Red Klotz, Perennial Loser to Harlem Globetrotters, Dies at 93

Jewish-Led Team Was Foil to Famed Black Showmen

By JTA

Published July 17, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Louis “Red” Klotz, the driving force behind the team that served as the foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, has died.

Klotz, who with his Globetrotters counterpart, Abe Saperstein, formed a Jewish-run traveling basketball show that has traveled around the world for more than six decades, died Saturday at his home in Margate, N.J. He was 93, and had suffered several strokes the past two years.

He was the founder, owner and coach of the squad best known as the Washington Generals, which has squared off against the Globetrotters in over 100 countries dating back to 1952. The 5-foot-7 Klotz, a standout in college and professionally in the NBA’s forerunner league, also played for the Generals and often was the victim of the Globetrotters renowned hijinks.

Their games, at least in theory, were meant to be competitive — as competitive as a team (Klotz’s) that goes 1-14,000 against an opponent can be. The Generals’ sole victory, in 1971 in Tennessee, was documented and a source of pride for Klotz, although he maintained that an earlier win went unrecorded due to a scoreboard operator’s error.

The Globetrotters “had to play somebody,” Klotz’s biographer, Tim Kelly, told JTA this week.

The teams were independent organizations that traveled and practiced separately, he said.

“You’ve got a 5-7 guy, the son of Jewish immigrants, playing in front of the shah of Iran, three popes, at the bottom of a drained pool and in bull rings,” said Kelly, whose biography, titled “The Legend of Red Klotz: How Basketball’s Loss Leader Won Over the World – 14,000 Times,” was published last year. To the end, he added, Klotz “was very, very aware of [the Generals’] role as ambassadors.”

A star point guard at South Philadelphia High School and Villanova University, Klotz joined the largely Jewish professional club known as the SPHAs (for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), which was owned and coached by fellow SPHS alumnus Eddie Gottlieb.

Klotz would go on to play for the Baltimore Bullets when it won the 1948-49 championship of the Basketball Association of America, defeating Gottlieb’s Philadelphia Warriors. A few months later, the league merged into what is now the National Basketball Association.

Klotz served as a player-coach the next season for the Cumberland (Md.) Dukes of the All-American Professional Basketball League. Dukes management scheduled an exhibition game against the Globetrotters.

“The Trotters expected to come in there and walk all over us,” Klotz said in the Kelly book. “I told our guys to make them respect you, and they responded.”

Cumberland took the Globetrotters to overtime before losing, but Saperstein was impressed. He invited Klotz to join a traveling team playing against the Globetrotters on an exhibition tour of Latin America. That eventually led to Klotz’s founding of his team.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.