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December 2, 2013

Professional basketball exhibitions played at armory


Shortly after Oneontans turned their calendars to January 1953, word came of another notable basketball event.

“In what is regarded as the outstanding basketball event here in several years,” the Star reported on Saturday, Jan. 3, “the world-famed Renaissance team will meet the St. Louis Bombers on January 17 in the State Armory. This announcement was made last night by Capt. Bruce Shearer, commanding officer of Company G.”

Staff Sgt. Mel Crosby, longtime Oneontan and basketball referee, arranged the contest. The New York Rens, as they were often called, was a professional team having toured since the mid-1920s. The Bombers were a one-time member of the NBA but still toured frequently.

The main Saturday night armory event got a late start because of freezing rain that made road conditions hazardous, causing the delayed arrival by both teams.

Nevertheless more than 1,000 fans turned out. A warm-up contest featured two teams from what was then the Susquehanna Valley League. The first place Otego team faced Nick’s Sinclair of Oneonta. Sinclair was then a popular brand of gasoline and there were several of their filling stations in our area. Interestingly the same Steve Salata who played for Glens Falls in 1948 was back, this time on the Nick’s Sinclair team. Nick’s beat Otego, 63-60.

Of the main event the Star said, “The ‘Rens’ and the Bombers provided the crowd with a display of topflight basketball, but as the great Negro team (Rens) passed and shot its way to a 94-83 triumph, it displayed some of the finest and most intricate pass work ever seen on the Armory court.”

This weekend: Getting from here to there was challenging in Oneonta in the late months of 1888.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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