A few Globetrotters have had Arkansas connections.
There’s former Trojan Tom Brown, for instance, who had the highest points-per-game average in UALR history. Brown’s 25.2 clip in 1975-76 helped propel him into a Globetrotters career at the height of the Disco Age. Brown rocked long braided hair, which earned him the nickname “Cochise” in honor of the famed Apache warrior chief.
But by far the most accomplished Arkified Globetrotters are Reece “Goose” Tatum and Hubert “Geese” Ausbie. None other than Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson has called Tatum the “most important player on the most popular team in the history of basketball” who “created Globetrotters basketball as we know it today.” The six-foot-four El Dorado native, known for comic walk, seven-foot-wide arm span and the hook shot he’s said to have invented, became a role model for thousands of young players in the late 1940s after helping topple the world champion Minneapolis Lakers in two exhibition games.
Ausbie, 17 years Tatum’s junior, was one of them.
Like Tatum, Ausbie excelled at basketball and baseball in his teenage years. He grew to be around Tatum’s same height and build, and started calling himself “Goose” in honor of Tatum while dominating high school basketball in Crescent, Okla. Meanwhile, in 1954, Tatum quit the Globetrotters to start his own touring teams. On a swing through Oklahoma City in 1956, Tatum caught wind of this younger “Goose” who regularly scored 40 points a game and decided to visit him after a tournament game there. Tatum found Ausbie in the dressing room and shook his hand. “It was a thrill to see him, because I had seen him in a lot of film and news reels,” Ausbie recalls.
Soon afterward, Ausbie left Oklahoma to attend Little Rock’s Philander Smith College, where his brother had landed a choir scholarship. Ausbie chose Philander despite more than 200 athletic scholarship offers from major colleges. By his senior year, he was scoring more points than Wilt Chamberlin and Jerry West.
Ausbie could have played for the Chicago Cubs and likely Los Angeles Lakers, but instead chose a 24-year career with the Globetrotters. He doesn’t have any regrets, although he had to change his nickname to “Geese” to avoid confusion with the other“Clown Prince of Basketball” from Arkansas. Ausbie toured more than 100 nations, and played in front of the queen of England and three different popes.
One especially vivid early career memory is the second – and last – time he met his role model. Tatum reintroduced himself to Ausbie at a game in Louisville, Kentucky, and called him early the next morning. “He said ‘You did a good job, young man. Keep up the good work.’ I said ‘Thank you, sir.’ About two or three months later he passed away.”
Tatum died, apparently of a heart attack, in 1967, according to a New York Times article by Oscar Robertson [who, coincidentally, was one of only two players (with Elgin Baylor) to score more than Ausbie in his senior year.
Ausbie, who lives in central Little Rock, no longer crisscrosses the globe.
He’s still very much on the go, however – trying to find sponsors to help fund Philander Smith’s athletic department, attending Greater Archview Baptist Church and working with various non-profit organizations in Arkansas and other states.
He’s especially proud of Drug-Free Youth Program & Traveling Museum Showcase (a collection of Globetrotter-related memorabilia), which he’s presented to hundreds of students of all grade levels.
But when the Globetrotters come to town, he usually finds time to slow down and watch the new guys. This Friday will be no different. “I try to go out there and meet them, see how they’re doing and try to tell them to keep up the good work we started, you know. All the work that Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Curly [Neal] started, they should keep it up.”
No one accuses Goose Tatum of goofing when he decided to steer away from baseball to focus on his basketball shenanigans.