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Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy Hardcover – January 1, 1976


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; 1st edition (1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671222546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671222543
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,403,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bob Drake VINE VOICE on June 13, 2010
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By WC_Wingfield on April 1, 2010
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. H. on September 13, 2012
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By othoniaboys on November 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By desertwiffie on December 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wish this were "about the man" but I don't feel like I now know Bill Tilden. The author seemed determined to defend the things he did, calling child molestation a "seduction by the young man" (who was a 14 year old boy). It finally started to grate on my nerves. The book wanders around in time and then suddenly, in the middle, it becomes Part 2, and we're back in Tilden's childhood. Naturally, the writer then offers this up as another reason poor Mr. Tilden wanted to "mess around" with little boys. Very strange book, very strange man, and though I believe the writer is entitled to his take on all of it, that felt very strange to me, too. I was disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gerry Mandel on June 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
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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