Before Smash Mouth's Hit: The Oshkosh All-Stars (NBL)


Oshkosh All Stars

Credit: NBA Hoops Online


Somebody once told me that there was a professional basketball team in Wisconsin before the Milwaukee Bucks? Well, whoever told you that is correct! Based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the Oshkosh All-Stars were a part of the NBL from 1937-49. The Oshkosh All-Stars were the ONLY NBL team that lasted all twelve seasons.

The team was founded by Lon Darling, a seed distributor with the Oshkosh Seed Company. Not having much to do in the off-season, Darling decided to create the basketball team, the Oshkosh All-Stars, in 1929.

I don't know how Darling came up with the name 'All-Stars' as being an All-Star wasn't an award until 1951, twenty-two years after the naming of the Oshkosh All-Stars.

For this article, we'll specifically be looking at the Oshkosh All-Stars journey within the NBL. If you are interested in the All-Stars' history pre-NBL, you can scroll down to the bottom of this article to the 'Sources' section, where you'll find links to the All-Stars Wiki.

Fun Facts (Pre-NBL):

  • Oshkosh All-Stars' Players would make $15 to $25 per game. Accounting for inflation, that means that players today (2020-2021) would be making $242 per game. That's a pretty good amount for playing a sport you like, but currently, just based on his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lebron James is making $162 per second!

  • In 1936, the Oshkosh All-Stars played against the All-Black team, the New York Renaissance Big Five. This would be one of the first interracial sporting events in America!

 
 

First Season: 1937-38

In the Oshkosh All-Stars' first season in the NBL, they went 12-2 (85.7 W/L%). This would be their best regular-season W/L% throughout their twelve-season history. This record put them as the first seed in the Western Conference. Although an 85.7 W/L% is good, the All-Stars were expected to win 100% of their games (14-0)!


The All-Stars had the best PPG this season (45.6). 45.6 points doesn't sound like a lot, but this was approximately twelve points more than the average PPG (33.5). Although their PPG was good, they were in the middle of the pack when it came to OPPG (32.7), ranking sixth among the thirteen NBL teams.


A reason for the All-Stars' massive success this season, and for basically their entire time in the NBL, was due to Leroy Edwards.


The GOAT: Leroy Edwards

This will sound like I'm exaggerating, but Leroy Edwards was honestly the Michael Jordan of the NBL. Edwards was a 6'5" Center that went by many names: Cowboy, Lefty, East Side Terror, etc. Apparently, Edwards was an all-around player. He was ambidextrous, could shoot from the outside, had a hasty hook-shot, and was fantastic on defense.

Up until the last few seasons, Edwards was, in general, the All-Stars' best player. For this specific season (1937-38), Edwards would average:


16.2 Points

6.4 Field Goals

3.4 Free Throws, 4.8 Free Throw Attempts

16.2 points sounds like nothing, but it was a whole lot back then. As said previously, the average PPG for a team was 33.5 points. That means that Edwards alone was scoring almost 50% of the average teams' points! Also, this was Edwards' career-high in points!

In addition, Edwards would lead the league in points, field goals and was second in free throws. As a result of his performance this season, Edwards would become the first NBL MVP and was selected to the All-NBL First Team.


Since we're already on the topic of Leroy Edwards, Edwards would win MVP for the following two seasons as well! He would be a part of the All-NBL First Team six times and the Second team twice! For 66% of Edwards' career, he was on an All-NBL team!


To top it off, Edwards is Top 2 in every Career Statistic:

  • Games: 322 (2nd)

  • Field Goals: 1045 (2nd)

  • Points: 3221 (2nd)

  • Free Throws: 1131 (1st)

First Coach: George Hotchkiss

Before we get back into the Oshkosh All-Stars' first season in the NBL, let's take a detour and talk about their first head coach, George Hotchkiss.


Before becoming the head coach of the All-Stars, Hotchkiss played the Guard position for the All-Stars! Unfortunatley, I couldn't find anything about his playing career. However, as a senior at the University of Wisconsin, Hotchkiss was selected to be a part of the All-Big Ten Conference Second Team!

Hotchkiss would be the head coach for the All-Stars from 1936-41. The reason for his departure? I have no idea. It could be due to World War 2, as many teams disbanded after the 1941 NBL season due to players being drafted.


Now Back to the Oshkosh All-Stars' First Season...


Outside of Leroy Edwards, there wasn't a second-best player on the team. Technically speaking, August Vander Meulen was the second-best player, but realistically speaking, he was more of a fourth or fifth option. Meluen averaged 7.7 points per game, and in the playoffs, that dropped to 4.8... so.

In the playoffs, the Oshkosh All-Stars first went against the Whiting Ciesar All-Americans. It was a clean 2-0 sweep. However, in the second round, the Championship, the All-Stars would lose 1-2 against the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots.

