Jacobs, who was back in New York, found Brenner a tough fellow to fend off at close range and suddenly said, "Get your man, and I'll be there Saturday morning." Just that quick a major athletic contest was arranged. No one around Avenue P was aware of what was coming until the morning of the match. It was as if Pete Rozelle had called the AFL and said, "You get Buffalo, I'll get Green Bay and we'll play this afternoon."
Early Saturday, Avenue P regulars were ambling over to the courts as is their habit, hoping that such favorites as Bald Irving or Jack the Devil or Big Joe or The Farmer might get things moving. Steve Sandler was there, too, looking pale and drawn—"I've had this virus for the last few days," he said—but he mentioned that a fellow named Jacobs was going to show up for a game. "Jacob who?" asked one of the regulars, and when it was explained to him just who Jacobs was, the cry was up: "Hey, Irving, action!"
Action was right. Jacobs arrived with a camera crew and camera, which interested the crowd. Even more interesting was the later arrival of a stranger who had $5,000 to cover everything he could get on the Californian. "If I'd only known," wailed a florist. "If somebody had only told me," and he started to race back to his shop and break open the till. "Don't do it," Sandler said, explaining about the virus. The florist stopped to give things more thought. In fact a lot of thinking was being done.
"You know what I can't understand," said a regular, "is why this guy Jacobs would come here and play a game he knows nothing about." He walked off like a man who smells a hustle.
"I'll bet ya a fiver he's been at it for a year," said somebody. "At least six months," came another opinion, which drew a chorus of agreement.
They were wrong, and even though their gamblers" instincts told them something was rotten, Jacobs' motives were straight enough. For one thing, the camera was to catch Sandler in action, not impress Brooklyn. And Jacobs has always been willing to take his lumps, provided he is sure he can learn something. Before play began he startled the crowd by giving a little speech. "I'm inquisitive, but I don't pretend to know what I'm doing," he told them. "I appreciate your coming out to watch this, this exhibition. Please bear with me when I make mistakes that only a beginner would make. I came out here simply because it was a challenge."
"Now he tells us," came a voice that used to ring loud and clear from the bleachers of Ebbets Field.
Sandler had been worried about facing a man who had Jacobs' reputation as an athlete. As in the case with most champions, it served to make him absolutely ready. "Actually I stopped worrying when I saw Jacobs warm up," he said later. "He said he was new at the game, and I could see it was true. You could tell the way he was practicing his kills."
When play began, the champion of Avenue P ran up four straight points, lost his serve, won it back and ran up three more before losing a point. Jacobs was breathtakingly quick, and his shots were hit with power. The problem was, shots that would have caromed crazily off a wall on a four-wall court just flew out of bounds in the one-wall game. Jacobs was reacting to shots like a good four-waller, but three of his walls had tumbled down. Sandler's left hand was not only returning Jacobs' best, they came back with something on them. "He ain't no poet," said a man with a bet, "but he don't make a mistake, and nothing gets by that kid." Nothing did, and by the time the score was 16-1 the same beautiful bleacher voice sang out: "How'd you get a point, you bum?"
That's Brooklyn for you. But when Jacobs came up with a play that Sandler could not handle they gave him a hand, and that's Brooklyn, too. Once, after losing a point, Jacobs went over to his cameraman and said. "Are you getting all of this? I want to see what a champion looks like." The crowd approved of that.