Shoreham - Wading River Men's Tournament Tennis
The year 1924 was the opening year of Shoreham-Wading River tennis competition. A veteran Wading River team secured the initial victory as they fielded R. W. Howell, K.W. Gosman, H. L. Cook, Jesse Heatley and C. M. DeWitt. Shoreham charged back securing victories over the next 3 years with teams consisting of the following: in 1925 Jack Brandon, Dudley Yard, Harold Rudolph, young Gilly Frei and Bill Hagenah; in 1926 Herb Frei, Stew Dickinson and Tony Vermylen joining Gil Frei and Hagenah to make up the team; In 1927 newcomers Edger Nye and Jim Cross Jr. along with the two Freis and Vermylen comprised the team. The early lead in competition was short lived for the Shoreham boys as Wading River dominated the remaining years up to 1938, closing out the initial 15 years with a margin of 9 victories to 6 for Shoreham.
We now enter the "dark ages" of Cup competition. The records for the next 25 years are, at best, misp]aced. The hunt is on for possible sources of information. But for now, we may only assume that Shoreham dominated the next 25 years with grace and modesty. That brings us to the modern era of our community tournament.
The most obvious feature of Wading River teams from 1964 to 1970 was the presence of the Preeg boys. John and Bill were a dominating force causing many Shorehamites to head to the cocktail party early. During the 7 years of their play, Wading River won 4 straight times and then lost in 1968 by a 3-2 score. They vindicated that loss by winning the next two years by 5-0 and 4-1.
The 1970 match produced a fine effort by John Bellport who fell to Bob Bailey in 3 sets, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5. John Bates and Tom Adams were blasted in singles by John Preeg and Bo Hager by identical scores of 6-2, 6-1. The nervous debut of Ed Weiss and Ed Barnhart was also unsuccessful. Only Rookie Joe Abata and Jim Jehle managed to win. As they bested Charley Hager and Ed Wattecamps.
At this point the Shoreham stalwarts were a very depressed lot. Nevertheless, despite the gloom that had spread throughout the Village, 1971 dawned as a bright new era. The Preeg boys were gone!
Wading River loaded up its team with other family combos, 2 Hagers and 2 Wattecamps. But in addition to losing the Preegs, they had retired some of their dreaded veterans. Dave Wilson played his last match in 1965, Al Prodell in '66, Halsey Gosman in '68, C. H. Wood in '69 and Charlie Ficken in '70. Our eastern neighbors were in for their own dark age.
Through the 7 year Preeg era, Shoreham had been rebuilding its team. Our retired Captain, Gilly Frei was the heart of the team and our chief cheerleader. Herb Tastrom, Paul Vermylen and Jim McCrystal retired from competition in 1967, except for a brief comeback by Jim. As they moved aside, they opened spaces for players who would become steady and consistent competitors for years to come.
John Bates had begun his competition in 1958 and has since logged a total of 29 matches. In 1965 Tom Adams began what will this year be 30 consecutive years of cup play. Jim Jehle joined in 1968 playing in 22 matches. Joe Abata played 15 straight years starting in 1970 until illness took its toll. Also in 1970 Ed Weiss began his streak of consecutive matches which will reach 25 this year. During this period Shoreham was also aided by the 7 year contribution of John Bellport and 8 years of play by Ed Brickley.
Shoreham Team 1972
The match results over the next few years reflect these changes. Shoreham won 4-1 in 1971 and was briefly set back 3-2 in 1972 as Wading River added the power of Roy Brazelton. But the Shoreham team would not be denied. They ran off 6 straight victories from 1973 to 1978.
Ed Weiss recalls that in 1974 he was locked in combat with Roy Brazelton and was on the wrong end of a 6-0, 3-0 score. As they changed courts he dejectedly tossed his racquet aside, berating himself as a poor excuse for a tennis player. Dr. Bill Garvin overheard him and supplied the necessary confidence boost. "Stop that talk Ed, you can beat him!". An inspired Ed Weiss returned to the court and won a brilliant come-from behind victory.
The 1978 matches were as tight as they had been for many years. While Shoreham won 4-l, the individual matches were hard fought brawls. At singles Bo Hager beat John Bates 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, Tom Adams beat Roy Brazelton 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, Ed Brickley beat Pat Guarino 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and Joe Abata and Jim Jehle beat Bryan Smith and Steve Shapiro to close out the match 6-0, 2-6, 6-2.
In 1979 Wading River shifted Brazelton to doubles and the adjustment gave them a 3-2 victory as he teamed with John Wattecamps to defeat Joe Abata and Jim Jehle. John Bates won at singles for Shoreham along with a victory by Ken Foley and Ed Weiss at #2 doubles.
