Tulane Coach Mercer Beasley

 

MERCER BEASLEY

Published by  on November 9, 2013 | Edit

Charles Fenton Mercer Beasley                 Screen shot 2013-11-09 at 2.06.00 PM

July 18, 1882- March 1965                   by Billy E. Crawford

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Two years ago when I began researching and writing articles about local and state tennis players, coaches and supporters, one name that appeared frequently was Emmett Pare’, who coached the Tulane Greenies for 38 years, from 1934-1972.NOTE: click La Hall of Fame page to read his complete article as well as articles/interviews of players listed below.

From this research came a series of interviews and articles about players who were coached by Pare’, including: Linda Tuero, Ham Richardson, Ron Holmberg, Lester Sack, Alan Bartlett, Ronnie Fenasci, Meyers family members, Ernie Sutter, Jack Tuero.

Then last year I was researching Ernie Sutter’s older brother, Clifford Sutter.  Cliff was coached at Tulane by Mercer Beasley, a new name to me.  Two side stories:  recently I have been asking local New Orleans area tennis fans, ” have you ever heard the name Mercer Beasley?”  Only two persons have said yes, Ed Richeson and Joe Stahl.   On the recent occasion of John Wahlborg’s Love the Battle event at Bocage I asked my friend Drew Meyers this same question.  His answer, “No, but a great name.” This quote was exactly the same words I said to myself when I first read his name. Drew, only after deeper research did I discover his full name:  Charles Fenton Mercer Beasley. That said, I just had to write an article on this man.  I hope you find its contents informative  as well as interesting.  I did.

TULANE  COACHING DAYS:  1929-33 TENNIS SEASONS

Source:  Tulane Jambalaya Yearbooks

1928-29

“With the accession of Mercer Beasley, national known tennis coach and for many years the Cuban Davis Cup Team as mentor of this year’s squad and with the return to school of Clifford Sutter, nationally ranked junior, the 1929 team promises to be a hundred per cent outfit.  Bayou, Wehrman, and many others of the last year’s squad have returned and reported to Coach Beasley.”

Tulane’s most potent sports ambassador was the 1928-29 tennis team.  Guided by the accurate head of Mercer Beasley, the Green court squad swept through a hard schedule with but one nick and its brightest stars closed up the season by sifting through the South’s best and leaving every Southern Intercollegiate honor right on our own courts.

1930

The year 1930 saw four of America’s greatest tennis titles to Tulane.  Cliff Sutter, who developed into a championship player under the coaching to Coach Beasley, is the holder of the National Intercollegiate, the Longwood Bowl, the Eastern Grass Court, and the Southern Intercollegiate singles trophies.

Cliff Sutter & Julius Seligson @ Merion Crocket Club 1930 NCAA

Cliff Sutter & Julius Seligson @ Merion Cricket Club 1930 NCAA. LeHigh University’s Seligson had won 66 straight matches before losing to Sutter in the finals.  Cliff Sutter also won the National single’s title in 1932.

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Maurice Bayon and Clifford Sutter won the 1930 Doubles Cincinnati Masters

1931

” A brilliant team, a marvelous coach, and a splendid new stadium comprised in 1931 to definitely establish Tulane, and New Orleans, as the tennis center of the world.  Cliff Sutter, better than ever in his first season of intercollegiate play, returned to Coach Mercer Beasley’s fold to lead the Greenies to the most successful season.”

The frowns of Jupiter Pluvius cast something of a gloom as the scheduled dedication by the brilliant play of Captain Cliff Sutter in his defeat of Karl Kamrath, Texas star and of Ed Sutter, Hume, and Eastman who swept their matches with a team from City Park.

As a result of the inclement weather, the stadium was officially opened the following week with a final match of a “Round Robin” Tournament in which some of the leading players participated, and a series of matches with LSU featuring the day’s play.  Wilmer Allison defeated Cliff Sutter for the Round Robin championship after weathering a hard-fought match with Charlie Hume in an earlier round.  Sutter had defeated Frankie Parker and J. Gilbert Hall to reach the finals.  The remainder of the Greenie squad was successful in defeating the Tigers 6-3.

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1933

Netmen Have Great Season

“Although playing without the brilliant Cliff Sutter, twice National Intercollegiate Champion, the racquet wielding sons of Paul Tulane continued to uphold their reputation as the best tennis outfit in the South.”  Responsible for the tremendous success of the Wave were stellar performances by Eddie Sutter and Charlie Hume, Kendall Cram, Dick Haspel and Harry de Buys.

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A large part of the success on the courts in 1933 can be attributed to the new kind of tennis inaugurated at the University by Coach Beasley.  Believing that to be a tennis player of any repute one had to be an all-around athlete and have a physique strong enough to give him the maximum efficiency in every stroke.  Beasley had Tulane’s team exercising every afternoon in regular gymnasium classes.  The work of these embryo net stars included running, jumping, practicing starts on the cinder path, winding up their work with several laps around the track.

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Coach Beasley completed his last year at Tulane in 1933.  He became the tennis coach at Princeton, where he coached until 1942. As the coach of the Tigers, he compiled a dual-match record of 71-12-1 and a total record of 89-12-1.  In 1946 he spent a brief time as coach at the University of Miami with a 4-2-1 record.  He also taught tennis at private clubs in Milwaukee, Pasadena, Detroit and Chicago.

