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Towson University

William Harris
By Benjamin Hughes
For BaltimoreStories.com

With his turquoise blue trucker hat canted to the left side, he was relaxing in the gym office at the high school. William Harris, who works with the “old-timers” league, takes control of the operation when the games move indoors after school starts for the year.

Until the league starts on November 20, a few dozen players are playing pickup games at Carver Vocational High School. The cost is $2 to play all morning and there two full court games being run simultaneously. The young players run the court on the far end and veterans run and gun on the near court. Players line the courtside bleachers waiting for their time to play. One small part of the bleachers near the office is filled with men not wearing their high tops or shorts. Instead some have gray hair, canes and bifocals.

“All the guys on the bleachers were there when we started,” said Harris.

Back in the 1950s, eight players gave $1 and formed a basketball league at Harrison Brown Park. The Cloverdale courts have become a basketball landmark because of those men. Dennis Talbot, James Davis, Thaddeus Perry, Boysie Hux, Leonard Covington, David Tate, Lorenzo “Mike” Plater and William Harris wanted a another reason to play basketball and also a way to help their community.

On a piece of paper Harris is keeping track of the money people are giving him to play in his league. This was the last day for players to turn in the money for the league that meets every Friday and Saturday for the “unlimited” league. On Sunday is for the 35 and over league at the vocational school in Baltimore which they’ve been using for over 20 years now.

Harris says that players “come to play basketball and respect each other.”

It is not all about basketball when they get together. Still his league is getting little to no help from the city. He thinks it is because people probably don’t know what is going on. The media is not going to focus on basketball league that is keeping kids and adults off the street. Instead they lead the news with another murder.

“Listen to WBAL and you’ll never hear them saying positive stuff,” Harris said.

He says this makes the city and black people look bad. He thinks there is only around 2 percent making the city look bad. Harris travels around and sees a city of homeowners with jobs, not drug dealers and murderers.

Harris moved from Norfolk, Va. to East Baltimore to live with his father when he was 19. Harris did shipping and packing for Acme Pad Co. and Dixie Umbrella before learning carpentry at Triangle Manufacturing while working with the maintenance man, Guy Schold. When he was 24, he decided to he had enough experience to work for himself. He paid $24 for his contractor’s license and he was self-employed.

Still Harris found time for basketball. Even when he got married and had kids he didn’t catch too much grief for his wife about playing all the time.

“I was playing ball when she met me,” Harris said. “She knew that I loved the game.”

Harris has been a widower for 32 years now but still has nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren around the city.

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