- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In private, among the other members of the troupe, however, she was less than sunny. Snodgrass, who's now 86 and lives in Sun City, Ariz., says, "She was really a contradiction. Her game was grace and speed, soft shots, well-placed; she was a very well-conditioned athlete. But she was always upset, flaring mad. Sometimes it was hard to understand how the two could be connected. She had the worst temper I've ever seen. She was always threatening to bolt and go home. Off the court the other players on the tour didn't want to have anything to do with her."
But Lenglen, with her retinue, did not lack for company. "She took her meals in her bedroom, as she found American food inedible," says Ann Kinsolving Brown. "She drank French wines and made great salads, with beetroot, green peppers and Gruyere cheese. At breakfast, late in the morning, her bed became the center of a sort of royal levee. She would be massaged by O'Brien in front of anybody. Her telephone was by her bed. Once she answered a friend's call, 'I'm in the hands of an Irishman.' "
As always, she was unpredictable. One time, in the middle of a match, she told Pyle that she was not feeling well. She had had her period, she said. She wanted a break. Pyle replied that all the women he'd ever known complained when they didn't have their periods. Lenglen's response was to burst out laughing and carry on with the match.
In Philadelphia, Lenglen told a reporter, "I'm so happy. It is fun being a pro—no worry, no terrorizing fright because I might lose a game, no harrowing criticism. Oh, it's much better!" Yet privately she flared with anger when the detested Tilden showed up for the matches at the Sesqui Auditorium in Philadelphia, where the court was laid over a hockey rink and the temperatures were polar. "Ce pédéraste comes especially to see me in this igloo!" she growled to Kinsolving.
As the troupe headed farther west, public apathy grew and ticket sales declined. Los Angeles, a tennis hotbed, was supposed to have been the last stop on a triumphant tour, but as gate receipts dwindled, Pyle kept signing up more cities. In spite of the disappointing returns on his investment, he treated the Lenglen entourage to a 10-day holiday at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego in December. Suzanne was photographed shaking hands with Jockey Tod Sloan at the nearby Caliente race track and doing calisthenics on the beach at Coronado, clad in "a black wool tank suit of meager proportions." Carefully excluded from the photographs but often included in Suzanne's excursions around San Diego was a tall, tanned and very rich California playboy, one Baldwin M. Baldwin, known as the Sheik. Grandson of E.J. (Lucky) Baldwin, who had made an enormous fortune during the California gold rush and who later owned the tract in Arcadia, Calif. where the Santa Anita race track now stands, young Baldwin became her constant companion, as constant, that is, as his position of husband, father and scion allowed. Two years later there was open talk of divorce and marriage, but in 1926 the Sheik was a somewhat shadowy figure. He joined the tour in its last weeks, and occasionally was referred to in newspaper accounts as Lenglen's business manager.
On Dec. 28 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, before a knowledgeable crowd of 7,000, the Pyle troupe went through its paces again. Much fuss had been made in the preceding weeks over Browne's great improvement. Browne was a Southern Californian, and hopes ran high that she would win her first match from Lenglen on home ground. Alas, Magnificent Mary reverted to form and lost 6-0, 6-1.
By late fall 1926, Pyle had started paying more attention to his pro football investments—he started the American Football League that year—and following the L.A. engagement, he handed the management of the troupe to Richards, who led the players east through Texas to New Orleans, Miami and Havana, then north to Newark, Hartford and, finally, in February, to Providence and an audience of approximately 2,500.
Pyle, rejoining the players in New York when the tour had ended, boasted to the press, "Mile. Lenglen had played to capacity or near-capacity throngs in every city she visited" and "the venture has been a financial success far beyond our expectations." But the amateur tennis establishment knew better and it rejoiced.
It would be gratifyingly tidy but historically inaccurate to say that Lenglen's professional tour was a courageous act of pioneering that led by a direct route to today's tennis-playing millionaires, but the open-tennis revolution was so long in coming that the Lenglen tour seems to have no connection with it.
In February 1927, Lenglen went back to France with her mother. They returned to America only once after that, in December 1928, when they went to visit Baldwin's mother, Mrs. Anita Baldwin, in Arcadia, Calif. Baldwin was still wed, but rumors of his imminent marriage to Lenglen persisted.