THE OJAI TENNIS TROPHY UPDATE AS THE 116TH TOURNAMENT IS BEING PLAYED

Written by: on 23rd April 2016
Ojai Trophy
THE OJAI TENNIS TROPHY UPDATE AS THE 116TH TOURNAMENT IS BEING PLAYED  |

The Lost Ojai Trophy

 

Editors note: We first posted This story about Joe Hunt’s (Joseph Raphael Hunt) and the missing Ojai trophy in May of 2014.

The Ojai tournament has alot that makes it special to us. It was where our dear friend GUSSY Moran had to buy her coach Bill Tilden a ticket because they refused to give him a coaches pass. Long story. But true. Same thing happened to our buddy Jason… Another story another time.

It’s where the kindness and love of TENNIS PATRONS have helped the event succeed and exist. Why you ask? Simple… No GREED to factor in…

This little beautiful trophy has been very powerful. Soon after this last post Joseph Hunt The Grand Nephew has seen Lt . JOE Hunt honored at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow at the BJK National Tennis Center… He has seen the naval academy at Annapolis name a court in JOES honor as well as an annual spring tournament.

So the little lost trophy has done some amazeballs things.

And re: Tennis Patrons Bless You and we sure wish all tennis tournaments still had a committee of true tennis loyalists that preserve the integrity of the event and the sport.

If The Los Angeles tennis event Still had patrons They’d Still have a tourney! (LJ)

 

We at 10sBalls.com pride ourselves at being “Guardians of the Game.” We look after the sport and want to see it continue to grow and thrive. When we found the 1938 Ojai trophy on Ebay back in December, we purchased it and sent it up to Ojai so that it could find its home, they then did the research to find Joe Hunt, a grand nephew of the tennis Hall of Famer and former US Nationals champion.
       The story received national attention and here are a couple links to more information:

One exceptional piece written by Mark Winters for the Southern California Tennis Association:
http://www.scta.usta.com/tennis_news/us_open_tribute_to_joe_hunt_/
An article from History.com : http://www.history.com/news/u-s-open-honors-past-champ-joe-hunt-killed-during-wwii

Ventura County Star tennis writer Rhiannon Potkey wrote another great story. Here is an excerpt:

“I am just so touched by the fact that people out there in Ojai still care enough to consider this worthy of doing,” said Hunt, an attorney in Seattle. “To have someone honor my great-uncle means a ton. Our family is very, very grateful.”

Like his great-uncle, the 55-year-old Hunt played in The Ojai, which is marking its 114th edition this year. He attended Santa Barbara High School and the University of Redlands.

Growing up, he spent hours reading scrapbooks about his namesake’s rich tennis exploits.

“Being named after him I just felt really connected to the history of who he was,” Hunt said. “I never met him, but he was certainly an inspiration for me being a tennis player. Everyone in our family that played tennis has kind of been inspired by him.”

His great-uncle’s history was short but filled with accomplishments.

Hunt remains the only player to have won the national boys (15 and younger), juniors (18 and younger), collegiate and U.S. men’s singles titles.

After attending USC, Hunt left early to enter the Naval Academy and become an officer. An extraordinary athlete, he lettered in football at the Naval Academy in 1940 as the starting running back and won the NCAA singles title the following spring.

Hunt was one of 14 players in the singles draw at the U.S. singles championship in 1943 who were on leave from the military.

After beating Kramer in three sets in Forest Hills, N.Y., Hunt had to return immediately to the Navy.

He had survived two years of duty at sea before requesting reassignment to train as a fighter pilot.

Hunt had only one segment of training to complete when his plane dove during a training exercise and never came up.

“It went straight into the ocean. They don’t know the cause,” his grandnephew said. “His flight instructor told him to come out of the dive, and he kept diving. They found some debris and flesh but never found the body or the plane. Ironically, only a month later the atomic bomb was dropped, and he would have never went out to fight. The war was over.”

   Finally, Misty Volaski, the Ojai Valley News editor, posted this story:

You’ve probably never heard of tennis great Joe Hunt. But if his plane hadn’t crashed into the Atlantic during World War II, Hunt could’ve been a household name on par with the likes of Jack Kramer, Billie Jean King and John McEnroe.

During the late 1930s and early ’40s, Hunt was consistently ranked among the top five players in America. To this day, he’s the only male tennis player to win the following championship titles: National Boys 15s, National Junior Men’s 18s, Men’s Intercollegiates, and the Men’s U.S. National Championships. He beat Kramer in an epic battle in 1943 for the U.S. National (now known as the U.S. Open) title.

That win — and his participation in “The Ojai” — placed Hunt’s name on “The Ojai” Wall of Fame at Libbey Park’s court one.
Although his accomplishments have been buried in record books for decades, a long-forgotten trophy found at an estate sale in Los Angeles is helping tennis fans remember.

