Ben Press, born the day after me (May 21) but many years before, is quite a celebrated tennis pro. He has his own Wikipedia entry, and in it you’ll read that he grew up playing with Ted Williams. In the YouTube piece below, at which Ben spoke during a ribbon cutting ceremony, you’ll hear him tell the story of how he used to shag the balls that Ted would hit out of the yard during his many hours of batting practice. As Ben tells it, Ted could have been just as good a tennis player as a baseball player, but there was little money to be made in those days in pro tennis, and more opportunity in baseball and the rest is history.
An optometric San Diego cousin, Bernie Press, would tell me through the years that Ben was a fairly famous guy, but it didn’t dawn on me how well-known he was until I read a copy of his book, 100 Years of Tennis at the Hotel del Coronado, where Ben served as the tennis pro for 28 years. Bernie alerted me today that Ben was honored by having a Tennis Center named after him at his old middle school alma mater. You can read about it here, and the it’s quite a sight to see Bill Walton – the Master of Ceremonies and a San Diego neighbor, towering over Ben, now short in physical stature but big of heart. Beautiful to see him get this recognition, and proud to bear the same last name.