William Chase Portrait (c. 1893)

Portrait of Springfield College alumnus William R. Chase (class of 1893), a member of the first basketball team in 1891

Letter from William Chase to Calvin Martin (April 2, 1951)

Letter written by William R. Chase to Calvin J. Martin, alumni secretary at Springfield College, dated April 2, 1951. In the latter Chase tells Martin of the death of Finley G. MacDonald. Chase and McDonald were among the first men to play the game of basketball.

William Richard Chase was born on June 23, 1867, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He spent most of his youth in Washington D.C., where his father William held the position of a tax collector, and then Nantucket MA.

Chase spent the next eight years there receiving his education before his family returned to New Bedford.

While he was in school in Nantucket, Chase worked at confectionary and apothecary shops to support himself. When his family moved back to New Bedford, he became a clerk in a music store, which led him to enroll in Bryant & Stratton's Business College in Boston, Massachusetts.

After one year there, Chase held positions in a bank and an insurance agency, before attending the International YMCA Training School, now Springfield College, at 24 years old to serve the needs of young men. Like his classmates, he believed the school would provide the best opportunity to do that.

In his first semester in Springfield was in the fall of 1891, where he was a participant in the first basketball game. Chase had the wonderful distinction of scoring the first basket in the first basketball game when Dr. James Naismith introduced the sport to his class on Dec. 21, 1891.

The following semester, Chase was a member Secretarial team, the school champions of the International YMCA Training School in 1892. That squad consisted of nine of the original 18 players and is often referred to as the "First Basketball Team."

Upon graduating in 1893, Chase spent two years serving as a YMCA secretary before returning to New Bedford, where he spent the next 56 years in both the insurance and real estate businesses. 

Chase, like Ray Kaighn several years later, believed he was the last surviving member of the class and the longest surviving member of the school's 1892 championship team.

In a letter to Springfield College Alumni Secretary Calvin Martin, he described the passing of Rev. Findlay MacDonald, March 19, 1951, as the event that made him think he was the team's last surviving member.

He was not aware that Ernest Hildner, also a member of the 1892 championship team, was living comfortably as a retired minister in Illinois. 

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