If I said that the CIAA “cagers” just left town or that March Madness is about to unleash a lot of “cager” excitement; it might be a hint.
As a basketball fan growing up in I always looked forward to the weekly headlines of “Clover Cagers defeat York” or maybe the less positive headline of “Local Cagers succumb to defeat”. But I always wondered why basketball teams were referred to as cagers in the paper?
It’s a nickname that was given to basketball players in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s when many courts had a 12-foot-high cage made of chicken wire.
Why the cage? A ball that went out-of-bounds was given to the team of the first player to touch it out-of-bounds.
Therefore players were going into the stands to fight for the ball (with both their opponent & many times with fans). As the game evolved the wire eventually was replaced with steel mesh and eventually rope.
Also, there weren’t backboards, so missed shots also went into the stands.
In the 1920s the rules for out-of-bounds was changed & backboards had been added to goals but the term cagers remained popular with headline writers across the nation & to this day there are high schools, colleges & other teams that still play with the nickname, CAGER.