Angelo Musi, 91, of Bryn Mawr, who captained the first professional basketball team in Philadelphia and went on to be a vending company executive, died Monday at home.
In 1946, Mr. Musi joined the Philadelphia Warriors in the new Basketball Association of America, now the NBA.
He described early Warriors games in the Arena in West Philadelphia in a 2003 WHYY TV12 documentary, Philly Hoops. After Ice Capades performances, the skating rink at the Arena was covered with a basketball floor, and moisture sweated all over it, Mr. Musi said. Warriors owner Eddie Gottlieb would put sawdust or oatmeal on the floor, but it didn't always work, Mr. Musi said. "Occasionally you'd dribble the ball and the ball wouldn't bounce back," he said. Gottlieb saw "6,400 people watching us. He was not about to give the money back."
There was so much cigarette smoke drifting from the spectator stands that sometimes Mr. Musi couldn't see the basket, his son, Thomas, said. At 5-foot-9, "Ange was the smallest player on the team. He was a forward, not a guard, and he was the team's second-leading scorer," said Harvey Pollack, who was the Warriors assistant publicity director. In 1947 Mr. Musi led the Warriors to the first Basketball Association of America championship. He retired from the team in 1949.
Years later, he made fun of his small stature when he told Inquirer columnist Tom Fox: "If I suited up to try out for the 76ers today, Darryl Dawkins would die laughing. He'd probably pick me up and use me for a gusto dunk. It's not the same game I played when I was young."
In 2001 Sports Illustrated named Mr. Musi the third-best player for his height in NBA history.
Growing up in West Philadelphia, Mr. Musi spent hours shooting balls into a peach basket to be good enough to play with bigger boys. He was a star basketball player at Overbrook High School and the first of 12 Overbrook players to make it to the NBA. He also played soccer and was second baseman on the baseball team at Overbrook. After graduating, he spent a year at Brown Preparatory School in Philadelphia to qualify academically for a scholarship at Temple University.
At Temple, he captained the baseball and basketball teams. He was chosen for All-City basketball three times and All-Pennsylvania twice and earned honorable mention All-American in 1942, his senior year.
During World War II, he served in the Philippines and played baseball and basketball on Army teams.
After his discharge, he played a season with the Wilmington Bombers, an American Basketball League team.
When he left the Warriors, Mr. Musi went to work for Variety Vending Co. He eventually became vice president and regional manager of Macke Co., whose services included vending machines, employee cafeterias, and executive dining rooms. In a 1977 Inquirer interview, he estimated that his firm served 10 million snacks and meals a year. He retired in 1983.
An avid golfer, Mr. Musi was a longtime member of the Bala Golf Club, and he remained a basketball fan, Pollack said. Pollack is director of statistical information for the 76ers and publishes an annual NBA statistical yearbook. "Ange was always calling me with ideas about information to add," he said.
Mr. Musi was past president of Temple's Baseball, Basketball, and Varsity Clubs. He was a member of Temple's Athletics Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to his son, Mr. Musi is survived by a daughter, Betty Ann Graham; four grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. His wife of 64 years, Lydia Villani Musi, died in 2006.
A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Thomas of Villanova Chapel, 1229 Lancaster Ave. Rosemont. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.