Sports in the 1950's
Sports were quickly becoming America's favorite form of entertainment once again with baseball exploding in the 1950's and a number of new and developing leagues finding their fan base and their image.
The 1950's brought an end to the All-American Girls Baseball League as professional baseball returned to action, the National Football League starts to get televised and is slowly building a following. By the end of the 1950's and certainly by the 1958 championship game, America was sold of football and it would continue to grow in popularity. The National Basketball Association was struggling to gain interest with a slow low scoring game so the NBA invents the shot clock in this decade and begin to integrate the league with skilled and entertaining black athletes.
The 1950's was an interesting time in sports and laid the foundation for the professional sports leagues that exist today.
Task 1: Watch the Introductory Video to this Unit (5 minutes)
Task 2: Review the provided images, videos and attached links for the AAGPBL, NFL and NBA during the 1950's (15 minutes)
Task 3: Digging Deeper into Sports and Pop Culture (30 minutes)
Sports often have a natural way of reflecting what is going on in society out on the field of play - but, sometimes moments in sports become bigger than the sport itself and represents something bigger, something more. (Some examples of this would be the rise of the AAGPBL or Hank Aaron breaking the home run record or the 1999 Women’s Soccer World Cup.)
Investigate sports moments of the 1950’s and select ONE (1) moment, person or event in the decade that had meaning and significance outside of the sports world and is from any level of competitive play.
Create a Google Slide reflecting on the Person / Event / Moment by including the responses to the Prompts Below.
Your response should include:
Video/Audio (if available)
Date(s) Event Occurred (if event/moment/sport)
Who was involved (if event/moment/sport)
Years of relevance (if person)
About the Person (if person)
Why was this event meaningful or significant?
Task 4: Submit your work on GOOGLE CLASSROOM
AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League)
It was difficult for women to play on professional sports teams in the 1940s. The opportunities weren’t there and men working in sports did not take them seriously. They got their break when President Franklin Roosevelt mentioned the idea of women playing baseball to some of Philip Wrigley’s colleagues. He told them, "Baseball is important for Americans, especially now. Times are tough, and we need something to cheer about.” Philip Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs and the Wrigley Company, turned that idea into reality by starting a women's baseball league. His idea was to keep baseball in the eye of the public by having women play in major league ballparks. (https://howtheyplay.com/team-sports/When-Girls-Ruled-Baseball )
Nearly 600 Women Played Professional Baseball
The first year of the league turned out to be a successful one due to a respectable attendance of more than 176,000 fans across 108 games. Attendance reached more than 450,000 in 1945 after the war ended and reached a peak of 910,000 fans in 1948 with 10 teams in the league.
The popularity continued into 1954 when it became difficult to find talented players to fill the teams. In the end, the league gave 600 women the opportunity to play professional baseball at the same level as the men did between 1943 and 1954. They got to thrill the fans during the war and afterward. (https://howtheyplay.com/team-sports/When-Girls-Ruled-Baseball )
NFL (National Football League)
The 1950's for the NFL was all about building a following and gaining exposure with the rise of television in homes throughout America. The world of professional sports was still not very profitable and many professional teams shared stadiums with colleges and the city. Everything begins to change for the NFL in 1958 when the championship game is broadcast on national television and is highly engaging - captivating an audience and cultivating a desire to see more sports on TV.
Games on Television
Getting games on TV on a more consistent basis in the 1950s was a significant factor in the NFL becoming the country's dominant sport. Its leaders understood the importance of the growing medium better than other sports at the time. (https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/nfl-fabulous-1950s-66211195 )
"The Greatest Game Ever Played"
The 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants was the first overtime game in league history. Alan Ameche's touchdown gave the Colts a 23-17 victory. The thrilling game was televised nationally and is credited with sparking the NFL's rise in popularity.
NBA (National Basketball Association)
The NBA was officially formed on August 3rd, 1949. The new NBA was made up of 17 teams that represented both small towns and large cities across the country. Through the 1950s, though, the number of teams dwindled, along with fan support, and by the 1954-55 season, only eight teams remained. That year, the league transformed the game with the creation of the 24-second clock, making play faster-paced and more fun to watch. Fans returned, and the league, now financially solvent, expanded throughout the 1960s and 70s. Today, the NBA attracts players—and millions of fans—from countries around the world. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nba-is-born )
Introduction of the 24-Second Shot Clock
The NBA’s 24-second shot clock was invented in 1954 by Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone, who wanted to force teams to pick up the pace of games. Why 24 seconds?
“I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn’t screw around and stall,” Biasone explained. “I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes (2,880 seconds) and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.”
He was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen. Asked to name the greatest players ever to play basketball, most fans and aficionados would put Wilt Chamberlain at or near the top of the list.
Dominating the game as few players in any sport ever have, Chamberlain seemed capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double- and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down.
As Oscar Robertson put it in the Philadelphia Daily News when asked whether Chamberlain was the best ever, "The books don't lie."