After more than three decades, the ball has finally stopped bouncing for the Forest Park Men’s Recreation Basketball League. The league has always been a money-loser for the village but the end finally came because the vast majority of the players were no longer from Forest Park. As a resident who enjoyed playing in the league during the 1980s, I’m sorry to see it go – regardless of the fact that our team never won a game during the five years we, uh, competed.
Our squad was on a mission from God, representing St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. You would think that a group of supposedly clean-living players could outpoint a tavern-sponsored team just once during the course of 80 games, but it wasn’t to be. I’m not sure what our problem was, but it may have been our lack of height, quickness and shooting ability.
Pat “Swoop” Braniff, the last director of the league, remembers that our best player was Rev. Tom Holmes. Swoop was on the greatest team of that era, The Untouchables. They dominated the league during the late ’80s and early ’90s and went undefeated in 1994.
The other outstanding team of that time, Kolovitz Movers, featured the irrepressible Hanrahan brothers. Technically, we beat this team five times, because the Hanrahans forfeited rather than risk injury playing against our uncoordinated crew. Winning by forfeit ranks somewhere below kissing your sister.
During the last three seasons, Swoop saw teams forfeiting for reasons other than health, as the league sank into a slight funk. In its heyday, there were six strong teams in the “A” and “B” divisions and the games were close-fought, but clean. The worst incidents he saw were players shoving each other and, on one occasion, a lunatic throwing a chair.
Prior to Swoop’s tenure, fellow Untouchable John Doss ran the league from 1999 to 2006. Doss had also played in the league since he was a kid. Teams paid a $500 entrance fee and there were six 10-man squads in each division. Doss said it was one of the lowest-cost leagues in the area. Players received complimentary T-shirts, every team made the playoffs and the league champion had their entrance fee refunded. “J.D.” gave up league leadership when he became director of the Department of Public Works.
Commissioner Marty Tellalian said that renting the Grant-White gym, paying referees and paying timekeepers cost the village about $15,000 per season, offset by only $5,000 collected in fees. He noted that the league was for players 18 and older, and is hoping that a new school-age league will catch on.
Jeez, if we could have only played against that age level. I’m sure our St. Paul guys would have come out on top at least once.