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Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy (Hall of Fame Edition Book 2) [Kindle Edition]

Frank Deford
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The classic biography of America’s first tennis star
When he stepped onto the Wimbledon grass in 1920, Bill Tilden was poised to become the world’s greatest tennis star. Throughout the 1920s he dominated the sport, winning championship after championship with his trademark grace, power, and intelligence. He owned the game more completely than Babe Ruth ruled baseball, making his name, for more than a decade, synonymous with tennis.
Phenomenally intelligent—he completed his first book on tennis in the three weeks before his first Wimbledon triumph—Tilden’s success came with a dark side. This classic biography by legendary sports writer Frank Deford tells of Tilden’s dominance, which was unlike anything the sport had ever seen—and the big man’s tragic fall.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 455 KB
  • Print Length: 233 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1894963245
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (28 Jun. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0057K2LN2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #839,580 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating account of the life of Big Bill who dominated men's tennis in the earlier part of the 20th century. What is amazing is how few people these days know his story - a story of triumph and tragedy which makes for an enthralling read. It is also a sad reflection on human reactions to human frailty in others.

Full of detail which will interest today's tennis fans and fill in some gaps in their knowledge of the game's history. I must admit to feeling quite sad as I finished the story of Big Bill. It seems many great and talented people have feet of clay and often have to battle with an inherent weakness in their natures which mars an otherwise successful life. You will find out what Bill's achilles heel was as you read. How you, the reader judges him at the end, is your challenge.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TILDEN: HOMOEROTIC STAR 18 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
In my own books on homoeroticism I’ve followed the lives of the men and boys who preferred other men and boys, from Ancient Greece to the end of the Renaissance. The life of Tilden falls squarely in the material I cover, if not the period. He spent the equivalent, in today’s dollars, of a million on his ball boys. Frank Deford’s BIG BILL TILDEN gives us not only the wondrous story of Tilden’s life and career, but fascinating anecdotes, such as Nabokov in LOLITA who talks about a famous tennis player named Ned Litam and ‘’his harem of ball boys.’’ Ned Litam, backwards, spells Ma Tilden. During a train ride to a match Tilden went up to one of his players and said, ‘’Fritzi did the cutest thing this morning. He took $400 from my wallet and bought himself a watch.’’ $400 in Depression Age money was a fortune. Tilden was said to have had a huge list of ball boys who lived throughout the U.S., nearly always boys of German origin, or from Germany itself, all of whom he called Fritzi. He was detested by the public and once an empire even left his chair and didn’t return. The moment Deford began to describe a match I cringed. Personally, I haven’t seen a tennis match since the retirement of the incomparable Borg. But Deford’s matches make for couldn’t-put-the-book-down splendor. Tilden played thousands upon thousands of matches, never once showing himself naked in the locker room, even if this meant returning to his hotel soaked with sweat. Alas, he became even more irascible in later years, and turned fruity, a sad ending for someone like me who likes his men and boys virile. Deford’s book is a must, and a second-hand copy can be found on Amazon dirt-cheap. Marshal Jon Fisher’s A TERRIBLE SPLENDOR is more expensive but just as necessary as Deford’s. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Briljant book 25 Jan. 2012
This book from 1976 is still a great book. The person of Bill Tilden comes alive. Mr Deford did a very well job not to let take bias over and wrote an excellent, honest and well documented biography. One of the best I've ever read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dedford Shows Reverence for the Tilden Legacy 13 Jun. 2010
By Bob Drake - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thirty plus years ago I read two articles in Sports Illustrated by Frank Dedford that stunned me. The subject was the man voted the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century, tennis player Bill Tilden, and I had never heard of him. When I saw the play Big Bill at Lincoln Center years ago, written by A.R. "Pete" Gurney, I already knew many of the details. Yet it was only recently that I decided to buy this book.

This book is an expanded version of those two Sports Illustrated articles, and is written with Dedford's care and wit. I can almost hear him reading it to me, like one of his commentaries on NPR. Mr. Dedford brings Big Bill back to life, describing his ego as well as his intellect and style. None of Tilden's tennis books are in print, but used copies are available here at Amazon. Mr. Dedford gives as a motivation for Tilden's pursuit of boys in later life as a search for the son he could never have.

There is no memorial to this athlete who out-polled Babe Ruth, and his small, flat, rectangular gravestone in the Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, states, simply, "William T. Tilden 2nd, 1893-1953." There is no mention of tennis. Actually there is a memorial to Bill Tilden, THIS BOOK. And we can thank Frank Dedford for that.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Briljant book 1 April 2010
By WC_Wingfield - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book from 1976 is still a great book. The person of Bill Tilden comes alive. Mr Deford did a very well job not to let take bias over and wrote an excellent, honest and well documented biography. One of the best I've ever read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read about possibly the single most fascinating man in tennis history 14 Sept. 2012
By P. H. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I generally try to give very in-depth and detailed reviews about the things that I like, but in this case, I really can't add much to what's already been said. This is an excellent, very well-written and researched book about a man whose legacy has been unjustly buried by many tennis enthusiasts over the years because of the considerable size of his ego and his convictions of having sex with young boys. The latter is obviously regrettable - of COURSE I'm not condoning child molestation - but reading the book gives you a better sense of Tilden the man, why he did what he did, and his struggles with his sexuality while having to remain closeted in the super-homophobic era that he lived in. In fact, in the case of his first conviction, DeFord makes a rather convincing argument that it was the minor who seduced Tilden, not the other way around, and that it was only Tilden's pride and faith in his own celebrity that prevented him from having the charges dropped, especially when the youth would not testify at the trial. Had he been allowed to be openly gay without fear of retribution, there's a very strong chance that Tilden would have not resorted to such nefarious methods of attaining sexual pleasure.

As far as Tilden the tennis player is concerned? He was, at the time of his peak, without peer, and may be the single most dominant player in tennis history. Whether he was the BEST is a different discussion, as it's hard to compare across eras, but the fact that he lost one match over the course of 1923-1924 (there is no record of him losing a match in '24 at all) speaks to his greatness. Not to mention the fact that this stretch of unparalleled dominance came AFTER Tilden had to have part of his index finger removed on his racquet hand. Roger Federer may be a better overall player than Tilden, but even the great Swiss Maestro has never had a stretch of dominance like Tilden at his best (such as winning 57 consecutive games in 1924). There has not been and may never be someone who dominates at such a level ever again.

This review ended up longer than I thought it would be, but the point remains: Bill Tilden does not deserve to be forgotten by the passing of time. If you are at all interested in tennis, buy this book ASAP and relive the tales of one of the best players to set foot on a tennis court. And for the love of God, someone make this man's story into a movie already!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest tennis player 23 Nov. 2011
By othoniaboys - Published on
This is an excellent study of the tragic life of the greatest tennis player of the 20th century, a man rich and famous, associated with the University of Pennsylvania (as a student), and destroyed and shunned almost overnight, dying in disgrace. Sound familiar? The more things change, the more they remain the same.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tilden Stays With Me 1 Jun. 2012
By Gerry Mandel - Published on
I read Big Bill Tilden when it first came out. It was also the first time I had heard of Frank DeFord. His writing made such an impact on me, I've never forgotten his story of Big Bill, nor just how beautiful and insightful sports writing can be. I heard Frank speak this past week, here in St. Louis. He has so many stories to tell, has such a feeling for athletes, sports.... and words. The book on Tilden is about a man, secondarily about a sport. It's still worth the read. I highly recommend it. I have just started reading his newest book - the reason for his current book tour - and find it difficult to put down. It's titled "Over Time." A memoir by Frank.
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