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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, February 26, 2024

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

The unforettable Pancho Segura, (1921-2017)

During these troubled times, Wonder Wife says "Central View" should lighten up with vignettes about some of the famous people this writer has been privileged to know. So, we will start, in no particular order, with amateur and pro tennis champion, Pancho Segura, who won four major pro titles in his long career that lasted from 1941 to 1970.

For most of those years, pro tennis was dominated by white males, often from well-to-do establishment families. Conversely, Pancho Segura was born on a bus in Ecuador and was so ill-fed growing up that his legs were bowed from rickets. Fully grown, Pancho was only 5-foot-six. Nevertheless, after winning many tennis championships in Central America, he earned a tennis scholarship to Miami University.

How did Pancho rank overall? Of the ten greatest tennis players of all-time, Pancho was usually ranked 5th behind: Budge, Kramer, Gonzales, and Laver. But Pancho ranked above Bobby Riggs, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Frank Sedgman, and Tony Trabert.

This is written so you might recall that Pancho Segura was a really big deal in the world of tennis. It is said Segura played more tennis matches against the top players than any player in history.

Pancho had a devastating two-handed forehand And, despite his early ;{rickets, he had blazing speed across any surface and was a crowd favorite with his amazing saves and his winning personality. Tennis being a meritocracy, race was never an issue in an era before DEI.

As it turned out, Pancho, nearing retirement, had some relatives in Columbus, Georgia, with whom he liked to visit. Wanting to keep in shape, Pancho volunteered occasionally as the tennis pro for the Ft. Benning Officers’ Club.

For a nominal Club fee, Pancho gave tennis lessons and yours truly took several. Pancho was someone who won your heart immediately. Laid back and funny, Pancho, with his easy lobs designed to improve my woefully weak backhand, made you feel like you, too, could play center-court at Wimbledon or Forest Lawn. Truth be known, this duffer could barely play at Ft. Benning.

One day, after Pancho had me producing rivers of sweat from chasing after Pancho’s well-placed shots, he called me over to the net. Pancho said, "Bill, let me give you a tip. When you think you’re gonna drop from exhaustion, do this."

At which point, Segura pulled a white handkerchief from the hip pocket of his white tennis shorts. As the handkerchief headed for the surface, a cornucopia of coins spilled out all over the court.

"Bill by the time you and the ball boy or girl gather up all those coins, you will have recovered your breath and be ready, once again, to play," Pancho said with a wink. Many years later, on the Naval War College tennis court, the Pancho Segura trick saved his out-of-breath former student more than once.

Pancho Segura was one of those unforgettable characters one encounters now and then who gives you a reason to remember them forever. To this day, the simple act of pulling out a handkerchief takes yours truly back to the exhausting summer heat of Ft. Benning and to the lovable Pancho Segura.

2024. William Hamilton.

1999-2024. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:

Email: william@central-view.com

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