Zollner Pistons

1946 NCAA Basketball Chicago Stadium Ticket

1946 NCAA Basketball Chicago Stadium Ticket College All Stars Fort Wayne Indiana on Archive.org.

Over 75 items under Zollner search on Archive.org.

1949-50 FORT WAYNE ZOLLNER PISTONS NBA Basketball Program Vs Minneapolis Lakers -- austinworld on Archive.org

Minneapolis Lakers vs. Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, November 20, 1952 video at the Internet Archive. The Minneapolis Lakers became the Los Angeles Lakers from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

NBA Finals 1955: Fort Wayne Pistons vs Syracuse Nationals by Fred Published on September 11, 2012 on YouTube

A McAllen, Texas, man named Jack Bloomfield gave an interesting look back at the Zollner Pistons fast-pitched softball team where he said his daughter wanted to write a book and he started digging up information so sent an email wondering in 2022 if any of his former Zollner Pistons teammates were still around? Bloomfield, now 92 and living in McAllen, was a third baseman on the last two Zollner fast-pitch softball teams before the club played its last game Sept. 21, 1954. At 24, he was one of the team’s youngest players. Copied from Bloomfield recalls Zollner Pistons softball days by Blake Sebring published June 20, 2022 in The Journal Gazette newspaper.

June 20, 2022 post by The Journal Gazette on Facebook:

At 24, Jack Bloomfield was one of the Zollner Pistons' youngest softball players. He later worked in coaching and scouting positions with a variety of clubs including the Padres and Cubs.

Whether the name 'Zollner Pistons' conjures up softball or basketball, it always means champions. Fred Zollner 's teams put Fort Wayne, Indiana, on the sports pages of the nation. They not only won games, they were leaders in softball for more than a decade and innovators in basketball. The Pistons' basketball team won the world basketball championships in 1945 and 1946. In 1948, an agreement signed in Carl Bennett's Fort Wayne home led to the National Basketball Association. See Fred Zollner. Their historic 19-18 win over the Lakers in 1950 led directly to the 24 second clock. They also pointed the way to an expanded foul line. They were the first sports team to travel to and from their games by air. The Zollner Pistons' story takes us back to the early days of pro basketball and the golden era of fastball. It all happened because of one generous and visionary man, Fred Zollner. Here we have the history of those teams, written by Rodger Nelson, who watched the Pistons play, and with contributions by the players themselves. The tale of Fred Zollner and his teams is sports at its best: exciting, innovative, and above all, fun. From The Zollner Piston story by Rodger Nelson; edited by Ryan Taylor. Published in 1995 by Allen County Public Library Foundation. Read the The Zollner Piston story by Rodger R. Nelson and Ryan Taylor published in 1995 now an ebook on Internet Archive scanned with permission from the Allen County Public Library.

February 13, 2023 post by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

February 14

In 1957, Fred Zollner announces he will move the Pistons to Detroit.

For several months, the move had been rumored, and finally confirmation came during the NBA All-Star Game that Fred Zollner was negotiating to move the Pistons to Detroit.

Some fans argued that the NBA was trying to pressure the small-market teams such as Fort Wayne, Syracuse and Rochester to move to bigger markets where they would be more appealing to the growing television market. Actually, the Pistons simply weren't drawing enough fans in Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne had the highest per capita attendance in the NBA at the time, but still averaged only 3,859 fans during their final season in Fort Wayne. Their all-time high average attendance had been 4,745 the season before. The Pistons averaged just 4,024 their last four years in Memorial Coliseum with teams that reached the NBA Finals twice and made the playoffs the other two seasons..

``Let's say that we have been division champions for two years and are now leading the league and still have 6,000 empty seats,'' Zollner said. ``What would happen is we were trailing?''

Zollner had the option of taking some of his final regular-season or even playoff games to Detroit for a test run, but he kept the rest of the schedule in Fort Wayne, where, ironically, the NBA was born.

Some blamed coach Charley Eckman for the move, and were somewhat pleased when he was fired after the Pistons got off to a 9-16 start in their first Detroit season. Others, perhaps correctly, realized Zollner needed to move some of his business interests closer to Detroit where his pistons were in great demand from the automobile industry.

See Blake Sebring.

March 19 In 1957, the Pistons played their final game as Fort Wayne's team, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers 110-108...

Posted by Fort Wayne Sports History on Saturday, March 18, 2023

Saturday, March 18, 2023 post by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

March 19

In 1957, the Pistons played their final game as Fort Wayne's team, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers 110-108 before 2,212 fans.