The 1980 matches returned to form with a 3-2 Shoreham victory with straight set wins at #2 singles (Brickley), #3 singSes (J. Larson, our new secret weapon) and #1 doubles (Bates and Weiss). That year your author learned a sad lesson about the Wading River competitive spirit.
In my first year of play (1965) I had teamed at #2 doubles with Roy Schweyer against Halsey Gosman and Harry Wood. Wading River had already secured the cup with 4 team victories. Our match was really quite meaningless. The tiebreaker had not yet been invented and, as luck would have it, our third set dragged on and on into the gathering darkness as the spectators (in an embarrassed trickle at first, but later a flood) headed for the cocktail party. It ended at 12-10 in the 3rd.
In 1980 I was matched against Bo Hager at #1 singles and my prior experience with a "meaningless" match was clearly on my mind. Shoreham had won its third and decisive team match as Bo struggled through the second set. Of course our match was now "meaningless", or so I thought. I had won the first set and was ahead 4-1 in the second. Bo glared across the net at me with renewed intensity as I suggested that we adjourn to the cocktail party. At each court changeover I renewed my suggestion. "Bo, this is silly! Let's get some beers," I would whisper to him encouragingly. He drew even, won the second set and then locked horns for the final set. At this point we were both dashing and crashing around like two 35 year olds. No one left for the cocktail party until Bo raised his arms in victory. A white haired Wading River lady later told me it was the best match she had ever seen. It's all a matter of perspectlve.
In 1981 and 1982 the Shoreham team continued its winning form. The 1981 match was tied at 2-2. As reported by the Shoreham Item, "the outcome of the match now depended on the #1 doubles team of Joe Abata and Jim Jehle. Despite a ripple of uncertainty and even a few moans of dismay from the crowd, Joe and Jim....decisively dispatched their opponents, Roy Brazelton and John Meeker, 6-3, 6-1, thus insuring a prompt and victorious trip to the cocktail party."
The 1982 victory was a 5-0 shutout with rookie Geysa Kaali winning at doubles with Jehle.
Shoreham Team 1982
Wading River had quietly been adding new faces over the years. Their mainstay continued to be Bo Hager who missed only three matches between 1967 and 1993. Roy Brazelton played 18 consecutive matches starting in 1972. Bryan Smith played 11 straight starting in 1973 and Steve Shapiro has missed only 1 year since 1975. John Meeker has played in 12 matches starting in 1977 and Art Jarit logged 12 matches since 1981. Pat Guarino played 8 times starting in 1976. John Wattecamps competed 10 straight years to 1981 and Ed Wattecamps stretched out 8 matches from 1967 to 1986.
These new faces supported Wading River in 1983 when Billy Preeg returned and the cup moved east again for two years (both 3-2 victories).
The key match in 1983 was a blistering 3 set victory by Steve Shapiro over Ed Brickley at #3 singles. The match was played on the hard court and lasted over 2 hours. It was the first cup championship determined by a tiebreaker as Steve outlasted Ed 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.
In 1984 Wading River edged out a victory by close three set wins at #2 singles (Shapiro again over Brickley 6-2, 4-6, 6-2) and #3 singles (Prodell over Larson 1-6, 7-6, 6-3) and a rout at #2D with Jarit/Meeker over Abata/Jehle, 6-2, 6-1.
The close of the 1984 competition brought on another long drought for Wading River as the Shoreham team dominated the next 8 matches.
Shoreham continued to advance new players onto the team during these years, adding 11 new faces. The Kaali brothers (1982 and 1983), Mike Abata (1985), John Bates, Jr. (1985), Tim Bauer (1986), Dave Bauer (1990), Leo Sternlicht (1990), Pete Read (1990), Geordie Frei (1992) and Ev Melius (1993).
During this period Wading River added Eric Hager (1982), B. Stuke (1982), Dave Prodell (1984), Joe Benanti (1987), Chris Hooven (1988), John Hager (1991), R & E Lee (1991) and Rus Meier (1992).
But the depth of the Shoreham team was too great and each year another victory was notched.
In 1985 Shoreham won 5-0 with rookie victories by Mike Abata and John Bates, Jr. The Abata match was a brilliant display of tennis on the hard surface as he edged past Dave Prodell 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
In 1986 Jim Jehle and Ed Weiss held on to defeat Bo Hager and John Wattecamps at #1 doubles to secure a 3-2 team victory.
In 1987 the margin was 4-1 with Tim Bauer edging Joe Benanti in a nip and tuck battle 7-6, 7-6 with Bates/Weiss slipping by Brazelton/Shapiro 7-6, 7-5.
