Over fifty years after Jackie Robinson's historic debut with the
Brooklyn Dodgers, black athletes shine brightly throughout the sports
world. Branch Rickey's "Noble Experiment" paved the way
for generations of black athletes from Althea Gibson to Muhammad
Ali to Michael Jordan.
racing was dominated by outstanding black jockeys in the late 1800s.
jockeys won at least 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys. Isaac Murphy,
by far the most famous and most successful black jockey, was the
first to win three Kentucky Derbys and the first jockey to be inducted
into the Hall of Fame in Saratoga, N.Y. He won on 628 of his 1,412
Simms, the last black jockey to win the Preakness in 1898, is the
only jockey to have won all the Triple Crown races. He also is credited
with introducing the short stirrup to professional riding.
soon, horse racing became an elite world in which blacks were not
allowed. The Jockey Club was formed and blacks were systematically
squeezed out of the elite world of horse racing. By the mid-1920s,
all but a handful of black jockeys were gone.
economics, big money came into racing, the black jockey was pushed
out,'' said Inez Chappell, president of the Baltimore-based group
African-Americans in Horse Racing. ''And racism is still alive.
There are black jockeys out there, but they do what they have to
do. They claim to be Jamaican or something else.''
: By The Associated Press 1997
1915, Pollard was allowed to play football at Brown University,
joining Paul Robeson, who entered Rutgers the same year, in breaking
the color barrier in big-time college football.
During his football career, Pollard often was forced to change clothes
in closets, was refused shower services, traveled separately from
his team, was spat upon by fans, had his hands cleated by opponents
and rarely jogged onto the field until moments before kickoff.
he starred as a player. Pollard led Brown to the first Rose Bowl.
He also was the first black player named to Walter Camp's All-America
as professional football began gaining acceptance, its leadership
started believing that having blacks on its teams would hurt gate
receipts. By 1932, professional football was rid of blacks altogether.
1988 Debi Thomas became the first black woman to win a medal in
Olympic figure skating.
In 1992, Jair Lynch became the first African-American man to win
an Olympic medal in gymnastics when he took the silver medal in
the parallel bars.
In 1996 Dominique Dawes became the first African-American woman
to win a gold medal in gymnastics.
The first professional basketball game was played in Trenton, New
Jersey in 1896. However, it took over 55 years for the first African
American to play professional basketball. In 1951, Sweetwater Clifton
of the Harlem Globetrotters became the first African-American to
sign an NBA contract (Knicks); Chuck Cooper was the first drafted
(Celtics); and Earl Lloyd, playing one day before the other two,
became the first African-American to play in the NBA (Washington
Capitols). Due to the segregation of the sport The Harlem Globetrotters
was one way athletes could play this sport for money.
OF THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
1940 Harlem Globetrotters team
Saperstein, age 24, organizes and coaches a new basketball team,
"Savoy Big Five," named after famous Chicago's Savoy Ballroom.
"Savoy Big Five" consisted of Tommy Brookings, William
Grant, Inman Jackson, Lester Johnson, Joe Lillard, Randolph Ramsey,
Walter Wright, and William Watson. Jackson, Johnson, and Wright
formed the nucleus of the first Globetrotters team.
team makes its debut on January 7 in Hinckley, Illinois, before
a crowd of 300. The total payout for the game was $75. The team
wore uniforms with NEW YORK on them; no doubt in giving the crowd
the impression they were from that city. Saperstein would later
add his family name to the jersey thereafter, "Saperstein's
New York Globetrotters."
1930 The team
name was changed to the Harlem New York Globetrotters; lending emphasis
that all players were black.
1932 The Globetrotters
are five years old. The team opens the tour on Thanksgiving Day
at Brewster Center in Detroit. For the first time, the Globetrotters
were playing in a major city.
1934 The Globetrotters
play their 1,000 career game in Iron Mountain, Michigan. The team
finished with an incredible 152-2 record.
The team plays in its first professional basketball championship
tournament and was defeated by the New York Rens. The Globetrotters
begin to clown around and the crowd loved it. After the game, Saperstein
informed his players that it was OK to add more clowning in the
games, but only when they had established a safe lead on the scoreboard.
Inman Jackson initiates the team's "Clown Prince" of basketball
role and created the pivot position now used by all levels of basketball.