After making the NBA Finals in 1955 and 1956, the Fort Wayne Pistons were not quite as strong the next season, finishing 34-38, but they still qualified for the playoffs against the Minneapolis Lakers. The only problem was, negotiations to move the team to Detroit has already been revealed in the media coming out of the NBA All-Star Game.

Even before that, the Pistons were averaging only 4,300 fans during their first 15 home games. When the Pistons played Rochester at home on Dec. 9 with a chance to take over first place, only 3,006 fans were in attendance. After an appeal for more fan support, only 3,100 showed up for a Sunday game against the New York Knicks. Only 2,730 fans showed up on Jan. 2 to see George Yardley scored 33 points in a win over Minneapolis. A nationally televised game on Jan. 5 against the Knicks drew 4,360 fans.

There were few good nights at the box office, such as when 8,108 fans showed up to watch Bill Russell make his Fort Wayne debut, but most of the crowds were slim, especially considering the Pistons had the league's cheapest tickets with a high of $2.50.

After the speculation started, the Pistons' next home game on Jan. 22 against St. Louis included all tickets being sold for $1. The smallest home crowd of the season to that point, 2,315, showed up.

On Feb. 14, 1957, Fred Zollner announced he was moving the team to Detroit. The Pistons still somehow managed to qualify for the playoffs, but they lost in two straight games to Minneapolis. Larry Foust scored the final basket in Fort Wayne as part of his 30-point effort.

  1. Zollner Pistons: 1940-1957 From YMCA to NBA - The Rise and Demise of the Zollner Pistons at The Genealogy Center.
  2. #OTD in 1944, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons defeated Sheboygan to claim the franchise’s first National Basketball...

    Posted by Indiana Historical Bureau on Thursday, March 14, 2024

    Thursday, March 14, 2024 post by the Indiana Historical Bureau on Facebook:

    #OTD in 1944, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons defeated Sheboygan to claim the franchise’s first National Basketball League championship. Bobby McDermott, a great scorer and sometimes-combative personality from Queens, New York, led the team to victory. McDermott was also named the league’s most valuable player.

    Learn more about the Zollner Pistons here: The Zollner Piston Story

    The image below, showing the National Championship team, is from the book “The Zollner Piston Story.” [ page 128 ]

  3. January 13, 2023 post by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

    One of the Summit City's all-time greatest events, 70 years ago today.

    January 13

    In 1953, Fort Wayne hosts the third NBA All-Star Game which is also the first nationally televised pro basketball game.

    A record crowd of 10,340 shows up to see the best basketball players in the world put on a show. The first two all-star games had been played in Boston, drawing a crowd of 10,094 the year before.

    With a population of approximately 135,000 at the time, Fort Wayne was the smallest city in the league. Pistons owner Fred Zollner paid about $18,000 for a chance to show off the new Memorial Coliseum.

    The game itself featured 14 future Hall of Famers, including greats Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, George Mikan, Ed Macauley and Vern Mikkelsen. The Pistons were represented by Andy Phillip and Larry Foust.

    The game was also historic because Don Barksdale became the first African American to play in an NBA All-Star Game.

    Barksdale was used to breaking barriers, as he was the first consensus African-American All-America player while at UCLA and later became the first African American to play on the United States Olympic basketball team, earning a gold medal in 1948.

    At the time, Barksdale was one of four African-American players in the NBA along with Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton and Earl Lloyd. Ironically, Lloyd became the first African American to play in an NBA game on Oct. 31, 1950, and during that same week Cooper and Clifton both made their NBA debuts on different nights in Fort Wayne.

    Barksdale scored one point, pulled down three rebounds and passed two assists in the all-star game.

    The West won 79-75 as Mikan was named the Most Valuable Player after scoring 22 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Phillip set up Mikkelson on the two baskets that decided the game.

  4. A sense of history Color, details enhance old Zollner abode by Rosa Salter Rodriguez November 6, 2011 in The Journal Gazette newspaper archived on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
  5. The Zollner Piston story (1995) - Nelson, Rodger R, Includes bibliographical references, Fort Wayne's Professional Basketball team became the Detroit Piston's of the NBA - National Basketball Association. Archive.org.

