Leroy Edwards
- High Scoring Race -

High Scoring Race

John Wooden of the Indianapolis Kautskys
The advent of the 1937-38 season brought some significant changes to the Oshkosh All-Stars and professional basketball as a whole.

First, the National Basketball League (NBL) was officially formed from the Midwest Basketball League (which consisted of industrial-sponsored teams) along with a number of independent professional teams scattered throughout the Midwest. The new league was split into an Eastern and Western Division.

The Oshkosh All-Stars were one of the charter members of the league and were placed in the Western Division. Leroy Edwards, after playing for multiple other teams, including short stints with both the Indianapolis Kautskys and Oshkosh All-Stars among others in barnstorming events settled into Oshkosh to become a full-time player with the team for the long term.

Western Division Teams of the Inaugural 1937-38 NBL Season
Interactive map showing the location of the different cities which comprised the Western half of the NBL during the 1937-38 season. (View Larger Map)

A second major change affected the game itself as the newly formed league adopted the elimination of the center jump after a made basket. This development had been an improvement to the game designed to increase the pace of the game and thus to make it more exciting to the players and spectators alike. The rule change had already been made in the collegiate game and was being adopted piecemeal in the various professional venues and match-ups. With the adoption of the rule by the NBL, the elimination of the center jump became the more standardized in professional circles.

"I've always thought that it would have been great to have played my entire career under those rules. The year after the center jump was eliminated I scored twice as much as I had ever scored before, even though I had slipped some because of a leg injury. The game without the center jump was right up my alley." (They Call Me Coach by John Wooden, McGraw Hill (1988), pg. 57.)

With many of the pieces in place for what would eventually lead to professional basketball as we know it today, the stage was set for history to be made. This came into play between two of the brightest stars of the day, veteran Johnny Wooden of the Whiting Ciesar All Americans and relative newcomer Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards of the Oshkosh All-Stars.

John Wooden had been an All-American player at Purdue under Ward "Piggy" Lambert before going into high school teaching but still playing professional basketball part-time, mainly during the weekends. He was a long-time star for the Indianapolis Kautskys who was known as a quick, heady and scrappy playmaker and scorer. In 1961 Wooden would be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, and later would be inducted as a collegiate coach.

Wooden signed a one-year contract with the Whiting Ciesar All American team for the inaugural 1937-38 NBL season. Later while the season was in progress, the team moved from Whiting on the outskirts of Chicago to nearby Hammond Indiana, where the town's new 6,000 seat Municipal Auditorium was opening.

The Whiting Ciesar All American Players (l to r): Vince McGowan, Joe Sotak, Ed Campion, Bill Perigo, Bill Haarlow, Ken Gunning, John Wooden and Joe Stack.

The inaugural season was exciting for many reasons, but one which took hold was a rivalry of sorts between the leagues two greatest players for scoring and team honors. As the season progressed, Wooden and Edwards took advantage of the new faster-paced game and took pro basketball to greater and greater heights through a duel for individual scoring honors.

The listing below includes direct matchups between the two stars, along with selected games where individual scoring records were set. Note that in the below listing of selected games from that season, point totals that are bolded were league records at the time.

Selected Games from the 1938 Season

January 4, 1938Oshkosh, WIOshkosh
All-Stars 75
Gallaghers 42

Game Summary: (Appleton Post-Crescent, January 5, 1938, pg. 14)

The Oshkosh All-Stars went on a scoring rampage as they beat the Kankakee, Ill., Gallaghers, 75 to 42 in a National Professional Basketball league contest here last night.

Holding a 42 to 21 edge at the half, the winners stepped up their pace and in the final 10 minutes scored 33 points.

Edwards, Oshkosh center, made seven field goals and seven free throws for 21 points.

