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I let Gardnar hold the cup
I’m a little embarrassed to write about my tennis. In my late forties I stopped playing golf and played a little tennis when I was on vacation at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. I played with the pros there, Marse Fink and Sol Goldman. I didn’t play all year round, just two or three weeks a year. It was fun. Marse and Sol used to give me, and the bum they stuck me with, big handicaps and they beat us almost all the time. We played for “tickers,” $50 (that was all Marse’s heart could handle according to Sol). One day they paid me an unusual compliment. They said I was ranked third on the International Sucker List (behind a Frenchman in Monte Carlo and a Greek in Philadelphia). I didn’t let this go to my head.
My game improved a bit. Of course, all my strokes were terrible because I couldn’t copy what others did. My forehand is just a chop shot and my backhand is not believable. I turn my wrist around and use the opposite side of the racket—I wasn’t trying to be different, I thought I was copying others.
I was reasonably athletic and played sufficiently well to enjoy myself. One year Marse suggested that I play in New York when I got back, play all year round. I took his advice, and joined a club, and played about an hour a day. I met Tony Vincent who had been a great player, ranked in the first twenty in the world when he was young. Tony gave me the only good lesson I can remember. He told me, when at net, to move my left leg forward when the ball was coming to my forehand, and my right leg forward when the ball was coming to my backhand. That way I would get the ball sooner, and when it was higher over the net. This helped me become a fairly decent net player.
When I was fifty-six, I met Gardnar Mulloy in Miami. We had a match for money, as usual, against another pro and a bum like me. I don’t remember who won the match, but I remember something else. There was a large black bug crawling on our court and Gardnar ran over to it and I yelled, “Don’t step on it, Gar.” Gar said, “I wasn’t going to,” and picked the bug up with his handkerchief and took it over to a grassy spot where the bug was happy. I was surprised, and gave Gardnar a good mark. Later I learned that he had a Pet Rescue Organization.
A few years later, when I was sixty-one, I bribed Gardnar, by contributing to the Pet Rescue Organization, to play with me in the National Doubles Lawn Tennis Championship, for sixties-and-over, at the Rockaway Hunt Club. To my surprise we got to the semifinals. When I was sixty-two, to my amazement, we won it. Ten years later, Gardnar and his wife, Madeleine, and I went to Australia, and Gar and I won the World’s Doubles Lawn Tennis Championship for seventies-and-over. I went into that event hoping to do well, my purpose being to show that Dilantin (the subject of A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked) was helpful with stamina and reflexes. I didn’t expect to win the tournament. When I tell friends that Dilantin won this tournament, they say, “But you can do anything you set your mind to.” I have a stock answer. I say, “Next year I’m going to take up Sumo wrestling.”
My good friend Eddie Dibbs, who was ranked in the first five in the world for five years, and was second to Jimmy Connors in the United States, said my winning the World’s Double Tennis Championship for seventies-and-over shouldn’t just be in Ripley’s, it should be on the first page of Ripley’s.
I hope it doesn’t seem like bragging but I think I’m the worst tennis player ever to win a World’s Championship—thank you, Gardnar.
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