1940 The Globetrotters
play their 2,000th career game in Bellingham, Washington, and conclude
the regular season tour with a 159-8 record. Returning to Chicago,
the team accepts an invitation to compete in the World Professional
Basketball tournament. The Harlem Globetrotters even up the score
with the New York Rens, as they defeat the Rens in the semi-finals.
In the finals, the Globetrotters defeat George Halas' Chicago Bruins
in overtime, 31-29, and capture their first-ever World Basketball
Championship. The Globetrotters return to Chicago Stadium and play
a game against the College All-Stars before a crowd of 22,000.
The Harlem Globetrotters celebrate their 20th season, as they
play their 3,000th career game in Vancouver, British Columbia. With
the end of World War II, the Globetrotters make their first-ever overseas
trip to the United States Territory of Hawaii. The team plays in front
of American GI's and huge crowds during a 17-game series. After 20
years, 3,000 games, a World Championship, and a .927 winning percentage,
the Globetrotters begin gaining national and international recognition
for themselves and the sport. Time LIFE Magazine features the team
in the Dec. 2, 1946, issue.
1948 On February
20, the Cinderella team, consisting of Ermer Robinson, Ducky Moore,
Sam Wheeler, Goose Tatum, Marques Haynes, Babe Pressley, Ted Strong,
Vertes Ziegler, and Wilbert King defeat George Mikan, Jim Pollard
and the World Champion Minneapolis Lakers, 61-59, before a crowd of
17,823 at Chicago Stadium. The 1948 season also marked the beginning
of Robert "Showboat" Hall's career with the Globetrotters.
"Showboat" Hall was the master of the fast passing game
and he could do every ball handling trick imaginable. "Showboat"
was a true magician, as he would pull the ball out of thin air and
make it disappear.
The Globetrotters compete in the inaugural World Series of Basketball
tour against a team of College All-Americans. The All-American team
was selected from a college coaches poll and included Bob Cousy,
Kevin O'Shea, Paul Arizin, and Dick Schnikker. The college standouts
were coached by Ray Meyer, Hank Iba, and Clare Bee. The Globetrotters
finished the tour with a 11-7 record, as the 18-game tour attracted
an attendance total of 181,364. For the first time in National Basketball
Association (NBA) league history, the NBA decides to sign black
players. Shortly after, the Boston Celtics sign Duquene star Chuck
Cooper and the New York Knicks purchase Nathaniel "Sweetwater"
Clifton's contract from the Harlem Globetrotters for $25,000. Since
the Knick's season begins one day earlier than the Celtics, "Sweetwater"
Clifton becomes the first-ever black athlete to play in the NBA.
The 25th anniversary tour begins and is highlighted by the
team's 4,000th career game. On April 9, a United States record crowd
of 31,684 fans watched the Globetrotters defeat the College All-Stars,
55-34 at the Rose Bowl. Overall, the 18-game series attracted an
attendance of 216,370. On April 25, Globetrotters embark on their
first South America tour. The tour highlight is when the team played
before a crowd of 50,041 fans at Rio de Janeiro's Estadio Municipal.
On August 21, the Globetrotters play before 75,000 fans packed into
Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Just prior to the game, a helicopter lands
on the field and emerging from the helicopter was the Globetrotters'
special guest, 1948 U.S. Olympian Jesse Owens. The team performed
for an audience of one, Pope Pius XII at his summer residence in
Castel Gandolfo, Italy.
1952 The Silver
Anniversary is celebrated with a 108-game around the world tour,
the first in the history of basketball. In April, the Globetrotters
receive a letter from Meadow George Lemon requesting a tryout with
the team. Lemon was given a look, and after serving two years in
the Army was signed to a contract. He played his first season with
one of the Globetrotter developmental teams, the Kansas City Stars.
With the departure of "Goose" Tatum, the door opened up
for Lemon. His first assignment was to be an understudy to "Rookie"
Brown on the South tour and his name was changed to "Meadowlark"
Lemon. The Harlem Globetrotters capture their third straight "World
Series of Basketball" title in 1952. Sweet Georgia Brown became
the team's official them song in 1952.
1953 The Globetrotters
post another all-time attendance record, as 36,256 fans watch a
game at Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum, becoming the largest United
States basketball crowd on record. Because of their winning tradition,
the Globetrotters are finding it more and more difficult to find
opposition teams to play. Saperstein contacts his friend, the basketball
expert Louis "Red" Klotz, to develop a team to oppose
the Globetrotters. This is the beginning of "Red's" famous
teams variously known as the Washington Generals, Boston Shamrocks,
Baltimore Rockets, New York Nationals, Atlantic City Seagulls, and
the New Jersey Reds. On November 14, the Globetrotters make their
first national television appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show."