DateLocationTeamOpponentResultEdward's / Wooden's
January 10, 1938Milwaukee, WIOshkosh
Whiting Ciesar
All Americans
All Americans 29
All-Stars 26 (OT)
11 / 6

Preview: (by John Whitaker, Hammond Times, January 10, 1938, pg. 11)

Eddie Ciesar will probably be unhappy to learn tonight in Milwaukee that his defense must stop the great "Cowboy" Edwards, who played at Indianapolis Tech and Kentucky U. before joining the Oshkosh state champs . . . Edwards is the fellow who was bigger (and better) at Tech than the Townsend fellow who keeps Michigan around the top . . .

Game Summary: (Hammond Times, January 11, 1938, pg. 13)

More than 6,500 wild-eyed Wisconsin basketball fans jammed Milwaukee's huge auditorium here last night to see what was billed in advance as the superstar thriller of all time in local professional basketball. They were disappointed as Ciesar's All Americans of Whiting crashed through in overtime to take a 29 to 26 decision from the Oshkosh All Stars but are hopeful that Whiting returns for another game.

Milwaukee fans had never seen the great Johnny Wooden and Ken Gunning until tonight but the two speedsters of the Whiting aggregation left an indelible impression on local cage bugs.

It was Gunning who hit a fielder from midfloor to win the game in the overtime. It was Wooden, the three time All American from Purdue who helped the Ciesars stall near the end of the fourth quarter by holding the ball for two minutes at a time with spectacular dribbling. The Oshkosh defense hardly laid a hand on bouncin' Johnny as he weaved a pattern of rebounding leather through the Oshkosh five.


With the score tied at 21-21, Wooden turned on full steam and sucked the Oshkosh defense out with dribbling. Twice, when the defense was caught off balance, Johnny dribbled on through for baskets that gave the All Americans a 25-21 lead with only three minutes to go.


"Cowboy" Edwards, former Indianapolis Tech and Kentucky U. giant, regained one of the points when he sunk a free throw after McGowan's foul but Bill Haarlow cashed two free throws on Mullen's foul to cinch the game for Whiting.

Both clubs tried long shots in the extra period but all were futile until Gunning's archer split the net. Edwards, who has averaged more than 15 points per game during the last three seasons, of pro ball, scored 11 points tonight but his mates were bottled up with fair success. Gunning led the All Americans with 10 points. Wooden added six and Campion five.

Milwaukee (WI) Auditorium
January 30, 1938Whiting, INWhiting Ciesar
All Americans
All Americans 61
Gallaghers 38

Game Summary (Hammond Times, Jan. 31, 1938):


Ciesar All Americans ran true to form yesterday in Whiting Community Center and smashed two National league scoring records as they boosted their Western division lead to two full games and sunk Kankakee deeper in the cellar. The final score was 61 to 38.

Principal nemesis of the Kankakee five was Johnny Wooden, the former Purdue hero. John sped in for 10 fielders and five frees for a total of 25 points and a new individual scoring record the four-year history of the pro league.

The 61-point total also represents a new high for the National league. The All Americans, who play their hottest competition - the Oshkosh, Wis., All Stars next Sunday in the new Hammond Civic Center - were held to a 13-11 margin in the first period but held a 24-15 edge at the half. The biggest splurge came in the third period when Wooden led a parade that brought 22 points and boosted the All Americans into a 46-21 lead starting the final 10-minute canto.

Vince McGowan also swelled his total with eight points and Ken Gunning garnered nine. Betourne, Kankakee center, led his club with 18 points.

Whiting Ciesar All Americans (61)


Kankakee (IL) Gallaghers (38)


February 2, 1938Kankakee, ILOshkosh
All-Stars 68
Gallaghers 35

Game Summary (Oshkosh Northwestern, Feb. 3, 1938):


In last night's game Leroy Edwards, lanky Oshkosh center, set a National league individual scoring record with 28 points on 13 buckets and two charity tosses. Each of the five All Stars who played in the game entered the scoring column.