EARLY YEARS

Mercer Beasley was born to a family of prominent New Jersey jurists.  His father, Chauncey H. Beasley was a Princeton alumnus and District Court Judge.  His uncle was the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Mercer took up tennis when he was 11 years old, wearing cricket flannels, blazer, and Eton cap (his tennis attire for a lifetime) on his father’s lawn.  He had very poor eyesight and played poorly.

“I always loved tennis”, said Beasley, “but I never could play it.”  As a student at prep school at Lawrenceville School he could not make the tennis team.  After attending Lawrenceville, he attended Princeton for a short time before being expelled.  He then held a succession of jobs, before becoming an assistant manager of the Notlek Amusement Company in Manhattan.  The facility had a number of tennis courts in the summer. He became the maintenance man for the tennis center and ran the pro shop.  He eventually began giving informal lessons on the courts.

In 1921, at the age of 40, Victor Elting of the socially prominent Chicago family, invited him to become teaching professional at the wealthy Indian Hills Club in Winnetka, Illinois. Beasley reportedly was emptying a wheelbarrow of cinders when Elting offered him the job. He said he was not qualified.  Etling  then offered to double his salary, so he immediately accepted the offer.  It was at Indian Hills that he reinvented himself as a teaching professional.

OTHER PROMINENT PUPILS

Frankie Parker

In 1927 Beasley was teaching tennis in Milwaukee when he spotted a young ball boy hitting tennis balls.  His name was Franciszek A. Paikowski.  Beasley decided to make him his protege as he saw the natural talent in the boy.  His mother was a widow and was busy supporting five children.  Beasley sent him to Lawrenceville, and kept him will stocked with Mercer Beasley rackets and white flannel pants. His name was difficult for umpires to pronounce, so he changed his name to Frank Parker. Beasley brought him to New Orleans when he took the Tulane tennis position.  Parker attend high school at Fortier High School, just a few blocks from the Tulane campus.  According to local tennis historian, Joseph Stahl, Beasley arranged for Frank’s class schedule to enable him to attend all his classes in the morning and work out with the college tennis team in the afternoons.  Under Beasley’s tutelage, Parker became the first player to win the national championships for boys (those through the age of 15), juniors (through 18), and men.  Beginning at the age of 17 in 1933, Parker was ranked among the Top 10 American players for 17 consecutive years.  Parker is one of the few Americans to win both the French Championships (1948,’49) and the U.S. Championships (1944, ’45.)

Ellsworth Vines

In 1925 Beasley said he discovered Vines when he was 14 years old.  ”I found Ellsworth working in Kay’s Bakery Shop in Pasadena.” He was looking for one more player for the Pasadena High School tennis team.  Someone sent him to the bakery shop, where Vines was working in the oven room.  In a 1933 book published under Vine’s byline, he said Beasley was very kind, and encouraged me saying I would some day be a champion.  Asked why Beasley would tutor him for nothing, Vines replied, “Because he loves tennis; loves to encourage youngsters so that the United States may develop good young players who might win and hold for America that symbol of world tennis supremacy-the Davis Cup. ” I was fortunate in meeting Mr. Beasley…a few years later, after I had mastered his instructions, I defeated several stars, much to my amazement.  Actually, in the amateur ranks Vines won Wimbledon singles in 1932 and U.S. Open in 1931, ’32. He won the doubles Australian Open in ’33, U.S. doubles in ’32 and Mixed U.S. Open in 1933.  He was world’s number 1 or the co-no.1 for four years in 1932, ’35, ’36, and ’37.

Wilmer Allison

A life-long Texan, Allison attended the University of Texas, where he was the Intercollegiate tennis champion in 1927.  In spite of his success, however, at one point he “found his game going sour and his national ranking taking a drop.  He was unhappy about his forehand. Seeking help, he went to Beasley who was coaching at Tulane University in New Orleans in late 1929 or early 1930: and they worked out his difficulty with the stroke.  Afterwards, he began to play his best tennis and his forehand, sweeping across court or drill down to line to open the way for his feared volley, was big factor in his getting to the finals of the national championship in 1934 and winning the title in 1935.  He was ranked number 1 in the United States in both ’34 and ’35.

A grateful Allison wrote in the Introduction to How to Play Tennis: The Beasley System…”the transcending genius of Beasley is that he can turn from teaching the most elementary steps to a rank beginner, and teach champions strategy and court tactics.”

OTHER ENDEAVORS

Beasley’s 1933 How to Play Tennis: The Beasley System was a highly influential book that emphasized accuracy and consistent play.  He preached the virtue of percentage play, calling good tennis the “avoidance of errors.”

In 1934 he patented a “Practice Machine” to throw tennis balls.

The A.G. Spaulding Company’s “Mercer Beasley” model was the top selling racquet for much of the 30′s and 40″s.

 

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“Tennis Week” in a 2008 article stated the following: Beasley saw them all in a career that spanned the years between Bill Tilden and Billie Jean King, and while the sum total of his charges constitutes nothing less than an historical survey of the sport, the remarkable story of Beasley’s ascension to  prominence has been all but forgotten, lost like the applause from yesterday’s galleries, a thing for only aging hackers and the historians to think about.

 

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GRAVE STONE

They change the sky, not their soul,

who run across the sea      (Horace)

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