American Tournament Women's and Girls' Champions
American Tournament, a Chicago amateur basketball tournament of the 1930s and 1940s. It was begun in 1932 by the Chicago American, which was William Randolph Hearst’s afternoon daily in the city. The tournament began with hundreds of teams, which would have playoffs to determine the finalist in the first week of March. The finalist were divided into anywhere from nine to three classes, depending on the year, and to a historian a bit confusing.
The American Tournament was not strictly an AAU tournament for most of its history, but it worked with the Central AAU in determining championships. The tournament was usually immediately followed by the Central AAU tournament, and there was often correlation between the two competitions. In several years, the American Tournament served to produce the qualifiers for the Central AAU tournament, and in 1942 and 1943 the American Tournament was merged with the Central AAU tournament.
Opens in 1932 With One Class for Women
The first year had four men’s classes and only one class for women, which was won by the May & Malone Girls, one of the major women teams in the city. May & Malone edged the Charles V. Barrett Girls, 17-15, for the title. The following year, the paper sponsored four classes for women—open, free-lance, church, and girls rules. The 1933 winner of the open was the Spencer Coals, and the 1934 winner was the Rickett's Restaurant Girls, who were basically the May & Malone Girls.
The open apparently was the equivalent of major, which the class was called in 1935, that year won by the Andy Frain Usherettes (who the previous year were the Rickett's Restaurant Girls), and which the Central AAU subsequently recognized as its senior women champion. The free-lance class that year was won by the Platt Co-Eds, which then won the junior class in the Central AAU competition by playing against the American Tournament church winner, the Immaculate Conception Co-Eds. The American Tournament in this instant served to both provide a Central AAU champion and the finalists for another tournament.
The 1936 tournament saw the elimination of the major class, leaving the free-lance class as tthe major class, which what it became. The T. J. Courtneys won in 1936, easily beating the Fellmeth Paints, 28-12 for the free-lance title. The team was sponsored by the tournament official and attorney general Thomas J. Courtney, and the team consisted of veterans of women's basketball, notably Violet and Evelyn Krubaeck (who had played for the May & Malone Girls, Six Point Co-eds, Rickett's Restaurant Girls, Andy Frain Usherettes) and Betty Reidl (who had played for the May & Malone Girls, Six Point Co-eds, and Andy Frain Usherettes). In the Central AAU tournament, the T. J. Courney were paired with the church winner, the Immaculate Conception Co-Eds, whom they beat 27-13.
In 1937, in the girls class and only female class that year, Alamo Theater Co-eds easily beat the Queen Anne Aces of Hammond, Indiana, 22-13. The Queen Anne Aces were one year away from greatness, because for the next three years, 1937 to 1940, the team won three consecutive American Tournament free-lance titles and had became the premier team in the region. There was one other female class those years, the novice class, won respectively by Smoler Coquettes, Van Heck Boosters, and Standard Transformers.
The Final Years
In 1939, the Hearst’s morning paper in city, the Chicago Herald-Examiner, went out of business, and the Chicago American was renamed the Chicago Herald American, which continued to sponsor the American Tournament.
In 1941, the championship team was the Standard Transformers, which took the novice class the previous year. The team consisted of Anne Lydon, sisters Alyce and Minnie De Lord, Mary Moran, and veteran player Mercedes DeSutter. The Transformers won the title on a half-court buzzer beater by Moran to barely beat Brills Lassies, 23-22, which was partly a team composed of three-time champion Queen Anne Aces veterans--Stella Kiligen, Frances Rospond, and Evelyn Krubaeck (but without the great center Violet Krubaeck).
In 1942 and 1943, the American Tournament and the Central AAU tournament were merged, with the Chicago Herald American serving as sponsor. There was only one female class during those years. In 1942 the Ducky Sloans, who were the renamed and responsored Brills Lassies, get their revenge from the previous year on the Standard Transformers in the title game, 31-12. Emerging as the Ducky Sloans star was Stella Kiligen, who got her start in the Queen Anne Aces. In 1943, the Ducky Sloans repeated as champs--with Kiligen again providing the fireworks--beating the Peoria Dieselettes, 30-20.
The 1944 tournament, no longer merged with the Central AAU. was one by the Nonebetters, who edged out the Acadias, 21-20. The 1945 American tournament, now also representing the "Central AAU Metropolitan" championship, saw the Whiteliners, led by veteran star Stella Kiligen (scoring 18 points) crushed the Seeburg-Oaks, 31-8. The Whiteliners were sponsored by the American Gear & Manufacturing Company, the same company that sponsored Chicago American Gears professional team. The Whiteliners during the regular season would play the opening game at Gears' home games in Cicero Stadium.
The last American tournament in 1946 was won by the Milwaukee Road Girls, who beat the Nonebetters going for their second title, 23-17. The end of the Chicago Herald American tournament also ended a great era of women's amateur basketball. The paper had done a magnificent job in encouraging and promoting women's basketball, but the growth of the men's professional game in the post World War II years and changing social trends spelled the end of a great legacy for women's basketball.
American Tournament Women's and Girls' Champions, 1932-1946
|Year||Open/Major||Free-Lance||Women Church||Girls Rules||Novice|
|1932||May & Malone Girls|
|1933||Spencer Coals||Olivet Whippets||Lamon M.E.||Sienna High School|
|1934||Rickett's Restaurant Girls||Kilmer Trees||St. Andrews Lutheran||Spencer Coals|
|1935||Andy Frain Usherettes||Platt Co-Eds||Immaculate Conception Co-Eds|
|1936||T. J. Courtneys||Immaculate Conception Co-Eds|
|1937||Alamo Theater Co-eds|
|1938||Queen Anne Aces||Smoler Coquettes|
|1939||Queen Anne Aces||Van Heck Boosters|
|1940||Queen Anne Aces||Standard Transformers|
|1946||Milwaukee Road Girls|