Oshkosh All-Stars (68)


Kankakee (IL) Gallaghers (35)


DateLocationTeamOpponentResultEdward's / Wooden's
February 6, 1938Hammond, INOshkosh
All Americans
Ciesar All Americans 42
All-Stars 39 (2 OT)
13 / 17

Leroy 'COWBOY' EDWARDS - When Oshkosh, Wisconsin's All-Stars invaded the Hammond Civic Center on Sunday to tangle with the Ciesar All Americans, now leading the Western division of the National Pro league, Calumet region fans will get a glimpse of the best ball-handling big man in the league.  'Cowboy' Edwards is the gentleman in question, Edwards was an All-American three years in succession (sic) at Kentucky University after having prepped at Indianapolis Tech with Johnny Townsend, now playing at Michigan.  Edwards scored 15 points against the All Americans in a 26-24 overtime game played in the Milwaukee auditorium before 6,000 fans last month.

Big Vince McGowan, who will probably be assigned to guard Edwards is certain to have a big job on his hands.  The All Americans will start a lineup consisting of McGowan, Johnny Wooden, Ken Gunning, Eddie Campion and Bill Haarlow.

Preview: (Hammond Times, Feb. 3. 1938, pg. 13)

As far as the All Americans are concerned, they have a big job ahead if a victory is to be registered over Oshkosh. Most of the trouble is expected to be dealt out by Leroy Edwards, the former University of Kentucky star who held the league record for the most points in one game up until last Sunday.

Edwards registered 21 points in a game against Kankakee but this mark was shattered by Johnny Wooden of the All Americans last Sunday when he piled up 25 points against the same Kankakee team. The Ciesars also set a league record for points scored in this game, getting 61.

Game Summary: (Pioneers of the Hardwood by Todd Gould, Indiana University Press (1998), pp. 93-94.)

The two teams battled back and forth, with no more than three points separating them throughout the game. In the waning seconds of the contest, the Ciesars fell behind by two points. In storybook fashion Whiting team members handed the ball to Wooden for some last-second heroics. The All-American guard drove down the middle and banked in a perfect shot to tie the game at 35 apiece as the buzzer sounded.

The two weary team squared off in overtime. This time it was Edwards' opportunity to be the hero. With the Ciesars leading 37-36, the big Oshkosh center stepped to the free-throw line for two shots and no time left on the clock. The crowd yelled wildly as the league's leading scorer stood alone on the court. The first shot smacked hard off the rim and ricocheted back to the dejected Edwards. The partisan fans screamed in ecstacy. The red, white, and blue banners that hung from the balcony of the Hammond Civic Center shook frantically as the crowd stomped with glee. But on the second toss Edwards proved why he was considered the pro game's top talent. Without hesitation, the Indianapolis native sank his final free throw to tie the game for Oshkosh. Bloody and exhausted, the two teams geared up for a second overtime period.

One minute into the second overtime, Edwards tossed in an outside set shot to give Oshkosh a 39-37 lead. Ed Campion answered for the Ciesars with a half-court bomb that tied the score. After an Oshkosh miss, Vince McGowan drove the ball down the left side of the court and dramatically backhanded the ball into the basket for a two-point Ciesars lead. With time running out, Oshkosh looked to the mighty Edwards again. But this time Wooden anticipated the pass, stepped in front of his giant rival, and stole the ball. Edwards quickly fouled Wooden to stop the clock. But the former Purdue great was not fazed by the pressure situation. Wooden's free throw tore through the net and put the game out of reach. Wooden had out-dueled Edwards in the individual scoring column, 17-13. And the Ciesars defeated Oshkosh by a final score of 42-39.

February 8, 1938Oshkosh, WIOshkosh
All-Stars 56
Gallaghers 33

Game Summary: (Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 9, 1938 pg 11.)

