William Dumpson, 84, played in Negro League and for Globetrotters
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Hank Aaron was his roommate. Satchel Paige and Buck Leonard were his teammates. Wilt Chamberlain once visited his home in Westbury.
William Dumpson, whose athletic career started at Port Washington High School in the 1940s and turned into a pro career in Negro League baseball and the Harlem Globetrotters, shared the same galaxy as the budding stars of his time. He also endured some of the same indignities experienced by African-Americans in the decades before integration.
Dumpson died Tuesday at age 84 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, his son Darin said. He had been in failing health after battling many medical issues.
Dumpson, who led Port Washington High School to a then-record 35-game winning streak during the 1946-47 seasons and a Long Island title, was the first black player named to what was then called the All-Newsday basketball team. He was selected in his junior and senior years.
After graduating in 1947, Dumpson went to college at South Carolina State, his son said. In the spring of his freshman year, the Negro League Homestead Grays, with future Hall of Famer Leonard, came to town. Dumpson, pitching for a local team, reportedly struck out 17. Said his son, "He left on the bus with them that night."
In the next three years, Dumpson played with several Negro League teams, including the Indianapolis Clowns, for whom Aaron played at the time. A Braves spokesman said Aaron recalls rooming with Dumpson. Dumpson also was on the roster for the Philadelphia Stars, a team that included Paige.
Even though Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in 1947, Major League Baseball was not a given destination for black players no matter how good they were. Johnny Wilson, who played with the Globetrotters during the same time as Dumpson, also played in the Negro League. "St. Louis had a tryout camp," he said of the Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles). "I went to bat 11 times, had nine hits, four home runs, three triples and two doubles. They never even asked me my name."
A spokesman for the Globetrotters said Dumpson played for the organization in the 1953 and '54 seasons. Former Port Washington teammate Louis Zwirlein saw him play as a Globetrotter. "Because he had so many friends there, they let him be the star. He scored about 30 points," Zwirlein recalled. "He let one go from midcourt, then went under the basket and threw it in."
Dumpson already had amazed his high school teammates years earlier by being the only player who could dunk. "He did it in practice. It had not yet become a part of games," teammate Jimmy Dykes said. "We weren't even aware of dunking. When we played in the Jamaica Armory, he hit his head on the bottom of the backboard jumping after a rebound. He could put his elbow up on the rim."
Another teammate, John Fasano -- who won Newsday's Thorp Award in 1946 as the top football player in Nassau -- said the nearly 6-2 Dumpson had a "wingspan of about 8 feet," and no one was surprised when they later learned that Dumpson played professionally.
Dumpson's son said his father told him that when he was with the Globetrotters, he once spent a night in jail -- but not because he had done anything wrong. "There was a picture of him sitting with his Globetrotters jersey on, juggling basketballs," he said. "If you could not find a place to stay, then you had to stay someplace like a jail." That moment became part of a PBS special on the Globetrotters.
But Dumpson never lamented those times, his son said. "As he always said, 'I don't have time to worry about things like that.' He was trying to support a family."
Dumpson played on other Globetrotter-inspired teams when his Globetrotter career ended. In the 1960s, he formed a local basketball team -- the Court Jesters -- that toured Long Island playing high school faculties. His son said he insisted on it being racially mixed and gave part of the proceeds to a scholarship fund for underprivileged athletes.
"When he went off to college, he only had a pair of pants and a pair of shoes," his son said. "He didn't want any kid going off to school without having a footlocker full of clothes."
Dumpson later became the director of an athletic program for the Nassau County Corrections Center. He occasionally would play basketball with the younger inmates. "He could still outplay any one of them," former colleague Eric Bauman recalled. "They would get a kick of Bill. He still had his moves from being a Globetrotter.''
Dumpson worked for the county until 1988. He then joined his family in Orangeburg, taking some Long Island memories with him.
In 1971, Chamberlain came to the family's house. He knew Dumpson as a former Globetrotter who had frequented a jazz club in Harlem that was partially owned by the NBA star. "My mother came up to his waist," Darin Dumpson said of the 7-1 Chamberlain.
Dumpson also is survived by sons Raymond, Billy, Claude and William; daughters Brenda Dumpson, Jean Dumpson and Cheryl Gumbs, and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Claudia. His funeral will be held Monday in Orangeburg.