It isn’t often that an 18 years-old got to travel extensively throughout the country playing basketball in the late 1930’s – let alone a woman. But Eleanor Laich Schmitz was not an ordinary basketball player.
After playing at Branford High for Grace Norton Scranton, Eleanor went on to play with the East Haven Jeffs and the Portland All-Stars. It was Ed “Shrimp” Flynn of the Jeffs who recommended her to Connie Olsen, owner of a pair of touring teams known as the Ozark Hill Billies and the All-American Red Heads.
After just one seasons (1938) with the Hill Billies, Laich was elevated to the premier team and covered more that 35,000 miles from April to October playing anywhere from the Mexican to Canadian borders. Often the team played seven games a week.
In the 40’s, the team sailed the Pacific and played in the Philippines.
From 1943-46 Eleanor was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps and the Regular Army.
In 1946 she married Joe Schmitz and that union produced two sons – Mark and Jerry (an All-Housatonic League selection twice and All Stater once in basketball).
Although retired, she works part-time as a library aide at the Sliney School. For 19 years she was a secretary for the Branford Board of Education.
In September of 1983 Eleanor was inducted into the New Haven Tap-Off Basketball Hall of Fame.