Edwards Sets Pro Scoring Record

Leroy Edwards, All-American while at the University of Kentucky, set a new National Basketball league scoring record here Tuesday night when he dropped in 14 baskets and two free throws for 30 points. He held the previous record of 28 points. The Oshkosh All Stars defeated the Kankakee, Ill. Gallaghers in a league game by a 58-33 score. Oshkosh led at the half, 19-16.

Oshkosh All-Stars (56)


Kankakee (IL) Gallaghers (33)


As the regular season ended, Edwards had the scoring record firmly in hand. He would hold onto this professional record for many years, by all indications until the mid-1940's.

But the rivalry between the two great stars had not ended. While the Ciesars had secured the Western Division regular season crown by right of beating Oshkosh twice, both the All-Stars and All American team had 12 wins each and were eligible for the NBL playoffs, meeting each other in the Western Division finals. The series was best two of three with the winner meeting the Eastern Division champion.

DateLocationTeamOpponentResultEdward's / Wooden's
February 22, 1938Hammond, INOshkosh
All Americans
All-Stars 40
All Americans 33
16 / 17

Game Preview: (Hammond Times, Feb. 22, 1938 pg 11.)

The Ciesars nosed out Oshkosh in two previous meetings, the second on the Civic Center floor, but both games were played on courts of high school dimensions, 74 x 50 feet. Tonight's battle will be run off on a college and professional sized court measuring 90 x 50 feet, which should furnish the Ciesar speed attack, led by Johnny Wooden, Ken Gunning and Eddie Campion with more elbow room.

. . .

Chief problem of the Ciesars tonight is to halt the great "Cowboy" Edwards, all-time All American center from Kentucky U. who plays the pivot line for Oshkosh. Edwards is high scorer in the National league, having averaged 14 points per start in a loop noted for defensive play. Edwards' total is 182. McGowan of the Ciesars is down in fifth place with 144 for an average of 9.7 per game while Wooden holds sixth place with 143, an average of 10.1 per game. Edwards, who stands 6-4 and weights 200, is a great shot with either hand and is rated the best "feeder" playing basketball today.

Game Summary: (Hammond Times, Feb. 22, 1938 pg 11.)

The All Americans were in the ball game all the way until their five regulars - McGowan, Wooden, Perigo, Campion and Haarlow - began to tire midway of the third quarter with Oshkosh leading 24 to 19. The score was tied at halftime, 18-18.

McGowan, who drew the unpleasant assignment of guarding the league's leading scorer, "Cowboy" Edwards, had four personal fouls at this juncture and had to play it safe with the result that Edwards canned three timely baskets that turned the tide. Wooden, who hit four baskets and nine successive free throws in the early stages of the game, tired in the last period and when no support came from other quarters the Ciesars took it on the chin.

. . .

Meanwhile, the "Cowboy" was hooking in 16 points for Oshkosh and got scoring cooperation from Mamman (6), Van Der Mullen (10) and Preboski (6).

Hammond (IN) Civic Auditorium.
The Ciesars moved from Whiting to nearby Hammond mid-season to take advantage of the larger arena.
DateLocationTeamOpponentResultEdward's / Wooden's
February 27, 1938Oshkosh, WIOshkosh
All Americans
All-Stars 41
All Americans 38
15 / 16

Game Summary: (Oshkosh Northwestern, Feb. 28, 1938 pg 12.)

Playing one of the best brands of basketball they have displayed during the 1937-38 season in which they have compiled a remarkable record, the 'regulars' of the Oshkosh All Stars outdid themselves Saturday evening at the Recreational gymnasium to defeat the Whiting (sic), Ind. All-Americans, 41 to 38.

By doing so the All Stars made a clean sweep of the play in the Western Division of the National Basketball league and on the home floor tonight will begin the quest for the championship of the circuit. Oshkosh will meet Akron Goodyears, champions of the Eastern division at 8:30 o'clock this evening at the Recreational gymnasium, in the first of a best two-out-of-three series. The second will be played at Akron, Thursday, and if a third contest is needed to decide the championship, it will be played at the Ohio city, Friday evening.

