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Claude Johnson

was born George Daniel Crowe in Whiteland, Indiana, the fifth child of Morten and Tom Ann Crow. He was the fifth of ten children—eight boys and two girls. Crowe’s father, Morten, was a lifelong farm laborer for hire. His mother, Tom Ann, was a homemaker. Both parents were from Adair County, Kentucky. A left-hander who stood six feet four inches tall with a brawny build and exceptional athletic ability, Crowe earned the nickname “Big George.”

He attended Franklin High School in Franklin, Indiana, where in 1938 as a junior he became the school’s first ever African American varsity basketball player. In 1939 he led the Grizzly Cubs to the final game of the Indiana State High School Athletic Association Basketball Championship and was named to the All State team as a center In addition as the leading vote getter for Indiana s newly instituted high school basketball All Star ...

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Samuel W. Black

athlete and physical director, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Allen Dorsey, a shipping clerk, and Mary C. Sparksman. Allegheny City was later incorporated as part of Pittsburgh's north side. The five Dorsey brothers would all earn reputations as accomplished athletes in Pittsburgh's sporting community in the early twentieth century.

As a child Dorsey showed an interest in sports while watching students play basketball in the basement gym of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After the death of his father in 1905, he went to work to help support his family. The following year, while working as a janitor on a north side estate, he secretly opened the estate gymnasium for pickup basketball games and soon organized a team with practices held on Sundays. Two of the players who attended were the future Homestead Grays baseball legends Cum Posey and Sellers ...

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Bailey Thomas Player

professional basketball and baseball player, was born in South Bend, Indiana. Theodore “Ted” Strong was quickly initiated into the culture of basketball for which Indiana was recognized. By the age of eighteen he already had gained the height and skill required to play professionally and quickly became the team captain of the Harlem Globetrotters. Strong's large hands gave him the unique ability to “palm” the ball; thus, he was deemed the team's “pitcher,” hurling remarkably accurate full-court passes to teammates waiting under the basket. Like many other Globetrotters (sixteen players in the team's early history), Strong used the basketball season to get in shape for the upcoming baseball season; by age twenty he had been signed to play with the Indianapolis Athletics. Yet Strong would continue to be an integral part of the Globetrotters for more than a decade.

Strong however proved to be just as skilled in ...

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Kenneth H. Williams

basketball entertainer, was born Reece Tatum in Union County, Arkansas, the son of a farmer who served as a traveling Methodist preacher on the weekends. Tatum admitted that the 1921 birth date was “an estimate,” and claimed not to have a birth certificate. Some guessed that he was as much as ten years older.

Although gangly, Tatum was an athletic youth while growing up around the Arkansas towns of Calion and El Dorado. He got his nickname as a teenager when he leaped to catch a pass during a touch football game, prompting an onlooker to yell “look at that ol' Goose fly.” He also played a little basketball, but his best sport was baseball, and after high school he took a job with a sawmill in the Ozarks that fielded a semiprofessional team.

The origins of Tatum s professional baseball career are unclear but one story is that ...