Like many pro ball players in the 1930s, Ed Dancker never played collegiate basketball. Still, his skills were honed and refined in the amateur and minor leagues of basketball that abounded with serious competition in the first half-century of basketball’s existence.
By 1938, Dancker had landed in the most competitive pro circuit of the time, the National Basketball League, with the Sheboygan Redskins. The Milwaukee-born Dancker would man the middle for the Wisconsin club over the next decade becoming linchpin of their success and their greatest player.
But the greatness for Big Ed took a few seasons to really get rolling. During the 1939, 1940, and1941 seasons, Dancker only averaged 4.7 points per game for Sheboygan. Still the team was an overall success, even making the 1941 NBL Finals where they lost to their inter-state rival, the Oshkosh All-Stars. Finally, in the 1941-42 season, Big Ed was released and rocketed to the big time.
From 1942 to 1947, Dancker averaged 10.3 points a night for the Redskins. Not an impressive total for an offensive machine today, but in the 1940s pro basketball scores usually hovered between 35 and 65 points for each squad. And Dancker was indeed an offensive machine. In the 1942 season, he scored 30 points in a 67-38 demolition of Toledo.
During the 1942-43 season, the Redskins finished with the NBL’s second-best regular season record and met their other rival, the Fort Wayne Pistons, in the Finals. Dancker was still the leader of Sheboygan’s attack but the late-season acquisition of guard Buddy Jeannette proved the final Sheboygan straw to break Fort Wayne’s back.
It seemed that Dancker, however, had provided most of the other straws that strained the Pistons to the limit. In Game 1 of the 1943 Finals, Dancker scored 16 points to lead the Redskins to a 55-50 overtime victory over the Pistons in Fort Wayne. Game 2 in Sheboygan was another overtime affair. This time Jeannette did the heavy lifting for Sheboygan and nailed a long shot at the buzzer sending the game to overtime. The Pistons, though, prevailed 50 – 45. The deciding Game 3 back in Fort Wayne was capped by Dancker. Sheboygan began their play with just 7 seconds left on the clock. Dancker sank a corner set-shot as time expired. The basket gave Sheboygan a 30-29 victory and the title.
The title would prove to be the only one Sheboygan won in the NBL. They would reach the Finals each season for the next three seasons but would lose to the Pistons in 1944 and 1945, and to the Rochester Royals in 1946. Dancker was the consummate leader and performer over all these seasons. From 1942 to 1946 he was named to the All-NBL 1st Team three times and to the All-NBL 2nd Team twice. He still delivered sturdy and big time performances in the Finals including a surreal 29 points on 12-22 shooting in Game 2 of the 1945 Finals.
By 1947, Dancker’s best years were behind him. The 33-year old center had enjoyed his greatest during a period when pro basketball was struggling to survive thanks to the crushing demands of World War II. As great basketball talent again flooded into the States and disposable income allowed for increased attention and exposure for ball players, Dancker was on his way out. Following the 1948-49 season, Dancker retired after playing just 11 games for the Oshkosh All-Stars. They were the only 11 games he played in the NBL that weren’t with Sheboygan.
Years earlier when Ed was just a young whippersnapper, he gave a strong inkling as to what lay ahead. Playing for the Harvesters in Milwaukee’s Industrial League, Dancker put on a dazzling show against the Harnischfeger Quartet. Trailing 17-15 early in the second half, Dancker rumbled his way to 11 unanswered points to speahead a 32-24 victory for his Harvesters on January 28, 1936.
Over the next dozen years, Dancker would continue reaping a bountiful basketball harvest that merits worthy inclusion in this here Hall of Fame.
Seasons Played: 1935 – 1949
3x All-NBL 1st Team (1943-’44, 1946)
2x All-NBL 2nd Team (1942, 1945)
NBL – 321 Games
All-Time NBL Ranks
3rd FGs Made, 8th FTs Made
3rd Games Played