In the late 1930s Dolgoff was a two-year starter and a terrific forward at St. John's University. One of the Redmen's leading scorer's during his career, Ralph led St. John's into the NIT and was named first team All-Metropolitan in 1939. After a brief professional basketball career, Dolgoff became an accountant and was instrumental in the ABA's (American Basketball Association) rise as a legitimate league in the 1970's. As the ABA struggled to compete against the NBA, Dolgoff invented the "Dolgoff Plan." In Terry Pluto's excellent history of the ABA, Loose Balls, sports agent Ron Grinker explained, "...the ABA was the first to start throwing around the 'big money.' But the money wasn't really that big. It was paper money, annuties...the Dolgoff Plan."
An example of the Plan was of Jim Ard, a forward out of the University of Cincinnati, who went to the ABA after they signed him to a $1.4 million contract. As Grinker explained, "The actual cash was $250,000 over four years...the [New York] Nets put $8,000 a year for 10 years in a Dolgoff Plan...an annuity that Ard would collect from the age of 41 until he's 65...despite the fact that this was a long payout, the ABA paid Ard more in real cash than Seattle offered, so we took it." In the battle for players, the Dolgoff Plan was extremely important because the NBA saw numbers like '$1.4 million,' and began to sign players in real cash, not deferred payments of the ABA. The higher contracts was disastrous to both leagues, but allowed the ABA to gain ground on the more stable NBA. Among the players the ABA signed with the Dolgoff Plan were Ard, Spencer Haywood, Billy Cunningham, and Dan Issel.
Yet, Dolgoff may have been even more important to the ABA because of another reason. His neighbor in 1969 was NBA referee and good friend Norm Drucker, and when ABA owners decided to try and take away the NBA's refs, Dolgoff suggested that he talk to Drucker. He did and found out that he and the other referees made very little money. The ABA moved in and signed some of the NBA's top officials, including Drucker, Hall of Famer Earl Strom, and others. According to both Dolgoff's son, Peter Dolgoff and Terry Pluto's Loose Balls, the referees gave the ABA the legitimacy it desired and needed. This legitimacy eventually allowed the ABA to become a league that could contend with the NBA and was the impetus of the two leagues eventually merging.
At the age of 86, Dolgoff is retired, living in Florida, remains friends with Norm Drucker, and still plays golf.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. October 24, 1917
Dolgoff played two strong seasons at forward for St. John's University in the late 1930s. A high school teammate of LIU legend Irv Torgoff at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, Dolgoff joined the St. John's varsity as a sophomore in 1936-37. That year, he appeared sparingly in nine games and scored only two points on the season. St. John's finished the year with a record of 17-7.
As a junior in 1938, Dolgoff became a starter at forward. He made an immediate impact on the team and early in the season, scored a game-high 18 points in a 48-24 victory over Illinois Wesleyan. That year, Dolgoff finished second on the team in scoring with 143 points and a 7.4 points-per-game average (17th in the New York Metropolitan area), helping St. Johnís end the season with a very respectable 15-4 record.
In 1939, Dolgoff became St. Johnís top scorer (and seventh in the Metropolitan area) with 152 points in 17 games (8.9 per-game average) and was named first team All-Metropolitan. Joined in the backcourt by sophomore sensation Dutch Garfinkel, Dolgoff led St. John's to nine straight victories at the start of the season, but then missed two games in February due to illness. St. John's lost both games and the New York Times declared, "the illness of Ralph Dolgoff...coincided with the [team's] decline. The little sharpshooter was on the bench in civilian clothes [in the losses]..." He soon returned and scored 13 points in an important victory over West Virginia by a score of 51-50.
Dolgoff led St. Johnís to a regular season record of 18-4, and and invitation to the second-ever NIT (National Invitational Tournament). The NIT showdown was started the previous year when sportswriters put together the first national postseason tournament. In the NIT (played at Madison Square Garden), St. Johnís received an opening round bye, and then lost in the semifinals to undefeated Loyola of Chicago (51-46 in overtime); Dolgoff scored eight points. Following their loss to Loyola, St. Johnís played Bradley in the consolation game, losing, 40-35, to finish in fourth place. Dolgoff led St. Johnís in scoring with nine points against Bradley. There is a picture of the 1938-39 St. John's team at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
New York City
Dolgoff played guard and forward at St. John's from 1936-1939.
Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
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.)
Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, by Terry Pluto (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990)
New York Times, December 23, 1937
New York Times, March 7, 1938
New York Times, March 13, 1939