Athletics & Recreation
The Clark Twins
Having four sets of twins in one family was enough to put Harvey and Gertrude Aker Clark and their Andrews, Indiana, clan on the map as a curiosity. But that was just a start.
Three sets of boys and one set of girls comprised eight of the family's 12 children. Bob and Ross were the oldest set of twins, born in 1922. Dale and Don arrived in 1924, then Jim and Joe in 1925. The girls, Mildred and Margaret, were the youngest twins, born in 1930.With the children dressed in identical striped overalls, the Clarks would caravan their brood to twins conventions across the country, regularly earning honors as the family with the most sets of twins. That early fame was only a prelude to what was coming for The Clark Twins.
All the Clark boys played high school basketball. Four of them served in military in World War II. When they returned to Huntington County, each played on area semipro basketball teams. Eventually, they decided to form their own squad. Initially, the girls played a bit of basketball themselves, but became better known for their singing before games and at halftime.
Through the 1940s, the Clark Twins barnstormed Indiana and the rest of the Midwest, becoming a sought-after attraction. They were more than a novelty. In one stretch, they won 40 of 50 games.
The twins were invited to the National Family Basketball Tournament, an annual four-day event held in Wilson, N.C., between Christmas and New Years. In 1947, the Clark Twins won the tournament, beating the Roberts family of Akron, Ohio. Life Magazine was there for a story on the event. The article ran in the January 19, 1948 edition, which enhanced the twins' fame. The Clark Twins returned a year later and defended their tournament title, beating the Hartley family of High Point, N.C.
Now a national attraction, the Clark Twins crossed the country playing basketball. From November through March of 1950 into 1951, they played 94 games in 33 states. The Life Magazine article had caught the attention of Abe Saperstein, who managed the famous Harlem Globetrotters. Saperstein gave the Clark Twins a tryout, and then signed them to be one of the two teams that traveled and played against the famed showmen.In 1951, the teams barnstormed through Europe, with the Clark Twins facing the Globetrotters in more than 100 games across 14 countries. On August 22, 1951, the tour reached Berlin, where they performed in front of more than 75,000 German fans at the Berlin Olympic Stadium. The game set a basketball attendance record that stood until 2010 when Kentucky defeated Michigan State in a college basketball game at Ford Field in Detroit.
With the oldest of the twins reaching their 30s and most already married and starting their own families, the pull of a more settled domestic life took over. After four years of a near non-stop schedule, the Clark Twins turned down the opportunity of going on an expanded world tour with the Globetrotters. They ended their basketball career and returned home.