It was estimated that 77-percent of American households were watching
the show that night.
"Meadowlark" Lemon, one of the great Harlem Globetrotters,
begins his first season with the Globetrotters' East team. Lemon
would wear the famous red, white and blue colors for 24 years. The
Globetrotters become the first sports attraction to play under the
lights at Chicago's Wrigley Field, as Saperstein arranges for portable
lightning to be brought in for the game.
1956 The Globetrotters
popularity was so huge that four separate teams were on tour, playing
seven days a week. In fact, the Globetrotters were playing more
games each year than the entire NBA. In Peru, a nasty civil war
is put on hold for four days to allow the Globetrotters to play
a few games. When the team's plane departs the war resumes.
1958 Abe Saperstein
signs Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain to a contract in 1958.
Considered by many as the game's greatest offensive force, Chamberlain
played one season with the Globetrotters before joining the NBA
for 14 years (1959-73).
1959 The Globetrotters
play their 7,000th career game in 1959 and also post their first
undefeated season as they finish with 441 wins. The team makes their
first trip to Moscow to begin a sold-out tour of the U.S.S.R. and
Hubert "Geese" Ausbie joins the Globetrotters after attending
the team's training camp that included competition from more than
500 players from around the country. He is a quiet gentleman off
the court, but during the games "Geese" gains a reputation
as one of the funniest, most outrageous players in team annals.
He would serve as the team's "Clown Prince" from 1961
1962 In a stunning
upset, the Globetrotters lost a game to the Washington Generals.
This is one of the two games the team will lose over the next 8,964
1963 The Globetrotters
make their 13th annual tour of Europe and perform before a private
audience of Pope Paul VI. "Curly" Neal, one of the team's
magical shooters and dribblers, signs with the Globetrotters. Neal
spends 22 seasons with the team and became one of the greatest all-time
1964 As an opening attraction
at the New York World Fair, the Globetrotters defeat the Canadian
Dominions. The world was shocked as Associated Press reported that
the Globetrotters had lost to a team of British stage comics and
television celebrities from London, England. Queen Elizabeth's husband,
Prince Phillip, was a reserve player on Lord Taverners team - a
sports and social club which raised money for charities.
1966 On March
15, the Globetrotters organization mourns the loss of founder/owner
Abe Saperstein, who died at age 63. The year also marked the team's
40th anniversary. Overall, the Globetrotters have played 8,945 games,
suffered only 330 losses, and played in more than 1,200 cities and
82 foreign countries.
1968 The team
plays its first game in Harlem, New York, 41 years after the team's
debut in Hinckley, Illinois.
Abe Saperstein was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
in Springfield, Massachusetts, a town where the sport was created
by Dr. James Naismith. The Globetrotters play their 10,000th career
game, as they defeated the Washington Generals, 83-74 in Miami Beach,
Florida. On September 5, a new television cartoon series debuts
on the CBS Network, "The Harlem Globetrotters Show."
1972 On December
13, a new television variety series, "The Harlem Globetrotters
Popcorn Machine," makes its network debut. The show was a one
hour musical-variety special broadcast on CBS-TV.
wanting television audience to lose sight of Globetrotters legendary
basketball ability, Stan Greeson reached an agreement with ABC-TV
for exclusive network television coverage of the Harlem Globetrotters
games by the prestigious "Wide World of Sports" program.
Each January, a game was taped somewhere in the world and shown
on this highly acclaimed sports series.
An indoor record crowd of 31,122 packed the Louisiana Superdome
for the Globetrotters game in New Orleans. For the first time in
history, the Globetrotters name an honorary member to the team,
bestowing the honor to Dr. Henry Kissinger.
1977 The Globetrotters
celebrate their 50th season. Entertainer and comedian Bob Hope was
named as an honorary Harlem Globetrotter.
Past 20 Years
The 1980 Winter Olympic Games take place at Lake Placid, New York,
with the Harlem Globetrotters serving as Olympic Games official
"Goodwill Ambassadors." The Globetrotters entered their
seventh decade of basketball wizardry, playing in over 15,000 career
games, visiting 97 countries, and appearing in more than 1,300 cities
in North America.