In 1988 and 1989 the margin dropped to 3-2 as Shoreham swept the singles each year with back to back victories by John Larson (#1), Tom Adams (#2) and Mike Abata (#3). Wading River dominated the doubles matches with teams of Shapiro/Jarit, Shapiro/Hager and Meeker/Brazelton.
In 1990 Shoreham again won 3-2 with a singles sweep, substituting rookie Leo Sternlicht for Mike Abata. Hager/Shapiro beat Read/Bates, Sr. in a tight match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 and Meeker/Brazelton took a default as Ed Weiss pulled up lame.
In 1 991 Shoreham again won the singles but added #1 doubles with a tense victory by Bates/Weiss over Bo Hager/E. Hager, 6-2, 7-6 (7-6).
In 1992 Shoreham swept the series 5-0. However, as will be mentioned later, many of those matches were extremely close.
During the 8 year stretch of Shoreham victories from 1985 to 1992, John Larson won every match defeating in order Eric Hager, Steve Shapiro, Pat Guarino, Joe Benanti (3 times), Art Jarit and Rus Meier. John Bates, Sr. went 4 for 5, Leo Sternlicht 3 for 3 and Tom Adams 7 for 8.
A high point of this period occurred in 1991 as John Bates Sr. and Jr. defeated Bo Hager and Eric Hager ending in a tiebreaker that went to 1 19. The low point occurred in 1989 when Meeker/Brazelton defeated our team 6-0, 6-0 for the first recorded shutout in team history.
However, all good things must come to an end. The 1993 matches (the 70th competition between the teams) brought renewed spirit to the Wading River Team.
Utilizing the same talent as the previous year, Wading River was able to go from a 5-0 defeat in 1992 to a 3-2 victory in 1993. Proper credit goes to the players, of course, but the team lineup seems to have determined the day as Eric Hager moved to singles and Steve Shapiro to doubles.
The previous year's Shoreham 5-0 victory had been very thin. Leo Sternlicht had edged Steve Shapiro in 3 sets, Tom Adams snuck by Art Jarit in a long third set tiebreaker, and G. Frei and John Bates Jr. bested the Lees in a close 6-4, 7-5 victory. The shift of just a few key points could have turned around all three of those matches.
In 1993 Wading River was not forced to rely on luck for the final edge. In one of the most dramatic endings in recent years, J. Bates and E. Weiss faced the seasoned team of Bo Hager and Steve Shapiro in the deciding match at #1 doubles. The tournament was tied at 2-2 as the thirdset of their match was played. Wading River pulled ahead 4-1. John and Ed dug in and fought their way back to 4-4. But in the end, the advantage shifted to Bo and Steve and they closed out the first Wading River victory in nine years.
I have paused at this point to look back over 30 years of my competition in these matches and my many years as a spectator before I made the team. I am amazed at how quickly the years seem to have passed. But my impressions of these years are clear.
I see Gilly Frei, Herb Tastrom and Ed Wattecamps, always able to enliven the days with their clever remarks and good spirits. I see Charlie Ficken, Dave Wilson and Halsey Gosman who seemed to play for an eterni ty. I recall Wilson playing a furious match against young Mike Heeg in the 1950's. Wilson was then an older man of perhaps 50 years. He seemed to be panting and wheezing between points but to my utter amazement he defeated our teenage wonder.
I am told stories of the captains meetings held the day before the matches. Jim McCrystal and Gilly Frei would meet with Ed Wattecamps and Charlie Woods, Sr. and try to pry the secret lineup from them by plying them with booze. It never worked. The lineups would be exchanged as the matches began.
I remember Ricky Goat, a bright light on our team for three years before his tragic death. I recall the fighting spirit of Jim McCrystal who retired from competition to become our captain for many years. Paul Vermlyen retired from the team to enjoy watching two of his sons Paul, Jr. and David follow in the family tradition of cup competition. The Hager family has been a constant force missing only two matches since 1968.
Of course, I remember how the Preegs terrorized us for years and then Wading River unleashed Bo Hager and Roy Brazelton against us with their frightening overheads. Joe Abata organized the court assignments and order of play with scientific precision. Was it even years for men and odd years for women? Selden Heatley, Ed Wattecamps, Jim McCrystal and Gilly Frei were gracious team captains and hosts as they exchanged the cup over the years. Their good humored speeches always captured the feeling of the community about this long standing tradition. These and many other impressions and memories fill the history of the cup competition.
Each year the folks returned - many of the same faces - many new kids - new friends. Each year the umpires, ball people and linespeople assisted and joined in the spirit of the day. And each year ended in our mutual celebration of the good will shared between the two neighboring towns.
The second 70 years begins in 1994. I hope it starts with a Shoreham victory. But win or lose, the memories of these years of friendly competition are victory enough for me.