Auerbach, Ben : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Auerbach, Ben

Benjamin Auerbach

Ben Auerbach (no relation to the legendary Red Auerbach), was a star at New York University in the early 1940s, and is a member of the school's athletic Hall of Fame. Named New York City's top player in 1940, Auerbach was NYU's captain in 1941. After graduating, Auerbach played professionally in the American Basketball League, a semi-pro league in the East (the NBA was not established until 1949).

On February 28, 1940, Auerbach and his NYU squad played against Georgetown in a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden (the other game was Pittsburgh vs. Fordham). An experimental station in New York (W2XBS) televised the games. These were the first college basketball games to ever appear on television.

Birth and Death Dates:

Career Highlights:
A three-year starter for New York University from 1939-1941, Auerbach played guard for the Violets during his collegiate career. In 1939, as a sophomore, Ben was one of the team's best scorers, finishing ninth in the New York Metropolitan area with 147 points. Despite Auerbach's presence, NYU finished the season with a disappointing 11-11 record. It was a rebuilding year, and the Violets found themselves short-handed much of the season due to injuries. Auerbach even had to play center against Notre Dame toward the end of the season (a 46-42 loss).

The following year (1940), Auerbach teamed with senior forward (and captain) Bobby Lewis and sophomore guard Ralph Kaplowitz and NYU regained its former glory. The Violets won their first 18 games of the season before being upset in their final game by archrival City College of New York (CCNY), 36-24. Auerbach, the team’s fourth leading scorer with 137 points, was named first team All-Metropolitan and won the Haggerty Award, which is still given annually to the outstanding player in the Metropolitan New York area. The New York Times noted that Auerbach missed unanimous selection to the All-Met team by only one vote and stated, “Auerbach, a magnificent all-around man, was unaccountably omitted by one scribe.”

Although NYU finished the season 18-1, they did not play in a postseason tournament because the school’s athletic board declined all bids, citing exhaustion on behalf of the players. Although no official polls existed until the late 1940s, the Violets were nonetheless considered one of the top teams in the nation, despite their inability to contend for the national title. In 1941, Auerbach was captain of the NYU team that compiled a record of 13-6. Toward the end of the season, Ben was declared ineligible; he missed NYU's final two games against Temple (a win) and CCNY (a loss). Although he played in only 17 games during the season, Auerbach still managed to score 128 points, 21st overall in the Metropolitan area.

Immediately after finishing his college career, Auerbach turned professional and joined the Brooklyn Celtics of the American Basketball League. At the time, the ABL was considered the top professional league in the East (it was actually a semi-pro league). Auerbach played three games at the end of the 1941 season for Brooklyn, who finished first in the second half of the season but lost the championship to the first-half champ, the Philadelphia Sphas (the initials stood for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association).

After missing the 1942 season, Auerbach played one game in 1943 for the Harrisburg Senators, who finished in fourth place. The ABL only had five teams, since World War II caused many professional leagues to keep expenses -- and therefore the number of teams -- to a minimum. The following year, however, the ABL had nine teams (one dropped out during the season) and Auerbach joined the Wilmington Bombers. Ben played in 20 games and averaged 3.3 points per game, as Wilmington captured the ABL championship. Auerbach played in all 28 games the next year (1945), but Wilmington finished 14-14 and in third place. The Sphas eliminated the Bombers in the playoffs.

Ben played two more seasons in the ABL with the Paterson Crescents, who finished 13-21 in 1946 and 11-23 in 1947, missing the playoffs both years. Auerbach then retired, having played four complete seasons, and parts of two others, in the ABL. He is a member of the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame

New York

Career Dates:
Auerbach played guard at NYU from 1939-1941. He then played in the ABL for Brooklyn in 1941, with Harrisburg in 1943, with Wilmington from 1943-45, and for Paterson from 1945-47.

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)
New York Times, March 13, 1939
New York Times, March 6, 1940
New York Times, March 17, 1940
New York Times, March 17, 1941