Dusty Discoveries

Hunt’s great-nephew, named after his uncle, grew up playing tennis like many other members of his father’s family. He loved poring over family scrapbooks detailing his uncle’s many achievements. One day, while rummaging through his grandmother’s garage, young Hunt found “a big barrel that had a lot of trophies in it, just kinda stuffed in there,” he remembers. One of those was the 1938 Ojai Tennis Tournament Men’s Intercollegiate Doubles trophy.
He later discovered that his uncle had also won the singles title that same year, but that trophy, he thought, was lost like many others. “We have very few of his trophies,” he says. “There are a lot out there, we just don’t know where.”

So when Hunt got a call from the Ojai Valley Tennis Club (OVTC) a few months ago telling him they’d found the 1938 Ojai Men’s Singles trophy, Hunt was floored.

It was explained that a friend and collector of tennis memorabilia had come across the trophy on Ebay. The friend purchased it from self-described picker and Ebay store owner Sandy Marks, of Thousand Oaks.
While at an estate sale in Beverly Hills late last year, Marks spotted some old trophies in a corner. “The house was very dilapidated, a tear-down house,” she recalls. “Initially I didn’t even want to go in! … it was terrible inside. But I saw a couple of vintage trophies on this table, and I know those are collectibles now.

So I got that one (Hunt’s trophy), and another one that was an old dog show trophy. I think I paid $10 apiece for them. I thought that was a bit high; I’d never done trophies before.”

But she put them on her Ebay store anyway, thinking, “Someone’s gonna know what this is, and sure enough the right person found it!”
She sold Hunt’s trophy for $66, Pratt said, and his friend donated it to the OVTC. “Sandy overnighted it (to us),” he says. “I opened the box and there’s this great 10-inch-diameter silver cup. The inscription on it said, ‘Ojai Intercollegiate Singles, 1938.”

But there was no name inscribed. So Pratt dug through the OVTC records and found the name Joe Hunt. “I love tennis, but I didn’t recognize that name,” Pratt says. He eventually found a 1993 Sports Illustrated story online, commemorating Hunt’s historic battle against Kramer for the U.S. singles title. He beat Kramer, 6-3, 6-8, 10-8, 6-0. “If American tennis ever had a golden boy,” wrote Bud Collins in the article, “it was the handsome, flaxen-haired Hunt.” It suddenly clicked for Pratt. “I remembered a tennis player who’d been killed in the war.” So he kept researching and finally found a phone number for Hunt’s namesake. “I think he almost dropped the phone,” chuckles Pratt.

They started talking about Joe, who died a few weeks before his 26th birthday. The younger Hunt told Pratt of his ongoing efforts to get his uncle inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. “Jack (Kramer) told me that when Joe died, he lost his most important rival,” Hunt wrote in a letter to the International Tennis Writer’s Association. “By the time they made it through the juniors, Joe had won six U.S. national titles (two singles and four doubles) while Jack had one doubles. Joe won the National Intercollegiate Singles and Doubles. Jack never did. Joe entered the top 10 of Men’s U.S. National rankings in 1936 at the age of just 17. Jack did not make it into the top 10 until 1940, when he was 19 …Joe was never ranked below Jack when they competed in the same years.”
“This guy was special,” says Pratt. So he and Hunt agreed that Hunt should come to this year’s Ojai Tennis Tournament. Hunt will be presented with his uncle’s trophy at the tournament’s annual Thursday night barbecue.

For Hunt, “The Ojai” holds a special place in his heart. Not only did his uncle complete, he and his son did as well. “I didn’t do as well as he (my uncle) did, though!” he laughs. He does remember playing for Santa Barbara High School in his senior year, and going with a group of his buddies to watch Tracy Austin compete. “The big news was that Tracy Austin, this 14-year-old, was going to be playing the Women’s Open, so we said, ‘OK, let’s go watch this little girl play tennis.’” They got more than they were expecting. “Her mom was strolling around in a mink coat, and tried to talk all of us 18-year-old boys into being ball boys for her daughter. It was just a hilarious moment!”

As a spectator, he remembers watching “all of the greats there (in Ojai),” he says. He’s looking forward to returning to Ojai this week, after many years away.
“This is a huge honor for my family. Huge. For a tournament like Ojai to pay attention to one of their former champs in this way, it’s really meaningful for our family,” Hunt says. “I wouldn’t miss it in a million years, this opportunity.”

Tennis fans can meet Hunt and see the trophy at the annual Thursday night barbecue, at the upper Libbey Park courts. A free chicken and tri-tip dinner starts at 5:15 p.m., followed by youth activities, the presentation of Hunt’s trophy, and an interview with legendary Stanford tennis coach Dick Gould. See www.ojaitourney.org for a full list of this week’s events.

 

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