Searching For Sandy

About a week ago I went to Vero Beach, Fla. for a tennis outing.  My friend, Yar, had arranged a trip for a half-dozen members of my tennis club (Knickerbocker Field Club) to have three days of unrelenting tennis to be played at a local club.  When I say “arranged”, I mean Yar had taken care of everything– flights, hotel, car rental, restaurants. Everything.  The only decision I had to make the entire time I was away was whether or not I felt secure enough to wear that plush white terry cloth robe hanging in the closet of my hotel room.sandy

As soon as I heard we were going to Vero Beach, I was transported to a time in my childhood when that town was most famous for being the spring training facility of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Just hearing the name had my head swimming with names like, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo and of course, the pride of the Jews, Sandy Koufax.

Although the Dodgers have long abandoned Vero, I had the faintest of recollections that Koufax still maintained a home there.  Even though he is baseball’s equivalent of J. D Salinger in terms of reclusiveness, I still held out hope for a sighting.  So, for my entire stay I kept one eye out hoping to catch a glimpse of the Semitic Southpaw.

We had an early flight to Florida and were able to be on the courts by mid afternoon.  After a few hours, we all headed to a bar by the water, ostensibly to watch the sunset. As I remember, the sunset was nice enough,  but what really stands out for me is that when someone bought a round of drinks for us all, the tab was $15.  That’s right, six cocktails for fifteen dollars! I used to think that people retired to Florida for the weather; now, I understand that it’s more likely that the cheap liquor is the draw.  Knowing what I know now, I probably could have ret…, retir…retired a few years earlier.

I’ve neglected to mention that an important part of this trip was an arrangement Yar had made for us to have a day of instruction with the club pro, who happened to be Roscoe Tanner. In his heyday (the 1970’s), Roscoe had been the 4th ranked player in the world. But he was (and is) most well-known for having the best and fastest serve of his era.  With that in mind, we all made a point of getting a serving lesson from Roscoe.  After the instruction, Yar took videos on his iPad to document our new-found serving prowess.  Don’t ask.  Can you remember how shocked and disappointed you were the first time you heard yourself on audio tape? How you couldn’t believe how dorky you actually sounded.  Well, this was a hundred times worse.  What am I saying…more like a thousand times worse. So much for self-improvement.

I never did have any Sandy sightings.  Which might be just as well.  He’s in his seventies, and the image I have of him as a young man is certainly a far cry from what he must look like now.  Maybe, some times it’s best to hold on to a vision you have in your head rather that have it reality tested.  Of course, I should have thought of that before I looked at Yar’s movie of my service motion.   Oh well, maybe my backhand is more photogenic.

A still life of tennis players...and a beer.

A still life of tennis players…and a beer.

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10 Responses to “Searching For Sandy”

  1. Buzz Says:

    What can I say? I just love it! It’s great to have friends like that. Time to smell the roses eh? Enjoy.

  2. myron Says:

    I hope Kofax today looks better then the guys in the picture. Oops, one of them is ME.

  3. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    So it takes getting your photo on the blog to post a comment. Jeez!
    By the way, which one are you?

  4. Allan Blackman Says:

    I have a picture of Sandy and me taken when I was 12 in front of his dad’s house on 48th street in Boro Park, a few blocks from Kootchie’s house. His dad told my dad when Sandy was a “bonus baby”, that he wished he would give up baseball and continue his studies to be an architect. Had he been set back to Montreal after his two years, he would have done that. His wild fastball became controlled and the rest is history. Memories are made of this.

    • iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

      is this going to be one of those stories where a half million people claim to have been at the polo grounds when bobby thompson hit his home run in 1951? anyway…i’m sure somewhere along the way, i’ve heard that story and seen that photo. there are about 4 people in the world who know who “kootchie’ is. and by the way…which one are you?

  5. Jackie Weisberg Says:

    First off, Sandy still looks good; as you likely know, he is also friends with Fred Wilpon and visits the Mets to give them some tips during Spring training. Yes, I know they need more than a few tips from Sandy, but let’s leave it at that. Although I wasn’t at the Polo Grounds when the shot was heard round the world, I have very vivid memories of that homer. My dad, who was eating some lunch off of a plate, standing and watching the game on the tube, threw the plate up in the air, leaving some fish on the ceiling. I ran out to scream with happiness with David Kessler, the only other Giant fan on the block; my brother ran around the block to bang down the door of his bf Lenny’s house (a die hard Dodger fan) who had locked himself in the bathroom, crying, “I KNEW he shouldn’t have brought Branca in!!!”, while his mother was pleading with him to stop crying and come out. “Ill buy you new skates! she said.
    And imagine, I was still only in the womb, or maybe only a glint in my father’s eye.
    Hey Yar, what about us women folk?

    • iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

      Jackie….I’m going to put you in touch with my friend, Alan. You can trade Sandy stories. And 1951 stories (he’s older than I am).
      btw… there’s a rule on the blog–comments can’t be longer or more engaging than the post itself. please be advised that you’ve come very close on both counts.

      hope you’re well

  6. Ymmij Says:

    I wasn’t at the Polo Grounds for the shot heard round the world, never saw Koufax pitch, never even smelled the fish on Jackie Weissberg’s father’s ceiling, I’m not sure I regret not seeing the fish. But by taking me to Florida–fifteen bucks for six drinks, who says the past is irrevocable?–you’ve made me miss the Brooklyn I never knew and the one I do, the one with you and Ray and Myron in it. So, a melancholy thanks. And a thought: how can anyone expect to learn to serve from a lefty who hit the ball on the way up and who tossed it the way Jackie’s father tossed that plate in ’51?

  7. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    ymmij.. you would have loved it. And I think you may have saved the day here. I didn’t realize Roscoe was a lefty! I think that’s where I went wrong. I’m sure I was trying to serve left handed in those videos. That would explain the debacle.

    hope everyone is well

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