Torgoff, Irv : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Torgoff, Irv

Irving Torgoff

Torgoff, a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, was a consensus All-America in 1938-39, captaining Long Island University (LIU) to an undefeated Helms National Championship season. Named to Madison Square Garden's All-Decade Team (1930s), he was inducted into the LIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. After playing at LIU, Torgoff played professionally in the National Basketball League, the American Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America (forerunner of the NBA).

Birth and Death Dates:
b. March 6, 1917 - d. Oct. 21, 1993

Career Highlights:
One of the best college players in the country in the 1930s, Torgoff began his career at Long Island University as a freshman in 1935-36. The following year, he joined the LIU varsity (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity at this time), which had gone undefeated the previous year and won the Eastern championship. Despite a team loaded with talented seniors, such as All-Americans Jules Bender and Ben Kramer, Torgoff began the season starting at forward. With the experienced seniors leading the way, Torgoff and his sophomore classmates (John Bromberg, Danny Kaplowitz) helped extend their winning streak to 44 games, a stretch dating back to the 1934-35 season, when Stanford and the great Hank Luisetti arrived in New York to play LIU at Madison Square Garden.

The December 1936 LIU-Stanford game proved to be a turning point in the history of college basketball. Many Eastern coaches and fans refused to accept that Luisetti's one-handed shot was anything more than a fad (players in the East used the two-handed set shot). But when he unleashed his offensive repertoire against the Blackbirds, Luisetti and Stanford proved their superiority as they won, 45-31. This contest launched college basketball into the national consciousness and turned the one-handed shot into an established part of the game. LIU rebounded from the loss and ended the season with a 28-3 record. Torgoff finished second on the team, and third in the Metropolitan area, with 195 points and was named All-Metropolitan.

In 1937-38, Torgoff led the Metropolitan area in scoring with 273 points (teammate Danny Kaplowitz was second with 222 points) and was named NEA third team All-America as LIU went 23-3 during the regular season. They were then invited to the first-ever postseason tournament (National Invitational Tournament or NIT), where they played New York University in the first round. In the first game ever played between the two basketball giants, Torgoff scored 10 points, but LIU lost, 39-37.

As a senior in 1938-39, Torgoff was named a consensus first team All-America. He won the Haggerty Award (still given annually to the outstanding player in the Metropolitan New York area), finished second in the Met area in scoring with 198 points, and captained the Blackbirds to a perfect 20-0 record during the regular season. Invited back to the NIT, LIU swept through the tournament. In the NIT final, they defeated previously unbeaten Loyola of Chicago (also 20-0 in the regular season) by a score of 44-32. Torgoff scored 12 points in the final and was named to the all-tournament team as he averaged 10.0 points per game. After their victory in the NIT, the Blackbirds were declared the Helms National Champions.

After graduating, Torgoff played professional basketball and played in three leagues, the National Basketball League (NBL), the American Basketball League (ABL), and the Basketball Association of America (BAA - the BAA and NBL eventually merged into the NBA). In 1939-40, Torgoff joined the Detroit Eagles of the NBL and appeared in 26 regular season games, scoring 171 points as the team finished with a record of 17-10 and in second place in the Eastern Division. In the playoffs, the Eagles lost a three-game series to the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, who eventually won the league title that year (Torgoff scored 27 points in the series). Among his teammates on the Eagles that year were Nat Frankel and Bernie Opper.

The following season, Torgoff joined the Philadelphia Sphas of the American Basketball League. The Sphas, a former barnstorming team started by Eddie Gottlieb (the nickname stood for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), had joined the ABL in 1933 and dominated the league throughout the decade. During Torgoff's first season with the team (1940-41), the Sphas won the league championship. Irving ended up tied for fourth in scoring with 213 points (6.9 average). The following year, Torgoff continued his success and again finished fourth in scoring with 168 points (7.6 average). In 1942-43, the Sphas (11-2) again won the championship and Torgoff was the top scorer on the team with 88 points in only 11 games (he finished fifth in the league).

In 1946-47, Torgoff joined the Washington Capitols of the newly-formed NBA (then called the Basketball Association of America); they were coached by future Boston Celtics coach, Hall of Famer Red Auerbach. That season, Torgoff played in 58 games and averaged a career-high 8.4 points per game, as he helped his club win the Eastern Division with a record of 49-11. In the playoffs, the Capitols were upset by the Max Zaslofsky-led Chicago Stags in the semifinals, 4-2.

The following season, Torgoff and the Capitols moved to the Western Division and finished tied for second with a record of 28-20, but did not qualify for the playoffs after losing a tie-breaker game to Chicago. In 1948-49, Torgoff began the season with the Baltimore Bullets, but was sold to the Philadelphia Warriors midseason. The Warriors finished the season 28-32 and lost to Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals, 2-0. Torgoff retired after the 1948-49 season. In his three seasons in the NBA, he played in 147 career NBA games.

New York

Career Dates:
Irving played forward at Long Island University, 1937-1939. He then played in the NBL with the Detroit Eagles in 1939-40 and in the ABL with the Philadelphia Sphas, 1940-1943. Torgoff also played in the BAA with the Washington Capitols in 1946-1948, and for the Baltimore Bullets, and the Philadelphia Warriors in 1948-49.

Physical description:
6'1 1/2", 195 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 147
Points: 997
Points Per Game: 6.8

Field Goals Made: 357
Field Goals Attempted: 1,451
Field Goal Percentage: .246

Free Throws Made: 283
Free Throws Attempted: 367
Free Throw Percentage: .771

Rebounds: not available
Assists: 106
Assists Per Game: 0.7

Personal Fouls: 436
Disqualifications: not available

NBA playoffs:
Games: 8
Points: 39
Points Per Game: 4.9

Field Goals Made: 13
Field Goals Attempted: 84
Field Goal Percentage: .155

Free Throws Made: 13
Free Throws Attempted: 19
Free Throw Percentage: .684

Rebounds: not available
Assists: 7
Assists Per Game: 0.8

Personal Fouls: 25
Disqualifications: 3

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)