Dick Squires organized the first truly commercial play-for-pay event. Sea Pines Plantation, in Hilton Head Island, SC, hosted the first Vat Gold Cup Invitational Tournament on November 10-11. It was also the first major platform tennis competition to be played in the Deep South.
The marketers of Vat 69 Gold, a brand of scotch whiskey, appreciated the demographic appeal of platform tennis enthusiasts. For the first time, top teams competed for money. The purse was $10,000, and “CBS Sports Spectacular” broadcasted highlights.
The New York Times covered the event in an article by Charles Friedman, entitled “And Now a Word for Platform Tennis” in the Sunday, November 18th edition.
For the event, the top sixteen men’s teams in the country were invited to participate. The offer included all-expense-paid travel, and the winners received a ten-day trip to Europe courtesy o[...]
The rule was essentially the same as in tennis, but because of the shorter distance from baseline to net, and the higher premium on being at the net in paddle, foot-fault infractions were seen as more serious. The problem was two-fold: first, whether the statement of the rule itself should be revised; second, how to enforce the rule.
A seven-man working committee formed to cope with this rather controversial question. Chaired by Bob Brown, the committee consisted of Chuck Baird, John Beck, Brad Drowne, Bill Hoffmann, Paul Molloy, and Dick Squires.
In addition, the APTA called a 26-member Advisory Committee for the purpose of providing the broadest possible cross-section of views on this delicate matter.
The formation of the APTA’s Umpires Committee in 1974 was an outcome of the Working Committee’s deliberations.
Source: Off The Wire, Vol. 5 No 1
During the early 1970’s, commercial sponsorship came knocking, raising difficult policy questions for the APTA.
The exposure gained by commercial sponsorship would bring the sport to a much wider audience, but critics argued that money would detract from the game’s social aspects.
Foreseeing the likelihood of company-sponsored “tours,” the APTA formally established its policy on commercial activities and decided to maintain control over all commercial tournament activities.
This decision allowed platform tennis to broaden its horizon. The alternative would have undoubtedly led to the establishment of a separate professional organization.
Corporate sponsorship ended up attracting several professional tennis players to the sport, with Herb S. Fitz Gibbon II, Clark Graebner, and Hank Irvine being the most successful.
Fitz Gibbon ranked among the world’s top tennis players between 1961 and 1973, and became the first amateur to beat a professional in the 1968 Wimbledon.
Graebner, originally from Cleveland, was on the winning U.S. Davis Cup team and ranked seventh in the world in 1968.
Irvine was from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and represented his country on the Davis Cup team in 1968 and 1969, and at Wimbledon from 1970 to 1972. In 1970, he teamed with Helen Gourlay from Australia and made it to the semifinals of the Mixed at Wimbledon.
The tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome on September 20, 1973, captivated America and was a triumph for women’s athletics. Platform tennis benefitted with an increase in participation by women.
King entered the Astrodome in Cleopatra style, carried aloft in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the style of ancient slaves. Riggs followed in a rickshaw drawn by a bevy of scantily-clad models. Riggs presented King with a giant lollipop and she gave him a piglet named Larimore Hustle.
Rather than playing her own usual aggressive game, King mostly hugged the baseline, easily handling Riggs's lobs and soft shots, making Riggs cover the entire court as she ran him from side to side, and beating him at his own defensive game. After quickly falling behind from the baseline, where he had intended to play, King forced Riggs to c[...]
The APTA had started the National Championships medal program in 1991. The 1992 medals included those for the winners and finalists of the Women's Senior 60+ Championship, an event that was inaugurated in 1999!
In addition to Reilly's aluminum deck other innovators had been suggesting alternative materials such as plywood, steel, asphalt and Laykold. Courts had to pass a two season test before the APTA would provide approval.
The plywood surface was developed by "Mr. Paddle", the Hall of Fame Inductee Dick Squires' company Squires Marketing Associates Company (SMAC). The Minutes note that the APTA expected SMAC to seek approval soon but there had been some issues reported; ultimately the plywood deck proved unworkable. The surface had been used at the VAT Gold Cup earlier in the year.
December saw the publication of the first edition of Off The Wire.
President Robert Brown’s letter read, in part:
“As you can see, with this issue of the Newsletter there are a number of changes -- new title, new format, and, since the Annual Meeting, some new people on the APTA Board. The Board has been expanded to 13 Directors, and we are pleased to have wide geographic representation. Four of the Directors are from regions other than the New York Metropolitan area -- and we have a good balance of experienced and ‘new blood’. The Newsletter is our main communications medium with the membership. We're trying, under the guidance of our new editor Bill Ballard, to make it informative and interesting and to keep you posted on what's going on in the world of platform tennis.”
Ballard wanted Off The Wire to be more than just a compilation of draw sheets, minutes and offi[...]