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Alden White and the amazing 1922 Crosby basketball team

POSTED April 09, 2020
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


Alden White

A 66-point game

305 points in one night

Eastern Scholastic title

Undefeated Season

I think Alden White is my new favorite basketball player and the 1922 Crosby High basketball team one of my all-time favorites period. In the vernacular of the time, White was most definitely a `big cheese’ and he and his Old Ivy  (their nickname at the time) teammates were the Bee’s knees and the cat’s meow.

In today’s lingo, White was `the man’ and together with his teammates they were the absolute bomb.

White, a junior guard, burned the bottom of the old peach basket for 66 points one night. The mark was a state single-game record until Wilby’s Harun Ramey’s 68-point explosion against Wolcott in 1990.  

Folks this was 98 years ago. Lindbergh was five years away from flying across the ocean, movies hadn’t found their voice yet,  Warren G. Harding was hanging in the White House and prohibition was still in its infancy, on its way to becoming the most successful failure in history.

  If White was alive today he would be 115-years old. I would still put him on today’s All-State team. The peach basket was gone, but this was just eight years after the created baskets with nets that let the ball go all the way through the hoop. Teams had one foul shooter designated before the   game. Jump balls followed every basket. Heck, basketball itself had only been invented by Dr. Naismith 31 years prior.

White was focal point of the Crosby squad that would win 23 games and capture the Eastern Scholastic basketball title in Philadelphia while being toasted and adored by Waterbury and respected by all who followed scholastic hoops.   

White’s night in late February was nothing short of spectacular and part of a bizarre evening all-around. White connected on 33 baskets in a 153-17 pummeling of Branford High School. The team total was trumpeted as a world scoring record by the Waterbury Republican to its readers. Not area but world record.

White’s mark was also given its due but maybe a less of a surprise than might seem considering the number of points and the era. White, who would go to score more than an astounding 400 points in the season, had already hung a 45-point gem on Chicopee in a 97-19 victory.

Did I say this was 1922? Alden White may have been transported from a different era and nobody knew it.

It all would have been a very full night before heading out to the speakeasy, however, there was more. Crosby’s reserves played a second game and beat a Litchfield High post-graduate team that was short players and forced to use a coach and a faculty member.   The old Ivy laid a licking on the Parlortown aggregate, 152-18.

Crosby scored 305 points in two games long before Dean Smith’s four-corner stall was invented and calculators were around forcing the pencils to go crazy. You wonder if the basket got tired.

The glow of the evening was not shared by everyone. A few days later the Republican received a letter from the manager of the Branford team, Clayton Allsworth.

               

A team comprised of second and third string men of Branford High School were sent up to play Waterbury’s second team. They were very much dumbfounded when they were set up against the strong Crosby first team in the tricky Crosby gym instead of on the agreed YMCA floor. Obviously (coach) George Taylor’s plan was to beat Passaic, New Jersey’s (scoring) record against second rate substitutes.”    

Republican sportswriter Roger Busfield responded in kind:

Not withstanding Mr. Allsworth’s denial, the fact still remains that Crosby ran up a world’s record score in a regulation game with a team that took the floor under the name of a recognized state high school.”

 

With White leading the way, Crosby cruised through the regular season against teams like Chicopee, Holyoke, Wilby, East Greenwich, Springfield and Mt. Vernon. Joining White on the floor were Alvin James, Henry Carrington, Herman Wilner, Mike Fiore Tom Magner and Paul Becker.

The one team Crosby did not play was nearby power Naugatuck coached by Raymond J. Snyder. The Greyhounds would only lose three regular season games, two to prep schools, and was invited to the New England Tournament at Tufts College at the end of the season where they lost to Northampton, 37-23, in the second round.  

The two teams could not agree on a place to play with Crosby refusing to play on the Gem Opera House Floor in Naugatuck or the new YMCA court because of the limited seating capacity (200 or so). What might have been a donnybrook never took place.

The Old Ivy journeyed to Philadelphia in March to play for the Eastern Scholastic Basketball Championship at the University of Pennsylvania, generally considered emblematic of the best team in the northeastern U.S.  All the players were examined by Drs. Farrel and Kirschbaum and pronounced fit to make the trip and were met at the depot in Philadelphia by a throng of Crosby alumni.    

The opener was an impressive one, a 35-25 victory over Boyerstown, Pa. in which the opponents managed just three baskets. White was held to a pedestrian nine points.

The `Roaring 20s’ star was back to normal in the second game,  with a 23-point effort in a 39-20 victory against old foe Commercial High of New Haven.  Central High of Philadelphia was the next victim, 45-26 with White tossing in 17 points.

The lads had some time for relaxation taking a trip to the seaside at Atlantic City for fun and frolic before returning to take on Hoboken in the semifinals. With the unstoppable White pouring in 23 points, the Old Ivy extracted its revenge with a 43-29 triumph led by White’s 23 points.

Two days later, Crosby stopped West Philadelphia, 38-29, to win the championship and electrified the city. The Republican bannered the accomplishment across the front page.

Crosby High wins from West Philadelphia, 38-29, and takes

Eastern Inter-Scholastic basketball championship

 

Thousands welcomed the boys back to Exchange Place in Waterbury. Crosby Principal M.C. Donovan eulogized coach Taylor in a speech.  They were given a parade.

Feeling the city fans deserved one last chance to see their heroes, one last game was scheduled. After an invitation from Rochester High, N.Y. to play for $250 was turned down, the Old Ivy scheduled a game with the Philadelphia All-Stars. With White scoring 16 points the season ended with a 48-29 victory at a packed Wilby gym.

The Roaring 20s was a great sports decade with Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Red Grange, Bobby Jones and others. I’m throwing Alden White and Crosby in there. They were both the bee’s knees and the bomb then and now.

NOTE: At the end of the season, White was elected captain for the 1922-23 campaign and according to the Republican, “students went wild with joy.”

Crosby again rolled through the 1922-23 season before suffering a stunning defeat at the hands of Scott High of Toledo, 37-34, in the Pennsylvania Tournament in Philadelphia when White fouled out with three minutes left in the game. The defeat ended a long win streak and was just the second in two years for the team.

The saga didn’t end there. An offer of $1,000 was made to Scott High (I’m thinking all this money being offered around would not jive with the CIAC in this era) to play Crosby at the state armory was made by Maj. James S. Hurley, commander of the third battalion, C.N.G. It was turned down because Scott still had four games to play in Ohio.      

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