August 10, 1927 |
Highland Park, Illinois
|Listed height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Listed weight||175 lb (79 kg)|
|High school||Highland Park (Highland Park, Illinois)|
|NBA draft||1951 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Baltimore Bullets|
|Career highlights and awards|
Eugene "Gene" "Squeaky" Melchiorre (born August 10, 1927) is a retired American basketball player. He was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets and was the first overall pick in the 1951 NBA Draft, although he never played a game due to his ban from professional basketball for point shaving.
He was the fifth of six children born in Highland Park, Illinois, to a gardener who moved his family there from Joliet in 1936. Though short in stature and having pigeon toes, Melchiorre excelled in nearly ever sport he tried. He was a starting wingback on the Highland Park football team, a basketball player, a baseball player, a tennis player and, in his later years, a golfer. After joining the Army, Melchiorre joined the basketball team at Fort Sheridan, known as the Ramblers, that won 58 out of 63 games during his two-year tour (1945–47).
Melchiorre played guard for Bradley University in the 1947-48 to 1950-51 seasons. Standing only 5'8" and weighing 175 lbs, he was famous for his passing abilities and his ability to score. During his tenure, Bradley won 119 games while losing only 22. He participated in both the NIT and NCAA Tournament in 1950, in which Bradley lost to CCNY in the championship game of each tournament.
He was named to the Missouri Valley Conference first team three times, and in his junior year made the all-NIT team. For the 1951 season, he was an Associated Press, United Press International and Colliers Magazine first team All-American and selected by the magazine, Sports Album, as one of the two best offensive players in the country. He was also a letter-winner on the Bradley baseball team, and he received a degree in business administration.
Point shaving scandal
Melchiorre was involved in a massive point shaving scandal in 1951 which brought seven schools and 32 players from around the US to face charges on violations of the New York state penal code. On July 24, 1951, Melchiorre and four of his teammates admitted taking bribes to hold down scores against St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 1951 and against Oregon State University in Chicago.
Melchiorre and two of his teammates pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in New York. Though the players faced three years in prison, the assistant District Attorney praised the trio's cooperation, and they were given suspended sentences.
He was also a member of Sigma Chi at Bradley University.
After completion of his four years at Bradley and a suspended sentence for the point shaving scandal, Melchiorre entered the 1951 NBA Draft. He was selected as the first overall pick in the draft by the Baltimore Bullets. Melchiorre would never play a minute of NBA basketball, however. Not long after he admitted his role in the scandal, NBA President Maurice Podoloff banned all players involved in the point shaving scandal, including Melchiorre, from the NBA for life.
He married Kay Boles in 1951. He returned to his native Highland Park in the mid-1950s, at first working in the Post Office. He then moved into insurance and appliance sales, women's wear and finally started his own small trucking firm. He was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.
- Chicago Tribune News Tribute to Gene Melchiorre
- Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame page
- The Draft Review player profile.
- Chicago Sun-Times article "A Brave Spirit"