Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Home Court: Fitzgerald Auditorium
Nickname: “The Vandals”
Colors: Navy, Burnt Orange, Ivory
Manager: C.M. Cain
The Vandal Athletic Club was formed in Atlantic City in the early 1910s. They assembled a basketball team that was top rate and became known simply as the Vandals. They played their home games in a wire cage at Fitzgerald Auditorium in the seaside resort.
Cages were the norm in New Jersey basketball and they favored tough, physical teams like the Vandals. because they required quite a different and often more challenging style of play than on the open floor.The Vandals were one of the best Black Fives in the East during World War I, even though their star player and team captain, Mike Briscoe, was drafted into military duty in 1918.
Their strongest season may have been in 1916-17, when the Vandals won sixteen straight games and played for the Eastern Colored Basketball title against strong forward Paul Robeson and his heavily favored St. Christopher Club of Harlem. The Vandals would have won the game had not leading scorer Bill Howard split his kneecap just before the championship game.
The athletic club itself was comprised of an unusually cohesive group of athletes who prided themselves on their hard work and sportsmanship. “They are clean, both morally and physically,” one supporter claimed. “The nucleus of this great association lies in their brotherly feeling toward one another.”The Vandals scratched and clawed their way into “big” game contention; a difficult task, they claimed, when it was considered that their players worked for a living and only “indulge in athletics for the sport of it.”
Briscoe was popular as team leader. “His vivacious smile during the crisis of every contest,” it was said, “acts like liquid fire upon his men.”
Other players included Bill Howard, an excellent foul shooter, “Float” Freeman, a nimble guard, and the aforementioned Laury, who, although he played at the center position, was equally adept at covering the entire cage.
The Vandals manager, C. M. Cain fostered the team’s camaraderie, and must have taken a genuine interest in the players. “They are his pals,” the Chicago Defender newspaper reported, “and he looks after them as a hen looks after her chicks.”
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