Kramer memorial service held

September 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES — International Tennis Hall of Famer Jack Kramer was remembered on Saturday during a memorial service in Straus Stadium at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the UCLA campus.

Several hundred spectators filled the stadium seats, just as they had throughout Kramer’s career as a tennis player and later as a promoter of the sport.

Kramer passed away peacefully in his sleep on September 12 after a battle with cancer. The 88-year-old is survived by five children and eight grandchildren. His wife, Gloria, passed away in 2008.

“It was a fabulous and glorious end, but he got a bad call late in the fifth set,” Kramer’s son Bob said at the outset of the ceremony.

“He didn’t argue it. “

Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times and ESPN’s Pam Shriver, an International Tennis Hall of Famer, served as the hosts of the ceremony.

Dwyre recounted speaking with Hall of Fame tennis writer Bud Collins upon hearing of Kramer’s death. “He’s the most important man in the history of tennis,” Collins told Dwyre.

Hundreds of letters and emails have been received since Jack’s passing. A few were read during the memorial, including those from David Budge (son of Don), Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Roger Federer, Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, and Stan Smith.

Each presenter took time recounting their personal experiences with Jack as well as his influence on their life and the game of tennis.

“The best promoter the game of tennis ever has had, and ever will have,” said Barry MacKay, himself a promoter and former player.

USTA Southern California Section President Bill Kellogg also credited Kramer’s impact on the sport. “Jack was all about celebrating life, and he was truly a champion of the game,” Kellogg said.

US Open Tournament Director Jim Curley called Kramer a pioneer. “Every one of us who makes our living in professional tennis owes a debt of gratitude to Jack,” Curley said.

Eddie Merrins, the long-time PGA teaching pro at Bel Air Country Club, compared Kramer to legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden for their contributions to the sport. “We in golf like to claim Jack Kramer just like you in tennis do,” Merrins said.

Tracy Austin, also an International Tennis Hall of Famer, remembered being a kid at the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills, Calif., which she called her home away from home. “He was a risk taker, but a smart risk taker,” Austin said. “Jack was always moving forward.”

International Hall of Famer Donald Dell, also a former player and tennis promoter, spoke about Kramer’s role in the creation of the modern professional game. But like many of the presenters, he also paid tribute to Jack’s personal life as well. “Of all Jack’s achievements, he and Gloria, were proudest of these five sons,” Dell said. “It’s quite a family.”

Charlie Pasarell, another promoter and former player, concluded the presentations. He spoke about idolizing Kramer. “In the world of tennis, Jack Kramer was a giant. Nothing less,” Pasarell said. “More importantly, Jack was a good man, a champion in life.”

The Kramer sons closed the ceremony. “He was a champion not because he came in No. 1,” the eldest son David said. “His life was a gift to us, and we accept in all gratitude.”