The WNBA’s Houston Comets surprisingly were the WNBA’s first dynasty, but the real reign began in 1936 and lasted until 1986. I bet you are probably thinking what women’s team was lacing it up and draining three’s before the three point shot ever hit the rule books. Let’s introduce the theses ladies to some and to other’s they need no introduction. The All American Red Heads.
Their story began in 1936, when businessman Connie Mack (C.M.) Olsen, who already owned two men’s barnstorming team. Quick side bar, in case you are not familiar with “barnstorming,” it means to travel from place to place making brief stops as in a political campaign or a promotional tour (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/). It has other definitions, but that relates what Olsen’s teams were doing back then. Olsen was a jack of all trades for his teams. He was the road manager, booking agent, handled the publicity, the player coach and a showboat.
Olsen formed the Red Heads with the help of his wife, whom with owned several beauty salons. Some of the members were basketball players. Two of the members already had red hair so the rest of the players dyed their hair to match. This also gave these ladies mystique. You have to remember back then women participating in male dominated sport such as basketball was not hugely accepted and they need to stand out. Red hair or not, these ladies were very talented and were serious about basketball. Olsen also added the entertainment flair to their game, which included fancy passing, dribbling, shooting from thirty feet out and mixing it up with the crowd. This often led to comparisons to the Harlem Globetrotters.
In their inaugural season the Red Heads played over one hundred and thirty games in over 25 cities in less than a year. When the Red Heads hit the courts they dazzled their audience with their basketball skills as well their entertainment value. They truly added validity to their brand by when they began competing against the men. They played by the same rules and beat them over 75 percent of the time.
Word of the Red Heads quickly spread and they began playing in front of sold out audiences not only in rural places but in major cities such as Hollywood, New York, Alaska, and Chicago. They also captivated audiences in Canada and the Philippines.
For fifty years the All American Red Heads entertained the masses and they finally received their just due when they were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame September 7, 2012. They have the grand distinction to being the first women’s basketball team ever to be inducted. This should have happened years ago, but better late than never. They are definitely the pioneers of women’s basketball. Thanks to social media the world can read about one the best female basketball teams…ever!
The All American Red Heads not only won on the court, but they were champions off the court. They were successful in sports when many of the women’s occupations were homemakers, nurses and teachers, proving they were other careers for women Do not misunderstand me all of these are great occupations, but it was refreshing to see female athletes getting opportunities to shine back in the 1930’s.
Information gathered from: www.allamericanredheads.com