    The Zollner Piston story by Nelson, Rodger R; Taylor, Ryan, Publication date 1995, on Archive.org

  6. January 2, 2015 photos and discussion on Only Indiana on Facebook:

    1941–1957 – The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and the Fort Wayne Pistons

    The franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team, playing in the gym of North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owners Fred Zollner and his sister Janet's Zollner Corporation was a foundry, manufacturing pistons, primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines. Fred Zollner, who currently owned a professional softball team known as the Zollner Piston softball team, was eventually persuaded to start a basketball team due to the fact that Indiana was so basketball minded. The Zollner Pistons were NBL champions in 1944 and 1945. They also won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1944, 1945 and 1946.

    In 1948, the team became the Fort Wayne Pistons, competing in the Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1949, Fred Zollner brokered the formation of the National Basketball Association from the BAA and the NBL at his kitchen table.

    Though the Pistons enjoyed a solid local following, Fort Wayne's small size made it difficult for them to be profitable, especially as other early NBA teams based in smaller cities started folding or relocating to larger markets. After the 1956-57 season, Zollner decided that Fort Wayne was too small to support an NBA team and announced the team would be playing elsewhere in the coming season. He ultimately settled on Detroit. Although it was the fifth largest city in the United States at the time, Detroit had not seen professional basketball in a decade. In 1947, they had lost the Detroit Gems of the NBL, which disbanded and the remnants became the Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers), and the Detroit Falcons of the BAA, which folded.

    Zollner decided to keep the Pistons name, believing it made sense given Detroit's status as the center of the automobile industry.

    Coach Charley Eckman

    At 32 years old, Charley Eckman signed a three-year, five figure contract as Coach of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in the National Basketball League.This was the first ball team he has ever coached in his life! The three year contract was signed April 20, 1954 for $10,000 a year plus additional compensation.

    Many asked how a common referee could become coach of a professional NBA team?

    After Charley signed the contract, Fred Zollner, the owner of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons gave the press his story of Charley's hiring.

    Fred Zollner, "When I decided to let Paul Birch go this past spring, it was like a popularity contest with all sorts of names being pushed before me, Jim Pollard, Bob Davies, Al Cervi, former Pistons, and such. Unknown to others, I called Eckman and asked him about taking the post. I was heading for Miami that day and said that I was sorry I couldn't see Charley personally that day. He said 'Never mind that, I'll get down there!'

    'A funny thing happened at the major league meetings last March, when all owners and coaches were arguing over officials for the playoffs. All wanted Eckman. He couldn't be in the East and West at the same time.'

    Charley used all 10 men in every game. By shuffling them in and out, Fort Wayne has fresh men in the lineup most of the time.'

    Sport Magazine praised Charley stating: 'Pro Basketball's Fun at Fort Wayne. The Pistons have a free-spending boss in Fred Zollner and a rah-rah coach in Charley Eckman. Now they're going after a pro title.'

    It was written that 'The 1954-55 NBA league race will be long remembered as the keenest ever staged in the history of the game and, for that matter, as sharp a race as any sport has ever known.'

    'The return of the Ft. Wayne Pistons after loosing to Syracuse by one point in the NBA finals. Over four thousand fans welcome the Fort Wayne Pistons home.' The Fort Wayne ROCKET Magazine.

    The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA. April 8, 1955 reported, "Cheerleader Charlie Eckman, The new Fort Wayne Coach led the Pistons to the Western Division Championship. The former basketball official is the youngest coach in the NBA. It was his ability to handle men that prompted Zollner (Piston's Owner) to hire Eckman as coach. Charlie give his team a big boost by shouting encouragement from the bench."

    Charley Eckman was named NBA Coach of the Year for 1954-55'. "As far as the other coaches are concerned, the appointment of Eckman was a bad joke.' 'But the joke was on everyone else' Leonard Koppett, Championship NBA. Nothing great was ever produced without enthusiasm' wrote Emerson “ and explains the lift given the Pistons by ex-whistle tooter Charley Eckman"

  7. Frank Brisko 1941 Zollner Piston race car posted May 3, 2017 on the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook.
  8. There are several videos in the Allen County Public Library Film collection and a Zollner page with videos and this book on Internet Archive.
  9. Video below discussed March 31, 2017 on the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook.

    Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons posted March 27, 2014 by Journey Indiana on YouTube
    Interview of Don Graham. In 1941, Fort Wayne piston magnate, Fred Zollner, created Indiana's first professional basketball team, the Zollner Pistons, eventually launching the NBA.To learn more about the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, and other surprising sports history in Fort Wayne, visit Blake Sebring's website: blakesebring.com. Website is no longer active. See https://twitter.com/blakesebring.