. . .

Johnny Wooden, formerly of Purdue, was high scorer with 16 points on four field and eight gift tosses with Leroy Edwards close behind with 15 points on four buckets and seven from the free throw circle.

The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots would go on to defeat the All-Stars two games to one. Both Wooden and Edwards would be named to the first-team All-NBL first team, with Edwards leading the league in scoring and being named Most Valuable Player.

As evidenced by the games mentioned below against an Ironwood (MI) and Wisconsin Collegians team, Edwards would continue to set personal records that season, albeit not against professional competition.

In addition, there was another meeting between the All-Stars and Ciesar All Americans in late March after the All Americans had added the services of Purdue star Jewell Young.

March 24, 1938Ironwood, MIOshkosh
Ironwood (MI)
Blatz Ramblers
Oshkosh 59
Ironwood 31

Game Summary: (Oshkosh Northwestern, Friday March 25, 1938)

All Stars Meet All-Americans in Last Stand

The All Stars continued their winning ways Thursday evening when they won at Ironwood, Mich. by a score of 59 to 31. Edwards chalked up a new record for a single game with a total of 31 points, again matching the total scored by the opposing team. He had 14 field goals and three free throws His previous record, set in the National league, which was a record for that circuit was 30 points on 14 buckets and two charity tosses.

Game Summary: (Ironwood (MI) Daily Globe, Friday March 25, 1938)

Stars Trounce Blatz Quintet

With an eye to a 1,000 points for the season, Leroy "Lefty" Edwards, six feet, four inch center for the Oshkosh All-stars, poured in 31 points last night as the invading pros warmed up to the game in the second half with the Blatz Ramblers to win 59 to 31. The big Kentucky lad has tallied over 900 points so far this year and has five more games in which to fulfill his ambition.

. . .

Riding kinks and sleepy eyes were cleared aside in the second half and the Stars began tossing in shots from all angles with Edwards' rifle-like throws giving the fans something to wonder about.

Couldn't Be Stopped

No matter what the angle nor the distance to the hoop, "Lefty" just tossed them in and moved back up the floor like a man 60 years old. Nobody could stop him. Everyone took a crack at it one time or another but what was the use.

When asked why they called him "Lefty," Edwards said, "Because I'm not left handed I guess. You know I always toss the ball to another man when he's ahead of me - then if he misses the shot I get the rebound and two more points."

Someone later remarked that he didn't miss many shots during the second half when the offense got rolling. Said Edwards, "Oh I missed a few. But then the law of averages does that to a fellow." And that came from a guy that hasn't missed many shots in any game this year. He can't be beaten, the big boy from the Kentucky hills, when it comes to shooting baskets or talking about shooting them. He's tops in both leagues.

Dr. James A. Naismith, "father of basketball" spoke briefly to the crowd before the start of the game, giving the fans an impression of a fine, well preserved gentleman who knew what he was talking about and what he wanted to say. . .

All-Stars (59)


Blatz Ramblers (31)


DateLocationTeamOpponentResultEdward's / Wooden's
March 26, 1938Oshkosh, WIOshkosh
All Americans
All-Stars 63
All Americans 51
24 / 15

Game Summary: (Oshkosh Northwestern, March 28, 1938 pg 12.)

While [Jewell] Young's scoring was confined to two free throws of four attempts, his All-American teammates - Johnny Wooden and Bob Kessler, both formerly of Purdue, were the big guns for the invaders. Wooden, probably the fastest man on the floor, scored 15 points and Kessler accounted for 11. Each of them had four buckets.


But all scoring honors go to Leroy Edwards, Oshkosh's other All-American, who scored 24 points on nine field goals and six free throws. It was feared that his drive towards a total of 1,000 points for the season would be temporarily halted Saturday against so strong a team, but he rolled merrily on, getting nine buckets of 20 shots taken.

. . .

