The Dallas Aces (The Master Plan)
Forty-two years ago a unique idea was conceived to organize and sponsor the first All-Professional Bridge Team in the world. Although that was how it was planned initially, an unexpected snafu changed the scenario in a dramatic fashion. If you read The Lone Wolff, you may recall the first chapter was curiously entitled “Firing Ira!” So, let us backtrack for a moment to understand the circumstances that altered the original blueprints.
The year was 1968. The Dallas Aces was the brainstorm of a wealthy businessman by the name of Ira G. Corn, CEO of Michigan General (a twenty-two company conglomerate). While watching the world championship in New York in 1964, Ira had a vision. Because of his business successes, he had tremendous self-confidence and set out to arrange the first all-professional bridge team of its kind. However, he stood at ground zero and recognized that he needed help. That’s where my husband came into the picture.
He approached Bobby, who was living in San Antonio at the time, with the idea of enlisting his smarts as Bobby would be in a position to recruit the nucleus of the team and with Ira’s money and the help of his bright and talented significant other, Dorothy Moore, as the coordinator, the three of them could set the wheels in motion. A sophisticated bridge coach was hired to round out the trio, but was soon replaced by retired Strategic Air Command Lt. Colonel, Joe Musumeci, who was accustomed to running a tight ship, keeping everyone in tow. He never got involved or intruded in any technical bridge issues or decisions. Joe was ideal for the position as he knew his place, performed his role with great aplomb and was considered a key factor in the Aces eventual chain of successes.
Bobby enlisted his friend and frequent partner, Ozzie’s son, Jim Jacoby (who already resided in Dallas). Jim happily accepted. His other candidates (Chuck Burger, Bob Hamman, Eddie Kantar and Sami Kehela) had their doubts and respectfully declined. Bobby was still in search of four other players until he was knocked for a loop when Ira informed him HE planned to play – reducing the magic number to three. Eventually Bobby recruited Billy Eisenberg, Bobby Goldman and Mike Lawrence, rounding out the sextet. The original partnerships were Billy and Bobby, Jim and Mike and Bobby and Ira. They did o.k. locally but lost in the third round of their first National Team game, the Vanderbilt in New York in March of 1968. Their next NABC was the Spingold in Minneapolis that summer and though they squeaked by the first two rounds were trailing again. Without Ira in the lineup, they would have been up 40. Obviously, everyone was disappointed. The prospects were dim and the mood was glum. Though they had never discussed “The Ira Situation,” Bobby could see the handwriting on the wall. He asked Ira to join him for a walk, departing the playing space where he decided to take matters into his own hands.
The dialogue on page 5 of TLW went something like ……
“Ira,” I said, “we’ve been practicing and working and we’re at a point now …” (Bobby fumbled for words and was about to lose his nerve). “Suddenly, I just blurted: There’s no way in the world the Aces can be anywhere close to what you want them to be if you continue to play. “ Ira puffed on his cigar and stared at Bobby coldly.
Bobby continued, “Ira, I know you love the game, but you are so far away from where you should be as a player. It’s like we’re a Class D Bush League Team trying to win The World Series. Actually, it’s even worse than that. We can’t hide you in right field. You’re right there.”
Bobby couldn’t believe what he was saying and concluded by adding … “If you feel that you have to play, maybe we should disband the team. Everyone knows your intentions were stellar. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with ….” He just couldn’t go on pleading his case. Bobby feared being thrown off the team and had visions of being jobless as he headed back to San Antonio, when suddenly he was hauled back to reality by Ira’s voice … “Well,” said Ira gruffly, “you better win.”
They lost the next day … sans Ira!
To be continued …..