Tennis and America, Thank You

Tennis and America, Thank You

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Jack Kramer: "Freddie, nobody wants us." 1966 In 1966, when I had the Thirty-Fourth Street armory, Jack Kramer, the world famous player and promoter, approached me and asked me to put up fifteen thousand dollars in prize money for a tournament he wanted to organize early in 1967. He had eight professionals set to go but no place to host the tournament and no prize money to offer. "Freddie, nobody wants us," Kramer said. "Madison Square Garden does not want us. White Plains does not want us." I could not believe that a great and famous player like Jack Kramer was coming to me, an unknown immigrant, to ask if I would be interested in promoting the tournament. I thought about it for a little less than a minute, knew instantly that we could accommodate nearly four thousand people in the armory, and determined that I would make it happen. A few days later, I received a letter of confirmation from his manager, Mr. Wills. The players he was proposing were the most famous names in the game. We just needed to come up with the prize money. Since we did not have anyone who could sponsor us, I put up five thousand dollars myself and asked two of my friends-Lieberman, vice president of a gas company, and Zdenek Capek, the engineer friend who helped me design the roll-up mats for the armory-to invest five thousand dollars each. I can still name the singles draw from the top down: Rod Laver, Fred Stolle, Dennis Ralston, Butch Buchholz, Pancho Gonzalez, Pierre Barthes, Mike Davis, Andres Gimeno, Pancho Segura, and Cliff Drysdale. No one was willing to underwrite the event.