EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The Eastern Professional Basketball Association is the oldest professional basketball league. Teams like the Miners and Barons played in school gyms across northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Now a new book highlights the league.
For more than 30 years in places like Sunbury, Williamsport, Hazleton, Pottsville, Berwick, Wilkes-Barre, and at the former CYC in Scranton what was billed as the oldest professional basketball league was the place to be for weekend sports entertainment.
Some of the teams included the Scranton Miners and Apollos, Wilkes-Barre Barons, Sunbury Mercuries, Williamsport Billies, Hazleton Hawks/Mountaineers/Professionals, Berwick Carbuilders and Pottsville Packers.
Recently two Scranton natives penned a book, “Boxed out of the NBA-Remembering the Eastern Professional Basketball League”
“One of the things that has been most gratifying, so many people like us and like you are huge, huge Eastern League fans. And that book brings back great memories for us, for players, for the communities. It was a special thing,” co-author Syl Sobel said.
“Clearly remember going with my dad. I think it was 1962 or ’63, and we ended up having the same seats every time at every game. I later worked as a statistician for the Scranton Apollos and got to know the Pachter family, who owned the Scranton team and actually owned in later years the Wilkes-Barre team. It was part of our lives,” co-author Jay Rosenstein said.
“Jim Boeheim just was so excited to talk about his experience playing in the Eastern League. It meant so much to him,” Sobel said. “So many of them went on to great careers as coaches and teachers, and in business. “Swish” McKinney who was loved in Scranton, Hal “King” Lear, you know, Wally Choice, Dick Gaines, Stacey Arceneaux, Julius McCoy. These were great players.”
“I mean we had players that were in our league, that after reading the book, revived my memory. They could have been called up to the NBA in a moment’s notice,” Joe Lalli, a Scranton Miners player from 1967-1969 said.
“Sunbury, they had a wall at the end of one of the baskets, that was like you had no, no, room to move. And Eddie Mast was quoted as saying the only way you could do a layup is to go in vertically. The Kingston Armory in Wilkes-Barre had only one shower in one shower room for both teams,”. Rosenstein said.
“We were watching NBA-caliber basketball in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton, you know in Sunbury, in Williamsport. It was so cool,” Sobel said.
The Eastern Professional Basketball League started in 1946 until it evolved into the Continental Basketball League in 1979.