The Eastern Professional Basketball League (1946-78) was fast and physical, often played in tiny, smoke-filled gyms across the northeast and featuring the best players who just couldn’t make the NBA—many because of unofficial quotas on Black players, some because of scandals, and others because they weren’t quite good enough in the years when the NBA had less than 100 players.
In Boxed out of the NBA: Remembering the Eastern Professional Basketball League, Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein tell the fascinating story of a league that was a pro basketball institution for over 30 years, showcasing top players from around the country. During the early years of professional basketball, the Eastern League was the next-best professional league in the world after the NBA. It was home to big-name players such as Sherman White, Jack Molinas, and Bill Spivey, who were implicated in college gambling scandals in the 1950s and were barred from the NBA, and top Black players such as Hal “King” Lear, Julius McCoy, and Wally Choice, who could not make the NBA into the early 1960s due to unwritten team quotas on African-American players.
Featuring interviews with some 40 former Eastern League coaches, referees, fans, and players—including Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim, former Temple University coach John Chaney, former Detroit Pistons player and coach Ray Scott, former NBA coach and ESPN analyst Hubie Brown, and former NBA player and coach Bob Weiss—this book provides an intimate, first-hand account of small-town professional basketball at its best.
Syl Sobel is the author of five children's books on U.S. history and government. He is an award-winning journalist, attorney, contributor to the op ed page of various newspapers, and was for many years the director of publications for a federal government agency. Jay Rosenstein was a reporter for the newspaper American Banker and a financial writer for a federal government agency for many years. He now writes books for adults and children.The authors grew up together in Scranton, PA, home to one of the Eastern League's anchor franchises, the Scranton Miners and Apollos. Rosenstein was a statistician for the team.
Chapter I – Welcome to the Eastern League: A Brief History and the Influences that Shaped It
Chapter II – Stars of the Early Years (1946-53)
Chapter III – The Fixers . . . and One Frustrated Superstar
Chapter IV –Blackballed: Race, the NBA, and the Rise of the Eastern League
Chapter V – The Glory Years (1954-67): The Second-Best League Around
Chapter VI – Stars of the Glory Years (1954-67)
Chapter VII – Tough Guys, Characters, and Urban Legends
Chapter VIII – Life in the Eastern League
Chapter IX – The Towns, the Gyms, the Fans: Big-Time Basketball on a Small Scale
Chapter X – The Impact of the ABA and the Beginning of the End
Chapter XI – Stars of the ABA Era and the Eastern League’s Final Years (1967-78)
Chapter XII – The Coaches
Chapter XIII – The Refs
Chapter XIV – The CBA and the End of the Eastern League
Chapter XV – Legacy of the Eastern League
Chapter XVI – Epilogue: Life After the Eastern League
About the Authors
Clouds of blue cigarette smoke drifted lazily upward from packed houses, further diminishing already-inadequate lighting. On the rock-hard, ankle-killing floor were the Scranton Miners, doing battle — often quite literally — with the Wilkes-Barre Barons, Allentown Jets or some other team from another working-class town in the Eastern League. Nobody played defense, and it was not unusual for the final score to be in the 130-125 range. Two native Scrantonians who grew up as Miners fans, Syl Sobel and Jay Rosentein, comprehensively captured the athletes, culture and personality of the era in Boxed Out of the NBA.
This is no mere reminiscence. It’s a deeply researched, well-documented history of the league that also is timely, in that they were able to interview dozens of the characters, players and impresarios, like recently deceased Miners owner Art Pachter, who made the league not just a minor league alternative to the fledgling NBA but an extraordinary enterprise unto itself.
Syl and Jay brought me back to my brief playing days in the Eastern League! The small towns, the tiny gyms, the rabid fans, the colorful owners, and most of all the seriously good players who played with an edge because they fell one step short of the NBA. All the characters, the stories, and the brutally tough competition – it’s all here. About time the Eastern League got some love!
The authors recognize men who gave their all to a game that gave little back. Men of character and intellect whose stories may never have been told, some of whom failed themselves but lifted themselves up to honor and play a game they loved. Meticulously researched, this book will impact their families forever.
This book brought back some great memories of my six years playing in the Eastern League. The Eastern League really meant the world to me. It provided me with the opportunity to continue playing basketball after I had graduated from Syracuse. The competition in the Eastern League was fierce and the play was high quality. Believe it or not, I even have some fond memories of the drives through heavy snowfall from Syracuse to Scranton to play!
Boxed Out of the NBA is an outstanding story on an unheralded era of professional basketball. Kudos to Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein for shining a light on the Eastern League and its many talented players.
You can tell when you've found a book which is a labor of love. Boxed Out of the NBA is clearly one of them. A history of the Eastern League has been long-overdue, and Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein, who saw their first EBL game in Scranton nearly 60 years ago, bring a unique perspective as both fans and authors. The EBL is rife with stories of players who toiled in obscurity like Sherman White, Bill Spivey, Jack Molinas, who were young stars banished from the NBA after gambling scandals; future pro and college coaching legends like Jim Boeheim, John Chaney, Hubie Brown and Jack Ramsay; and countless EBL lifers such as Julius McCoy, Swish McKinney and coach Stan Novak. The EBL was the home of the best players outside the NBA at its peak (1954-67) and the telling of their story is long overdue, making this a must-have for any fans interested in professional basketball history.
Boxed Out Of The NBA is a treasure of wonderful stories about the legendary Eastern League. Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein have done a masterful job collecting the most unique stories from some of the game’s most legendary figures. A must read for any basketball junkie!
July 2021, Panorama Magazine: Authors and book featured in a 2 page article in this PA publication.