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Born in El Dorado, Arkansas, Tatum played Negro League Baseball before becoming a star basketball player with the Harlem Globetrotters. Goose and Satchel Paige were teammates. Tatum is considered to be the original "clown prince"—a term first applied to seminal Chicago Crusader/Philadelphia Giant Jackie Bethards in 1933—of the Trotters. He wove numerous comic routines into his play, of which many would reach cult status. Some of these routines were based on his stature—at 6'4", it is reported that he had an arm span of about 84 inches (210 cm) and could touch his kneecaps without bending.
He is credited with inventing the hook shot.
Tatum and Marques Haynes, who were both Harlem Globetrotters superstars, formed a barnstorming basketball team of their own: The Fabulous Harlem Magicians. Dempsey Hovland owner of 20th Century Booking Agency was recruited to book the Harlem Magicians' games. Hovland earlier had managed the barnstorming House of David basketball team. Dempsey Hovland was also the creator and owner of The World Famous Texas Cowgirls Basketball Team.
In 1966, Tatum's son, Goose Jr., was killed in a car accident. Soon after, Tatum began drinking heavily which led to a series of hospital visits. He died at his home in El Paso, Texas on January 18, 1967 at the age of 45. The official autopsy stated that he died of natural causes. A veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Tatum was interred in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
- Lederer, Richard (March 1, 1994). "The names of the games". The Telegraph.
- Jeff Zillgitt (August 12, 2011). "Goose Tatum, Globetrotters' clown prince, is bound for Hall". USA Today.
- "Among Our Colored Citizens". Times (Chester, Pennsylvania). 8 December 1933.
- Goose Tatum at Find a Grave
- "Coronation for Basketball’s Clown Prince," by Oscar Robertson, The New York Times, August 6, 2011
- Negro league baseball statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Negro leagues)
- Biography, Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
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