In one of my Old Newark
recollections, I mention going to the Mosque Theatre to see a basketball game
played on the stage between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Hawaii 50th
In that era, around 1961, the
Globetrotters were playing strictly exhibition games. The Globetrotters no
longer played serious basketball and had become more famous for their on-court
comedy routines than for their superb basketball skills.
It had never occurred to me, when
I was doing some recent research on the Newark Hebrew Club basketball team that
I would stumble on an encounter between the Hebrew Club and the Globetrotters.
I'd been wanting to write
something on the Hebrew Club team because I'd covered their Sunday night games
for the Ledger at the old High Street "Y" prior to World War II and I wanted to
pay them tribute.
So what was the Hebrew
It seems that when the
Globetrotters were still playing serious basketball in1942 and was one of the
top pro teams in the country, they had played the Newark Hebrew Club on Sunday
night, March 22, in the High Street "Y" gym.
The Hebrew Club beat the
What Made That Game Special
What made that game special, if
not historic, was that playing for the Hebrew Club that night was Bernie
Fliegel, one of the greatest Jewish basketball players in the history of the
Four years earlier, when Fliegel
played for City College in New York, he was a first team All-America selection.
In the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of the top professional centers in the
American Basketball League (ABL), which later became the NBA.
Getting back to Fliegel's
experience with the Newark Hebrew Club, the 6 foot 3 inch, two-hundred and five pounder
was a rarity for his size in that era. He had experienced anti-Semitism
from opponents, coaches and fans, but his toughness ultimately gained him their
Why That Sunday Was Eventful
On that eventful Sunday of March
22, 1942, Fliegel scored six points as the Hebrew Club bested Harlem 41-29.
That same afternoon, playing for
the Wilmington Blue Bombers of the ABL, his team defeated Harlem, 55-46.
Two days later, on Tuesday, March
24, 1942, Fliegel played with the Glens Falls Lions, a local basketball team in
that area, and defeated Harlem 55-46. Fliegel was the high scorer in that
game with 17 points.
Three Consecutive Harlem Defeats
With that game, Fliegel played on
three different teams that defeated the Globetrotters in three consecutive games
-- a feat not achieved before or since1.
Fliegel retired from basketball
after serving with the Air Force in World War II, to take up the practice of law
in New York City. He has been retired since 1972 and lives in Naples,
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