They called him “Showboat,” the man from the Motor City of Detroit. Except Bob Hall, over a 27-year tenure with the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters, never really got a chance to his enjoy his city.
Hall spent the majority of his years trooping around the world. You name it, he’s been there. Hall, along with the team of original players organized by Abe Saperstein, introduced basketball to the world, and we mean the world!
By Hall’s count, he has entertained millions of people on virtually every continent and in cities throughout America.
Only Hall’s America never truly appreciated the team once they left the court. “We would come back to the hotel after our performance and the town would be locked down,” said Hall. “A lot of times, we didn’t eat because the stores or restaurants that were open refused to serve us.”
Hall and his teammates hotfooted around the country and world, discovering a way of life that few today would believe. Sure, there were the good times and good people who kept Hall on the move. Name a city and place in the world and you can bet the Globetrotters performed there. “A lot of the people didn’t like basketball, but they enjoyed watching our routines.”
Once they hopped off planes, riding and living on a bus was a way of life for the Trotters. “We would have a team in South America, a team in Europe and, often, a team traveling in the states. Flying in and out of Europe was often scary.
“One particular incident occurred while the team was on their way to Paris coming from Germany in one of those military planes that didn’t have doors. They had rope across the door. Goose (Tatum) had the mic over his head. ‘All the ball players on the plane, the motor is on fire!’ he screamed into the mic. ‘We’re going to have jump out the plane!’ he screamed. We thought it was B.S.,” said Hall.
“Everybody had parachutes on and they took us off the plane, put out the fire, fixed the plane and we got back on and continued to Paris. That was the worst one that I can remember. The motor was on fire and the plane was burning,” said Hall.
“He was a tough guy,” recalled Carl Green, who played with Hall. “He didn’t bother nobody, but he didn’t take stuff from anybody.”
One legendary guy was also on the burning plane. “Jesse Owens,” said Hall. “We had played at the stadium there in Berlin and 75,000 people were inside,” he remembered. Hall also recalled that “our government sponsored that trip.”
Next up, Hall remembers Abe Saperstein.