NBA History: 1947-48 BAA Season

By Lorenzo Tanos

The second season of the Basketball Association of America saw the league reduced from 11 teams to eight, as the Detroit Falcons, Toronto Huskies and Pittsburgh Ironmen – all of whom struggled in the inaugural season – folded ahead of the 1947-48 campaign.  The Cleveland Rebels, who finished at an even 30-30 also folded, but another, the Baltimore Bullets, was brought in from the ABL to make it an even eight.  Let's take a look at how things turned out as the NBA's predecessor remained in business and avoided a serious sophomore jinx.

Eastern Division        
Philadelphia Warriors* 27 21 .563
New York Knicks* 26 22 .542 1.0
Boston Celtics* 20 28 .417 7.0
Providence Steam Rollers 6 42 .125 21.0
Western Division        
St. Louis Bombers* 29 19 .604
Baltimore Bullets* 28 20 .583 1.0
Chicago Stags* 28 20 .583 1.0
Washington Capitols* 28 20 .583 1.0

BAA Champions – Baltimore Bullets (def. Philadelphia Warriors 4-2)
MVP – None

LEAGUE LEADERS – Max Zaslofsky (Chicago, 21.0ppg, 1007 points), Howie Dallmar (Philadelphia, 2.5apg, 120 assists), Chuck Gilmur (Chicago, 231 fouls), Buddy Jeannette (Baltimore, 34.9% FG), Bob Feerick(Washington, 78.7% FT)

WHEN AVERAGES MEANT LESS – Look above and you'll see Max Zaslofsky and Howie Dallmar leading the NBA in points and assists respectively, not points per game and assists per game.  Per-game stats only became the basis for statistical champions in 1969-70, and if we would take that into consideration in 1947-48, Joe Fulks (22.1 ppg) was actually the scoring leader, while Ernie Calverley, who also averaged 2.5 apg, would have been the assists leader as he'd played 47 games to Dallmar's 48.

FIELD GOAL SHOOTING STILL RESEMBLES BATTING AVERAGES – Overall, BAA teams shot 28.4% from the field in 1947-48, and 40% field goal shooting was still considered something for the Ted Williamses of the BAA.  That said, no qualifying player shot better than 40% in 1947-48, or even 35%; Buddy Jeannette and Bob Feerick were the closest, at 34.9% and 34% respectively, while Ed Sadowski (Boston), Carl Braun (New York) and Max Zaslofsky all shot at 32.3% clips to round out the top five.

THE LAND OF NO GIANTS – We forgot to mention last time that Ralph Siewert, a 7'1" center from Dakota Wesleyan, was the tallest player in the BAA/NBA for some time.  He split the 1946-47 season between the St. Louis Bombers and the Toronto Huskies.  But since Siewert wasn't brought back by any team the season after, three players tied for being the tallest player in the BAA in 1947-48 – KleggieHermsen (Baltimore, 6'9"), Red Rocha (St. Louis, 6'9") and Chick Halbert (Chicago/Philadelphia, 6'9").

A LOOK AT THE TITLE WINNERS – BAA newcomers Baltimore had actually sneaked in the 1948 Playoffs, having won a Western Division tiebreaker game against the Chicago Stags.  But once they were in, they ran through the New York Knicks 2-1 in the Quarterfinals, the Stags 2-0 in the semis, and the Philadelphia Warriors 4-2 in the Finals.  The Bullets were led by player/coach Buddy Jeannette, a 31-year-old, 5'11" veteran guard who averaged 10.7 ppg and 1.5 apg for the team.  Prior to joining the ABL Bullets in 1946, Jeannette played for Cleveland, Detroit, Sheboygan and Fort Wayne in the NBL.  On the BAA Bullets, Jeannette was joined by several other quality players, including backcourt partner Chick Reiser, center (and leading scorer) KleggieHermsen, and former Temple star forward/center Mike Bloom.

THE CELLAR DWELLERS – Pun intended, the Providence Steam Rollers sure got steamrolled in 1947-48.  The team finished with a miserable 6-42 record and became most memorable for the presence of a 46-year-old man playing guard in one game, a 75-73 loss to the New York Knicks.  The oldster was head coach Nat Hickey, who was probably all out of ideas at that point as his Steam Rollers got their butts kicked on a regular basis.  For what it's worth, Providence had two star guards in Ernie Calverley and Kenny Sailors, plus 6'8" George Nostrand at center, same man who jumped center for the Toronto Huskies in the first-ever BAA/NBA game in history.    Unfortunately, they didn't have much else in their lineup, though they did have an interestingly-named reserve in Dino Martin, real first name Donald, lest you think he was the famous entertainer moonlighting in a pro basketball league.

LOOKING AT THE LEAGUE LEADERS – With a 29-19 record, the St. Louis Bombers were just one game ahead of the Chicago Stags, Baltimore Bullets and Washington Capitols in the highly-competitive Western Division.  That led to the three latter teams taking part in a tiebreaker series, with the Caps failing to make the Playoffs at the end of it.  The Bombers, who were eliminated 4-3 by the Philadelphia Warriors in the Semifinals, were led by 6'2" John Logan with 13.4 ppg, and Oregon State rookie Red Rocha, who normed 12.7 ppg in his first pro season.  Rocha, who stood 6'9" but weighed just 185 pounds, was aptly nicknamed "The Thin Man", and enjoyed a decade-long career that also included stints with the Baltimore Bullets, Syracuse Nationals and Fort Wayne Pistons.  He was also the Pistons' first head coach following their move to Detroit in 1957. 

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