Judy Kay-Wolff

BAL HARBOUR, FLORIDA – 1967

BAL HARBOUR 1967

The team celebrating above was one of the most honorable and respectable group of gentlemen with whom Norman had the honor of playing.   Even their dress code was exemplary.  From left to right (top row):  Norman, Al Roth, Edgar Kaplan, Sami Kehela, Captain Julius Rosenblum.  The bottom row features Eric Murray on the left and Bill Root on the right.   I witnessed the bidding and play of thousands of boards and heard countless post mortems, but never saw a finger pointed or heard a cross word uttered**.  A coterie of class personified … they were a breed apart. 

**However, allow me to elaborate farther about my observation of their keeping tongues in cheek if they did not necessarily agree with a teammate’s bid or play.  I do recall a particular incident (which I consider humorous rather than disrespectful).   After Roth was sidelined one time (for perhaps being “off his game”), he defiantly blurted out to his captain:  “They never benched BABE RUTH once when HE struck out.”    Confidence was not one of Al’s short suits.  From that day on, Bobby tells me he was known as “Babe Roth.”

NORMAN partnered Sidney Silodor until Silodor’s death in 1963. He then resumed playing with Edgar Kaplan (after a three year hiatus) which resulted in one of the most successful and longest-lasting partnerships in organized bridge. It spanned more than 40 years.  Norman was arguably the greatest bridge player who never became a world champion. He was known for both the remarkable accuracy of his card play and for his even temperament at the table. Away from the pasteboards, he was widely respected as an exceptionally kind and humble gentleman.

AL was considered one of the greatest players of his day.  He wrote several books on the game, and invented various bridge conventions that have become commonplace, including five card majors, negative doubles, forcing no trump and the unusual no trump.  Roth was viewed as a fascinating theorist but "he was very tough to sit opposite—unless you were so thick-skinned that no insult was severe enough to hurt, or you were willing to make extreme sacrifices to get on a winning side” said the late Dickie Freeman (who earlier gained national prominence appearing on one of America’s favorite radio shows –  ”The Quiz Kids”).

EDGAR was an incredible principal contributor to the game. His career spanned six decades and covered every aspect of bridge. He was a teacher, author, editor, administrator, champion player, theorist, expert vugraph commentator, coach/captain and authority on the laws of the game. He was the editor and publisher of The Bridge World magazine for more than 30 years (1967–1997). His partnership with Norman was one of the strongest and longest-lasting expert pairings ever. Edgar was stricken with cancer and passed away in September of 1997 at the age of seventy-two.

SAMI (sometimes spelled Sammy) was born in 1934 in Bagdad, lived in England and eventually became a Canadian citizen and presently resides in Toronto with his wife. He is a revered member of the Hall of Fame of both the American Contract Bridge League and of the Canadian Bridge Federation. He enjoyed much time while living in England at the knee of Terrence Reese, his mentor. Sami is a semi-retired journalist and teacher. He was the former Editor of the Ontario Kibitzer, bridge columnist for Toronto Life, a contributing editor to both the ACBL Bulletin and ACBL Bridge Encyclopedia and is recognized for his enjoyment of fine wine and films.

JULIUS, their team captain, was born in Memphis and migrated to New Orleans in 1935. His active life in the bridge arena included playing, captaining many international teams and of greater import — serving a major role in the continuing development of the World Bridge Federation — as Secretary-Treasurer in 1966 and as a voting member of the WBF Executive Committee, replacing Waldemar von Zedtwitz who retired. In 1968 he was elected to an unprecedented third term as President of the WBF and was elected to the WBF Committee of Honour (it’s highest distinction). He was also named 1970 ACBL Honorary Member of the year.  Julius held the team together and was respected by all.

ERIC, a retired barrister by profession, enjoyed a successful and enduring partnership with Sami for over thirty years.  Eric,  too, was elected to both the American and Canadian Halls of Fame.  As a partnership, Murray-Kehela represented their country in every one of the first six World Team Olympiads from Turin in 1960 to Valkenburg in 1980.  Murray’s quips are known universally, but this one goes to the head of the list:  During the 1975 Bermuda Bowl when two Italian players were caught passing information by tapping toes, Murray sent a telegram to the USA team saying he was available to play as an expert.  And, he noted, “I wear a size 13 shoe.”

