Pauline Betz Addie is going to play tennis on Tuesday.
A recent illness has set her back and she's not sure about her strength and balance. "But if I don't try, I won't know." The woman, cited by tennis historian Jerome Scheuer as the "fastest woman ever on foot to play the game" is not going to give up her tennis shoes without a fight.
At an interview in August, Pauline spoke about her early days, growing up in Los Angeles. "I had a very happy California childhood - always outdoors. My brother, sister and I played ball in the streets, rode our bikes everywhere. I began learning tennis by hitting the ball against a garage door."
Pauline's mother, a Physical Education teacher in the Watts area of Los Angeles, encouraged Pauline's athleticism. A dedicated teacher who never missed a day of work in her forty years of teaching and coaching after school, Pauline's mother instilled in her children a love of sports, an appreciation of hard work and where it leads, and a joy in healthy competition. Pauline remembers the year she finally beat her mother on the courts. "I was 15."
"I started playing in tournaments when I was about eleven in the Under 13 tournaments. I didn't always win but won enough to know I liked it. It was not like today where four year old children begin lessons."
After high school, Pauline attended the City College in LA. California was the center of American tennis, and Pauline began playing in tournaments all around the State. In 1939, she won a scholarship to Rollins College, a Florida school well known for its tennis program. Pauline, and her friend, Dodo Bundy, were the first women to win scholarships to the school, playing on the men's team, and winning "quite a few games against the men." Pauline graduated from Rollins, first in her Economics class, not surprising for a woman who "likes to win."
Even before Pauline went to Rollins, she had begun to make a name for herself. Noted for her fierce competitiveness and "killer backhand," she was first ranked in the U.S. Top Ten - Number 8 in her first year at Rollins. By the time she graduated, she was on her way to being Number 1 in the United States -- a position she held for four years.
Times have changed in tennis. Before WW II, tennis was largely an amateur sport. The big tournaments -- Wimbledon, Forest Hills, and the National Clay Court Tournaments -- as well as the smaller tournaments, were closed to professionals. Pauline sold real estate, waited on tables, and did whatever she could to support herself as she continued to rise in the tennis world.
From 1942 to 1946, Pauline dominated the tennis scene -- 6 Grand Slam titles (5 Singles, 1 Mixed Double), U.S. Singles Indoor Champion for four years, U.S. Singles Outdoor Champion for four years, U.S. Clay Court Singles Champion for two years, U.S. Clay Court Doubles Champion for three years, U.S. Indoor Mixed Doubles Champion for four years, and U.S. Wightman Cup Team Member. In 1946, Pauline won at Wimbledon without losing a set and then went on to win the national championship at Forest Hills. Pauline closed out her amateur career in 1946 with a string of victories and ranked Number 1 both nationally and internationally. She is the author of Wings on My Tennis Shoes and Tennis for Teenagers.
In 1947, Pauline's first year as a professional, she and her friend, Sarah Palfrey Cook Danzig, toured the country, playing exhibition games almost every day. Pauline made about $10,000 that first year -- a sizable sum for an athlete in those days. "We would play in one city, hop in the car, drive all night, and set up to play again. Sometimes, we flew from one city to another. It was endless -- and fun."
The end of WW II brought a renewed interest in sports and entertainment. A Time Cover Personality in 1946, Pauline mixed easily with the new heroes of the day. Her friends included Katherine Hepburn ("a good tennis player"), Spencer Tracy, Jack Dempsey, and many other young professional actors and athletes. She toured the country with Jack Kramer, Pancho Segura, Gussy Moran, Don Budge, and Bobby Riggs.
In these early days of professional tennis touring, before television and the millions athletes make in product endorsements, the players drew crowds with their expertise and their showmanship. Bill Budke, now the head of the Tennis Program at Sidwell, recalled a story Pauline told about another type of tournament. A formidable table tennis player, Pauline interjected table tennis tours into her tennis schedule. During exhibitions, Pauline and Sandor Glantz, a Hungarian professional, would play, using a very sturdy table. Sandor would lob a ball to Pauline, giving her time to jump on the table and smash it back.
Pauline has happy memories of those years. "It was a pretty good life, but certainly harder than the lives of today's top professionals. I didn't have a personal trainer, someone who managed schedules, a cook, all of the people that now travel with a player. But I was lucky. I had my mother who came on some of my trips, cooking, washing my tennis clothes, keeping me company. She was wonderful."
In 1949, Pauline married Bob Addie, a well-known sports writer for the Herald Tribune and then the Washington Post. "I had to find a man who either played tennis very well or one who didn't play at all." Bob didn't. But he did love sports and athletic competition, as Pauline did. Bob Addie died in 1982.
Pauline and Bob had five children - Rusty, a tennis coach at Sidwell; Jon, who works in the computer field in Boston; Kim, a poet in California; Gary, a tennis coach in the Washington metropolitan area; and Ricky, who also works in the computer field in the Washington area. Pauline has eight grandchildren, all of whom have played tennis on school teams. Pauline's entire family loves sports. "We have always been an athletic family from my grandparents on down. My brother, at 83, just shot an 83 in golf."
Pauline continued to play professionally after her marriage. Bill Budke reported that Pauline, five months pregnant, beat Althea Gibson on one of her tours. But teaching and coaching soon became her primary involvement in the game. In 1964, she began teaching tennis at Sidwell and established the first tennis camp in the country. She directed both the school program and the summer tennis camp for over twenty years. During those years, she also founded the Cabin John Indoor Tennis Center with Allie Ritzenberg and Clark Taylor, teaching there until last year. In 1965 she was inducted into the International Hall of Fame. In 1990 she received the USTA's Sarah Palfrey Danzig Award for her contributions to tennis.
Pauline has remained active at Edgemoor Tennis Club, playing tennis regularly until last year. For many years, she was the tennis pro at Edgemoor and taught many young children and their parents. "It's a real family club," Pauline said. "The board hired me when I was pregnant with my fourth child, telling me then what sort of place it was."
Today, Pauline lives at Summerville Assisted Living Center in Potomac. A life-long bridge player, Pauline hasn't retired completely from competition, playing duplicate bridge regularly with other serious players. She enjoys watching tennis and golf on TV and goes to tournaments in the area. For many years, she went back to Wimbledon as a guest of the Wimbledon Association where she has seen most of the leading tennis players of today.
Asked who was the greatest woman tennis player, Pauline named two - Alice Marble who played in the 1920's and Martina Navratilova. Bill Budke would put Pauline in that class of great women players. "Pauline had perfect strokes and a powerful backhand. She was so graceful and smooth on the tennis court. She's a great competitor -- and a kind and courteous friend."
Pauline rates herself as a good tennis player, who played with the best and often won during her tournament years. "But I'd like most to be remembered as a good mother and wife, and after that, one of the best of my time.