Red Heads inducted into Hall of Fame

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In September, the All-American Red Heads, which were organized in Cassville, will become the first women's basketball team to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The Red Heads were honored during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four Men's Basketball Championship in New Orleans, La., on April 2.

Cassville businessman and basketball enthusiast C.M. "Ole" Olson formed the all-girls travelling basketball team in 1936. Olson, who owned and played on a travelling men's team known as The Terrible Swedes, recruited women players from the AAU circuit to create the Red Heads.

According to legend, the all-girls team's name originated when several of the first members, who also worked in beauty salons owned by Olson's wife, Doyle, decided to dye their hair red with henna and play a local men's basketball team.

During the early years, the All-American Red Heads traveled six months each year and averaged 160 games annually. The women won 50 percent of their match-ups with men's teams.

In the late 1930s, the players had the opportunity to visit Hollywood and meet stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Their notoriety also drew attention from Life, Look and Colliers magazines.

In 1948, Olson hired Orwell Moore, from Caraway, Ark., who eventually became the coach of the travelling women's team. In 1955, Olson sold the Red Heads to Moore, and the Cassville businessman retired.

The team continued to travel and perform across the country until it was disbanded in 1986. Operating for 50 years gives the team the honor of being the longest running women's professional team in the nation's history.

Last year, the All-American Red Heads were inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. The Red Heads have been honored for their contributions to women's basketball in a display at the Hall entitled "Trailblazers of the Game."

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame historian Matt Zeysing and preservationist John Molina are co-authoring a book about the All-American Red Heads. The book will likely be released by September.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: