When Geese Ausbie signed with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1961 for $400 a month,
He told his wife, “Baby, we’re rich.”
While the monetary rewards seem meager by today’s standards, Ausbie’s 23 years with the Globetrotters were rich in experiences throughout the world with one of the icon teams in basketball. Through the years, the Globetrotters have played more than 20,000 games in 120 countries.
Ausbie, a former standout with Philander Smith who was the December “icon” speaker at the Arkansas Sports Club. was a designated “clown prince” for one of the Globetrotters’ traveling units. Meadowlark Lemon filled that role on other units.
As the Globetrotters played among celebrities, they became celebrities.
Ausbie showed off a Globetrotter playing card with a statement on the back by Muhammed Ali, who was a regular at several games: “I thought I was crazy until I saw Geese Ausbie play.”
Not only associating with Globetrotter icons such as Lemon, Curly Neal, Marquis Haynes and Lemon, Ausbie also played some baseball icons, such as Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkis and Ernie Banks, who played at exhibition or two during the offseason. At one point, Wilt Chamberlain played for the Globetrotters.
A team that began playing on a converted dance floor in the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago in 1926 became truly a globetrotting unit.
“Everything we had a chance to be a first, we did it,” Ausbie said.
They were the first basketball tream to play a game on an aircraft carrier (USS Enterprise).
They were the first to play before the Pope.
They were the first pro team to having a training camp.
They were the first professional men’s teram to have a female player.
They are the only basketball team to have a cartoon show based on their exploits.
They are the first team to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ausbie was on a team that played for Nelson Mandela for his birthday party in South Africa.
They were the first team inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Globetrotters defeated an NBA team led by the legendary George Miken.
As an African-American unit, they were pioneers in entertaining primarily Caucasian crowds in the deeply segregated South in the 1950s and 60s.
Ausbie recalled one Alabama law enforcement officer giving him his badge. “As long as you are in Alabama, you can get a cup of coffee with this, but don’t try it in Mississippi,” Ausbie said the officer told him.
The Globetrotters usually played 300 games a year, often every night when they were on an international tour.
His favorite place on the global tours.
“Israel,” he said. “I got me a bottle with water from the River Jordan, and I still have it in my home today,” he said.
And the inevitable quiestion. Did they ever lose a game to the Washington Generals?
Their designated opponent, the New Jersey Reds (named after coach Red Klotz) beat them 100-99, ending a 2,495-game winning streak.
He laughed, “They didn’t have any champagne, so they celebrated with Coca-Cola.”
But interesting bit of trivia: During Ausbie’s 23 years with the Harlem Globetrotter, they never played in Harlem.