Becker, Moe : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Becker, Moe

Morris R. Becker

A member of the Duquesne University Sports Hall of Fame, Becker was named All-America in 1941 and then played professional basketball in the ABL, NBL, and NBA. After his playing career, Becker coached in Pittsburgh (where Duquesne is located) at Braddock High School.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Jan. 13, 1917 - d. Oct. 27, 1998

Career Highlights:
One of the best college basketball players in the country in the early 1940s, Becker played for the Duquesne University Dukes. As a sophomore in 1939, he helped lead the inexperienced team (they had no seniors on the squad) to a 14-4 record. In the final game of the season, a 47-37 victory over Carnegie, he scored a game-high 23 points. Becker finished the season as Duquesne's leading scorer with 214 points.

In 1940, Moe helped lead Duquesne to a regular season record of 17-1 (they won their final 15 games), a No. 4 ranking in the national polls, and berths in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. In the NCAA tournament, Becker scored two points in the Dukes' 30-29 first round victory over Western Kentucky. In the West Regional Final, Moe scored six more points as the Dukes lost to eventual tournament champion Indiana, 39-29.

Despite their early exit in the NCAA tournament, the Dukes plowed ahead in the NIT (National Invitational Tournament). In the first round, Duquesne defeated St. John’s (led by Dutch Garfinkel), 38-31, as Becker scored a game-high 12 points. In the semifinals, the Dukes defeated Oklahoma A&M, 34-30, but Moe sprained his ankle late in the first half and did not return to the game (he finished with four points).

Described as “one of its [Duquesne’s] best point-getters and floormen,” Becker’s injury made his participation in the NIT final a serious question entering the final against Colorado. The New York Times (March 15, 1940) noted that Duquesne would be considered the favorite if he were healthy. Moe did play in the final, although he did not start. He “held up well and scored 8 points” in Duquesne’s 51-40 loss to Colorado. Becker averaged 8.0 points per game in the NIT.

In 1941, Moe was named Madison Square Garden first team All-America while leading the Dukes to a 17-2 record and the No. 8 ranking. During the season, Becker connected with a last-second shot from half-court to beat national powerhouse LIU (Long Island University). Considered a favorite entering the NIT, the Dukes played Ohio University in the first round. Taking a 26-24 lead into halftime, Duquesne scored only one point in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and lost as Ohio scored 21 unanswered points. Moe scored 10 points in the 55-40 loss.

Following the season, Becker played for the College All-Stars against professional teams, and was named MVP of the team. Becker and rest of the 1941 "Iron Dukes" basketball team was inducted into the Duquesne Sports Hall of Fame in 1968. In 1942, the year after graduating, Moe played in the World Professional Basketball Tournament (held from 1939-49), and was named to the all-tournament team (the first Jewish player so honored) as a member of the Aberdeen Army Ordnance Training Center; Aberdeen made it to the quarterfinals.

After graduating from Duquesne, Moe turned professional, joining the Wilmington Blue Bombers in the ABL (American Basketball League), the top professional league in the East. He only played two games for the Bombers, who captured the league title. Becker joined the Philadelphia Sphas (the nickname stood for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) the next year. Moe appeared in 10 games in 1944; the Sphas finished first in the second half of the season and played Wilmington, the first half champ, in the finals. In a seven game series, the Sphas jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the Bombers regrouped and won the final three games to send Becker and his teammates away as losers.

Moe spent one more year in the ABL. He joined the Baltimore Bullets, a new franchise. Becker averaged 2.5 points in 24 games; the Bullets finished fourth with a regular season record of 14-16 (six teams played in the league). In the semifinals, Baltimore upset the Trenton Tigers and advanced to the finals to play Moe’s former team, the Sphas. Originally scheduled as a five-game series, the finals were cut down to three games as Baltimore lost, two games to one. For the second year in a row, Becker was on the losing side of the championship.

Over the next two seasons, Moe played in two more professional leagues before retiring. He first played in the NBL (National Basketball League) for the Youngstown Bears in 1945-46, scoring 270 points in 30 games (9.0 average) as Youngstown finished 13-20, in third place in the Eastern Division. At this time, the NBL was considered the sole "national" professional league, but it was based in the Midwest.

In 1946-47, Moe joined the Pittsburgh Ironmen, a team in a new league with national aspirations called the Basketball Association of America (the BAA became the NBA after merging with the NBL). That season, Becker also played for the Boston Celtics before finishing the season with the Detroit Falcons. In all, Moe appeared in 43 games, averaging 3.8 points per game.

New York

Career Dates:
Becker played guard at Duquesne College from 1939-1941. He played guard professionally with the Philadelphia Sphas in 1941-1942; for the Baltimore Bullets in 1942-1945, and with the Youngstown Bears of the NBL in 1946. In 1946-47, Becker played in the NBA with the Pittsburgh Ironmen, the Boston Celtics, and the Detroit Falcons.

Physical description:
6'1", 152 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 43
Points: 162
Point Per Game: 3.8

Field Goals Made: 70
Field Goals Attempted 355
Field Goal Percentage: .196

Free Throws Made: 22
Free Throws Attempted: 44
Free Throw Percentage: .500

Rebounds: not available
Assists: 30
Assists Per Game: 0.7
Personal Fouls: 98

In the NBL:
Games: 30
Points: 270
Points Per Game: 9.0

Field Goals Made: 115
Field Goals Attempted: not available

Free Throws Made: 40
Free Throws Attempted: 69
Free Throw Percentage: .580

Rebounds: not available
Assists: not available
Personal Fouls: 114

Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.

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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)
The Modern Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by Zander Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 1979)
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)
Spalding Basketball Guide, 1939-40, edited by Oswald Tower (New York: American Sports Publishing Co.)
New York Times, March 16, 1940
New York Times, March 19, 1941