Abraham "Abe" Saperstein
Abe (at left) with Tom Hayes
Black Barons were not the franchise
that made owner Abraham Saperstein rich but he was a good owner for the team.
Five foot three Abe Saperstein's prize possession were the tall and lanky Harlem
Globetrotters, a barnstorming basketball team out of New York; their play based
around trickster-like antics. But Saperstein's Black Barons were no failure.
They just failed in becoming the Harlem Globetrotters. The Globetrotters were
a unique basketball team not just competing but playing the game playfully.
They would tease both their opponents and the fans, sending the entertainment
value of the sport skyrocketing.
The Black Barons were more of a serious team. They were challenged in their league by at least six other teams. Piper Davis, the team's star and manager was a stern baseball man who wanted to win. Davis wouldn't tolerate any monkey business on the field even though other teams in the Negro Leagues like the Indianapolis Stars made the diamond a stage. They would perform stunts like running the bases backwards or doing back flips before fielding groundballs, but not the Barons who won with solid fundamental baseball.
Saperstein, one of the richest men in black baseball, earned the respect of his players by paying them on time and in full, a rarity for many teams. Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe sang Saperstein's praises as high as any. "He was the greatest man in the history of Negroes. He got 'em up. I was connected with him for twenty-eight years." Saperstein made more money than the rest of the teams. And Birmingham drew more people than any city in the country. The Negor Leagues didn't make much money, but Abe Saperstein rewarded his players handsomely. He made friends who were good players, and they made him money
One of those players was Piper Davis. Davis was not only a good baseball player but a solid basketball player. Saperstein recruited Davis to play for the Barons in the springs and summer and spent the winter traveling with the Globetrotter. Saperstein was also able to convince the team's catcher to drive the Globetrotter's bus.
Abe Saperstein was a unique owner who transcended the bounds of professional sports. He was the marketed the slam dunk and the behind the back pass, which became fixtures in the NBA. A lot of the fanciness involved in basketball is owed to the Harlem Globetrotters and their owner. But not to be forgotten was how Saperstein made friends and money in the Negro Leagues as owner of the Birmingham Black Barons.