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
So what was the Hebrew Club-Globetrotter connection?
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 Globetrotters 41-29.
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 game.
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, Florida.