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Michael Jay Travaglia, age 9, of Apollo, Pennsylvania, for his question:

When did the Harlem Globetrotters originate?

Some people think that this breezy team of basketball players is something new. True, it is just what we need right now in 1968. But we have had the Harlem Globetrotters with us for a long time, probably before your daddy was even born.

This merry story started way back in the year 1927, which was about 40 years ago. It began in the part of New York called Harlem. The boys and the young men there love to play ball games, just as they do everywhere else in the world. A group of them happened to be extra fond of basketball. And, my, they were good at the game. They moved after that ball so fast, leaping and turning and aiming it with all sorts of clever tricks. Of course, a lot of teams do this. But this Harlem team was special. The players turned the game into a happy display of very merry fun.

Oh, they wanted to win against other teams and they tried just as hard as everybody else. In fact, they tried much, much harder. Other players practice hard and tend to get very grim about it. They often win but even the winning can be a bit grim. Those Harlem players were having none of that. They wanted to win all right but they wanted to have some fun also, and they proved that this could be done. Way back in 1927, a man named Abe Saperstein watched their clowning. And like everybody else, he loved it. But Abe was an expert who also knew good basketball playing from bad.

He knew that these players were tops at the game. Their spoofing and merry antics did not fool him a bit. This team had practiced and practiced until every move of the game had been mastered. It was, in fact, a master basketball team ready to go forth and challenge the world. So in 1927 and 1928, Abe Saperstein began to manage the Harlem team with this in mind. The years went by, each one bringing a basketball season. Abe's team never disappointed him. In fact, they did better every year and soon outdid his highest hopes. This is how the frisky, frolicky Harlen Globetrotters got started. Since then, 40 million people have paid to see the famous players in action. And every spectator has enjoyed their wild, happy go -lucky style of playing basketball.

You would expect a team called the Globetrotters to travel. And this is so. The Harlem Globetrotters have played in most of our home stadiums. They are invited to so many places that three teams are now needed. The members of the three teams all perform extra clever basketball stunts with the same merry old clowning. As members grow too old to play, younger members are trained to replace them. For many years, the wonderful Globetrotters have played in about 100 different countries. Many of the people who watched them would not understand all the rules of basketball. But they could see how fantastically skillful  and how funny the Globetrotters are and they loved watching them.

The Globetrotters are so good that sometimes it is hard to find teams to match them. But the players of Harlem spoof even their victorious fame. We never lose, they say. Then they add with a merry twinkle well, we hardly ever lose a game. In any case, when the game begins, all grimness departs from the court. Solemn faces smile and watchers roar with laughter as the ball is cleverly rolled down an arm, or between somebody's legs. People watch the game with joyful admiration and nobody pays much attention to the solemn figures on the scoreboard.



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