It's a Very Simple Game
Charley Eckman

Early Years

WWII and Refereeing

the BAA

1950's: Refereeing
the NBA

Coaching Pistons: 1954-55

Coaching Pistons: 1955-56

Coaching Pistons: 1956-57

Detroit Pistons: 1957-58

1958 - 1963

1964 - 1967

1968 - 1974

1975 - 1979



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Refereeing in the BAA

Eckman not only calls out the fouls with a strong voice but gives examples of the error by illustrating on himself. 

Arizona -1947  -  "Featuring a loud voice and many physical contortions, Eckman not only calls out the fouls with a strong voice but gives examples of the error by illustrating on himself.  He'll grab his arm and shake it for holding, he'll jump up in the air and twist his hips for shoving, he'll whirl his hands for traveling, and he'll, in a nice way scold the players for breaking the rules."

Charlie signed with the American League West Coast. Here are some of the newspaper headlines written about Charley from the University of Arizona:

"Jitterbugging referee who gave Tucson case fans a basket full of belly laughs a couple of weeks ago will be officiating tonight's game.  Gabby does much to put punch and color into the proceedings and is to many as big an attraction as the game itself."

"Gabby Eckman is giving the state of Arizona the most colorful sports officiating ever seen in these parts."  "Eckman is a professional referee by trade

"Eckman is a professional referee by trade.  He takes great interest in the game but also keeps a constant vigil for misdemeanors.  Three cheers for you, Chuck, you're a good ref and you're also teaching our local refs something."

 Eckman, the official who entertains basketball fans



January 2, 1947 - Yuma, Arizona paper "GABBY Eckman to Officiate West Coast Game"   


"The colorful Charles (Gabby) Eckman, the official who entertains basketball fans almost nightly while working college and independent games here and in Tempe was scheduled to officiate and American Basketball League game at the famed Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles tonight.

"This animated basketball referee was hired by Wally Kowalski, manager and coach of the Hollywood Shamrocks, to call the Shamrocks San Diego Tecate Dons game tonight in the West Coast castle."
"Kowalski, impressed with Gabby's 'showmanship' and flawless officiating technique, offered Eckman a contract to call several of the Shamrock games."
 Umpiring Baseball. "Shown here with Charley (Gabby) Eckman is Art Van Haren, dean of Phoenix baseball and softball umpiring.

Umpiring Baseball. "Shown here with Charley (Gabby) Eckman is Art Van Haren, dean of Phoenix baseball and softball umpiring.  Van Haren selected Gabby as his No. l assistant.  Gabby has made a name for himself in Arizona basketball the past season because of his unorthodox method of calling fouls.  In the summer he works baseball."

May 24, 1947 - "When a public address announcement was made at the park last night that a Rebel supporter was giving Frank Lombardi ten bucks for being 'a darn good catcher', umpire Eckman, who was dusting the plate at the time, quickly stepped back and brushed off Lombardi's mitt.  Which is proof that umpires, regardless of what they are called, have a sense of humor..." The Independent, Anderson, SC.

 October 20, 1949 birth of Janet Marie in Baltimore 

            October 20, 1949 birth of Janet Marie in Baltimore 

Baltimore News American, by Art Janney.  "You Did It!' Eckman's cry 'Wows' Crowds... You can't hack that man like that!"  Such thunderous cries from a basketball official gyrating like a gymnast gone berserk are becoming more and more familiar to Baltimore fans.
"Just in case you have been wondering who the gent (with a whistle stuck in the corner of his mouth like a five-cent cigar) is, meet Choo-Choo Charley Eckman.  He's also appropriately known as 'Gabby.'
"But athletic folk are beginning to call him Choo-Choo because he's always chasing trains.  If he's in Boston, he's got to get to Baltimore; if he's in Philadelphia, he's got to get to Washington .
"Yep, Charley's services as a basketball official are in demand.  Fans ask for him.  Coaches ask for him. Athletic directors ask for him.  And there is a reason. The fact of the matter is, Charley is good for the 'gate.'
"He's noisy but he's competent and his antics 'wow' the fans.  No one has to ponder over a decision when Eckman calls it.  He often leaps three feet into the air as he points an accusing finger.  And take Charley's word for it - there's more to it all than mere showmanship."
"He says it relieves the tension among the players when you reenact the foul with gestures and this in turn eliminates a lot of squabbles and makes the game more interesting.  That may be so, but Eckman himself can make a dull game pretty interesting, too.
"Though only 26 years old, Charley has come a long way as a basketball referee.  He started by working amateur games at Cross Street Hall.  Since that time he has served in the armed forces and was one of the leading court officials in the Southwest.  In fact, last season he worked more than 85 games in the Phoenix- Yuma- Los Angeles area.

