EPISODE #20: George Steinbrenner’s Cleveland Pipers with Sportswriter Bill Livingston

Award-winning Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist Bill Livingston (George Steinbrenner’s Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers) joins Tim Hanlon to delve deeper into the history of the ill-fated 1960s American Basketball League – this time through the lens of one of its (and ultimately, one of pro sports’) most combustible figures.  Livingston describes how Pipers owner (and future New York Yankees “Boss”) George Steinbrenner:  

  • Retooled a local Cleveland industrial amateur team into a fledgling pro club with NBA ambitions;
  • Traded a player at halftime of a league game, and fired his collegiate hall-of-fame coach in mid-season – and still won a championship;
  • Convinced a risk-averse college star named Jerry Lucas to spurn surefire NBA stardom with the Cincinnati Royals for partial ownership/oversight of an ambitious, yet financially wobbly ABL franchise; AND
  • Outmaneuvered a similarly-aspirant Abe Saperstein in the race to secure a coveted NBA franchise, only to hasten the demise of the ABL and the financial viability of the Pipers in the process.

Thank you Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!

George Steinbrenner's Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers - buy book here

EPISODE #17: Abe Saperstein & the American Basketball League with Author Murry Nelson

Penn State University professor emeritus Murry Nelson (Abe Saperstein and the American Basketball League: The Upstarts Who Shot for Three and Lost to the NBA) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the oft-forgotten second incarnation of the ABL – and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer who willed it into being.  In this hidden gem of an episode, Nelson describes:

  • How the master promoter of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters attempted to parlay his influence in pro basketball circles into securing his own West Coast NBA franchise, only to be rebuffed;
  • How the advent of reliable and speedy commercial air travel encouraged Saperstein to not only launch the upstart ABL, but with franchises in virgin pro basketball territories like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • The peripatetic Washington-to-New York-to-Philadelphia Tapers, whose owner also secretly owned the relatively stable Pittsburgh Rens, featuring league superstar and future Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins;
  • Why the ABL’s (and Saperstein-owned) Chicago Majors outdrew the more-established NBA’s cross-town Packers; AND
  • How an ambitious young shipbuilding scion named George Steinbrenner engineered a championship for his Cleveland Pipers franchise, only to sink the ABL the following season with an ill-fated plot to secretly bolt to the NBA. 

This week’s episode is sponsored by our friends at Audible!

Abe Saperstein and the American Basketball League: The Upstarts Who Shot for Three and Lost to the NBA - buy book here