Tennis star Pauline Betz Addie: a Dayton legend?

By Marc Katz

Wimbledon runs through July 16, and you’re probably as surprised as I was when I first discovered—more than 30 years ago—a native Daytonian won it in 1946.

Well, it’s a claim we can make, and a claim we can’t.

I didn’t know much about Pauline Betz Addie when I met her in 1986 at the U.S. Open in New York, but I did know she’d won what was called the U.S. Championships (now the U.S. Open) from 1942–44 and again in 1946. She also won Wimbledon in 1946 in that remarkable tournament’s restart following World War II. She also lost in the final that year of the French Open, the only one she played.

She was on the cover of Time magazine in 1946. By the time I met her, she was already 67, which, in my wasted youth, I considered old.

By any measure, she was one of the greats of her time, and of all time. Jack Kramer, a top player from her era, called Betz (she didn’t marry Washington, D.C., sports writer Bob Addie until 1949) the second best women’s player he’d ever seen, right behind Helen Wills Moody, who won 19 Grand Slam singles titles and 31 titles in all, counting doubles.

Betz Addie is rightfully in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Growing up as she did in Los Angeles, and becoming an athletic sensation, she palled around with movie stars Spencer Tracy and Catherine Hepburn, and with boxer Jack Dempsey.

During the World War II years, she participated in eight U.S. Nationals, winning four and playing in the final six consecutive years. Her overseas play was curtailed by the war, but in 1946, she seemed at the height of her prowess. That Wimbledon championship also came the only time she visited as a player.

In 1947, she considered becoming a touring pro and was immediately barred from playing in all the big events—almost all amateur at the time—by the amateurs running tennis. Being an amateur often meant being broke. Even turning pro did not bring on the big money earned today.

“The first time I came to Forest Hills [where the tournament was then played, and this must have been 1939],” Betz Addie told me in 1986, “I slept in the car that night. My mother came with me. We wanted to save the cost of a hotel room. Then my mother went around knocking on doors to see if we could rent a room for a week. She was a very resourceful person. I didn’t sleep much.”

Betz Addie lost in the first round in 1939, made the quarterfinals in 1940, and the final in 1941.

Then she became a champion, winning in 1942, ’43, and ’44. She lost in the ’45 final before winning again in ’46 and was the No. 1 U.S. women’s player most of that time.

She was 27 and, now banned, began her pro career, barnstorming matches and teaching when she could.

She had four sons and a daughter with Addie and lived out her life in Bethesda, Maryland, where there is a tennis center that carries her name. Her daughter, Kim Adonizio, is a poet and author living in California.

One day in the office of the Dayton Daily News in the 1980s, I was thumbing through a record book—yeah, not everything was yet online—and there it was, Pauline Betz Addie, Dayton, Ohio.

I wasn’t quite sure why our clip files weren’t filled with stories about her until after I tracked her down at that 1986 Open. I thought she should be one of Dayton’s celebrated athletes.

She told me she not only moved with her family to California when she was in the third grade, but never played tennis in Dayton. She didn’t even own a racquet here. Directories from the time indicate the Betzs lived for a time in Oakwood, then Dayton View. Her father Imanuel (there are multiple spellings for his name) was in advertising and her mother was a high school physical education teacher.

As the story goes, once in Los Angeles, Betz Addie traded part of her father’s pipe collection for a thrift store tennis racket when she was 9. He made her pay him back through a paper route, which did not seem to diminish her love of sports.

“I played everything, basketball, football…I think my mother got tired of seeing me come home with grass in my knees,” she said in 1986. “She wanted me to play something else.”

She said she didn’t begin playing in tournaments until she was 14 or 15. Imagine that! Today, at that age, she’d be preparing for the pro tour.

She attended Los Angeles City College for a year before accepting a scholarship to play for Rollins College in Florida—on the men’s team, whose No. 1 player was Kramer. Betz Addie played in the No. 4 slot.

She told me she went to Rollins College because that school offered scholarships for women and schools in California did not.

Again, imagine that!

Pauline Betz Addie died in 2011, age 91, in Maryland.

So there it is, a tennis star we can claim, or not.

 

Tags: , ,

Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Law & Disorder The Docket: 7/11

L&D

Steal anything At a local auto-parts store, a car radio was shoplifted. The thief suspiciously perused through the aisles and […]

The Docket: 7/4

8994492315

By Michelle Strauss Pissed off Just a few weeks ago, someone broke into a local residence. The trespasser-turned-burglar began his raid, […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 6/27

A game of telephone Last week, on a particularly scorching hot afternoon, a man was driving his ex-girlfriend home. The […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 6/20

L&D

By Michelle Strauss  Music man In a local apartment complex, alarms went off and alerted the police that a robbery […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 6/13

L&D

  What a mouthful Believe it or not, in a local residence, a boyfriend kept his girlfriend’s dentures hostage. Earlier […]