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 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 dirt cheap Marshal Jon Fisher s A TERRIBLE SPLENDOR is expensive but just as necessary as Deford s Of special importance is his coverage of Gottfried Cramm, one of God s most gorgeous creatures, as well as being an immense tennis star Fisher takes us into pre war Berlin where boys were than plentiful and as cheap as one of Deford s books Tilden played against Cramm and then managed the boy, far younger than himself Cramm s end was tragic Tilden just dropped instantly dead from a heart attack which means that the guy was lucky right up to the end My own books on homoeroticism through the ages can be found on under Michael Hone. 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 Deford s care and wit I can almost hear him reading it to me, like one of his commentaries on NPR Mr Deford 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 Mr Deford 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 Deford for that. 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. The titular character proves to be ultimately both admirable and somewhat pathetic in this well written and aptly entitled tale of tragedy and triumph I found, as a tennis player and openly gay man, Bill Tilden s legacy one which was vitally important to know of and was riveted by Frank Delford s work in the telling of his story. The classic biography of America s first tennis star When he stepped onto the Wimbledon grass in , Bill Tilden was poised to become the world s greatest tennis star Throughout thes he dominated the sport, winning championship after championship with his trademark grace, power, and intelligence He owned the game completely than Babe Ruth ruled baseball, making his name, for 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 A This is a great story My father took me to see Big Bill when I was a child when he was in bad shape My father saw him in the 1920 s and 30 s he was from Philadelphia and saw him many times This is a tragic story of a man who did not deserve his fate. None of the reviewers mention one of the most important issues presented throughout the book that Tilden could think for himself and the USLTA didn t like it As a result he was punished and treated with disrespect, regardless of his talent or any personal issues at least as presented by Mr DeFord. This is a wonderful read of a tragic, enigmatic life, lived by the man who may be the greatest tennis player ever Deford does a masterful job of telling an almost forgotten story.