Were The '57 Heels Really Undefeated?
There was an interesting thread on uncbasketball.com several days ago that I would like to share with you. The thread was begun by a poster who asked about the Lynchburg Elks and the statement made by one of the announcers during the Maryland game that Carolina's worst ever basketball defeat had come at the hands of the Lynchburg Elks in 1915. The poster apparently was not familiar with the fact that YMCA, industrial league and yes, Elks club teams in the early days of college basketball frequently played college teams. Carolina's last game against one of these teams during the regular season was in 1951 against Hanes Hosiery.
The statement about the Lynchburg Elks loss being the worst in UNC history is not correct. The record book shows that UNC has only played the Lynchburg Elks one time and that was in 1920 when the Heels beat the Lynchburg team 38-15. The worst loss in history was in 1915 but it was to the Lynchburg YMCA 63-20. Not that it makes much difference but it must have been some solace to the original poster because he seemed disturbed over the fact we had lost to a Elks club which he likened to losing to the Kiwanis Club.
At any rate, after clearing up the discrepancy about UNC's worst loss, a post was made that the unbeaten '57 team had actually lost a preseason game to another non-college opponent, the McCrary Eagles. Old timers remember the McCrary Eagles well but it came as a shock for me to learn that McCrary had beaten what I thought were the undefeated Tar Heels of 1957. Not to demean the McCrary Eagles because they were very good and always had former several local former college stars on their rosters. UNC even had a future member of its team, Ray Stanley, play for the Eagles before he played for Carolina. Now for those of you who are wondering how in the world did a future college player play for a semi-pro basketball team without incurring the wrath and punitive powers of the NCAA, let me explain. In addition to the NCAA not being as powerful a force in collegiate athletics as it is today, the semi-pro teams such as McCrary ( Acme McCrary Hosiery Mill of Asheboro N.C. and
Hanes Hosiery (Winston Salem, N.C.) employed the players as regular employees and they played on the team that represented the organization. You and I both know this was a ruse and that the average person could never have been employed to do the work these athletes did during the day if they did anything at all. Different time, different set of rules.
Back to the '57 Heels and their record. I didn't remember the McCrary loss even though I was at Chapel Hill at the time, but that didn't mean it didn't happen. My memory is not perfect and there is always the possibility the game was not reported in the press because the poster had said it was a preseason or warm up game.
Shortly after the post appeared, I received an e-mail from a Leonard Rosenbluth and my first reaction was, "here we go." I figured somebody is trying to have some fun with me by pretending to be Lennie Rosenbluth but I'll play along with them for a while at least. The e-mailer said the Tar Heels had defeated McCrary 84-70 in 1956 ( '57 season involves both '56 and '57 ) and gave the three leading scorers for each team. His last statement was, "I was there." This caused me to harbor the notion that just maybe I was the recipient of an e-mail from the real Lennie Rosenbluth, the leader of that '57 National Championship team.
I responded to the e-mail by asking if the sender was the real Lennie Rosenbluth, but I didn't hear anything for a couple of days so I figured the e-mailer had had his fun and would not continue in the charade. In the meantime, I e-mailed a cyber friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about UNC basketball and told him about the thread, thinking he would enjoy the talk about the "good old days." In his response to me he identified himself as the poster of the original information about McCrary and, after giving the matter further thought, he said he was not sure he had the right year of the McCrary loss. I told him about the e-mail I had received from the "Leonard Rosenbluth" and this probably just added to my friend's doubts about the year involved. He now feels maybe he has the year wrong and has clarified his original statement on the message board. Before you think critically of him for not getting the year correct, keep in mind that he is about my age (69) and, even though neither of us suffer, to my knowledge, from any significant memory loss, we are trying to recall events from over 50 years ago. I can't speak for my friend but I find that events and dates become fuzzy after a while and those of you who are younger are going to realize this later when you have to deal with this. I think you will find that events are much easier to remember than the dates.
Several days ago I received a response to my e-mail and the writer confirmed the fact that he was, in fact, the real Lennie Rosenbluth. I couldn't have been more pleased. He said he views several UNC web sites on a regular basis but does not post on them. This was in response to my invitation for him to contribute to the thread on uncbasketball.com and to be a guest poster on RamFanatic.com. He said he would be glad to talk with me by telephone if I would provide him with my number and yesterday he called and I had a very pleasant conversation with him. I will write about our conversation at a later date.
So, was the '57 UNC team undefeated or not. They were and, in fact, the end result of this recent activity is not determining whether they were undefeated or not but whether their record was 32-0 or 33-0. I'll take either one.