But the part of Klotz's game that he developed most was his comedic timing. Nobody executed a triple take like Klotz, who for his art regularly endured having his butt pinched, his armpits sniffed or the indignity of trying a layup while toting a ladies' handbag. And he embodied the classic elements of the oppressed. "With Red you lose on all sorts of counts," says Wilt Chamberlain, a Trotter in his off-seasons in the 1950s and '60s. "You can't hit a man with glasses, you've got to pick on guys your own size, and you must always respect your elders."
Although he still carries his uniform in a gym bag to every game, Klotz finally "retired" to the sidelines eight years ago at the age of 66. He has since tried to pass on the mantle of chief foil, but, typically, none of his players has quite been able to handle the pass.
In New Haven, Klotz's task is even more challenging than usual because the Generals have picked up two guest players, a pair of local radio deejays, who are both short, paunchy and wearing thick-soled jogging shoes. Nonetheless, the Generals actually take a four-point lead early in the first quarter. Soon, though, order is restored, and the Generals are eventually clobbered by 26 points. What's worse, the time-honored water-bucket stunt bombs when a meddlesome kid announces to all of section 113 that the pail is actually filled with confetti. Says Klotz in summation: "In coaching and comedy, you're only as good as your material."
Win No. 1: "The fifth of January 1971. University of Tennessee at Martin. I remember it like last week. My team played great that night, and we were up 12 with two minutes left, but the Trotters stormed back to take a 99-98 lead with 30 seconds to go. I called timeout and told my team I wanted the final shot. With 10 seconds left I took a two-hander from 20 feet. Swish. Then Meadowlark's final shot rimmed out. We won. Everybody was stunned. Let me tell you, beating the Globetrotters is like shooting Santa Claus. Later the press blamed the loss on the clock operator who hadn't stopped the clock during Trotter routines early in the fourth quarter. Could be. The timekeeper's name was Chuck Klotz."
In recent years Red Klotz has agreed to take a sabbatical now and then to return to his beach house in Margate City, N.J., where he can make up for lost time with Chuck, his other children and his 12 grandchildren. In Red's absence, his son-in-law John Ferrari coaches the team. The man who stands to inherit the Generals someday doesn't expect that to happen anytime soon. "I know in my heart that Red will never retire," Ferrari says. "If you pop his car trunk, the only stuff in there is a beat-up pair of sneakers and a basketball. When the car's gone, you know he's at the playground."
During the summer months when Boston Celtic coach Chris Ford returns to his boyhood home in Margate City, he drives over the tiny toll bridge and down Jerome Avenue past the town park where there is a fixture almost as permanent as the rusty basketball rims and the cracks in the asphalt. There is Red Klotz, like Updike's Rabbit Angstrom, the aging former basketball star who has outlived his competition. He is shooting that crazy two-handed set shot, alone on his island. "Whenever Red hurls up that two-hander, at first the kids are all taken aback, but after a while they're in awe," says Ford, who resides two blocks from Klotz. "He's a living legend."
Two of Klotz's jerseys—one General and one SPHA—have made it to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Klotz has not. Springfield doesn't usually cast busts for busts. "I guess Red's legacy is in how he's touched my life and the lives of all his players," says Sam Sawyer, a General from 1958 to '75, who then became an Atlantic City cabbie and part-time Klotz teammate on the playground. "It's like Red knows the secret to happiness."
"Think of it like this," says Klotz. "The other night we played in Fresno, and it was a typical game, we kept it close right to the end, but we lost the game by six. We made it exciting, though, and the fans got a few laughs, and to me that's just as good as a win. If you look at it that way, I have a pretty good record."
Red Klotz admits he might win again. But he is more concerned about finding new, more exciting places in which to lose. Already he has lost in a bullring. He has lost in the deep end of a swimming pool. He has lost in front of 75,000 German fans. He has lost in front of an audience consisting of just a Paraguayan plantation owner and his family. But as a rational observer, you still can't help wondering why once, just once, Klotz doesn't tell his guys to look out for the wobble-ball trick? Why? Why? Why?...
Then you bite your tongue because you realize you've asked that one a hundred different ways already and he keeps answering it the same way. His way. You are tempted to grab him by the lapels, shake him, tell him that of all the people on earth, he is the one who couldn't be faulted for saying, It is whether you win or lose, and how you play the game is so much poppycock. But you think better of it.