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Von Cramm was seemingly impervious to pain, either physical or emotional. But he did have a dread of hospitals. "I can't recall him ever being ill, except, of course, during the war," says Hofer. "He told me once that he had no fear of being injured or even of dying. Then he said, 'But Wolfgang, I will not die in a hospital.' "
And he did not. On Nov. 9, 1976, Von Cramm arranged for a car and driver to take him from Cairo to Alexandria on business. He planned to leave at one in the afternoon, but another driver appeared at 11:30 a.m. and offered to make the trip. The baron agreed to the earlier start and, as always, joined the driver in the front seat. Sitting in the back was unnecessary ostentation, he thought. Besides, he enjoyed talking with his drivers.
The two-lane blacktop road was, says Kovaleski, "as straight as an arrow, with very few intersections." It also was never busy; a driver could go miles without seeing another car. On this day, though, a military truck coming from the opposite direction suddenly swerved out of control into the wrong lane, apparently after turning too late toward a gas station, and collided with Von Cramm's car. The baron's driver was killed instantly. Von Cramm, true to his wishes, died not in a hospital but in an ambulance taking him to one.
"His death," says his nephew, "hit the family like a stroke from hell."
The once famous "tennis baron" is scarcely remembered today. When Boris Becker won his first Wimbledon, he announced in all the innocence of his 17 years that perhaps his victory would give the sport a needed boost in his country, because "in Germany, we never had an idol before in tennis." Becker's victory came on July 7, 1985, which would have been Von Cramm's 76th birthday.
It is true also that the code of sportsmanship the baron so scrupulously observed is no more applicable to today's tennis than his wooden racket or long pants. "Gottfried would have been shocked at the way some of these animals behave," says Talbert.
"We were much more disciplined," says Perry. "Yet we had so much fun. We were not loners."
"We were a world family then," says the 86-year-old Austin. "We were all good friends. Today, I'm afraid, the players are not. It's sad."
There is one place where Von Cramm's memory is secure. The Rot-Weiss club, fully restored to its prewar grandeur, is nestled among groves of trees in the fashionable Grunewald section of Berlin, overlooking the glistening Lake Hundekehle. The club owes its recovered beauty, in large part, to Von Cramm's determination to rebuild it from the rubble of World War II. The baron loved this place, and he is everywhere, even in death. Photographs of him adorn the walls of the clubhouse. His memorabilia are preserved there. A plaque donated by Perry celebrates a memorable Davis Cup tie between Britain and Germany at the Rot-Weiss in 1932—won by the Germans. The short street leading past stately homes to the club's entrance gate is called Gottfried-von-Cramm-Weg.
In club president Hofer, Von Cramm has a faithful disciple dedicated to keeping his name alive. In his office Hofer, 68, points to a photograph of Von Cramm hitting a sweeping backhand. "He was not a father figure to me," Hofer says, "although he was older. And he was not like a brother. What he was, was a true friend, one who always did his best to help. A true friend. How many of those do you have in a lifetime?"