A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 24, 2005
Rucker basketball tournament ("each one teach one")
The Rucker basketball tournament in Harlem was conceived in the 1940s and 1950s by Holcombe Rucker, a parks department worker who died of cancer in 1965 at age 38. His motto was "each one teach one" - a slogan that had been used in literacy campaigns in the 1920s.

Asphalt Gods
Published By: Doubleday Publishing

The real basketball deal—the inside story of Harlem's legendary tournament and the pros and playground legends who have made it world famous.

Earl "The Goat" Manigault. Herman "Helicopter" Knowings. Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond. Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland. These and dozens of other colorfully nicknamed men are the "Asphalt Gods," whose astounding exploits in the Rucker Tournament, often against multimillionaire NBA superstars, have made them playground divinity. First established in the 1950s by Holcombe Rucker, a New York City Parks Department employee, the tournament has grown to become a Harlem institution, an annual summer event of major proportions. On that fabled patch of concrete, unknown players have been lighting it up for decades as they express basketball as a freestyle art among their peers and against such pro immortals as Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain. X's and O's are exchanged for oohs and aahs in one of the great examples of street theater to be found in urban America.

Asphalt Gods is a streetwise, supremely entertaining oral history of a tournament that has influenced everything from NBA playing style to hip-hop culture. Now, legends transmitted by word of mouth find a home and the achievements of basketball's greatest unknowns a permanent place in the game's record.

9 February 1923, Lincoln (NE) Star, pg. 4, col. 3:
So stated Mrs. E. B. Penny, of Fullerton, president of the Federation of Women's clubs. Mrs. Penny was assigned the subject of "Nebraska First in Education" and adapted herself well to the thought in mind. "Illiteracy must be wiped out in the United States by 1930," she declared, introducing the club slogan, "each one teach one."

17 January 1926, Washington Post, "Activities of the Women's Clubs" by Vylla Poe WIlson, pg. S6:

Mrs. Charles Long, chairman of the committee on illiteracy of the general federation, has sent out a call to the clubwomen to "each one teach one" or, at least, to see that one illiterate is taught, and thus make possible the goal of the federation, in harmony with other great national organizations of civic, patriotic and educational nature, to make true the slogan, "No Illiteracy in 1930."

24 September 1944, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. D1:
With the awakening neighborly interest in the Latin American countries of this hemisphere, we are hearing much these days about the "each one teach one" movement under way in regions where illiteracy is a major problem.

27 July 1972, New York Times, pg. 31 ad:
Games at Rucker
Playground are more than that.
BOB McCULLOUGH(...): "In 1946, when a young black teacher named Holcombe Rucker first tried to build a summer basketball program for the kids of Harlem, he began with four teams and one referee - himself. But soon the Rucker Tournament had become an important athletic and even social event in our community. There were junior high, high school, college and pro divisions, plus games against the best players from Philadelphia. Today, the Harlem Professional Basketball League (an outgrowth of Rucker's pro division) has 12 teams and draws crowds that often exceed 5,000."

1 April 1973, New York Times, pg. 252:
In the Schoolyard, Rucker Means More Than Fun

Just mention the name "Rucker" now and the picture that comes to mind are those free weekend basketball extravaganzas during the summer before overflow crowds in that schoolyard opposite the Polo Grounds houses on 155th Street and Eighth Avenue in Harlem.
All of that has been fine with Bob McCullough, the commissioner of the Harlem Professionals, Inc., which sponsors the tournament that was inspired by Holcombe Rucker, a black teacher and recreation department worker who died of cancer in 1965 at the age of 38. But basketball isn't what the name "Rucker" is all about in Harlem.

"When Rucker was alive he had a motto, 'each one, teach one,' and that's what we're trying to get together now," said McCullough, who was one of the more than 700 black youngsters Rucker reached through Harlem basketball and who was deeply touched by the man.

21 August 1995, New York Times, "Carrying On an Asphalt Legacy" by Nunyo DeMasio, pg. C9:
In 1950, a Harlem teacher started a basketball tournament to help impoverished youngsters in the neighborhood pursue college careers. That endeavor by the late Holcombe L. Rucker became the most storied summer basketball league ever.
But most of all, they rememberd Holcombe Rucker, who died of cancer in 1965 at age 38.

Posted by Barry Popik
Sports/Games • (1) Comments • Friday, June 24, 2005 • Permalink