Everything in basketball has an origin. From the naming of positions, how the game is played. EVERYTHING. So where did "Olsons" Red Heads develop the world famous comedic routines? Well for all that you have to go back to 1939. and a 6'4" woman named Gene " Careless" Love.
Born in Louisiana. She was the oldest of 4 children. Her entire family was tall with all of the men reaching 6'4" or taller. Starting off playing in high school at Ola-Stanford High School and although they had an indoor gym the girls team would always have to play outside due to the fact the boys team used the indoor gym. While in college she and her friends would see ads for the Red Heads. Although they could not afford the .10 cents to attend a game. They wrote Olson hoping to get a chance to play basketball and travel the states doing what they love requesting an opportunity to join the team.
Much to their surprise he showed up to a game and was impressed by Love and decided to ask her dad if she could join the team. Afterward it was off to Monroe where she got a uniform and pictures. He would also send money for her to travel to Cassville, Mo. to join the team.
The schedule was grueling. Playing 7 days a week and sometimes 2 games on Sundays for 6 months out of the year, but the $250 monthly salary made it worth it. Not a big fan of the name Genevive she went by the name Gene. Also at the time Leta Horne's "Careless love" was popular. So, Gene "Careless" Love was born for life on the road. Before games she would learn things about opponents and when the tune "Careless Love" would play during the game she would begin to play around with the other team and the referee. She would often put a ton of lipstick on and any short, balding referee recieved a big kiss on the forehead before the game. The opposing Center would often get a kiss on the cheek.
Gene would become known as a player who loved to entertain the crowd. Her teammate, the 5'1" Allegra "Stubby" Winters, would dribble the ball through her legs. The men chasing Stubby would stop in their tracks, and Stubby would come out the other side for the easy layup. Another play Gene and Stubby would make famous is the "piggyback play" where Stubby would climb on Gene's back and a teammate would pass the ball for an easier shot. She was often known to take the hand of the opposing center during the game and lead him to the water cooler in a flirtatious manner while his teammates were left to scramble trying to defend the other players. Things like these would become the beginnings of the comedic routines of barnstorming teams for years to come.
Her stories and experiences would go on and on. and Although the team would come off the road from 1942-1945 she would rejoin the team and continue to play till 1949. After which she could be seen in random pictures of the Famous Red Heads and although she would never play for the team she would be featured on promotional pictures for a new team starting up the " Texas Cowgirls"
Stories like this can be found in Barnstorming America written by John Molina.
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