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Tom Barlow

Sport: Basketball

Born: July 8, 1896

Died: September 26, 1983

Town: Trenton

Thomas B. Barlow was born July 8, 1896 in Trenton to George and Catherine Barlow. George owned a grocery store in Trenton. Tom and his brother Charlie, Attached a home to the family barn and learned the game as young boys. Later, the brothers would open a grain operation, Barlow Mills, in town.

Tall, muscular and coordinated, with long arms and natural aggression, he was playing basketball professionally at the age of 16, during the game’s most physical era. Though he stood a shade under 6’2” and played guard, Tom was an intimidator—not just with his pounding defense, but with his scoring ability, too, as he was one of the early experimenters with the one-handed shot. He took college business classes for three years as a young man but there is no record of his playing for a varsity squad. Tom enlisted in the Army during World War I and served for about 6 months prior to the Armistice.

Tom began to build his reputation with the hometown Trenton Potters, Tigers and Royal Bengals of the Eastern Basketball League. He typically suited up for two or three teams every season, including the Philadelphia SPHAs (along with Stretch Meehan their only non-Jewish players) and Warriors. A productive player into his 30s, he was among the top scorers in the American Basketball League as player-coach for Trenton in 1928–29. His final year as a pro was 1931–32, when he served as player-coach of Camden’s Eastern League team.

Tom’s impressive physique and willingness to wrestle for every loose ball and rebound earned him a number of nicknames, including Tarzan and Caveman. He also played in the first basketball game held at the old Madison Square Garden, in 1925.During the summers, Tom earned a few extra dollars as a catcher for semipro teams. He was good enough to earn offers from minor-league teams, but decided to stick to basketball, which paid him upwards of $50 a game.

Tom continued to live and work in South Jersey the remainder of his life, serving as a building inspector in Trenton for 30 years. In 1980, he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Barlow passed away in 1983 in Point Pleasant Hospital at age 83.

 

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