Germany? Tanner had hightailed it across the Pond with Margaret and her daughters. (He claims it had nothing to do with his legal and financial problems. "We just wanted a new experience," he says, "and senior tennis pays better over there.") He coached a struggling British pro, gave some lessons in France, played for a club team in Germany. Gammon alerted sportswriters in Europe, who called authorities in Florida to ask about Tanner's situation and revealed his whereabouts. Tanner was arrested on an extradition order and taken to a jail in the Black Forest town of Karlsruhe.
He has few fond recollections of his six weeks in a German jail cell. The food was so vile that he often ate with his eyes closed. Walls were covered with anti-American graffiti. Inmates were permitted only two showers a week. And he feared that another prisoner would try to make a name for himself by slipping a knife into the gut of the American.
There was, however, one amenity. The televisions in the cells received more than 30 channels. One Sunday morning Tanner flipped to a broadcast of the Reverend Robert Schuller's Hour of Power. As Schuller read from Philippians, Tanner found it in his Bible and followed along: Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice, let your gentleness be evident to all! The Lord is near. Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord.
Tanner was rapt. He mulled over the passage and then thought about the train wreck that was his life. As he later put it to a friend, "I knew I was tired of going Roscoe's way. I'd either spent, lost or signed over all of my money. But that wasn't enough: I had ripped off friends, innocent acquaintances and creditors on two continents. I had cheated on two wives and failed miserably as a father."
He knelt beside his bed and prayed. Prayed that he would repent. Prayed that he would find peace. And while he was at it, he prayed that the Lord would take care of the rash he had had on his wrist for years. A few days later he took a shower. When he dried off, he noticed that the rash was gone. A few days after that a guard told him that he had been extradited to the U.S.
Unable to scrounge up bail money, Tanner spent 17 weeks in the rough Pinellas County, Fla., jail, where the inmates, most of them black, jokingly nicknamed him Deejay because he couldn't rap. In November 2003 Tanner pleaded guilty to grand theft and was sentenced to probation until he makes good on his debt to Gammon. (The current payment plan calls for Tanner to fork over $102,000 in capital and interest over 10 years. To do that, he signed over to Gammon his ATP pension payments beginning in January 2006.) Then he served five months in a county jail in Somerset, N.J., for failure to make payments due to Romano. He claims that at times he felt it was good for him to be locked up. He had been reading the Bible and helping other inmates learn to read. He even found something redeeming about his prison job cleaning toilets.
After Tanner was released, on April 19, he stayed with friends and relatives in various places-- Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia--but eventually California beckoned. In the state for court appearances, he shuttled along the corridor between L.A. and San Diego, crashing with assorted friends from Stanford and the tennis caravan--10 days in this vacant guesthouse, a week in that basement. Eventually he crossed paths with Cecil Spearman, a silver-haired former Marine who played tennis at Duke in the 1950s, made a killing in business and runs three upscale tennis clubs in Orange County. Spearman asked a few dozen members what they'd think if he hired Tanner. The responses were "overwhelmingly positive," he says, so he called Tanner to his office at the Laguna Niguel Racket Club, explained that there would be no second chances and offered him a job giving lessons at $65 an hour. Tanner jumped at it.
Isn't California where everyone gets a fresh start? And his daughters Lauren, Tamara and Anne were all living in the L.A. area. Maybe he could reconnect with them.
Slowly, the clouds are lifting. He's worked out some payment plans to start chipping away at his debts, which total more than $400,000. He plans to play doubles in a few upcoming senior events. He's continued reading his Bible and attending church, and he says he's working on his autobiography. He's surrounded himself with an AA-style "accountability team" to make sure he doesn't waver in his resolve. In a series of interviews with SI, he is nothing if not contrite about his past. He's begun to repair his relationship with Leonard, whom he calls on the telephone. And he's on good terms again with Lauren, a 22-year-old senior at Vanderbilt. "My dad never had to grow up until age 50," she says. "If I didn't see a major change, he wouldn't be back in my life."
In October, Margaret arrived with her daughters, vowing to give Roscoe a last shot. Immediately she took over the practical details of his life, making the car payments on their Ford Explorer and seeing that other bills get paid on time.