BAL HARBOUR, FLORIDA – 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).