Judy Kay-Wolff

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 …..


6 Comments

RBKAugust 14th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Can’t wait!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 14th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

You won’t have to! I just posted Part II

(The Dallas Aces — And Then There Were Five).

JoanieAugust 15th, 2010 at 8:57 am

Dear Judy:

Your tales of the past are refreshing — and so informative for those who appeared after the fact. That’s what make this site so fascinating. The stories told by the various bloggers are so diverse (hands, tournaments, issues, personal grievances, bridge columns, memories and so much more) plus the contributions from other blogging sites.

I, for one, thank you all.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 15th, 2010 at 10:38 am

Joanie:

You are absolutely on point. Sites can become very boring when the topics are not diversified. Bridgeblogging.com does have a lot to offer.

My blog today on the Aces recalled a very funny episode that occurred on my first trip to Dallas after Bobby and I were engaged (in September ’03). I arrived late one night and the next morning I was wined and dined with a lovely brunch at The Hilton across from Bobby’s apartment.

Afterwards, I expected a tour of Dallas as we headed out and drove for what seemed like half an hour (but was probably a shade over ten minutes). I became a bit edgy as to what treat Bobby had in store for his new ladylove. Apparently, he wanted it to be a surprise — to say the least. We pulled up in front of the Stillman-Hillcrest Mortuary — actually a very fashionable Mausoleum.

“Strange,” I thought to myself, but continued to bite my tongue to see what awaited me. We entered the portals and seemed to walk forever. Why was I here? Had he gone bonkers? Or was I engaged to some world class bridge nerd who had a sick sense of humor?

Soon we arrived in front of two magnificent tombs — one prematurely bearing the name of Robert S. Wolff and the other of his lovely and beautiful late wife, Deborah Polak Wolff who had passed away in 1994 (some nine years earlier).

I was speechless as I was beginning to have doubts about this weirdo I was committed to marry three months down the road. I stared in disbelief. I was getting more perturbed by the minute. He really could not have taken me here to see the Wolff tombstones — but had some other devious purpose in mind. Indeed, he did.

You see, I (with Norman’s encouragement) owned an active wholesale baseball card business and being frequent tableholders at shows for twenty years got to meet the top athletes of all times in the three major sports. I was the proverbial sports buff and my seven-day-a-week job became a true labor of love — allowing me to hold my own fairly well with the opposite sex when it came to discussing sports personalities.

The reason (and hold on to your computer chair) for our trip to this eerie place was so that I could see the vault that held the great Mickey Mantle (who died at Baylor Medical Center in 1995) and had been entombed one column over and three inches below Debby. The marble floor was adorned with dozens of floral arrangements, notes, photos poems, letters and tributes to the most popular Yankee of all time.

However, a few months after our adventure, Mickey was uprooted by his family and moved to a less conspicuous burial ground where he could enjoy some tranquility and privacy — minus the continual vandalism that became increasingly rampant.

It wasn’t a very romantic first morning together … BUT .. it was a devastating learning experience and ever since then — I never get into Bobby’s car without first asking where we are going!!!!

EvAugust 16th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Hi Judy:

Though I have been following your blogs for a couple of years, I confess I was too lazy to respond as I am not much of a computer person. Your last one about Bobby and the cemetery was a hoot. Since I was a bridge student of yours at GVCC in the seventies and became friendly with you and Norman, I followed your escapades with zeal (and got to meet Bobby a couple times before you got married). I finally broke down and felt compelled to stick in my two cents and say hello and tell you I enjoy your blogs.

I get exhausted recalling your teaching at the country clubs, monitoring and marking our bridge matches while motoring up to The Meadowlands to watch your trotters race, coming home, preparing your lessons for the following week and then getting ready for your weekend baseball card gigs in the tri-state area week after week. I remember when you retired from teaching and finally closed down your business in the late nineties so you could devote more time to playing bridge.

I just couldn’t begin to imagine how the story was going to end. Surprise! Surprise!

Burt ends his best,

Ev

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 16th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for touching base, Ev:

Bridgeblogging.com is an unparalleled vehicle to reach people united by our game from all over the world. It is amazing the old friends it brings back into one’s life who google names and sometimes find themselves on our site — even non-bridge players!

I just received a call from a gal who just read your comment. She and her late husband, Tony, became two of our closest friends (and the only cards with which they were guilty of holding were baseball cards). We always chuckle about the way we met. Her husband was a Sports Card Show Promotor and Norman and I were just getting into the business. We heard Tony was running a show within the month and his guest star was Pete Rose. That was going to be some huge attraction and we were willing to take a shot.

Of course, he didn’t know anything about Norman and me (who were just breaking into the business back around 1982 and we had been dabbling in it — building up quite a bit of inventory). He looked at Norman with a puzzled look as if to say — hey, fella, this is the big time, thinking to himself that the table prices were steep and it would shock us.

Those of you who knew Norman from the bridge world, knew he was a sport — a big sport. He didn’t scare easily.

Her husband turned to Norman and politely said, “You know, sir, a table is $250,” to which Norman immediately countered, “How many tables can we have?”

Believe it or not that began a twenty year friendship. We became inseparable both socially and business-wise traveling with them to shows locally as well as National Baseball Card Shows. (Yes, bridge is not the only hobby to have national outings).

Sorry to digress — but this shows once again how blogging brings people together in the strangest ways.

And P.S. — she did know the Mickey Mantle story which I must have told her about upon my return from Dallas!

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