Camden Catholic High School
Broadway & Federal Street


Camden Catholic High School, located in Camden NJ between Broadway and  North 7th Street at Federal Streets, produced many superb basketball players in the early days of the game. Many former Camden Catholic players went on to play in the early professional basketball leagues in the pre-World War II years. In 1929 the Irish were winners of the New Jersey Parochial School Tournament and team competed in the National Catholic School Tournament in Chicago.

Camden Catholic High School was badly damaged in a fire on April 17, 1960. Instead of rebuilding in Camden, a new Camden Catholic High School was built outside the city at Route 38 and Cuthbert Road. 

1929 Camden Catholic Basketball Team

Standing: Larry Creavy (hidden), Pat O’Brien, Msgr. Paul; Fairbrother, Wallace “Bud” Sheehan,  Ed McGowan, Coach Al Hertzler, Mayor & Mrs. McNally of Gloucester City. Kneeling: Babe Slapkowski (hidden), Dave Neal, Joe Sacovitz, John Flood, Bill Cahill, Pete Budniak,  Johnny Bach

Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post - June 9, 1967

1929 CCHS Team Gaining in Chicago Champs

Courier-Post Staff

. The men sat around the table at Cinelli's Country House. Successful, respected men! Community leaders, a United States Congressman among them.

   Knowledgeable conversation on economics, politics, reli­gion and business was theirs to offer- the Middle East, Far East, automation, housing ... Would they talk of these?

* * *

No! They talked of the Jurassic Age of basketball when the center was only six feet tall, when there was no ten or three second rule, and the center jump followed every score.

* * *

How foolish the anti-athletic mumbo jumbo seemed as the room seemed to grow in enthusiasm. Was athletic glory as transitory as the cynics say? Maybe, but the anti-clique seems to forget one thing- the magic of memories.

The assembled group was the Camden Catholic High School basketball team of 1929 and the reason for the meeting was to reminisce about the hard fought contests which carried them to the state title and to the National Catholic Tournament in Chicago.

* * *

Gold plated 1929. The age of Ruth and Rockne; prohibition and prosperity. The stock market crash was yet to come. Could any group of high school boys imagine a greater thrill than to represent their institution in a national tournament?

* * *

It was a veteran aggregation which responded to new coach Al Hertzler's first practice call in the autumn of 1928. Hertzler had replaced retiring coach Harry Cuneff, but it is doubtful that in his fondest dreams he saw how far the season's trail would wind.

The NJSIAA at this time did not have an official Parochial division but the Trenton Diocese invited the top teams in the state to the capitol for the unofficial state crown.

* * *

The first obstacle hit the path of the local Irish was Red Bank Catholic and Hertzler's crew rolled up an amazing (for those times) 46 points to coast to a 20-point triumph. Pete Budniak, later Father Budniak led the scoring with 13 points and Pat O’Brien contributed 12.

 * * *

Immaculate Conception of Trenton was next and the city was a hot bed of scholastic basketball. In the public school ranks, it was the heyday of Red Smith's great Trenton Central team and the two were also noted for their basketball prowess.

 Camden emerged victories, 24-22 with Budniak tallying 10 points and Captain Babe Slapkowski eight.

* * *

The state final was another hectic struggle. With the localites edging St. Mary's of Perth Amboy, 23-26. Wallace "Bud” Sheehan took game's scoring honors with 14 points.

 To Camden Catholic the game meant more than the state crown. It earned the team a trip to Chicago to compete against the nations best teams. Champions from most states were invited to a tournament sponsored by Loyola University.

* * *

The fabled “luck of the Irish” deserted them in the seedings. De La Salle of Chicago was the team drawn to face the locals, and it turned out to be the best parochial school team in America. The mid-westerners downed Camden, 29-14, and continued undefeated through the 17-day tourney.

It was a tough loss, but to a group of high school boys, a vacation to Chicago helped soothe the wounds. All invited schools remained for the entire tourney to enjoy the wonders of Sandburg’s “City with the wide shoulders”.

Knute Rockne autographing a team picture was a thrill to remember.

* * *

Late into the night the conversation continued. There were twenty-two glorious victories to recall and only five defeats. Evergreen are the memories of 1929.

 Pat O’Brien summed it up. “Every time we meet we come closer to that Chicago team and maybe in 1969, the 40th anniversary, we’ll finally knock them all off”.


Where Are They?

 Three members of the championship squad, Coach Hertzler, Father Pete Budniak and Dave Neal are deceased.

Capt. Babe Slapkowski, the 6-foot center is in hotel work in Atlantic City. Pat O'Brien is Secretary-Treasurer of the Retail Clerk's Union and has been a long time organizer and supporter of local sports.

William "Reds" O'Brien is a city detective in Camden. Ed McGowan is a North Jersey supervisor for Public Service. John Flood resides locally and is in the real estate business.

John Bach has long been employed by RCA. Bud Sheehan is assistant purchasing agent for the Delaware River Port Authority. Joe Sascovitz of Burlington works for Kaiser Gypsum.

Charley Woods roams the east coast for Merritt Chapman & Scott. Bill Cahill represents his district in Congress. Larry Creavy is sales manager for Raymond Rosen.

The team's managers were Jim Campbell, Bob Blake and Joe Donahue. Campbell is a liquor salesman, Blake a Collingswood mortician and Donahue an executive with General Motors.

Tom Ryan, then and for many years thereafter, Sports Editor of the Courier-Post, helped chaperone the trip. Ryan is now retired and living in Camden.

Msgr. Paul Fairbrother, athletic director of Camden Catholic at the time, is now stationed at St. Patrick’s in Woodbury and has the same interest ion “his” boys as he did four decades ago.

Camden Courier-Post - February 15, 1938

Open House With Dancing to Follow Exercises at Central Branch

The Camden Y. M. C. A. will dedicate a new gymnasium floor tomorrow in its Central Branch, 614 Federal street, replacing one that served for 30 years.

Charles H. Wagner, president of the association, will conduct a meeting in the building at 5 p. m. at which dedicatory resolutions will be adopted. Following there will be "open house" for the public, a program of sports on the new floor and dancing.

The executive committee of the board of directors will present the dedicatory resolutions. Members are Wagner, Elmer E. Long, Alonzo W. Stedman, William H. Atkinson and A. Millard Taylor.

At a date to be announced later there is to be a dedication dinner at which there will be a speaker of national reputation.

The sports program, arranged by Kenneth E. Smullin, "Y" director of physical education, will include two basketball games, a handball match, to determine the champion of the "Y," a badminton exhibition match, a gymnastic exhibition by members of the boys' gym classes, and a table tennis exhibition.

The first basketball game to be played on the new floor will be between the Limited Senior team of the Y. M. C. A. and the Camden Catholic High School quintet. The other contest will be between the "Y" variety team and one made up of high school coaches in Camden and nearby communities.

Music for the dance following the sports program will be furnished by the Nelson-Rainey Orchestra.

Camden Courier-Post * February 25, 1938

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