Marion and Mercedes DeSutter
Marion DeSutter (born August 31, 1916, died July 16, 2005) and Mercedes DeSutter (born August 31, 1916, died March 18, 2002), twin sisters who were amateur woman's basketball players of the 1930s and 1940s. Marion and Mercedes were ranked as leading players in Chicago's flourishing woman's amateur and semi-pro basketball of the 1930s and 1940s. The two also had a considerable softball career in the 1930s.
Marion and Mercedes first attended Alvernia High School and then Schurz their senior year (their parents couldn’t afford the tuition at Alvernia). The girls were playing basketball at this time, and the nun always told them that they should not be playing sports because it was not physically safe for girls – "they were in danger of a heart attack." Before they graduated in June of 1934, the girls competed in basketball, volleyball, and track and field.
The sisters during their senior year at Schurz first played outside competitive basketball for the St. Andrews Lutheran church team. In March of 1934, the team entered the American Tournament in the church division. Mercedes playing center and Marion playing forward led the team to the championship, beating the Bird Memorial Church team that featured the three Hull sisters (Coral, Mabel, and Loral), 18-14, the DeSutters combining for 14 of the 18 points.
Marion and Mercedes first entered the top ranks of the amateur basketball in Chicago with the 1934-35 season, when they played for the Hart Motors Girls. Hart Motors had a nationally recognized women's softball team, and decided to branch out to women's basketball in the fall of 1934. Other players on the team include Cassie Martin, Babe Sisk, and Natalie Young. The Hart Motor Girls team was not competitive to top female squads, notably the Spencer Coals, but could beat most other teams. The team was eliminated in the American Tournament in the semi-finals by eventual winner theFrain Usherettes.
The Hart Motors team only lasted one year, and for the 1935-36 season, the DeSutter twins moved to the newly formed T. J. Bowlers team, directed by manager/coach Mark Singer. By this time the DeSutter twins were highly respected, as evidenced by the Chicago Tribune remark in January 1936 on the team: "the Bowler five is led by the DeSutter twins, regarded as the best women players in the central west." Perhaps exaggerated, but indicative of how highly the DeSutter twins were rated. Other members of the team included two great veterans Lillian Rozhon and Anne Goldstein, plus Frances Wallace.
The girls' debut on the elite basketball stage came crashing down in March of 1936, when the coach and the twins and the other players were suspended by the Central AAU, over issues of professionalism. Goldstein had been declared ineligible at the beginning of the season because she worked as a physical education director, but Singer continued to use her and the whole starting lineup was punished.
The sisters the joined a new powerful amateur women's team in the 1936-37 season, the Alamo Theater Co-eds. The team was coached by William Thompson. The girls came to prominance that year, leading the Alamo Theater Co-eds to the American Tournament the girls championship. Subsequently, the team beat the three-time CYO winner St. Ignatius team for the Central AAU championship. In 1939, William Thompson and Marion DeSutter became man and wife.
In the 1938-39 season, the twins joined the Bill Rand Girls, and helped make it a powerhouse in the city. The twins along with Madge Kline, Natalie Young, Anne Goldstein, Ann Solloway, and Catherine Fellmeth won the Windy City League championship, defeating the Taylor Trunks in the title game as part of the Central AAU tournament that year, 25-23. Earlier in the year they had beaten the legendary Trunks in several games, one notably on January 23, 35-22. On the other hand, the Rands lost the title game of the American Tournament to the Queen Anne Aces, 18-14, in the free-lance class. Other teams they played that year included the Sappanos, the Alderman Daleys, and Olympic Women’s Athletic Club team.
In the 1939-40 season, Mercedes DeSutter joined the legendary Spencer Coals, playing center, and helped lead her team to second place in the American Tournament, losing to the Queen Anne Aces. In the 1940-41 season, now playing as Mercedes McGrath, she helped her team, the Standard Transformers, win the girls championship of the American Tournament, beating the Brills Lassies in a close game, 23-22.
Marion DeSutter, besides her twin, had two brothers and one other sister. With her husband, William Thompson, she had five children (4 girls and 1 boy). DeSutter was a member of the St. Mary's church in West Chicago, and and was employed as a clerk in the DuPage Recorder of Deeds office for 12 years. She was a volunteer for over 15 years at DuPage County Convalescent Center.
Mercedes DeSutter married Terrance McGrath in 1940, and had two sons and one daughter. She worked at Easter Seals part-time, and like her sister volunteered at the DuPage County Convalescent Center.