Friday, January 25, 2019

My Alma Mater

I went to college in Saint Paul, MN at the state's oldest University, Hamline. The school was founded in 1854, 4 years before the territory was admitted to the Union as a State! Not many people remember it, but the school is known as the "birthplace of intercollegiate baseketball."  James Naismith taught the school's athletic director, who brought the game to Minnesota in 1893. Two years later, the school pasted those punks from the Minnesota State School of Agriculture by a score of 9 to 3 in the first basketball game played between two colleges.  

 Johnny Norlander played all 4 years of college for Hamline, including a 1942 NAIA championship title. After a few years serving in the US Navy at the end of WWII, Norlander then joined Red Auerbach's All-Star traveling team. 

When Auerbach got a gig coaching for the BAA (later NBA) Washington Capitols, Norlander came along as well. He averaged double digits in points in his first full season, and was a solid option off the bench throughout his career. The team reached the BAA Finals in 1948-49, losing to the juggernaut Minneapolis Lakers. This is Norlander's only card from his playing days - a 1948 Bowman Basketball card.

Speaking of the Minneapolis Lakers, one of the NBA's early stars was also a Hamline alum, Vern Mikkelsen. Vern led the NAIA in field goal shooting pct his senior year (1949), taking Hamline to the pinnacle of their sporting profile. The team won the NAIA Division I Tournament that year, their second title of the decade. (For comparison, the NCAA tourney that year had 8 teams, the NAIA was a 32 team tournament).

As a pro, Mikkelsen played on 4 different NBA championship teams in Minneapolis. The big man was a bruising figure in the paint - he was the league's leader in personal fouls 3 straight seasons and is the All-time NBA leader in disqualifications. The Lakers' enforcer was also a decent scorer for the era, just the 6th player in NBA history to amass over 10,000 career points. He was a 6 time All-Star in his 10 seasons, and missed just 5 games in that span. This is Vern's 1957 Topps card.


  1. Love the 57 Topps set. Didn’t know about Hamline

  2. Topps really outdid themselves with the backs of these '57s. Great cards!

    Go Pipers!

  3. You have brought me out of the dark. I didn't know about Hamline or the fact that there were vintage basketball cards that date back to the 1940s.
    Fun post!