This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
The sport of basketball was created in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, a teacher at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since that very first game that involved a soccer ball and two peach baskets, the sport has undergone many changes.
Baylor football coach Grant Teaff recalls when a high school coach in Snyder, Texas, drove him to basketball tryouts at San Angelo College in the early 1950s:
"We go to the gym, report in. Then they take us into the gym, and Coach [Max] Baumgardner, who was a UT guy, and his assistant was Phil George, a UT guy, and brought us in there and said, ‘Looks guys.' Said, ‘We got five scholarships. They're actually partial scholarships. You have to work if we give you one. We give you a job and give you a partial scholarship. Only have five of them. And so we're going to have a tryout for those five.' And I'm thinking, Well, I wonder how this is going to work. Said, ‘Okay, guys. In a moment, Coach George is going to come up here, and he's got two big boxes. Those boxes are filled with boxing gloves. And you pick you a pair of boxing gloves, put those on, and this is a basketball,' he said. ‘Now, we're going to just split you up. Half of you take your shirts off and half of you leave your shirts on. We'll be shirts and skins, and we're going to have a basketball game.' He said, ‘All right, when Coach George throws the ball up, we want to see who the last five standing are.' So there was my chance for an education. And you better believe I was one of the last five standing. And I got the scholarship. Had nothing to do with basketball. It was brawl."
Interviewer: "A fight broke out, yeah."
"It was brawl. That's all you can say about it. Now, of course, you'd be in twelve thousand lawsuits, and the NCAA would send you to somewhere else. (laughs)"
Wilma Buntin played on the girls' basketball team at John H. Reagan High School in Houston in the 1920s. She describes the uniforms:
"We had a sweater that came over, and it had to have long sleeves. And then we had these black bloomers that were box-pleated. And I spent every Saturday getting that attire ready for the next week. We had electric irons by that time, but it would have been rough if it'd been before that. Let me tell you, before it was all over we began to have the shorts, but they came right here at the knees. I imagine they'd call them clam diggers now."
Buntin explains how the court differed for girls during that era:
"It was divided into thirds. When it was divided in thirds, that was much more difficult for us because the stops and starts were so sudden. There were certain lines you didn't go over; it was called a foul. But they soon realized that was harder to play than what the boys were playing because the boys could get stretched out, and there we had to observe all those lines. And then they had the toss-up, and if you happened to have somebody tall as you are, well, this poor little fellow on the other team never had a chance. So—and you had to stay on your side of the line. The ones who were standing waiting had to be quick enough to know where that person was going to tip the ball, and they'd try to get around there and get it. And they've come a long way in kind of evening that out. They thought they were making it easier on us, and they weren't."
Over the years, many new rules and regulations have been put in place to make men's and women's basketball the sports they are today. Who knows what changes are in store for the future.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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