  10. Fort Wayne Pistons Historical Moments on sportsecylopedia
  11. Fort Wayne Sports History: NBA formed in Fort Wayne Basketball Hall of Fame acknowleges site in 2007 by Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel published September 2, 2013 Editor's Note: This is the 15th and final story in a series of excepts from the book Fort Wayne Sports History.
  12. Rare trophies found at former Zollner factory by Blake Sebring was published June 27, 2014 in The News-Sentinel newspaper.
  13. Photos and discussion January 9, 2017 on You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Archived group only visible to existing members on Facebook.
  14. What do sports and pistons have in common? by published September 4, 2012 on History Center Notes & Queries blog.
  15. For more than 50 years, former Fort Wayne Pistons executive Carl Bennett had been saying Fort Wayne should be recognized as the birthplace of the National Basketball Association. While not declaring an official designation, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, decided to present an exhibit on Sept. 8, 2007 telling Bennett's story. The meeting was at Bennett's home on Alexander Street from Fort Wayne Sports History Unofficial birthplace of NBA sits on local street by Blake Sebring published April 1, 2020 in The Journal Gazette newspaper.
  16. The late NBA great Bill Russell played the FortWayne Zollner Pistons during his first season with the Boston Celtics 1956-1957 from an August 2, 2022 post by Mitch Harper on True Fort Wayne Indiana History on Facebook and Twitter post July 2, 2022. He is mentioned several times in the book Zollner Piston Story shown below, specifically page 250 where it stated: Bill Russell had led the United States to the Olympic gold medal in basketball. His appearance jump-started the turnstiles all around the league. His initial appearance in Fort Wayne was December 23 when Fort Wayne set an single-game attendance record of 8108 fans. The Zollners whipped the Celtics, 95-87. Rookie Bill Theiben had his best night with 17 points, behind Yardley's leading 22, while Russell was held to five. Two nights later in a Madison Square Garden appearance, Russell wowed the crowd of 18,036 even though Boston lost again 89-82 to Philadelphia. He kept perennial NBA scoring champ Neil Johnston pointless for 40 minutes and grabbed 18 rebounds.
  17. Septmember 7, 2022 post by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

    September 8,

    In 2007 the Basketball Hall of Fame debuts a presentation highlighting Fort Wayne as the birthplace of the NBA.

    For more than 50 years, former Fort Wayne Pistons executive Carl Bennett had been saying Fort Wayne should be recognized as the birthplace of the National Basketball Association. While not declaring an official designation, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., decided to present an exhibit this summer telling Bennett's story.

    Basketball Hall of Fame historian Matt Zeysing visited Bennett in Fort Wayne, recording his story and visiting the house at 2920 Alexander St. where Bennett says the initial meeting took place that led to the formation of the league.

    Maybe the secrecy of the meeting has hurt Fort Wayne's notoriety. In the spring of 1948, Bennett, the Pistons' business manager and a member of the National Basketball League board of directors, met with Basketball Association of America President Maurice Podoloff.

    The more-established NBL and the 2-year-old BAA were stuck in a bidding war over players. It was generally accepted that the NBL had the best players, and the BAA had the big-city markets. The BAA was basically set up in the East - with teams such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington - and the NBL ruled the Midwest. The NBL's key cities were Fort Wayne, Minneapolis, Rochester and Indianapolis.

    Realizing the two leagues were killing each other, Podoloff called Bennett, hoping he would set up a meeting with Fort Wayne owner Fred Zollner, who was an NBL leader. Zollner told Bennett to handle it, and Podoloff snuck into Fort Wayne and met in Bennett's home with the idea the two leagues merge.

    Podoloff and Bennett met Zollner at his Zollner Pistons plant office the next morning in a day-long meeting. The idea was to take the eight strongest BAA teams and join them with the four strongest NBL teams. An official meeting for the press was held in Chicago on May 10, 1948, announcing the four NBL teams jumping to the BAA for the 1948-49 season.

    The remaining NBL members eventually sued the augmented BAA, which led to another merger and the renaming of the BAA to the National Basketball Association before the 1949-50 campaign. Unable to keep up financially, most of the remaining NBL teams from the second merger eventually dropped out, but the NBA name stuck.

    2920 Alexander Street is shown on Google map Street View. See Blake Sebring for information on Fort Wayne Sports History.

