When NBA history was made at Edgerton Park

When NBA history was made at Edgerton Park

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, November 1, 1950

• March 2, 2015


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, November 1, 1950

Many of my RCSD students are huge NBA fans. Social Studies teacher that I am, I sometimes bemoan their lack of historical knowledge about the game’s past, reminding them that Rochester itself once boasted an NBA champion.  Occasionally, I explain–sometimes to their surprise–that in the first years of the NBA African-American players were tacitly forbidden to play.

That’s why it was interesting to learn when the first black player, Earl Lloyd, finally entered the league on October 31st, 1950, it took place here in Rochester at the old Edgerton Park Arena. Lloyd, who passed away a few days ago, played for the visiting Washington Capitols.

llyod newest

Rochester Times Union, November 1, 1950

I was curious to learn how Rochestarians responded to Lloyd’s appearance. I found two reports of the game in the D & C and the Times Union.  The only reference to Lloyd was in the Times Union in which he is described as the “Negro star from West Virginia State.” I searched the days prior to and after the game and found no more mention of what we now see as a historic event. Apparently, the game was played without incident, confirmed by Lloyd’s later account that he felt no racial animosity from Rochester fans that night or on his return visits.

In 1950 Rochester was certainly a segregated town and many of its black inhabitants were treated as second class citizens. But is heartening to know on that night without incident, Lloyd was just another basketball player from a visiting team. In a way, Rochester made history by not making history.

POSTCRIPT:blogitorial darkened

I kindly received this email (sent to the D & C ) from reader Sanford Rubin in response to the printed version of this post.

I just wanted to pass along my enjoyment and admiration in reading David Kramer’s ‘Quietly making history’ piece in this morning’s editorial page. As a history buff myself I found David’s (local) historical perspective on Earl Lloyd’s “making history by not making history” recollection of Lloyd’s “quiet” appearance at the Edgerton Park Sports Arena  on Oct. 31, 1950 to be superb in every way. The piece was especially appealing to me because as a seven year old my father took me to that same Edgerton Park Sports Arena in 1952 for my first exposure to a major sports event to watch the Rochester Royals compete, then as defending NBA champions. That single event transformed me into an instant sports fan for life.

When Mr. Kramer again visits this wonderful recollection with his Social Studies class, in case he is not as old as me and therefore wouldn’t have had the opportunity to frequent Edgerton Park, to give an idea how much professional sports has changed, when I attended that game over 62 years ago, I watched the scoreboard being kept manually by a fellow hoisted up by a ladder who changed the numbers with cardboard numbered cards.


Revisiting Rochester black history

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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