Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1949 Hovland's Dream Emerges

Dempsey Hovland's world-famous female barnstorming basketball team, the Texas Cowgirls (1949-1977) was endorsed by Converse and officially wore Chuck Taylor All-Stars on the court. The team opened for NBA teams and the Harlem Globetrotters. They were instrumental in paving the road of equality for female athletes in a male dominated sport , The pre WNBA  era  of this team team competed not against other female ball clubs instead against men's teams winning 70-80% of their games around the world.

There were a handful of other barnstorm female teams. Hovland  was the only team owner to  integrated his teams  refusing to abide by racist segregation  the others recruited by. If you were female and a superb athlete you were not turned away because you were Native American African American Hispanic or any race. Hovland's feamle team was also in the elite position of being the female team to open for the NBA in it's inception years.

Hovland's  athletic  experiences  and promotional  genius was recognized by the late Eddie Gottlieb mogel of the NBA startup and their  game scheduling manager for decades,  who booked Hovland's Texas Cowgirls on the game rosters of the original N.B.A. teams. Playing the pre game to sold out  audiences at the largest venues including Madison Square Gardens before 13,800 fans at the Knicks Celtics game,Chicago Stadium , Philadelphia Warrior's. Boston Gardens, San Francisco Cow Palace and many more, Gottliebs involvement with the Negro League Baseball teams and Hovland's tenure as a team member of the House of David Ball Club and their exceptional promotional abilities tied them together in the early years.  Abe Saperstein owner of the Harlem Globetrotters and Hovland were also cut from the same cloth. Abe often contacted Hovland to contract his Texas Cowgirls team to tour with and open for  his Trotters. Reese Goose Tatum and  Marquis Haynes and Hovland would develop a long lasting friendship  and a business relationship booking the barnstorming basketball  teams they developed  independent of Abe's Trotters. 

Dempsey Hovland's Texas Cowgirls who  were not from Texas , originated in Chicago with the assistance of Jack "Doc" Kearns aptly nicknamed Doc by World Heavy Weight boxing Champion  Jack Dempsey whom Kearns managed. Kearns  was known as the maker of champions Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Jackie Fields, Joey Maxim and Archie Moore. He was also the first boxing manager to pull in a historical million dollar gate. Hovland was struck by the mystique of singing cowgirls and the heroin cowgirls in the movies hence the name,

Hovland was born Dempster LeRoy Hovland, changing his  name to Dempsey at Kearn's request. Kearns involvement in the start up was providing initial financial backers for Hovland and attaching his internationally known  name to assist Hovland in promoting the team. Hovland proposed his plan  to Jack Kearns in 1949 in a bar at the North Park Hotel Hovland managed in Chicago's Lincoln Park (known for the St Valentines Day Massacre and Irish Mob stomping grounds). Hovland premiered  the Texas  Cowgirls  all female basketball team playing full court men's rules against men  in October 1949 at the Chicago Stadium

Training camp and try outs   required physical endurance, learning how to play professional men's basketball rules, orientation on travel, how to interview on radio and television and indoctrination into the code of the road show business and the life of  barnstorming. The teammates were recruited  for tryouts by recommendations  from sports casters, , their coaches , and some  talent discovered through scouts, Barnstorming involved many cold dark nights on the road traveling distances of three or four hundred miles between towns for  games. Playing 160 games a season twice as many as professional NBA teams. By playing. living.traveling together the Cow Girls shared mutual experiences developing a sisterhood. With seven months away from their homes every year and players as young as 17 , it was always a welcome site to see a former player show up at a game or receive best wishes on the road  while playing coast to coast and abroad.

  All rights reserved.by Erin Hovland Moffitt W.G.A. registered and certified.

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