January 7: Saperstein’s Globetrotters
The Harlem Globetrotters, owned and supervised by the British-born Abe Saperstein, played their first game on this date in 1927 in Hinckley, Illinois. Saperstein introduced the razzle-dazzle play and comedic tricks that made the Globetrotters the most famous barnstorming professional sports team in the world. At 5’5″, he is probably the shortest inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was also an entrepreneur in baseball’s Negro Leagues. The Globetrotters have played more than 20,000 games in 118 countries. Among the players on the team have been Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins, and two of baseball’s star pitchers, Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins. Among the people named as honorary members of the team are Nelson Mandela, Whoopie Goldberg, Jesse Jackson, and Pope John Paul II.
“You must understand as a kid of color in those days, the Harlem Globetrotters were like being movie stars.”—Wilt Chamberlain