Monday, April 20, 2015

Expert rated Reese as baseball's top bridge player

In 1963 Charles Goren, the world's top bridge
expert, named Pee Wee Reese and Bill Wade
among the best bridge players in the sports world.

Do you know anybody that plays bridge?

I'm 63 years old and I don't know anybody under the age of 70 who plays bridge.

For that matter, I don't know anybody more than a generation younger than myself that plays cards of any kind; that is, actually plays cards with others rather than solitaire on a computer screen or on-line poker.

When I worked at Krause Publications we had a long-time sheepshead game going on. An amorphous group of five to ten would play on coffee breaks and at lunch for a total of 45 minutes or an hour every work day. Occasionally we'd get an evening game going, as well, where sheepshead could be played as it was meant to, with rude language and beer.

For a number of years before the heyday of Texas hold'em we also had a monthly poker game, but that broke up with the passing of our principal host.

I miss those games.

Recently in a 1963 issue of The Sporting News, I read a piece about top bridge players in the sports world as enumerated by Charles Goren, the top bridge expert in the world from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Goren's books on bridge sold more than 10 million copies. By 1958, his daily bridge column was running in nearly 200 newspapers and he had a weekly column in Sports Illustrated. From 1959-64 he had a television show on ABC.

Asked in 1963 to pick the top players in the sports world, Goren named Iowa athletic director Forest Evashevski as No. 1. Golfer Bobby Jones was Goren's pick for the second spot. He credited Arnold Palmer with having the greatest potential as a bridge player if he could have fund the time to work on his game.

In pro football ranks, Goren named Chicago Bears quarterback Bill Wade as the top player.

Among baseball players, Pee Wee Reese was Goren's pick for the top spot. He also gave a nod to Don Hoak, and said that Hoak's Pirates were the top team when it came to clubhouse bridge play.

In 1963 it was estimated that some 40 million Americans were playing bridge. My parents played bridge. All my aunts and uncles played bridge. Most of the neighbors played bridge. If I hadn't taken up poker and sheepshead at such an early age, I probably would have played bridge.

I'm too old now to learn such a complex card game. Besides the potential pool of bridge partners is dying off.

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