SI Vault
William Nack
April 22, 1985
For nearly four decades Marques Haynes has been following the bouncing ball to the far corners of the world and working his dribbling magic, all the while making and preserving basketballs rich and colorful history
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April 22, 1985

On The Road Again And Again And...

For nearly four decades Marques Haynes has been following the bouncing ball to the far corners of the world and working his dribbling magic, all the while making and preserving basketballs rich and colorful history

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"Some nights Goose would walk into a restaurant and tip the headwaiter $50," Haynes says. Other times, says Wheeler, Tatum would return a steak he didn't like by picking it up and dropping it on the floor. Haynes recalls several nights with Tatum on the road when a bum would approach them on the street and ask for money. "Goose never gave away money," Haynes says. Instead, he would march the derelict into the nearest diner and tell the waitress, "Give him what he wants, I'll pay the check."

And there was the Easter weekend when he gathered a group of little girls together, all of them poor, and took them to a dress shop and bought them bonnets and outfits for Sunday.

In a sense, Tatum's act on the court reflected the life he led off it: Now you see the ball, now you don't. Now you see Goose, now you don't. One night in Rome he disappeared. No Goose that night. Nor the next. Nor the next. First the Globies heard, he had been arrested in Dallas for striking a policeman.

One day, passing through Gary, Ind., Tatum ordered the driver to pull over. "Stop here," Tatum said. "I want to get something out of the drugstore." Twenty minutes later, still no Goose. One of the Globies went inside, but Tatum was nowhere around. He had walked in and never walked out. Six days later, after playing towns in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Globies pulled into White Plains, N.Y. There, in the locker room, sat Tatum.

Signs on the road to Chamblee flash by. One says MACON 130 MILES. The bus bears on through the night. "I represent these guys still," Haynes is saying now. "Tatum, Josh, Sweetwater, Ermer, Sam Wheeler, Ted, Duke Cumberland. A way of life from the beginning to the present. Some are dead now. Goose has passed along. Babe Pressley, Ermer, Duke, Inman Jackson, Sonny Boswell. They're all dead. Some are no longer playing. Sweetwater, Josh, Sam. Somehow we formed a kind of bond that players don't form anymore. There's always some kind of communion, a fondness spoken when one of their names is mentioned. There will never be another group like that. I'm the last of the breed. That's a reason why I have hung on like I have."

Wherever he goes, each night he plays, he sees in the Magicians today a reminder of the way things were. "A reminder of some of the fellas, or all of them," Haynes says. "There is some kind of reminder of Goose or Ermer or Sweetwater. Sometimes it comes to mind in a particular routine. Or in a particular shot. Or in a certain move that a player might make. It comes to mind. I feel that each time I go on that court, a part of them is on that court with me. I guess it could be looked at that it is in honor of them that I am still playing.

"I try to represent them on the court in a way that I know they would have wanted to be represented," he says. "All of these fellas lived and breathed this type of basketball. The ball handling. The different routines. Goose with the string ball. The bucket-of-confetti trick....

"It does make me feel good that I've been around so long." Haynes says. "About every town I go to. someone asks me, 'What happened to Goose Tatum? To Sweetwater Clifton?' It makes me feel good that they remember. People say they saw me play when they were 10! And that their fathers and their grandfathers had brought them out, and now they have their kids with them.

"I've always loved the sport. I still love it. The game itself. The beauty of it. The way it was meant to be played. A game of togetherness. Like a piece of machinery. Those fellas are still out there with me. It was a bond."

Haynes's own love affair with basketball began in the 1920s, when he was growing up as the youngest of four kids in a shack in the black section of Sand Springs, a small place hard by the Arkansas River just outside Tulsa. Haynes's father, Matthew, who worked as a domestic, left home when Marques was four, leaving the rearing of the boy to his mother, Hattie, and her older children. They were as poor as the dirt yard around the house, which Marques swept with a broom. They had no electricity, no running water. They ate low on the hog, except for the cakes and sweet-potato pies that Hattie cooked and set out on the windowsill to cool.

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