On this day January 25, 1971 the Washington Generals defeated the Harlem Globetrotters in Martin Tennessee. Yes the basketball team that plays the Harlem Globetrotters approximately 200 or more times per year, and losses every time. The Globetrotters were going through their usual shtick of throwing buckets of confetti, pulling the pants of the opposing team down and so forth, but with much less gags than normal according to spectators at the game. The reason for this is unknown, but there were rumors of a dispute prior to the game. The Globetrotters apparently didn’t realize that they were down by 12 points until less than two minutes were left. They rallied to take the lead with 10 seconds left in the game. Red Klotz the owner/coach and point guard of the Generals called timeout and instructed his team to get him the ball for the final shot. The Generals have always been instructed to not miss a shot on purpose. Klotz received the ball and quickly attempted and made the basket, giving the Generals the lead again. The Globetrotters had one last chance with Meadow Lark Lemon bringing the ball up the court. The Generals offered no resistance to Lemon and he took a shot he had made a thousand times. He missed and the rest is history. Klotz in later interviews was quoted as saying “the crowd wanted to kill me”, and it was like he “had killed Santa Clause”. Kids cried and fans booed after the game. It was reported that the owner of the Globetrotters met the team the next day and let them have it for losing. The Generals have won approximately six times but only two can be confirmed, and there has not been a win by the Generals since that game on January 25th 1971 in Martin Tennessee, 44 years ago today. They celebrated with orange pop since they didn’t carry Champagne for such events.
I suggest you read a more detailed account of this event from this link: Washington Generals Infamous 1971 Win
Why do I bring up this event on a Cleveland Indians Blog? The Generals have lost over 14,000 plus games since then. I think this is one of the great events in the history of sports. Right up there with the USA hockey team defeating Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and then defeating Finland to win the Gold Medal in Lake Placid. OK maybe not that big, but still I grew up watching the Harlem Globetrotters on the Wide World of Sports once every year. Who doesn’t love watching incredible acts of dribbling, passing, and shooting, along with third grade humor and physical comedy? I keep all of my tickets to events I go to (yea I have A LOT). If I would have attended this game the ticket would have a place right by my World Series tickets, Kent State’s Elite Eight basketball ticket, tickets to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the May 26th 1993 Tribe game vs. the Texas Rangers (Jose Canseco, a ball, and his head -Blog for another day) .
Another reason is you have never probably heard of Red Klotz, the Owner-Coach-Point guard of the Generals from 1952 to 1995 (He continued to be involved with the Generals until his death). But he is a part of the fabric of our lives just as Ernie Banks the former Chicago Cub was. Red Klotz died last July and Mr. Cub Ernie Banks last Friday. Ernie Banks was an ambassador for baseball just like Red Klotz was for basketball. Banks was one of the greatest shortstops of all time. Banks is still 22nd on the all time career home run list even after the steroid era. You couldn’t help but like baseball when you saw Ernie Banks, and Red Klotz helped entertain generations of fans while losing over 14,000 times. I would like to thank both of them today.
Lastly the Washington Generals remind me of Cleveland sports and the quest for a championship. Some people think a Cleveland championship in their lifetime will never come. The Washington Generals once overcame insurmountable odds so why not Cleveland. I believe it will one day come, but even if it doesn’t I am still going to be watching and having fun. From now on when I watch a Harlem Globetrotters game, I’m secretly going to be rooting for the Generals to win. (If you know where I can get a Washington Generals T-shirt L or XL let me know) So here’s to the Washington Generals and their celebration 44 years ago today. They proved anything is possible. Hopefully that once in a lifetime event is in Cleveland’s future.