Marcia Adams received tons of applause when she played basketball for the All American Red Heads, a barnstorming women’s basketball team. One of the best came in a quiet gymnasium on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Gallaudet is a school for the deaf. When the students clapped, they did so by raising their hands and twisting their wrists. A silent applause.

“That was heartwarming,” Adams said.

An Augusta native and a 1975 graduate of Cony High School, Adams played two seasons, from 1975 through 1977, with the All American Red Heads. The Red Heads played basketball against men’s teams around the country for 50 years, from 1936 to 1986.

On Sept. 7, the team will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Adams, who now lives in Versailles, Ky., in horse country near Lexington, will attend the ceremony.

While playing for the Rams her senior year, Adams heard a radio ad promoting a women’s basketball league. She called the radio station to get more information and contacted Orwell Moore, who ran the Red Heads.

In October, Moore called Adams. There was no women’s basketball league, but he had an opening on his team. Was she interested?

Adams talked it over with her parents and soon was on a plane to Memphis. From there, it was a short drive to training camp in Mississippi.

“I had a hard time at first, understanding the southern accents,” Adams said, “but I had my Maine accent, so they probably couldn’t understand me.”

Title IX, the law guaranteeing gender equity, had been around for just three years. Adams was a senior at Cony when Maine’s first high school girls basketball state tournament was held. Adams didn’t really consider college basketball. To play basketball at a level higher than high school was a dream. To travel the country and play basketball against teams of men was fantastic.

“I never knew about college basketball at that time,” Adams said. “Today, I know what we did, but back then, it just seemed like an adventure.”

Moore had three teams of Red Heads, each playing all over the country. In her first season, Adams’ team played 159 games between late October and early May. The second season, they played 170. Adams estimates the Red Heads won 85 percent of their games.

There was a game on Long Island, against a team of men determined to not lose against women.

“They were out to win,” Adams said. “They weren’t out to entertain the crowd or have fun.”

There was that game at Gallaudet. The Red Heads learned some basic sign language, and when Adams signed to an opponent “Man-to-man,” to let him know the standard defense employed against the Red Heads, he signed back, “No, man-to-woman.”

On March 23, 1976, the All American Red Heads came to Augusta and played a team of Cony teachers. The teachers, playing as the Fort Western Tire All Stars, won 71-70. Adams was presented a plaque by Normie Merrill, the president of the Augusta boosters. Merrill had pestered Moore into bringing the Red Heads to Augusta so Adams would play in front of her hometown crowd.

“There’s nothing like looking up in the stands and seeing faces you know,” Adams said. “Even if you didn’t know them well, you knew them.”

In photos of the team, you see Adams, her natural blonde hair dyed red, like all her teammates. Back then, she said, the answer to the hair-coloring question was “Only my hairdresser knows for sure.”

Now?

“I personally no longer have an affinity for Ms. Clairol products,” Adams said.

Adams injured her knee at the end of her first season and played through the injury for another year. She came home, and spent a year as a swim instructor at the Kennebec Valley YMCA. She went to the Rhode Island School of Photography. Eventually, she had her own studio, specializing in portrait photography.

Now, Adams enjoys shooting photos of her 15-year old daughter, London. Mother and daughter will play pickup hoops in the driveway and, sometimes, Mom will show off some of the tricks she used to do in the Red Heads’ halftime shows. Adams can still spin the ball on her finger and she can still make the trick shots, bouncing the ball into the basket. The splits, not so much.

Adams is thrilled to be a piece of the All American Red Heads’ 50-year history and can’t wait for the Hall of Fame induction. That deserves a big round of applause, whether it’s boisterous clapping or a silent and polite wave of the hand.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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