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The All-American Red Heads, the first professional women's basketball team and the one-time team of Diane Martinson, Class of '75, has been chosen for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The hall's 2012 induction class includes five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller, the NBA's all-time winningest coach Don Nelson, three-time National College Player of the Year Ralph Sampson, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, distinguished basketball official and coordinator Hank Nichols, former college and NBA star Jamaal Wilkes as well as the All American Red Heads. The induction ceremony is Sept. 6-8, 2012.
Here's the story about Diane Martinson and the All-American Red Heads that appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Superior Alumni:
'75 grad enters hall of fame with All-American Red Heads
An advertising poster offered Diane Martinson the first glimpse of a world she never imagined existed - women playing professional basketball against men.
The poster was Martinson's first look at the All-American Red Heads, a barnstorming team of women who actually got paid to play basketball. Martinson was hooked. She went back to her residence hall room at UW-Superior and eagerly wrote a letter to the team's owner expressing her desire to play. That fall the Class of '75 graduate was part of the team.
Last June, Martinson was among about 30 former Red Heads from various eras who gathered in Knoxville, Tenn., as their team was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as "trailblazers of the game."
The All-American Red Heads was established by owner C.M. Olson in 1936 as a novelty team that traveled around the country playing exhibition games against men's basketball teams. The team stayed in business for the next 50 years under Olson and later owner Owell Moore. Over the years the Red Heads played thousands of games and appeared on television's famous "Ed Sullivan Show" and in the pages of "Life" magazine.
Martinson played with the Red Heads during the 1976-'77 season. Her squad -- there were two traveling teams -- played only men's teams, under men's rules. They played six to seven games a week for seven months as they roamed across 44 states.
Players didn't need to actually have red hair to make the team, but they had to have it when they traveled with the team and played. Martinson was blessed with red hair, but said the color "got a little more dramatic" during her time with the Red Heads.
In her biography posted on the All-American Red Heads tribute website, Martinson wrote, "I am honored and grateful to Mr. Moore for giving me a chance to perform and excel at a time when women had little or no opportunity to showcase their physical abilities among their peers. While pursuing his dream, he also showed the world that women could achieve a high level of competitiveness in strenuous sports. He opened a door. One that will never be closed."
In the years following her involvement with the Red Heads, Martinson taught and coached basketball in public schools and with local youth organizations. Today she lives in Lonsdale, Minn.
You can read more about the team at www.allamericanreadheads.com and read Martinson's memories under the Player Bios link.
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