  18. Would you be a fan of the Zollner Pistons? by Stuart London on PistonPowered.com.
  19. Everyone knows that the Detroit Pistons used to be the Fort Wayne Pistons. But did you know that Fort Wayne will forever be in the NBA record books for the lowest-scoring victory ever? In 1950, Fort Wayne beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18. There was no shot clock yet and Fort Wayne played keep away to run down the clock as much as possible, edging a superior Lakers squad. What a weird and boring game that must have been to watch. from a February 13, 2023 comment by Charlie Savage on True Fort Wayne Indiana History on Facebook shared Stall tactics work as Pistons win, 19-18 by Larry Schwartz Special to ClassicsESPN.com Nov. 22, 1950 mentioning coach Murray Mendenhall.
  20. February 25, 2023 post by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

    February 26

    In 1941, the Zollner Pistons basketball team begins to become a national force by winning a spot in the upcoming World Championships in Chicago.

    The Pistons beat a scrappy International Harvester team 37-35 in overtime at the G.E. Club Gym. IH led the entire game until Zollner rallied to tie at 31 and force the overtime. Dale Hamilton and Hans Dienelt led the Pistons with nine points while Bob Irons led International Harvester with 14 points.

    This was the start of Fred Zollner's dream to build a basketball powerhouse in Fort Wayne. There were 16 teams competing in the national tournament, including the Harlem Globetrotters, the New York Rens and the Philadelphia Hebrews. The Pistons lost their first game to the Oshkosh All-Stars 47-41. Oshkosh made it all the way to the championship game before losing to the Detroit Eagles 39-37.

    What's ironic is that many of the players in this tournament eventually became Pistons, players like Ed Sadowski, Buddy Jeannette and Carlisle (Blackie) Towery.

    The next year the Pistons joined the National Basketball League and two years later were playing in the league finals. In 1944 they won their first world championship.

    Also, in 1995, Laura Szcezpanski of Bishop Dwenger earns her first perfect 10 on the floor exercise at the Summit Athletic Conference meet.

    See Blake Sebring for information on Fort Wayne Sports History.

  21. April 8 In 1946, the Zollner Pistons win their third and last world basketball title. Bobby McDermott was easily...

    Posted by Fort Wayne Sports History on Friday, April 7, 2023

    April 7, 2023 post by by Fort Wayne Sports History on Facebook:

    April 8

    In 1946, the Zollner Pistons win their third and last world basketball title.

    Bobby McDermott was easily recognized as the best shooter in basketball over the first half of the century, and he always came up with his best in the biggest games. McDermott scored 20 points at Chicago Stadium as the Pistons won their third straight World Professional Basketball Tournament title.

    Firing set shots from long range, McDermott hit eight of 17 shots as the Pistons beat Oshkosh 73-57 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd. The Pistons led 39-32 at the half and 53-41 after three quarters. Fort Wayne’s defense allowed Oshkosh to hit only 20 of 90 shots from the field.

    This title was different from the first two Fort Wayne championships for a couple of reasons. The Pistons had lost the National Basketball League playoffs to Rochester a few weeks before, and then they lost the first game of the best-of-three finals to Oshkosh.

    The final game was a total team effort as Ed Sadowski scored 14, hitting all seven of his shots in the second half, and Bobby Tough 10. John Pelkington, Curly Armstrong, Charley Shipp, Bob Kinney, Chick Reiser, Jerry Bush and Buddy Jeanette also played for Fort Wayne.

    This turned out to be the last championship the Pistons ever won. Early the next season, McDermott was released after an altercation on the train ride home from a game. He had averaged about 20 points per game over the previous five seasons to lead the team in scoring. McDermott retired as a player in 1950, and died in 1963 auto crash at age 48.

    Also, in 2000, Dale Purinton gets called up by the New York Rangers to make his NHL debut.

  22. November 5, 2023 post by WANE 15 on Facebook:

    “While the game was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport,” said James Naismith, who is recognized as the inventor of basketball.

    From Fort Wayne to Indianapolis: An inside look at the history of professional basketball in Indiana Austin Hanson;

  23. VIDEO: The 2024 NBA All-Star Game will be held in Indianapolis this Sunday - but did you know Fort Wayne hosted the game...

    Posted by WANE 15 on Thursday, February 15, 2024

    Thursday, February 15, 2024post by WANE 15 on Facebook:

    VIDEO: The 2024 NBA All-Star Game will be held in Indianapolis this Sunday - but did you know Fort Wayne hosted the game in 1953? Find out how Fred Zollner and Memorial Coliseum became the center of the basketball world for one night as sports director Glenn Marini takes a look back with local sports historian & author Blake Sebring.

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