Object of the Week: Members of the 1903-1904 Inaugural Men’s Basketball Team

Members of the 1903 – 1904 Inaugural Seton Hall Men’s Basketball Team
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, SHU 0031
Seton Hall University Athletics & Recreation Collection

Top, left to right:  William Baird, Henry McDonough (team captain), Robert Barrett
Bottom, left to right:  Martin Reynolds, John Holton (manager), Bernard Barrett
Not pictured:  Charles O’Neill, Francis Reilly, John Stafford, Charles Tichler.



             Basketball has a long and storied history at Seton Hall University.  The 1903 – 1904 season was the first time a men’s team was organized at the university to play the sport which had been developed in the late 19th century by Dr. James Naismith at Springfield College in Massachusetts.[1]   Naismith sought a way to keep student athletes physically active during the winter months when sports could not be played out-of-doors.[2] The inaugural men’s basketball team at Seton Hall consisted of 9 players and their manager. Their first game was against the Mohawk Club of Newark which ended in a draw (15 – 15) on December 9, 1903.  Just ten days later, on December 19, the team would win their first game ever against Brooklyn High School (28 – 12).  At the time, it was not uncommon for college teams to compete against local YMCA’s, club teams and high schools as well as other colleges.  The first basketball season was a short one, ending after six games on January 16, 1904 with a record of two wins, three losses and one tie.[3]

Matchbook cover from WNJR Radio advertising Seton Hall basketball, 1949, 2020.07.0001, Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections
Matchbook cover from WNJR Radio advertising Seton Hall basketball 1949 2020.07.0001 Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections

From the 1890s through the 1900s, Seton Hall’s sports teams were known as the Villagers.  Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the teams were known as The White and Blue, a reference to the school colors.  In was not until 1931 that the University’s sports teams took the familiar name Pirates.[4]  The men’s basketball team has come a long way from their humble beginnings playing in attics and assembly halls on campus. The award-winning series The Voyage chronicles their 2019-2020 season that ended in winning the Big East regular season championship. You can find all 22 episodes on Youtube. Today, both the men’s[5] and women’s[6] basketball programs represent Seton Hall University in the Big East Conference.  Dozens of former Pirates have played or currently play basketball professionally in the NBA, WNBA and on overseas teams.[7]

The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or walshgallery@shu.edu to make a research appointment. 



[1] Delozier, Alan Bernard.  “1 – Foundation 1903 – 1940” Seton Hall Pirates – A Basketball History, 9 – 11. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002

[2] https://springfield.edu/where-basketball-was-invented-the-birthplace-of-basketball#:~:text=Basketball%20is%20built%20into%20the,know%20it%20to%20be%20today.  Accessed 12/8/2020

[3] Delozier, Alan Bernard.  “1 – Foundation 1903 – 1940” Seton Hall Pirates – A Basketball History, 9 – 11. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002

[4] https://shupirates.com/sports/2016/7/10/trads-seha-trads-html.aspx, accessed 12/8/2020.

[5] https://shupirates.com/sports/mens-basketball, accessed 12/8/2020.

[6] https://shupirates.com/sports/womens-basketball, accessed 12/8/2020.

[7] https://shupirates.com/sports/2016/7/10/ot-seha-pirates-in-pros-html.aspx, accessed 12/8/2020.