- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Singer shook his head. " Sandy Koufax was the greatest. But if you want to compare records, I've got more claim to the title than you. I was a national junior table tennis champion. I was a Los Angeles tennis champion at 15, and I never even played tennis until seven days before the tournament. I was an all-league quarterback in high school. I weighed 135 pounds, and I couldn't throw, but I was great. I was best running for my life. I played second base on a semipro team in front of Jim Lefebvre."
Haber frowned. "Aw, forget all that. I'm still the greatest." He retreated to a piano, which he first played and then later danced on. "Look at the way he attacks life," said Dr. Steve August who a few days later would lose to Dr. Claude Benham in the semifinals. "Have you ever seen anyone who tried to cram so much life into so little time?"
At noon Friday Haber was back in the bar. In seven hours he was scheduled to play Jimmy Leahy, a strong Irish kid out of Chicago. "Man, I'm hung over," moaned Haber. "I don't think I got any sleep. Give me a tomato juice and a beer." A few hours and a few beers later he left for the airport to pick up Paul Morlos, his doubles partner and a close friend who had flown in from California to watch the tournament. At the airport they had five drinks, and Haber said things were getting a little fuzzy. "Must have drank them too fast," he said. "Go ask that kid—what's his name Leafy?—if he minds going three games tonight. I feel too terrible to win in two. Oh, Lord, my head."
If it had gone three games, Leahy would have been delighted. As it was, Haber won 21-6 and then 21-5. The execution was swift and brilliant. Haber was merciless, blasting Leahy into quick frustration—once even bouncing a point off the young Irishman's head—and then savagely axing him into helpless submission.
An hour later he was back in the bar. "I've never seen such stamina," said Bob Williams, the owner. "And he sure loves to party—for some reason."
"Hey, Bob," Haber yelled, "bring a couple of beers, my mouth is dry."
Three young customers walked in. "Hey," Haber said, "why didn't you guys bring some girls?"
"They're seminary students," said Williams.
"Well, what are they doing in here?" said Haber. "I've already drunk up everything there is to drink."
Saturday they played two matches, one in the morning, one at night. Haber showed up for his morning match with Marty Decatur looking terrible. "I think I'm going to die," he said. He beat Decatur 21-19 and then 21-8. "I've got to have a beer and a nap or I won't even be alive to play tonight," Haber said.