Associate Professor Michael Antonucci of Keene State College in New Hampshire will present a book talk from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the Frank J. Basloe Library in Herkimer to discuss the significance of Frank J. Basloe’s basketball memoir “I Grew Up With Basketball.”
This book was written in 1952 and has been out of print for years. Through Antonucci’s efforts, it has been published again by the University of Nebraska Press. He has written the introduction.
Basloe immigrated to Herkimer from Vienna, Austria, in 1891 at the age of four. By then, the rules and equipment used for the game of basketball were already being developed in Herkimer by YMCA director Lambert Will. In 1890, Will was sent information from Dr. James Naismith about a game he invented at the Springfield YMCA. Teams threw balls into peach baskets to score points. They used leather balls, and these would be rolled, thrown, passed, bounced or kicked, similar to the game of rugby.
Will and his early Herkimer YMCA team developed the rules, court layout, player positions (forwards, guards and centers), prototype uniforms, hoops, backboards and nets that became used and perfected in modern basketball. Notably, the ball could only be passed, thrown and bounced due to play on hardwood floors. The game was divided into two 24 periods because the peach baskets would have to be replaced after that length of time. This rule was used for many years and still applies in college basketball. The world’s first basketball game was played on Feb. 7, 1891 at the Herkimer YMCA, between the Herkimer Businessmen’s Nine and the YMCA Nine teams. There was much local interest in the game, and other teams rapidly formed in the region and eventually across the Northeast. These teams requested and used Will’s rules.
Basloe grew up playing basketball on the south side of Herkimer at the turn of the 20th century. He idolized the local basketball stars, carrying their bags to games and playing exhibition games with other local children. In 1903, at the age of 16, he left school to promote and play basketball across many states with Basloe’s Globetrotters. Until the 1920s and the advent of the New York Original Celtics, New York Renaissance and the Harlem Globetrotters, Basloe’s clubs reigned supreme among barnstormers. With his persistent effort and love of the sport, he helped establish basketball nationwide.
“I Grew Up With Basketball” chronicles the earliest days and players of American basketball.
Antonucci discovered Basloe’s book while doing research and realized its importance.
“One of the great things about it is that it illustrates how sport is a kind of American frontier and even a great equalizer. ‘I Grew Up With Basketball’ reminds us that basketball — more than baseball prior to the Second World War — was a democratizing force that brought fans, players and anyone associated with the game into contact with people unlike themselves,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “What makes Basloe so interesting as a figure is his ability to read people and situations and make the best of them. Throughout the book, circumstances aren’t always moving in a direction that he wants, but he seems to find a way to make them work out as well as they can. There’s something instructive in this, particularly in the context of a sports world driven by perfection,” Antonucci added.
According to Library Director Lesley Paul, the Frank J. Basloe Library was named for Basloe in 1974.
“The Basloe family donated funds to renovate and furnish the building when the library was moved to 245 N. Main St. They wished to dedicate it to Mr. Basloe, who had passed away in 1966,” she said.
“The library trustees and I are very pleased to present this book talk by Michael Antonucci. We’re thrilled that Frank J. Basloe’s book is back in print. It’s filled with facts, anecdotes, illustrations and players’ names. Many of the families still reside in the area. This is important American history that took place right here. It also fuels the debate about the true origins of basketball. According to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Dr. Naismith invented the game. This is true, however, Basloe provides evidence that nearly every aspect of the game as we know it now was developed in Herkimer and the first game was played in Herkimer. I am hoping that people who remember Mr. Basloe and the early local players will be able to attend this book talk and share their memories. It would be great if they could bring old photos or basketball memorabilia,” Paul added.
Copies of the book will be available for sale and may also be purchased on Amazon.com.