Detroit Central YMCA
Detroit Central YMCA, was a Michigan state and national power in amateur basketball from the 1890s to the 1930s. The team competed against other YMCAs in a Detroit league, in a Michigan YMCA tournament, and in the international YMCA tournament, as well as against other amateur competition. Detroit Central YMCA began playing basketball in 1894, competing against amateur clubs and other Michigan YMCAs, and during the early years was one of the basketball powers in the state.
Rivalry with Detroit Athletic Club
The Detroit YMCA program suffered a loss around 1903, when the Central's leading player, Jake Mazer, left the team in a dispute. He formed a rival team, the Detroit Athletic Club, taking several of Central players with him. For the following years, Detroit Central YMCA and Detroit Athletic Club remained bitter rivals, and rarely competed against one another. As both were usually the two top teams in the state, that often left the Michigan state title unresolved.
In 1905, Detroit Central, for example, played eight games, winning six and losing two. Some of the victories were over Adrian High School, Ann Arbor YMCA, and Adrian College. The two losses were to Findley YMCA and a return match against Adrian College. For many years in the early 1900s, Detroit Central sponsored the Commercial Basketball League, an amateur league of business firms. Detroit Central YMCA competed in the Associated League, an amateur circuit that included such teams as the Detroit Athletic Club and the Burroughs Adding Machine Company.
In the 1908, in a titantic three-game series, Detroit Central YMCA beat Detroit Athletic Club (also called Detroit Associaton at this time)for the Michigan state amateur title, the final game attracting 3,000 screaming fans. Central then took third place at the Central AAU heavyweight tournament held in Evanston, Illinois. The Central AAU heavyweight basketball championships were held in Detroit in 1909, and Detroit YMCA lost in the semifinals to West Side YMCA of Chicago. Detroit YMCA again won the state title in 1910.
Detroit Central YMCA made an impact in 1922, when it won the Michigan AAU championship. The team entered the first 1923 International Tournament as one of the favorites, but lost in an upset in the semifinals to Toronto YMCA, 20-28. Detroit took third place defeating Springfield YMCA, 27-22.
International Tournament Champion
Detroit Central broke a three-year string by the Cincinnati Central YMCA Wildcats in taking the International Tournament title in 1926. Detroit easily swept two Canadian teams, beating West End YMCA of Toronto, 33-19 in the semifinals, and Broadview YMCA of Toronto, 37-15, in the finals. The team also won the Michigan YMCA state championship, beating Flint YMCA, 44-20.
The following year, Detroit Central repeated as state champion, beating Kalamazoo YMCA 43-24, which earned the team a trip to the International Tournament in Buffalo, New York. There Detroit repeated as the International champion by beating Milton YMCA of Wisconsin in the semifinals, 27-24, and Binghamton YMCA (NY), 24-18 in the championship game. The team subsequently competed in Europe for the World YMCA tournament and won that as well, beating England 56-11 and France 72-9, indicating the rest of the world was considerably behind in basketball to the United States.
The International and World titles represented the apex of Detroit Central YMCA’s achievement in basketball. Thereafter the team was no longer a factor in national competition.