Jenkins, Sherman. Ted Strong Jr.: The Untold Story of an Original Harlem Globetrotter and Negro Leagues All—Star. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016. Pp. 204. Notes, bibliography, index. Pp. 204. $40.00 hardback. $38.00 eBook.
Reviewed by Leslie Heaphy
Author Sherman Jenkins straightforwardly presents the story of Ted Strong Jr., following chronologically his career and life. He aims to rescue Strong’s significance, giving new life to the story of an athlete most have never heard of. He also seeks to separate Ted Strong Jr.’s story from that of his father, Ted Strong Sr., a difficult task. Jenkins successfully adds to the literature of the Negro Leagues and sport history with this story. Strong’s life paralleled many other events in American history and Jenkins weaves these events into the story to make it a more powerful read.
The book begins with the story of Ted Strong Sr. Jenkins gives us the background to set the stage for the environment in which Ted Jr. grows up. Strong Jr. got his start playing basketball in the neighborhood before advancing to the Black Panthers and the Savoy Five. His early training, along with his father’s help, landed him on the Harlem Globetrotters, where he played for the rest of his career. He played alongside more well-known names such as Marques Haynes and Goose Tatum. One of the things Jenkins attempts to do throughout his book is to show that Strong was a stellar athlete who deserved more recognition than he ever got while he was playing.
As a player in the Negro Leagues, Strong spent much of his career with the Kansas City, playing for the Monarchs during some of their most successful years. He made the All-Star team more than once and enjoyed some success in the East-West Classic. Jenkins includes many often hard to come by statistics from Strong’s playing days, one of the strengths of the book.
Jenkins alternates chapters focusing on Strong’s baseball and basketball careers, including interesting anecdotes about Strong’s live off the field and court. As a Harlem Globetrotter, Strong was constantly on the road, which took a toll on his first marriage. In regard to his baseball career, Strong also spent time south of the border, although his search for opportunities to play and win that aroused the ire of the Negro Leagues.
Jenkins gives his readers lots of details about Strong’s life and career through his use of a variety of sources. He relies heavily on newspapers, as well as interviews with various members of the Strong family. The author has the advantage of having grown up knowing some of the Strong children, allowing him access her otherwise would not have gotten. Jenkins supplements these interviews with primary and secondary sources, which are provided in the notes and bibliography at the end of the book. Sources throughout the text are only cited when there are direct quotes, an inconvenience for scholars desiring to follow any research details. However, in the appendix, readers are treated to an extensive record of Strong’s Negro Leagues statistics, as provided by Noirtech Research. This data is another strength of the book.
Jenkins journey to complete this book was long but worth the wait. The book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone who is interested in learning more about the Negro Leagues and basketball history.
Dr. Leslie Heaphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Kent State University. An admitted New York Mets fan, Dr. Heaphy has published several works on women in baseball and on the Negro leagues.