"Meadow'll have a splitting headache," says teammate Nate Branch. "He won't let Doc near him with an aspirin, but he hears that announcer say, 'Globetrotters!' and he pulls his head up and goes two hours as if nothing is bothering him."
The team's appreciation of Lemon is, however, circumscribed by his temperament; what he calls a drive for perfection teammates see as jealousy and self-doubt. "The man must know he is a great comedian," one says, "so maybe he is just insecure as a player. He'll scream at you not to shoot just as you release the ball, and if you hit a couple in a row he'll really get on you. None of this has anything to do with the show, either, just with Meadow's ego. Oh, well, they say Goose was the same damn way."
Lemon jumped both Wilt Chamberlain and Connie Hawkins when they were with the team, presumably for upstaging him, and while Chamberlain makes no big deal of the incident—in fact, he calls his year with the Globies "the happiest of my life"—Hawkins was a merciless critic of Lemon in his biography, Foul. Lemon is more generous in return. " Connie Hawkins is the only big man I ever saw who could fit in with us as if he were a six-footer," he volunteers, adding: "He could have been the greatest player alive, but he never put out, not here, not in the league." In fact, Lemon maintains that their celebrated locker-room skirmish in Czechoslovakia came about simply because Hawkins was "shagging" (goofing off) and Lemon told him to hustle.
"We're only playing for pride out there," Meadow says. "We got no pennant to push us. Some of the fellows don't understand either that this is a family-type entertainment. We're playing to please. I'll say, 'Why did you shoot?' They'll say, 'I was open,' and they don't understand that it may be no good for the show even if they make it."
Lemon's predecessor, Tatum, may have been even more complex. An itinerant preacher's son, Goose hated travel and liked to be alone. "I been around too much," he declared once, closing the subject. Several years after he left the Globies he had to serve time for tax evasion and died penniless in 1967 at the age of 45.
Saperstein, Tatum's mentor and nemesis alike, had died the year before. For much of his life, Saperstein was painted not only as the Ambassador of Goodwill but also as a stubby, road-show Abe Lincoln. In retrospect, it is apparent that Saperstein took a great deal more from blacks than he gave. Certainly, he took all the credit; he wallowed in publicity. "It was a dictator thing with him," Haynes says.
With little opportunity elsewhere, the players were forced to endure the Saperstein system. "We were just happy to be playing ball," says Sweetwater Clifton, who now drives a cab in Chicago. "I don't know, I guess they'd call that Tomming today." The players were poorly paid; Haynes never made more than $13,800, and he doubts if Tatum did better. It was a buyer's market, and Saperstein worked to keep it that way by threatening to boycott NBA arenas if the league broke the color line. His pressure helped hold off integration until 1950, when the Boston Celtics drafted Chuck Cooper. "OF Abe sure pitched a bitch when he heard about that," says a former Globie. "He knew then that he could no longer be the great white father."
Still, Saperstein continued to represent such authority that, according to Globetrotter Bobby Joe Mason, even in the 1960s no player would dare shoot a jumper when Abe was at a game. Abe was an oldtime set-shot ace who viewed the jump shot as a defilement of the sport, and he might fire anyone who tried one. Moreover, he had paid informants on the team who would disclose player secrets to him. In their paranoia some Globies fear that this sinister procedure is still in effect.
Saperstein also kept his players on tenterhooks by forcing some veterans to try out for the team from scratch every fall. Some of the shrewder Globetrotters managed to beat the boss at his own game, however. One would call him up nearly every off-season, put on his best field-nigger accent and moan into the phone:
"Skip [ Saperstein greatly fancied being called Skip], Skip, you got to help me out with $500. The white mens down heah gwanna sho nuff put me in jail lessen you send me $500 right prompt."