BILL was perhaps the best known bridge teacher in the world at one time – probably teaching the game to more people than anyone in history.  A former resident of Boca Raton, Root at one time conducted classes in Florida and New York.  After quitting his regular job, he began moving in elite bridge circles and played for some time with Alvin Roth.  Root’s last partner was the young and extremely talented Richard Pavlicek.  Bill  met him on a trip to Florida and they formed a partnership lasting  more than 20 years. “Richard is my all-time favorite partner,” said Root.  After they won the Vanderbilt in 1995, Pavlicek said: “Bill may be 71, but you have to wait a long time for him to touch a wrong card.”

There you have it – the 1967 Bal Harbour United States Team.

(In the event, any of you have the time, check out a blog written by me on this site dated August 23, 2009 entitled “When Less Than the Best Represent US – Bridge has lost its Elegance”.  It is four years later – and little has changed for the better).

 


9 Comments

AlanJune 6th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Wow, Judy:

They don’t make ’em like that anymore. Bridge has changed. Some think for the better — but I think not. Much of the dignity is gone from the game but in today’s world that is not uncommon. Keep up the blogging. Love to hear your old tales.

Alan

ReneJune 6th, 2013 at 4:32 pm

That was quite an education — and a very cute story about Roth. I did not know him personally — only by sight. Having read a lot about Stone, they must have been an awesome twosome — but surely not a marriage made in heaven. Regardless of innate talents, two egos do not a partnership make!

Judy Kay-WolffJune 6th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Good morning Alan:

Yes, the realization that bridge has changed is quite apparent. It was so obvious watching BBO over the last few days. I cannot believe that some of the wannabes (and even the better players) are not embarrassed to have their indiscretions, both in bidding and play, be scrutinized by universal audiences. The quality is a far cry from the old days. Maybe the systems have changed for the better but cause more mixups. Perhaps the thrill of publicity outweighs the ego satisfactions — or blame it on exhaustion over an extended number of days. The game has been revolutionized. No doubt about it. But — to whose benefit?

Judy

Judy Kay-WolffJune 6th, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hi Rene:

Roth and Stone were both talented performers and responsible for the system that bears their names. However, when both partners have big egos, it is an impossible problem to overcome and is reflected at the table. I knew Stoney much better and living here in Vegas, Bobby and I got to see a lot of him in his waning days while bedridden at home and at the hospital. Though his body was failing, his mind at 93 was sharp as a tack and he always maintained his sense of humor till the bitter end.

Georgiana GatesJune 7th, 2013 at 12:37 am

I’ve really enjoyed these last few posts – I hope you have some more coming.

I read and enjoyed The Lone Wolff – are you sure you won’t reconsider and do another one?

Judy Kay-WolffJune 7th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Hi Georgiana:

It is so nice to hear from an old friend. Sadly, I fear these photographs and memories are boring for those who came after these icons enjoyed their place in the sun.

I have so many pictures of youngsters who are now seasoned experts .. with stories to match. I can’t get them put into my computer fast enough so I do the script first and then wait for the pictures to be downloaded. I just wrote one on Peggy and Charlie Solomon which I will hopefully post this afternoon or tomorrow.

As far as The Lone Wolff, I am still savoring the pleasure it afforded both Bobby and me in the five years it took to edit the original manuscript and then have Bobby finish the last five or six chapters. But as far as another one .. I am too old to weather the storm.

I vent my spleen on this blog site (and I find a lot to vent about) — especially these Johnny Come Latelies who think they are “world class” because they have won a few titles. I have been watching BBO and find it sad to see (in some cases) what may end up to be teams that represent our country in world championships — with or without a sponsor (which in itself I feel is a farce). But — I don’t make the rules so I can only sit back sadly and recognize what the present competitive world of bridge is all about. However, I don’t have to like it. Guess I am just spoiled.

Sorry you got me started???

Kind regards,

Judy

Georgiana GatesJune 8th, 2013 at 11:55 pm

The newly-minted USA 1 team doesn’t have a sponsor. Unless they plan to add one.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 9th, 2013 at 1:06 am

Hi Georgiana:

It’s not over till The Fat Lady Sings. No doubt they will not play fourhanded. It was grueling to kibitz — let alone play. I only know their names and two by sight. It was a well deserved victory. Never in doubt.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with USA II.

Cheers,

Judy

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