Credit: NBA Hoops Online
Yes. The automotive company, Jeep, had a professional basketball team in the NBL from 1946-48, known as the Toledo Jeeps. Were they good? Not really. But still, a team with fascinating roots.
It wasn't rare for companies such as Jeep to own basketball teams in the NBL. Most companies were not really looking to actually win a championship. Many were trying to market and advertise their product, like Jeep.
Jeep wasn't the only company to do this. Goodyear had an NBL team from 1937-42 known as the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots. General Electric had an NBL team for only one year known as the Fort Wayne General Electrics.
We'll talk about those teams another day. We're here to talk about the Toledo Jeeps. The team was known as the Toledo Jeeps as the Toledo Complex in which they manufacture Jeeps was based in Toledo. I feel like the Jeep part of the 'Toledo Jeeps' is pretty self-explanatory.
1946-47: Their First Season
The Toledo Jeeps' first season was pretty mediocre. They weren't the best team, weren't the worst. The Jeeps ended up with a 21-23 record (47.7 W/L%). This made them the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Offensive and Defensive Rating were not stats back then, so we'll have to rely on PPG and OPPG to indicate the teams' offense/scoring and defense. The Toledo Jeeps' PPG was 57.7. Out of twelve teams, they ranked sixth, so not bad! However, their OPPG was 56.8. They were the fourth-worst team when it came to OPPF (i.e., defense).
The Toledo Jeeps' duo consisted of Hal Tidrick, a 6'1" Forward-Guard, and Chips Sobek, a 6'0" Guard-Forward. They averaged:
5.3 Field Goals
2.6 Free Throws, 3.8 Free Throw Attempts
5.9 Field Goals
4.3 Free Throws, 5.9 Free Throw Attempts
Although they both basically averaged the same stat-line, only Hal Tidrick made the All-NBL Second Team.
If you add on Robert Gerber's points (9.1), the third-leading scorer, to Tidrick's and Sobek's PPG, you would get 37.4 points. On average, the Toledo Jeeps scored 56,8 points. That means the Top 3 Scorers scored 66% of the teams' points!
Since they were the third seed, the Toledo Jeeps were in the playoffs! Unfortunately, in the first round, they would lose 2-3 against the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Everyone on the team played on par with how they played in the regular season or much worse.
The top three players, Tidrick, Sobek, and Gerber, all played worse:
Hal Tidrick: 10.2 Points
Chips Sobek: 9.4 Points
Robert Gerber: 4.7 Points
The only players that actually did better than the regular season were Bernard Mehen and Joe Patanelli, and it wasn't even that noticeable of a difference:
Bernard Mehen: 6.0 Points --> 6.6 Points
Joe Patanelli: 2.5 Points --> 3.6 Points
The World Professional Basketball Tournament
Between the 1946-67 and 1947-48 NBL seasons, the Toledo Jeeps were invited to play in the World Professional Basketball Tournament (WPBT). Typically, the NBL Champions won the WPBT, so the Jeeps did not win to anyone's surprise. However, they definitely exceeded expectations.
The Toledo Jeeps would make it all the way to the Finals but would lose 47-62 to the Indianapolis Kautsky's. Still, they got second place!
In addition, the Tournament MVP was one of the Toledo Jeeps' players. Can you guess who it was? It wasn't Hal Tidrick... it wasn't Chips Sobek.... it wasn't Robert Gerber... it wasn't anyone in the Big 3. The Tournament MVP was Jule Rivlin. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Rivlin's stats in the WPBT, but here are Rivlin's stats from the 1946-47 NBL season.
2.4 Field Goals
1.6 Free Throws, 2.0 Free Throw Attempts
During the 1946-47 NBL season, Rivlin was the fifth-leading scorer on the Toledo Jeeps. He must have improved a LOT if he was awarded the Tournament MVP. Rivlin was also selected to be on the WPBT First-Team. In addition, Hal Tidrick and Chips Sobek were on the Second-Team!
Finally, in the Finals, Chips Sobek was the Leading Championship Game Scorer. He had 20 points!
1947-48: The Second and Last Season
The second and last season for the Toledo Jeeps was an absolute mess. They ended up going 22-37 (37.3 W/L%). This put them as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They were also the second-worst team in the league. The worst team was the Flint Dow A.C.'s that went 8-52 (13.3 W/L%). Pretty sure it was just a company that was trying to advertise their brand.
Last season, the Toledo Jeeps had a decent PPG and a horrible OPPG. This season, it was the complete opposite. They were dead-last in PPG (55.8) and were the third-best team when it came to OPPG (57.1).
As for the players, the only player to stay somewhat consistent was Hal Tidrick. He averaged:
4.5 Field Goals
3.2 Free Throws, 4.1 Free Throw Attempts
Everyone besides Tidrick scored less than ten points. At least last year, Chip Sobek also scored more than ten points. This year, Sobek played horribly. He averaged:
2.5 Field Goals
2.6 Free Throws, 3.5 Free Throw Attempts
The second and third best players on the Toledo Jeeps were Harry Boykoff and Dick Mehen. Neither of them was on the team in the previous season. Boykoff averaged 9.7 points, and Dick Mehen averaged 6.8 points. If the dropoff in points between the first and third-best player is by as much as it is, it might as well be a one-person team.
The most disappointing player was Jule Rivlin. Rivlin, who had just won Tournament MVP in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, averaged:
0.7 Field Goals
0.4 Free Throws, 0.6 Free Throw Attempts
Rivlin probably didn't play as well as he did because he was ALSO the head coach of the Toledo Jeeps! Oof.
Of the twelve players that were on the Toledo Jeeps, only five of them continued to play.
By the end of the season, the Toledo Jeeps would disband and be replaced by the Waterloo Hawks.
What a sad way to go. They probably got their money's worth, though.