Caterpillar is celebrating its basketball history. An exhibit at the Caterpillar visitors center in Peoria tells the story of the Caterpillar team in the National Industrial Basketball League, from 1947-61. The team played home games at the Robertson Field House on the Bradley University campus. Seasons ranged from eight to 34 games.

The players were recruited out of college to work at Caterpillar and play basketball, but they were legitimate Caterpillar employees, says Kathryn Spitznagle, the manager of the visitors center.


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“Not only did they play incredible basketball in the evenings and on weekends, but they worked their regular jobs during the day at Caterpillar, and many of them are equally proud or even more proud of their Caterpillar careers, many of which spanned 30 and 40 years,” she said.

The highlight was the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, in which five Caterpillar players were on the U.S. team that won the gold medal. Caterpillar had defeated AAU champion Kansas at Madison Square Garden for the right to select the team.

The exhibit includes memorabilia such as game balls and jerseys, as well as photographs and game films. A number of players are still alive; The exhibit’s opening ceremony featured seven former players. The exhibit runs through June.

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