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Moses, John R.

(DOB - 1981)

Honor Award Induction: 1976

Hall of Fame Induction: 1996

John Moses was an exceptional tennis player, earning a number one ranking in Interscholastic doubles, and a number five ranking in singles. He was captain of the Yale tennis team, and was a finalist in the National Men’s at nineteen in 1943. Four years later, at age twenty-three, he won his first title, and a second followed ten years later, in 1957. John also won the Mixed in 1955. His record could well have been extended, but he moved to Kansas City where there were no courts. Blanchard thought that, at his best, Moses had few equals with quick hands and remarkable court coverage. (Fox Meadow Tennis Club).

Early on, Moses seemed to be a fixture at the Fox Meadow Tennis Club, spending afternoons tossing tennis balls between the rafters in the clubhouse and, by the age of ten, he was on the courts. Very soon, he was beating people a lot older than he was. Platform tennis was brand new at the time and not particularly interested in encouraging youngsters, so his early concentration was on tennis, where he compiled a truly outstanding record. John was captain of the Scarsdale High School tennis team and then matriculated at Exeter. As a senior there, he won the 1941 National Interscholastic Doubles Championship, and earned rankings in both interscholastic doubles and singles.

The next stop was Yale, where Moses played varsity tennis as a freshman and was ultimately captain of the University team. He was also captain of the combined Yale-Harvard team that played against a combined Oxford-Cambridge team, where he beat a young Irish Davis Cup player. In 1947, he was Eastern Collegiate doubles champion and it is interesting to note a couple of players that year who were number one and two respectively in men’s singles, and number one in men’s doubles: Don McNeill and Frank Guernsey. When these two tennis greats ultimately turned to platform tennis, they were in the finals of the Men’s Nationals in 1953 against Moses and Rawle Deland, and Guernsey later teamed up with John to win in 1957. Their close association with Moses was a testament to his ability and the caliber of the people with whom he was hobnobbing on the court.

While Moses was becoming the number one ranking junior tennis player in the nation, he also began to make a name in platform tennis. At the tender age of 19, while he was in the service and between stints at Yale, he was a finalist in the Men’s Nationals in 1943, the youngest person ever to be a finalist. When he won the men’s doubles in 1947, he was again the youngest male to ever attain that distinction. At that time the game had been dominated by players such as Couch, O’Hearn, Sutter, Hyde and Wiley, all in their mid 30s to mid 40s. He compiled his record with four different partners, and he did it over a period of fifteen years. At that time, only three other male players in the game—Kip Couch, Charlie O’Hearn, and Dick Hebard—were finalists in men’s national competition over as long a period.

Moses also had two Mixed National finals to his credit—in 1955, when he won, and 1956, when he was a finalist. He might very well have been in the record book way past that 15th year—since at that point he was only thirty-three years old—had his career not caused him to move first to Delaware, and then to Kansas City. Paddle was nowhere to be found in Heartland, USA, and he had a battle getting it off the ground. But he loved the game and was going to play, so he persuaded the Kansas City Country Club to build first two courts, and then, a third. He tried, repeatedly, to get courts built at other Kansas City clubs, but was constantly frustrated in the endeavor. Moses was able to put together a foursome, though, of the best he could find, so he could play and have some sort of competition. He was considered, rightly so, the best Kansas City had in tennis and squash, and yards above everyone there in platform tennis.

A profile of Moses wouldn’t be complete without mention of his honors in squash. In the seven years since the inception of the “Heart of America” squash tournament in Kansas City, he was a winner or runner-up six times, and had a number one ranking in the sport.

In platform tennis, Fess Blanchard characterized him as a player who, at his best, had few equals and he was at his best most of the time. John was a natural athlete, with a relaxed, effortless style. His quickness in sharp rallies at the net was remarkable. He was one of the first great left-handed paddle players, and one of the first players to be proficient in hitting overhead smashes from high shots off the wire. He had a highly tuned sense of anticipation, was extremely quick, and had few equals in court coverage. In the 1940′s and 50′s, he was a master of retrieving shots hit through his team at the net off the back wire. This strategy became a standard of top-flight play in the 1970s, but he was doing it 30 years earlier. Moses was tall and had a great big American twist service to go with his height, and a beautiful slashing under-slice backhand, both of which he brought to paddle from tennis.

Fess Blanchard named him one of the top five players in the game in his 1959 book on platform tennis, noting that Moses was “a man who stood out as consistently just a bit better than anyone else.” Fess didn’t comment on attitude, but that, too, was part of why Moses reached the top tier of the game. His sportsmanship was a dominant characteristic. Though he was a competitor with purpose, to be sure, he had the unusual combination of wanting to win but still being a complete gentleman, and whether beaten or not, his temperament was the same.

At the time of his induction in 1976, Moses was the seventh ranked male in points earned for APTA national championship play, even though he played his last competitive match more than 20 years earlier. At the time of his death, John had retired to East Boothbay, Maine, in the same area where his family had summered for several generations.

John R. Moses playing at Fox Meadow Tennis Club
John R. Moses playing at Fox Meadow Tennis Club