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The millions who have known the joy of making a grand slam doubled and vulnerable, and the despair of going down three tricks in like circumstances play their cards for the most part unaware of the man to whom they are indebted for both experiences. He is Harold S. Vanderbilt, the inventor of contract bridge.
He is also, of course, the man who successfully defended the historic America's Cup, the ultimate trophy in yachting, against its last three challenges.
Despite his name and accomplishments and the fact that he has during almost all of his 72 years been one of the most imposing and creative figures in American sporting life, "Mike" Vanderbilt has remained comparatively unknown to the general public, more a legend than a reality, and even the legend is indistinct.
In next week's issue, however, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED publishes the first installment of a four-part article by George Plimpton in which both the personality and the contributions of Harold S. Vanderbilt at last come through clearly.
During the six months of preparing his story, Plimpton, Harvard '48, once president of the Lampoon and now editor of the quarterly Paris Review, visited Vanderbilt, Harvard '07, at his home in Florida, his farm in Virginia, his offices in New York and rode part way on one of Vanderbilt's self-driven and typically high-speed motor trips through Europe. He also went out sailing with him, played golf and tennis with him.
He also joined him at the card table, for at the outset Vanderbilt told him, "One thing is sure. If you're going to write this, you'd better play some bridge with me."
The result of the many hours of games and sport and the many months of research and writing was not only a friendship between writer and subject, but the first complete story of a great sailor, of a meticulous and inventive intellect and of a peerless competitor.