1982 The Globetrotters
become the first and only sports team to be honored with their own
star on Hollywood's famous "Walk of Fame."
1985 Media around
the world report on the Harlem Globetrotters signing the first female
player, Olympic Gold Medallist Lynette Woodard. The Smithsonian
Institute's National Museum of American Social History honors the
Globetrotters with their own exhibit on permanent display.
1993 Mannie Jackson
becomes the first African-American and former player to own a sports/entertainment
organization with his acquisition of the Harlem Globetrotters during
a special ceremony in Harlem before a crowd of thousands.
their 70th anniversary, the Harlem Globetrotters become history's
first professional basketball squad to play in a free democratic
South Africa in June. On September 16, 1996, Globetrotters Michael
"Wild Thing" Wilson and Sean "Elevator" Williams
establish a Guinness Book World Record for the vertical slam-dunk
at a 11 feet, 8 inches.
1998 The Harlem
Globetrotters play their 20,000th career game at Tri-County High
School near Remington, Indiana, on Jan. 12. The game, played before
a standing-room-only crowd, was also the first-ever live national
network game broadcast, airing on ESPN2. The game also attracts
national headlines in USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, and The
Wall Street Journal. On Sept. 11th, the Globetrotters signed 7-1
center Jerome James, a 1998 second round draft pick of the NBA's
Sacramento Kings. Former Globetrotter dribbler Marques Haynes becomes
the first player to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Harlem
Globetrotter on Oct. 2nd. Oct. 20th marks another significant milestone
in team history, as the Globetrotters visit their 115th country
by touring Zagreb, Croatia for the first time.
On Jan. 8th, the Globetrotters named track and field star Jackie
Joyner-Kersee an "Honorary Harlem Globetrotter" at the
team's annual tour stop at Kiel Center in St. Louis. Joyner-Kersee
becomes just the sixth person ever to be bestowed the honor, joining
Dr. Henry Kissinger (1976), comedian Bob Hope (1977), actress-comedian
Whoopie Goldberg (1989), basketball hall of famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
(1989), and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (1996).
of a pernicious "Gentlemen's Agreement" in pro baseball,
Blacks were excluded from playing major league baseball with whites.
The need and desire to play, however, could not be repressed. As
early as 1884, Blacks had organized their own teams and then their
professional baseball teams blossomed by the turn of the century,
and by 1920, a black professional baseball league was formed. The
"Negro National League" had franchises in major cities
around the country, including Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit.
Several years later, a "Negro American League" was established,
and an all-black world series was held annually.
first black major league baseball player was not Jackie Robinson
but probably Bud Fowler, who played for a Newcastle, Pennsylvania
team in 1872. In 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker, a bare-handed catcher
and graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, played for Toledo in the
old major league American Association. However, in the 1880s, as
segregation was becoming established as a way of life, these and
other blacks were increasingly excluded from major league play,
continued to the minor leagues, and gradually eased out.
the early 1900s, John McGraw, the great manager of the New York
Giants, tried three times with short-lived success to bring black
ball players on to his team. They were represented as American "Indians"
but soon were exposed and McGraw was forced to release them. The
men were Charles Grant and Jose Mendez, pitcher, and Andrew Foster,
a pitching coach who had taught Christy Mathewson. In 1925 a black
Latin, Ramon Herrera, played for the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps unknown,
other blacks "passed" successfully during the 1888-1946
and whites did, however, play openly against one another. Starting
in 1884, blacks organized their own teams and then their own leagues.
To these teams came some of the great, unheralded baseball players
of all time: George Stovey, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and of
course Satchel Paige, and in the 1940s, to the Kansas City Monarchs,
Jackie Robinson. In the 1920s, pitcher Smokey Jo Williams and his
team, the Lincoln Giants, shut out the National League champion
Philadelphia Phillies 1 to 0 in an exhibition game in New York after
the World Series. Henceforth, no more exhibition games between whole
major league teams and black teams were permitted. But individuals
of both races did play beside and against one another, especially
in Winter Baseball in the Caribbean, where blacks excelled.
professional baseball teams blossomed at the turn of the century.
In the 1920s, a black professional baseball league was formed primarily
through the efforts of Andrew "Rube" Foster, a black baseball
pitcher who in 1905 had won 51 of 55 games. The "Negro National
League" had franchises in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Chicago,
Detroit and St. Louis. Several years later, a Negro American League
was established and an all-black world series was annually held.