Kramer, Ben "Red"
One of the greatest Jewish college basketball players in history, Kramer played for LIU (Long Island University). His skill helped turn the school into a basketball powerhouse in the 1930s. Playing on teams that had records of 26-1, 24-2, 26-0, and 29-3, and won 43 consecutive games at one point, Kramer was the school's first All-America player (College Humor second team).
The culmination of his great career occurred in 1936, when Kramer captained LIU to an undefeated season and recognition as the mythical Eastern champion. His coach, legendary Clair Bee, said, "He had big hands, supreme confidence, was powerful under both boards, a great scorer, but a better 'hand-off' guy, and above all, a leader."
Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 3, 1913 - d. Feb. 3, 1999
During the first half of the twentieth century, college basketball in New York City gained popularity and prestige, as double-headers in Madison Square Garden began to attract top teams from around the country. Long Island University, began its basketball program in 1928, and sought to gain recognition in the early 1930s under Hall of Fame coach Clair Bee. LIU consistently won many more games than they lost, but respect was hard to come by as City College of New York, New York University, St. John’s, and other city schools remained the favorites. In 1934, Kramer and classmates Leo Merson, and Julie Bender, joined sophomore Bill Schwartz and junior Archie Kameros on the LIU campus and turned the program into one of the most powerful in the country.
At this time LIU played freshman, causing some schools, especially from the Big Ten, to refuse to the play the Blackbirds), In 1934 the freshman Kramer played both forward and guard and led the New York Metropolitan area in scoring with 252 points. LIU finished the season with a record of 26-1. According to the New York Evening Post (February 15, 1934), it was the Blackbirds’ sole loss of the season--to perennial power St. John’s--by a score of 33-28, that established LIU as, “a new basketball power.”
The following year, LIU built on the success they had achieved in 1934 and went 24-2; Kramer scored 163 points during the season, third most on the team behind Bender and guard Phil Rabin (and fourth in the Metropolitan area). In 1936, LIU rose to the top of college basketball and were hailed as the mythical Eastern champions as they went undefeated (26-0). Kramer, LIU’s captain, was voted first team All-Metropolitan and second team All-America, and scored 155 points, fifth on the Blackbirds.
In 1937, Kramer completed one of the greatest college careers among all Jewish players by winning the Haggerty Award, which is still given annually to the outstanding player in the Metropolitan New York area. He finished third on the team in scoring (195 points) behind Bender and sophomore forward Irv Torgoff (the 6’1” Torgoff joined Kramer at forward while the 5’11” Bender moved to guard). LIU finished 28-3 and claimed the mythical Metropolitan championship. LIU had a 43-game winning streak snapped during the year against Stanford and Hank Luisetti in one of the most famous college basketball games in history.
After graduating from LIU, Kramer played professionally in the American Basketball League, the top pro league in the East. In 1938-39, he played in 32 games for the first-place Kingston Colonials (28-7) and averaged 2.9 points per game; the Colonials lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Jersey Reds. The following year, Kramer joined the Washington Heurich Brewers and played for the team from 1939-1942. During those three seasons, he was a regular for the franchise and averaged 4.2 points per game (he was the fifth leading scorer all three seasons).
The 1941-42 season with the Brewers was the final time Kramer appeared in more than 15 games in any ABL season, but he continued to play professionally for another five years. His best season was in 1944-45 when he played 15 games for the Wilmington Bombers (14-14) and averaged 2.5 points per game. The Bombers finished third but lost in the playoffs. Kramer’s final season in the ABL was 1946-47 with the Troy Celtics (13-22); he played in only three games.
Kramer played at Long Island University from 1934-1937. He played in the ABL with Kingston in 1938-39; for Washington in 1939-42; with New York in 1942-43; with Wilmington in 1943-45; and for Troy in 1946-47.
6'0", 200 pounds
Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.
PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER IMAGES
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
Inside Sports Magazine: College Basketball, by Mike Douchant with Jim Nantz (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1997)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)
New York Times, March 5, 1934
New York Times, March 6, 1935
New York Times, March 9, 1936
New York Times, March 15, 1937