The earliest days of high school basketball in Louisville

  1. #1
    by Smallhoops is online now Premium Member
    Brooksville's recent post about the oldest basketball rivalry in Kentucky prompted some discussion about how long Male and Manual have been playing each other in basketball. Having looked at that question recently, I thought I would share what I have found about the early days of high school basketball in Louisville, although I readily admit that there may be gaps in my information.

    As was the case in most cities, basketball arrived in Louisville through the YMCA. On March 24, 1894, less than three years after Dr. Naismith invented the game at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA, the Courier-Journal announced that the “new association game, ‘basket ball,’” had been introduced into the YMCA gym. It further reported that the first game of basket ball was played on March 22 “between two picked teams.” On January 2, 1895, the Courier-Journal reported that a game of basketball was played by YMCA teams as part of a new year’s reception at the “parlors” of the YMCA. The first mention of a league seems to be in the January 19, 1896 Courier-Journal, where it was reported that teams had been formed and games would be played at the YMCA on Friday nights.

    The local high schools did not get into the action until after the turn of the century. On January 18. 1903, the Courier-Journal reported that the YMCA had organized a league with six teams, including teams representing High School (now known as Male) and DuPont Manual Training School. High School’s first game seems to have been against the Maroons and Whites (one of the YMCA teams playing in the league) on February 6, 1903. High School prevailed in that game 9-8 before what the Courier-Journal described as a big crowd.

    While DuPont Manual Training School was identified as being in the league in the January 18, 1903 Courier-Journal article, I can find no reports of Manual playing any games in the early months of 1903. In fact, later that year, on December 20, 1903, the Courier-Journal reported that Manual had decided to field a basketball team. The first actual game reference I have found for Manual is in the January 31, 1904 Courier-Journal, which reported that Manual had tied the L & N team 8-8.

    On February 12, 1904, the Courier-Journal reported that a city league had been formed that included Manual, High School, Kentucky Military Institute, and Louisville Training School (which was different from DuPont Manual Training School), plus a YMCA team described as the “third grade team.” There was a game between High School and Louisville Training School on February 12, 1904 (which High School won 21-7), and Manual played in the second game of that night’s doubleheader against “YMCA Grade II.” So far, I have not found any High School-Manual games being played that year.

    High School and Manual definitely played the following year, on January 13, 1905, when High School came back from a 10-1 halftime deficit to beat Manual 14-13. High School again beat Manual on February 10, 1905, by a 17-9 margin. However, the champion of the Interscholastic League in 1905 was new entrant University High School, whose team picture appeared in the March 23, 1905 Courier-Journal as the league champion. It was reported in the accompanying article that University had beaten KMI 3 times and Manual and High School twice each. University proved to be an outstanding squad, as it won the Interscholastic League every year from 1904-05 to 1908-09.

    Two other schools soon joined in. The Patterson-Davenport School became a member of the Interscholastic League in the 1906-07 season. St. Xavier, which had been founded in 1864, appears to have played its first game in 1911. But after that, it was more than ten years before there were any other high school basketball teams in Louisville.

    Many of those early schools no longer exist. Louisville Training School closed in 1908 when the school grounds sustained extensive fire damage. Patterson-Davenport School closed after the 1909-10 school year when Professor Patterson left to become the dean of the academic department at the University of Louisville. University High School was adjudged bankrupt and closed following the 1913-14 school year. Kentucky Military Institute was open until 1971, but played most of its basketball games from 1932 to 1970 in Florida (another story for another time).

    But the other three schools from those days share a rich history. Male, Manual, and St. X each has won four state basketball championships. The three have been state runner-up a combined nine times. All three continue to be competitive in the Seventh Region and, more importantly, are outstanding academic institutions.

    The three once again will play each in the upcoming season. In fact, Male and Manual will renew their rivalry on the hardwood during the season’s first week. I bet Male will score more than one point in the first half this time.

  2. #2

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    Very nice article.

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    brooksville's Avatar
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    Glad I inspired you, lol. Love old basketball history. Thanks for sharing.

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    The Professor's Avatar
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    I didn’t know why Male used an “H” as a logo until I asked Rockmom a few years ago in a PM and she explained it.

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    This is wonderful. Is your sole source the newspaper archives at the library? If so, I am impressed by your diligence and ability to navigate the archives. I actually would like to know the first time anyone knows of that a Louisville high school basketball player was identified in the press as a standout or even the hero of a particular game. You were able to figure out that the dominant, or at least best program of the first decade of Louisville high school basketball was University High School. I gather this was a private school, as you inform us that it bankrupted after the 1912-13 year.

    I have a lot of questions in this area but I'll limit myself to this: Who is the first star or standout high school basketball player in Louisville history? Can anyone think of someone who predates Ralph Beard, a 1945 Male grad?

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    Research in this area (and many other areas) got a lot easier when the Courier-Journal made its digital archives available to the public (for an annual fee).

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    Runcible Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Four for the IV View Post
    This is wonderful. Is your sole source the newspaper archives at the library? If so, I am impressed by your diligence and ability to navigate the archives. I actually would like to know the first time anyone knows of that a Louisville high school basketball player was identified in the press as a standout or even the hero of a particular game. You were able to figure out that the dominant, or at least best program of the first decade of Louisville high school basketball was University High School. I gather this was a private school, as you inform us that it bankrupted after the 1912-13 year.

    I have a lot of questions in this area but I'll limit myself to this: Who is the first star or standout high school basketball player in Louisville history? Can anyone think of someone who predates Ralph Beard, a 1945 Male grad?
    Raymond Baer, Manual class of '23. All-State first team '21-'22-'23. Led Manual to state titles in '21 and '23.

    Baer was considered the best all-around athlete to ever come out of Louisville at the time. He was also a two-time all-state tackle in football and held the KY high jump record.

    He went on to play football at Michigan, where he was first-team All-Big 10, and second-team All-American. He returned to Louisville, where he coached football at both Manual and St. X.

    There may be a player that predates Baer. He was the first to come to mind.
    Last edited by Runcible Owl; Nov 18, 17 at 07:11 AM.

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    University High School was a private school, run by Professor Tharp, and often was called Tharp's School.

    Jefferson County differed from most Kentucky counties in that in did not have a lot of high schools that eventually consolidated. Back in those days, High School (Male) and Manual were the only two public highs for boys in Louisville (there also was Girls High School). All of the other high schools were private. Later, in the 1920's I believe, community schools were opened in Anchorage and Medora (an area in Southwest Jefferson County). Eventually, the Jefferson County Board of Education opened more high schools around the county.

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    Runcible Owl's Avatar
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    @Smallhoops, when fact checking some info for the "Oldest Rivalry" thread I came across a reference to West Louisville HS, which became ... Western? Playing hoops in the first decade of the 20th century?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Runcible Owl View Post
    @Smallhoops, when fact checking some info for the "Oldest Rivalry" thread I came across a reference to West Louisville HS, which became ... Western? Playing hoops in the first decade of the 20th century?
    Actually, West Louisville High School was about 100 miles west of Louisville. West Louisville is a small community in Daviess County that had a high school back in the day. These days, West Louisville is in Apollo High School's district. West Louisville was a powerhouse in girl's basketball in the 1920's, winning the state tournament in 1923 and 1927.

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