Under the Black Flag

Of Locks and la King

A man whose reputation rivals that of the Clintons for dishonesty and lies recently claimed he overheard a gangster confirming that Bobby Riggs had thrown his match against Billie Jean King in the infamous Battle of the Sexes on September 20, 1973.  King won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  According to the Clinton-wannabe, Bobby was $100,000 in the hole to the Sopranos, and, in order to extricate himself, told the hoods to bet on King, then threw the match, thus saving his knees and possibly a cement coffin.  It’s a good story that got the small-timer some publicity, but that’s all it is: A rumor that had made the rounds, and one he tried to cash in on.

A friend of mine from San Antonio, Raymond Welder—Raimondo, to some of us Italian opera lovers—knew of my tennis background and asked me about it.  Let’s take it from the top.

In the winter of 1956 I was 20 years old and on the Caribbean tennis circuit.  Sometime in January I ended up in Miami, where I was befriended by Bobby Riggs in the courts of the Racquet Club, a hustlers’ paradise where good tennis players would spot points and games to not-so-good rich tennis players and gamble for large amounts.  Bobby liked my game.  I was a retriever who never missed, a sine qua non when playing lesser players for large stakes.  Tennis is like backgammon: Everyone who plays the game thinks...

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