HAPPY HUMP DAY PRAGOBOTS!
We continue our series on Early African American Basketball…
ALPHA PHYSICAL CULTURE CLUB
New York, NY
Alpha Physical Culture Club, more popularly known as the Alpha Big Five, on Manhattan, New York, was an amateur African-America basketball team in the early 1900s. The team won three New York metropolitan titles before winning the designation Colored Basketball World’s Champions in 1913. The basketball team was only one of the sports teams fielded by the Alpha Physical Culture Club, which was formed in 1904 and was the first all-black athletic club in the United States.
The founders were Jamaican immigrants, but American-born blacks were free to apply for membership along with West Indians. The club’s membership drew largely from New York’s middle-class and upper-class African Americans. There were six charter members: the brothers Cliff and Conrad Norman, Archie Thomas, William Simms, Clarence Hutchinson, and director John Morgan. The club began with a regimen of calesthenics in a small church house on 134th Street.
By February of 1906, Alpha’s membership had grown to 35, and the club moved into their own larger building. By 1909, with a membership of 70, the club was sponsoring a track team, a baseball team, and a basketball team. Alpha conducted an annual athletics games each summer, a monthly basketball game during the winter, and annual gymnastics exhibitions, besides occasional baseball games.
In 1907 the Alpha basketball team joined other black clubs to form the Olympian Athletic League, which included notable rivals St. Christopher Club of Harlem and the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, as well as the Marathon Athletic Club of Brooklyn and the Jersey City Colored YMCA.
By 1912 the Alpha basketball team was playing its home games at Harlem’s renowned Manhattan Casino. the Alphas were consistently one of the best all-black basketball teams in the country. They won the New York-New Jersey area championship in 1911, 1912, and 1913. In an intercity championship game against Howard University at the end of the 1910-11 season, Alpha lost, 28-16, in DC. Alphas’ best season was 1912-13, when they were named Colored Basketball World’s Champions.
The club sponsored a women’s team, the New York Girls, one of the first all-black women’s teams anywhere. The Girls were managed and coached by charter member Conrad Norman.
In January of 1921, Alpha joined with a group of amateur clubs to form the Metropolitan Basketball Association Other members included Titan Athletic Club, Borough Athletic Club, St. Christopher Club, and Spartan Field Club.
THE NEW YORK GIRLS
New York, NY
New York Girls, of New York City, was an African American women’s basketball team in the early 1900s. The team was the female auxiliary club of the Alpha Physical Culture Club.
The New York Girls was organized in 1909, and in its first season, 1909-10, won all its games, including Spartan Girls, for the New York-New Jersey championship. The team repeated the feat in the 1910-11 season. The New York Girls were hailed by local basketball experts as the most formidable girls team in the country, and cited the team for its scientific teamwork, its shooting accuracy, and its close guarding.
Most all the players were members of the Upsilon Sigma Club, and included two forwards, Carrie Cole and Rose Mitchell, center Dora Cole, and guards Madge Thomas and Beatrice Campbell. The two Cole girls were sisters and former stars of the Wadleigh High School. Mitchell come out of the Ethical Culture School. Typical of the era, the girls were coached and managed by a male, Conrad Norman.