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What Tilden needed money so urgently for was a trip he had planned—first to Texas for some exhibitions, then up to Cleveland for the U.S. Professional Championships at Lakewood Park. He was 60 now, and the two jail stretches had not been good for his health. He couldn't shake a cold. At times when he was playing he would be wracked so hard with coughs that he would have to lean against the canvas for support. But Big Bill Tilden was getting ready for the U.S. Pro Championships, and there was no time or money for a doctor.
A few days before he was to leave for Cleveland, Tilden picked up Anderson at UCLA. There, he met two of Anderson's college teammates, a couple of top Canadian players named Don Fontana and Bob Bedard. Tilden invited them to play at Chaplin's and when he got up there he suddenly announced that they were going to have a Davis Cup match—Canada vs. the U.S. Fontana and Bedard looked tentatively at each other, and then at the gaunt old man with the long legs and the dirty old white sweater. Tilden was exhilarated. He conducted a draw, and when play began he would make announcements, such as "Advantage, United States" and " Canada leads four games to three, first set." It was a beautiful, eerie absurdity, the four of them, alone on the abandoned estate, playing out this fantasy all afternoon. "Bob and I won both singles," Fontana says, "and then the doubles, too. Tilden was beside himself when he and Anderson lost that, because it gave Canada the match. We were just playing to get good practice, but he was like a tiger, and he agonized when they lost. It was all very real to him." Big Bill had to get ready for the U.S. Pro Championships. When Herbert Brenner came through with the $200, the trip was on for Saturday.
The night before, Friday, June 5, the Andersons invited Tilden over for a going-away dinner. He and Arthur had played several sets earlier that day, and Tilden picked up a couple of lessons as well before he went back to his apartment on Argyle Avenue, just up from Hollywood and Vine, to change. "Bill had a habit," Anderson says, "of getting all dressed to go out, coat and tie, everything, everything but his shoes, and then lying down on the bed to read until it was exactly the time to leave. He was always very punctual. Then he would sit up, pat his hair down in back, put on his shoes and get up and go out."
When Tilden did not arrive exactly on time for dinner, the Andersons called, and when there was no answer, Arthur drove to the apartment. The landlady, Mrs. John Bray, let him in. Big Bill lay dead across the bed. Next to the bed, his bags were packed. He was ready to play in the U.S. Pro Championships in Cleveland.
"Just a case of a chap 60 years old who outlived his heart," the coroner said. Besides his trophies, he left practically nothing: $142.11 in cash and $140 in American Express traveler's checks—and $200 of this had to be returned to Brenner. Tilden was due a $6 refund from the Automobile Club of America. That and what else there was went to Arthur Anderson, "my logical successor in tennis."
A memorial service at the Pierce Mortuary a few days later drew a spotty crowd. Tilden was dressed in a new white sweater with figures of red deer running across the chest that Joseph Cotten had bought for him. Big Bill was cremated because it was cheaper to get him across state lines that way, and shipped back to Philadelphia. For $115 a small stone was bought. It reads: WILLIAM T. TILDEN 2ND 1893-1953. It is the only monument of any kind anywhere in the world—at Forest Hills, Wimbledon, Germantown, anywhere—that pays tribute to the greatest tennis player who ever lived.
On a warm June afternoon, while the U.S. Professional Championships were taking place in Cleveland, a handful of relatives and friends in Philadelphia watched as Bill Tilden was lowered into the ground at Ivy Hill, 70 years after his older brothers and sisters were put there, 40 years after the rest of his family. He was placed by the side of his brother Herbert and at the feet of his mother, so at last he could be her child again, for good, at peace.