the Youngstown Bears while Glamack would join the Rochester Royals.


In his first season with the Royals, Glamack would win a Championship! He would also be selected to be a part of the All-NBL First Team. Sadly, this would also be his last All-NBL Team appearance.


After the 1945-46 NBL season, the only Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' alumni left was Glamack. Glamack would play with the Rochester Royals for one more season where they would, unfortunately, lose in the Finals against the Chicago American Gears, 1-3.


Glamack would then join the Indianapolis Kautskys, where he would have one of his best post-season performances yet. He averaged 17.0 points and shot 71.4% from the free-throw line.


Once again, Glamack would switch teams and join the Hammond Calumet Buccaneers. He would lead the Buccaneers with 11.7 points. After this season (1948-49), Glamack would leave the NBL to join the Indianapolis Jets in the BAA. Just like that, the last 1941-42 Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' player was gone from the NBL.



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