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:
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:
4.4 Field Goals
3.1 Free Throws
However, in the playoffs, Preboski would just disappear. In the playoffs, he would average:
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:
2.5 Field Goals
1.9 Free Throws, 3.3 Free Throw Attempts
Unlike Preboski, Berry played better in the playoffs. Berry averaged:
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:
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
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.
The 1941-42 Oshkosh All-Stars were different. Instead of a lot of consistent players, they had a Big 3:
Leroy Edwards: 10.9 Points
Gene Englund: 7.5 Points
Charley Shipp: 7.4 Points
The 1940-41 Playoffs were a cakewalk for the All-Stars. The All-Stars would beat their Championship Rivals, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, in the first round, 2-0. In the Finals, the All-Stars would easily beat the Sheboygan Redskins, 3-0, becoming first-time Champions.
The success of this playoff run can be attributed to Leroy Edwards and Bob Carpenter. They both played well in the regular-season but popped off in the playoffs. They averaged
4.6 Field Goals
5.0 Free Throws
3.0 Field Goals
5.0 Free Throws
The 1941-42 Playoffs were also a cakewalk. The All-Stars would beat the Indianapolis Kautskys, 2-0 in the first round. The All-Stars would beat the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in the Finals, 2-1, to win their Second Championship.
Unlike their last playoff run, the success of this playoff run lies only on Leroy Edwards. Edwards was, without a doubt, the MVP of the Playoffs. He averaged:
6.0 Field Goals
4.6 Free Throws
The Downfall: 1942-45
Within this period, the Oshkosh All-Stars were pretty bad. What makes it more embarrassing is that during this period in the NBL, there were barely any teams playing:
1942-43: Four Teams (Guaranteed Playoff Spot)
1943-44: Four Teams (Guaranteed Playoff Spot)
1944-45: Six Teams
From 1942-45, they would have a negative W/L record for each season:
1942-43: 11-12 (47.8 W/L%)
1943-44: 7-15 (31.8 W/L%)
1944-45: 12-18 (40.0 W/L%)
Within this period, the Oshkosh All-Stars also never made it to the Finals. In the 1944-45 NBL season, they didn't even make the Playoffs. In the 1942-43 and 1943-44 seasons, the All-Stars would be ranked third. Remember, there were only four teams. In the 1944-45 season, they were also ranked third, specifically in the Western Conference.
Besides the 1944-45 NBL season, Leroy Edwards was no longer the best player on the team. However, still a decent player. The best player for each season was:
1942-43: Ralph Vaugh - 10.1 Points (All-NBA First Team)
1943-44: Clint Wager - 10.5 Points (All-NBA First Team)
1944-45: Leroy Edwards - 13.6 Points (All-NBA First Team)
The only somewhat good playoff run they had during this period was in 1942-43. They still lost 0-2 against the Sheboygan Redskins, but Leroy Edwards and Gene Englund played pretty well:
Leroy Edwards: 12.0 Points
Gene Englund: 11.0 Points
Finally, after three seasons of being absolute trash, the Oshkosh All-Stars would bounce back for their last four seasons in the NBL. Besides the 1947-48 NBL season, the All-Stars had a positive W/L% each season:
1945-46: 19-15 (55.9 W/L%)
1946-47: 28-16 (63.6 W/L%)
1947-48: 29-31 (48.3 W/L%)
1948-49: 37-27 (57.8 W/L%)
In the 1946-47 and 1948-49 NBL season, the Oshkosh All-Stars were the first seed in the Western Conference. In the 1945-46 NBL season, they were second, and in the 1947-48 NBL season, they were third.
Although they were always in the Top 3 of the Western Conference, the All-Stars would never win another Championship. Their playoff record during this period was:
1945-46: 2-3 (First Round)
1946-47: 3-2 (First Round), 0-2 (Second Round)
1947-48: 1-3 (First Round)
1948-49: 3-1 (First Round), 0-3 (Championship)
Throughout the Oshkosh All-Stars' twelve seasons in the NBL, they only missed the playoffs once!
Following the 1944-45 NBL season, the crown for the best player on the All-Stars was officially removed from Leroy Edwards and placed on Bob Carpenter's and Gene Englund's heads.
In the 1945-46 NBL season, Bob Carpenter, who was on the Oshkosh All-Stars in the 1940-41 NBL season, averaged:
5.5 Field Goals
3.0 Free Throws, 4.2 Free Throw Attempts
Carpenter would also lead the league in points, field goals, games and was fourth in free throws! This would also be his only season making the All-NBL First Team.
In the 1946-47 NBL season, Bob Carpenter and Gene Englund were neck-and-neck for the crown of best player. Carpenter averaged 0.6 more points than Englund, so they were basically on par with one another. However, only Carpenter would make an All-NBL Team (Second Team)
However, during the 1946-47 NBL playoffs, Englund was undoubtedly the best player for the All-Stars. In the playoffs, he averaged:
5.1 Field Goals
3.7 Free Throws, 7.0 Free Throw Attempts
No other player this post-season had averaged more than ten points besides Englund.
In addition, Lon Darling would win his second Coach of the Year award in the 1946-47 NBL season.
From 1947-49, the crown for the best player officially went to Gene Englund. In both seasons, he averaged:
4.2 Field Goals
4.2 Free Throws, 5.7 Free Throw Attempts
4.5 Field Goals
4.5 Field Goals, 6.2 Free Throw Attempts
Even with his impressive play in both seasons, Englund was only selected to be a part of an All-NBL team for one season (1948-49). Although he only made one All-NBL Team, what makes this All-NBL appearance more remarkable is that this was the last NBL season ever and that Englund was also the Head Coach of the Oshkosh All-Stars this season.
The 1948-49 season was probably the Oshkosh All-Stars best shot of winning a Championship. During the 1948-49 Playoffs, the All-Stars had three players average more than ten points and an additional four players averaging more than five points:
Gene Englund: 13.6 Points
Bob Carpenter: 11.4 Points
Marshall Hawkins: 10.0 Points
Floyd Volker: 7.6 Points
Gene Berce: 6.9 Points
Jack Burmaster: 6.3 Points
Alex Hannum: 5.7 Points
Unfortunatley, they had to go against the Anderson Packers, who had five players averaging more than ten points during the playoffs.
In more unfortunate news, the Oshkosh All-Stars would disband after the 1949 NBL season due to the BAA and NBL merger and the sad death of their owner, Lon Darling.