Clyde PDerek Sandbothe and Chris Mounts cook with Clyde in theirhome in Jefferson City. Clyde sometimes takes them to his home to enjoy the peaceful countryside and his wife Carolyn’s cooking.
The whistled version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” conjures images of the Harlem Globetrotters and their sassy star Meadowlark Lemon, one of the most recognizable names in sports entertainment. Missouri’s Clyde Patterson could have been as well known. As one of the New York Nationals, the team that opposed the Globetrotters in every game, Clyde pulled hijinks on the court as slick as the Globetrotters. Often, he gave Meadowlark and his teammates a run for their money—as in up to 60 points a game!
Those astonishing points ticked off the Globetrotters, and on occasion they howled to their coach who howled to the Nationals’ coach who told Clyde to tone it down. “No sir,” said the six-foot-seven-inch center. “I’m on a roll; deal with it.”
Clyde grinned as he told this story from the kitchen table in his rural home 19 miles outside of Jefferson City. It’s one of many sagas from his career in the 1960s, when he traveled the globe playing hoops in packed arenas with the Globetrotters.
Established in 1926 in Chicago and still playing today, the Globetrotters exhibit skillful handling of one or more basketballs and making unusual, difficult shots. Players on the opposing New York Nationals team could do the very same tricks and stunts, yet the Nationals had to lose every game as part of the theater of the show. The Harlem Globetrotters and the New York Nationals were owned by the same man, and the plays were choreographed to reap the most laughs and gasps from the crowds. As boys will be boys, on-court shenanigans between the two teams popped up now and then.
“For example, the Globetrotters would signal each other when a trick was coming up,” Clyde says.
“We knew those signals, of course, and once in a while our guys would interfere with the trick before the Globetrotters could perform it—and that really got their goat. They’d get upset, but since we were all friends, we’d just laugh about it later.”
“There were shoving and pushing matches during games from time to time,” Clyde admits. “And no, they weren’t choreographed. As revenge, the Globetrotters would sometimes drop the signals, go into an unplanned routine, and our guys were kind of left standing there looking silly,” he says. “Then we’d do something along the same lines till it started grating on nerves, and we’d have to regroup and get the show back on the road.”
J.C. Gibson was one of the biggest Globetrotters, at six-foot-nine inches and 260 pounds.
“Sometimes, during fast action, he’d run over our players, so we fouled him to get attention,” Clyde says.
“That didn’t make the man happy. J.C. also wasn’t happy the time I yanked his shorts down around his ankles on court, to pay back for something, and there he was in his jock strap,” Clyde adds as he chuckles.
Yet off they went in a good-natured pack, Globetrotters, Nationals, referees, halftime entertainers such as champion ping-pong players, coaches, and various other staff to play seven days a week. The entourage toured Spain, Africa, Australia, assorted other nations, and all fifty states.
“I remember when we were in Hawaii for several days and flew in charter planes to various islands for games,” Clyde says.
“One night it was real stormy, a lot of turbulence, and we bounced up and down like crazy. The captain, of course, knew who was sitting in the back. When we finally landed, he got on the loudspeaker and said, ‘I can dribble, too!’ ”
Clyde was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His brother George, who played for the Nationals when Wilt Chamberlain was a Globetrotter and later with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA, suggested to Clyde that he fly to Los Angeles to try out for the Nationals. Clyde had been a knockout high-school, college, and U.S. Army basketball player, so he was immediately recruited for the New York Nationals. When fun on the courts and nearly nonstop travel was finally enough, Clyde quit the team to turn his attention to people in need. These days, the tall, lean ex-basketball professional counsels and supervises young men with mental and physical handicaps at a Jefferson City residential care home.
In the past, Clyde has counseled convicted juveniles. He taught young lawbreakers a course in “conflict management and decision making.” The course involved more than classroom work; Clyde took his charges to an outdoor boot camp where they rock climbed, rappelled, canoed, and did other activities designed to both challenge and inspire them. Clyde recently built a front porch for a nearby neighbor so the family could have a place to relax. Working with wood is another passion of Clyde’s. He also creates wooden chimes and decorative wooden boxes. Clyde ended up in central Missouri when he first traveled here to help a friend open a restaurant. That’s where he met his wife, Carolyn.
“The minute I saw Carolyn, I knew I would ask her to marry me,” Clyde says, and he moved here in 1987.
He recalled an occasion when he took Carolyn dancing on a date. Worth noting is that Carolyn, upbeat and good-humored, stands nineteen inches shorter than Clyde. As he led her onto the dance floor that evening he said, “I hope you don’t think we can dance cheek to cheek.” Carolyn replied instantly, “Only if we dance back to back bent over!” Clyde still laughs at that. They married in 1991. The list of activities in which Clyde engages goes on. He and Carolyn attend Bible study at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Jefferson City. At the city’s Little Theatre, Clyde took on the lead role in Doc Holiday.
“My life is full, what with working with the boys, my hobbies, hanging out with Carolyn,” Clyde says.
“What more can a man want?”