"This winter, he's reached a goal. Charley's always wanted to work in a big professional league and he has had Basketball Association of America game in Boston, Providence and Washington .  Besides, he works - and we do mean 'works' schoolboy and collegiate contests in Baltimore and Washington.  He also finds time to call 'em in two independent leagues - the Baltimore County Leagues at Towson Armory on Sunday afternoons and the Baltimore League at Holy Martyrs gym on Sunday and Wednesday nights.  In addition, he holds down a regular job in Baltimore ."

"Charley Eckman, will work the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at Madison Square Garden, NY next month."

February 1949 - "Charley Eckman, will work the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at Madison Square Garden, NY next month."  Baltimore Sun Papers

"Charley Eckman, Glen Burnie's young, excellent basketball official, is pondering a $5,000 contract from the National Basketball Association for his exclusive services next season.  Chances are he will accept, join five other Eastern officials as regulars of the N.B.A. staff, four of whom will be Jocko Collins, Pat Kennedy, Sid Borgia and Max Tabacchi.  The regulars will average about 23 games a month at $50 each, while the weekenders will get $40.  The N.B.A. schedule, expected in about three weeks, will show arenas dark Mondays and Fridays.

  Referee Charley Eckman stoops to pick up/ball, after blowing sixth personal foul which sent Lakers' George Mikan

"End of Line for "99" - Referee Charley Eckman stoops to pick up/ball, after blowing sixth personal foul which sent Lakers' George Mikan, right, to sidelines in third quarter last night.  Arnie Risen (14), Bob Wanzer are more interested than they appear.  Royals won.

 George Mikan and Charley.  "One night in Baltimore , George Mikan, tells me before a game, "Look, Charley, call some fouls on me.  I want to go home early.  I've got to get up for Mass tomorrow.'  Mikan, you see, is a devout Catholic.  But on one foul, he gets mad and says, 'You so and so,' and I say, "Okay, George, I'm not calling any more on you.  You're staying here.' He says, "Oh, no, I'm sorry, Charley.'
"So finally I call the last foul and he's out of the game and he meets me in the center of the floor and he's waving his hands saying, 'Where's the catehdral?' And I stick my nose up toward him and say, 'Just walk down Baltimore Street two blocks,' and then I give it the federal case, sweeping the arm and say, "And take a right to Mulberry and you can't miss it.'  Almost broke the joint up.  They thought we were arguing."  Story of the NBA, Miami Newspaper

August 27, 1950 - "Charley Eckman Becomes Full-Time Pro Referee.  College and schoolboy basketball fans won't see a whole lot of genial Charley Eckman, the guy who referees with 'oomph,' this season.  Charley's going to be as busy as a one-armed paper hanger on the pro basketball circuit - The NBA to you - this winter.  The native Baltimorean is one of six arbiters selected for full time refereeing in the NBA.  Twenty eight years old, Eckman already has been refereeing for 10 years.  Baltimore News American.

"CHARLIE ECKMAN KEPT IT SIMPLE: As a pro official, Eckman gave the players more freedom. Vern Mikkelsen of the Lakers and Arnie Johnson of the Rochester Royals were two tough, big Swedes," he said.  "When they played each other, it was like two Sumo wrestlers butting bellies.  Neither gave an inch.  They'd tell me, "Charlie, you worry about those other guys, we'll take care of ourselves."
Charley was the youngest referee to work the NIT Conference in NY City in 1949.        "One of Charlie's most historic games to ever unfold in pro basketball history found Eckman running the show - a 141-120 four-quarter blitz by Sheboygan over Denver ". Baltimore News American, John Steadman

He became a full pro NBA referee in 1950 and was rated #1 referee in the country by Dell Publications.  A NY paper stated: "Eckman, considered by most followers of basketball to be the best referee in the game, was named the NBA's top man by a poll of the loop's coaches.  He was also chosen to work the first Annual NBA All-Star game in Boston " (which he later went on to coach two NBA All-Star games, as well).  During this time, Charley also worked many college basketball games.

Refereeing Basketball from a Tennis Chair  In 1953, a newspaper article talks about Charley Eckman and Julie Myers, as officials who worked a basketball game using tennis chairs. They said they thought the change had possibilities. The Tennis chairs were placed at opposite corners of the court to avoid blocking out seats.  Myers said that blind spots probably could be eliminated if the chairs were placed opposite the foul lines.