A Short History of Basketball – Indiana Edition
Chapter title – Early Days of Basketball in Indiana
Ralph Jones (September 22, 1880 – July 26, 1951)
Considered by many to be the “Father of Indiana Basketball,” Jones played an instrumental role in the evolution of basketball in Indiana. Native to Martinsville in Morgan County, Indiana, many believe that Jones was the first basketball coach in Indiana. While a senior at Shortridge High School, he organized the first Indiana High School basketball team in 1899. Following this he helped the Indianapolis YMCA program to a state championship in. He next joined the program at the Crawfordsville YMCA leading them to a state YMCA championship. Butler University would hire him to be their basketball coach, his first paid coaching position, in 1903. During this time he continued his coaching duties at Crawfordsville High School and also at Wabash College. His teams were highly successful. He compiled a 2-2 record at Butler and a 75-6 record at Wabash. He coached at Purdue from 1910 – 1913, compiling a 32-9 record. From Purdue he moved on to the University of Illinois, where he went 85-34, winning two Big Ten titles from 1913 – 1920. An athletic jack of all trades, Jones had also lettered in football in high school and took the job of coach at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. he coached both the football and basketball teams. He posted a combined record in basketball of 94-9 and football 76-6. The Chicago Bears hired him as a player/coach in 1930. This was during the Depression. Even though he compiled a 24–10–7 record in two seasons, owner George Halas laid him off and took over as coach to save the cost of a coach’s salary. Jones went on to coach football at Lake Forest. Overall his records were:
54–37–10 (college football)
232–106 (college basketball)
32–15 (college baseball)
After his death he was interred at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. He received induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Evidence shows that glass backboards began replacing wooden backboards in 1919 when Bluffton High School installed them in 1919.
The Interurban and Basketball
The development of the interurban railway coincided with the rise of basketball across the nation and undoubtedly influenced the increased popularity of basketball in the state. The new mass transit system made it easier for teams to travel to distant towns to play basketball games.
First Mass Transit
The Interurban rail lines of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries provided the first mass transit system connecting the rural areas with the cities. In the era before the automobile and paved highways, the interurban lines provided fast, cheap transportation across not just Indiana, but the nation as well. The interurban railways rose in the late 1880’s and reached their prominence by 1925. The rise of the automobile and paved highways started their demise.
An interurban was a rail line that used electricity for power and operated between cities. The 1905 Census definition was “a street railway having more than half its trackage outside municipal limits.” this definition separated an interurban from suburban railroads. Indiana State Senator Charles L. Henry coined the term interurban at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 while watching a demonstration railway.
Charles L. Henry (July 1, 1849 – May 2, 1927)
A native of Green Township, Indiana Henry served three terms in the Indiana State Senate, then two terms in the United States House of Representatives. He declined a third term in Congress to pursue his interest in the new interurban trains. He managed the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Traction Co in Indianapolis, Indiana until his death in 1923.
The increasing popularity of the automobile caused the decline of the interurban railroad as teams began using automobiles and busses to travel.
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