Born: June 30, 1883
Died: March 12, 1966
Ware Wonders: (Massachusetts Central Basketball League): 1900-’02
Haverhill (New England Basketball League): 1902-’04
Schenectady Company E (New York League): 1904-’06
Gloversville Company G (NY League): 1906-’08
Pittsfield (MA): 1909
McKeesport (Central Pennsylvania League): 1909
Troy Trojans (Hudson River League/New York State League): 1909-’15
Utica Utes (NYSL): 1915-’16
Windsor (Vermont Professional League): 1916-’20
Cohoes Cohosiers (NYSL): 1921-’22
Troy Trojans (NYSL): 1922-’23
Albany Senators (NYSL): 1924
At 6’1″ tall, Ed Wachter was the best center in basketball during his heyday and one of pro basketball’s first stars. Born in 1883, eight years before the sport was created, Wachter began playing pro basketball at age 17 in 1900. It was only two years since the first pro basketball league started – grandiosely, it was called the National Basketball League despite being in just Pennsylvania and New Jersey – and Wachter would play a pivotal role in evolving the style and play of the game.
Hailing from Troy, New York, Wachter learned basketball at his local YMCA. The YMCA was the typical spot in this era for the best pro and amateur talent to emerge. At age 17, Wachter began his pro career in Massachusetts with the Ware Wonders of the Western Massachusetts League in 1900. Over the next decade, Wachter bounced around playing a year or two with teams in Haverhill (MA), Schenectady (NY), Gloversville (NY), Pittsfield (MA), and McKeesport (PA).
By 1905, Ed Wachter along with his brother Lew, Jimmy Williamson, and Bill Hardman traveled from team to team together forming a bond and rapport. While in Gloversville they whipped the Buffalo Germans in a match in 1908. Nonetheless, the barnstorming Germans would go on to win 111 straight games over the next three years as the press celebrated them as basketball’s best team.
Perhaps sensing they themselves were worthy of the title, Wachter and company went back to Troy, New York, and formed the Trojans in 1909. Adding the talented Jack Inglis and Charles Muller, the Trojans began competing in the Hudson River League. Thriving on their exquisite teamwork, Wachter and the Trojans wound up winning four straight championships (1910-1913). The first two of these came in the Hudson league while the final two came in the New York State League. Although in two different leagues, the Trojans were the first professional basketball team to secure four straight titles.
Ed Wachter proved the focal point of pro basketball’s first dynasty. Not only the best player, he also served as the team’s coach. His skills, vision, and prodding made the Trojans one of the first teams, and certainly the first great team, to employ crisp bounce-passing and a fastbreaking style of basketball. Aggressive, Wacther and the Trojans also instituted a grilling man-to-man defensive style that fostered the fastbreak.
Ed, along with is brother Lew, were also strong proponents of a daring rule change in basketball: the man fouled while in the act of shooting had to shoot the resulting free throws. Prior to this, teams generally selected their best foul shooter to take all free throws after any shooting foul. Ed and Lew’s new rule was adopted by the Hudson River Valley League in 1910. The rule would slowly spread and catch on with most other pro leagues by 1917 and with college basketball by 1924.
Also, by 1924, Wachter had retired from pro basketball. After the Trojans finished with the best record in the NYSL in 1915, the Trojans disbanded and Wachter again became a basketball wanderer. He had stints with several New York and Vermont teams over the next decade before settling in as a full-time college coach through 1938.
Even though his playing days began over a century ago, the influence of Ed Wachter remains with basketball to this day. Things as simple as how free throws are taken, or how bounce passes are made, we owe to the thoughts and skills of Wachter and the Troy Trojans.