An indication of the racehorse type of basketball that was to be played in that fourth quarter was provided in the first 45 seconds when three baskets were scored - by Witasek and Preboski for Oshkosh and Kessler for Whiting. The scoring continued at the dizziest rate ever seen in an All Star game, the teams combining for a record of five points a minute between them. When it was over and the nettings under the baskets stopped swaying back and forth from having the ball pass through so many times, Oshkosh had won the game by a 63 to 51 margin.

March 27, 1938Marshfield, WIOshkosh
Oshkosh 73
Collegians 48

Game Summary: (Oshkosh Northwestern, Monday March 28, 1938)

'Lefty' Sets New Scoring Record Against Badgers

Marshfield, Wis. - Leroy Edwards set a new record for himself here Sunday afternoon when he counted 39 points against the Badger Collegians as the Oshkosh All Stars won 73 to 48. The former University of Kentucky All-American had 16 field goals and seven free throws. His previous record had been 31 points in one game.

Edwards would continue his career for another ten years but Wooden would only continue for part of the following 1938-39 season with the Ciesars. He quit the team following a payment dispute with the owner, Eddie Ciesar. "I protested that if he was going to treat us this way, we were leaving. He eventually gave us our money, but he raised an awful fuss. Bill [Perigo] and I agreed to play the next game, but we quit right after that. We decided that we'd rather go back down to Indianapolis and finish out the season for Frank Kautsky." (Pioneers of the Hardwood, by Todd Gould, Indiana University Press (1998), pg. 96.)

Wooden did finish out the season with the Kautskys, although it appears he left the professional game for good afterwards.

A number of years later, Chuck Chuckovits of the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets broke Edward's record with a 33 point outburst. (Note that the game summary makes reference to Edwards holding the record with 31, which it says he set in 1939.) Unfortunately for Chuckovits, the rest of his teammates managed only two other field goals and his team was thrashed by the Sheboygan Redskins 67 to 38.

In addition, Edwards took the title back a few weeks later during a playoff game against Bobby McDermott and Fort Wayne. Edwards scored 35 points in the contest.

February 12, 1942Sheboygan, WIToledo
Jim White Chevrolets
Sheboygan Redskins
Redskins 67
Chevrolets 38

Game Summary: (Sheboygan Press, February 13, 1942 pg 14.)

To be inscrolled opposite the former's name in the National all-time record books must go the 33 points that he made this night, shattering the former mark that was Leroy Edwards' of 31 points for Oshkosh in 1939.

Entitling him to like honors are the 12 field goals which the hands of six foot seven inch Eddie Dancker dropped through the netting, breaking the 1940 record of Jack Osborne for Firestone by a single basket.

And with their 29 field goals, distributed among eight players, the Redskins of Thursday night likewise became National league history as the highest scoring team from the field for a single game.

Sheboygan Redskins (67)


Toledo Jim White Chevrolets (38)


March 5, 1942Oshkosh, WIOshkosh
Fort Wayne
Zollner Pistons
All-Stars 68
Zollner Pistons 60

Game Summary: (Wisconsin State Journal, Friday March 6, 1942)

Edwards scores 35 Points as Oshkosh All-Stars Win, 68-60

Leroy "Lefty" Edwards paced the home team, setting a new professional individual scoring record for a single game of 14 field goals and 7 free throws for a total of 35 points. This regained for him a scoring record which he relinquished to Chuck Chuckovits of Toledo a few days ago.

[Bobby] McDermott, Fort Wayne guard, topped the visitor's scoring with a total of 19 points on eight field goals and three free throws.

Oshkosh, taking its basketball as seriously in prideful community spirit as Green Bay does its national professional football team, was agog over the finals in which the championship will be decided tonight. Fort Wayne and the All-Stars were keyed to their peak form of the season for the deciding game which was expected to attract an overflow crowd.

Oshkosh All Stars (68)


Fort Wayne Zollners (60)



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