To no one's surprise, Leroy Edwards led the team in points in the playoffs with 13.8. The second-leading scorer was Felix Preboski, with 6.2 points. Again... it was a one-person team.


Back to Back Regional Championships: 1938-40

In the 1938-39 and 1939-40 NBL season, the Oshkosh All-Stars would be back-to-back Regional Championships. Although that is a good accomplishment, it's not as good as winning the NBL Championship.


In the 1938-39 season, the All-Stars went 17-11 (60.7 W/L%), and in the 1939-40 season, they went 15-13 (53.6 W/L%). It was not as good as their first season, but they would be the first seed in the Western Conference in both seasons.


The Oshkosh All-Stars PPG and OPPG were all over the place these two seasons. For the 1938-39 season, the All-Stars had a decent PPG (41.2) and OPPG (36.1), ranking third in both categories. However, in 1939-40, the distinction between PPG and OPPG changed drastically. This season, the All-Stars were 2nd in PPG (42.7) and 5th in OPPG (40.2).


Since we already know that Leroy Edwards was the best player, we'll look at the second-best player instead. In the 1938-39 season, the second-best player was the second-best player in the playoffs during the All-Stars first season, Felix Preboski. He averaged:


7.0 Points

4.4 Field Goals

3.1 Free Throws


However, in the playoffs, Preboski would just disappear. In the playoffs, he would average:


3.8 Points

0.8 Field Goals

2.2 Free Throws


As for the second-best player in the 1939-40 season, that mantle goes to Connie Berry. Berry averaged:


6.9 Points

2.5 Field Goals

1.9 Free Throws, 3.3 Free Throw Attempts


Unlike Preboski, Berry played better in the playoffs. Berry averaged:


8.3 Points

3.5 Field Goals

1.3 Free Throws


Although Berry was the second-best player on the team, I guess the NBL disagreed as Charley Shipp, in my opinion, the third-best player on the 1939-40 Oshkosh All-Stars, was selected to the All-NBL First Team. Shipp averaged:


6.2 Points

2.6 Field Goals

0.9 Free Throws, 2.1 Free Throw Attempts


His stat-line is worse than Connie Berry's and also worst than Felix Preboski's!


In the 1938-39 Playoffs, the Oshkosh All-Stars were immeadietly placed in the Finals, so they only had to beat one team to win the Championship. Unfortunatley, they didn't and lost 2-3 against the Akron Firestone Non-Skids.


In the 1939-40 Playoffs, the Oshkosh All-Stars beat the Sheboygan Redskins in the first round, 2-1. However, history repeated itself as the All-Stars would lose 2-3 against the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in the Finals.


And to no one's surprise, in both playoff appearances, Leroy Edwards was the best player.


Back to Back NBL Championships: 1940-42

1946-47 Oshkosh All Stars

Credit: NBA Hoops Online


Although the Oshkosh All-Stars would lose the last two Finals, they would make up for it in the following two seasons (1940-41 and 1941-42) as they won back-to-back NBL Championships.


In the 1940-41 season, the Oshkosh All-Stars would go 18-6 (75 W/L%), and in the 1941-42 season, they would go 20-4 (83.3 W/L%). The 1941-42 season would be the All-Stars' best W/L% since their first season in the NBL.


In both seasons, the Coach of the Year award went to the Head Coach of the Oshkosh All-Stars. In the 1940-41 season, George Hotchkiss would win it. As said previously, after the 1941 season, Hotchkiss would step down from head coach. Lon Darling, yes, the owner of the All-Stars, would become the new head coach from 1941-42, and in the 1941-42 season, Darling would win Coach of the Year.

Unlike previous seasons where the All-Stars PPG and OPPG were ranked pretty far apart (except for the 1938-39 season), these two seasons, the All-Stars PPG and OPPG, were ranked the same. In the 1940-41 season, they ranked second in PPG (42.2) and OPPG (37.1). In the 1941-42 season, they ranked first in PPG (49.3) and OPPG (40.7).

Although Leroy Edwards was still the best player on the Oshkosh All-Stars, he no longer had to carry as hard. In the 1940-41 season, 7/11 of the players scored more than four points:

  • Leroy Edwards: 8.3 Points

  • Herman Witasek: 5.7 Points

  • Charley Shipp: 5.1 Points

  • Bob Carpenter: 5.0 Points

  • Louis Barle: 4.9 Points

  • Wilton Putnam: 4.4 Points

  • Connie Berry: 4.1 Points

With more players scoring, it made it a lot easier for Edwards to focus more on defense. This is the first time he's averaged less than ten points since the start of his NBL career.


Once again, even though Shipp somehow made the All-NBL First Team. Herman Witasek averaged more points and played more games, yet, he wasn't even selected to the All-NBL Second Team. Shipp is also selected to the All-NBL First Team in the 1941-42 season.