About the only thing Maurice Schwartzman doesn't know about tennis is how many players he taught in 55 momentous years of making a contribution to a sport that has been enhanced by his mere presence. And it dates all the way back to Roosevelt's first term; that's Franklin, not Theodore.
Schwartzman is being toasted tonight by grateful admirers with a banquet at the Harbor Court Hotel. He's a man of style, knowledge and sincerity, a goodwill ambassador for the game in every conceivable aspect. Since he graduated from the University of Maryland, class of 1936, he has been a tennis professional.
His mark has been left everywhere -- from the concrete courts of city parks to the best of prep schools and country clubs. "I've never been bored," he says. "Each lesson was a challenge. It was kind of like a serial. I always wanted to see how it was going to come out, to see a kid progress."
Schwartzman, now 78, but with sophomore enthusiasm, has exerted more influence on tennis in Maryland than any individual. There's both longevity and accomplishment. Since 1972 he has been associated with the Bare Hills Club, an indoor facility where Schwartzman is in demand by players of all ages and diversified levels of ability.
His touch has been spread around, much like the legendary Johnny Appleseed, who was a drop-shot artist. L'Hirondelle, Gibson Island, Homeland, Mount Washington, Green Spring Valley and Talbot have used his services. Likewise Roland Park Country School, Oldfields School and Garrison Forest.
Additionally, he coached the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Wightman Cup teams in Baltimore. It all evolved -- this business of instructing tennis -- after he won the Southern Conference championship at Maryland. "I decided on my own teaching plan. There were tennis books in the library but most of them were too technical. I just worked it out in my mind and went from there."
Much of what was incorporated in the fundamentals he endorsed and espoused came from watching Bill Tilden, the Hall of Fame performer who barnstormed the country giving clinics, exhibitions and playing matches. "It took me longer to figure out what he was doing than you would think, but I finally put it together. And, basically, that's what I have been using ever since."
Equipment and playing surfaces have no resemblance to yesteryear. But Maury insists a talented player could adjust to any era. "Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales and some of the Australians changed tennis from a pitty-pat game to one of power. Touch doesn't seem to be as important anymore."
A measure of pleasure has come to Maury over the number of former students who now teach the game. Yes, disciples of Schwartzman. The list is impressive, including such names as Adrienne Goldberg Hoffman, Steve Krulevitz, Morty Greenberg, Terry Sollins, Barbara Friedberg and David Freishtat, among others.
Adrienne Hoffman and Krulevitz were highly ranked national amateurs. Two other pupils, Elise Burgin and Andrea Leand, ascended to the women's tour. "There's a beauty and grace about the game when it's played right," Schwartzman says, meaning footwork, the service and hitting shots from any location. "I think there's more to do with rhythm than strength."
Maurice Schwartzman, with his strong hand of discipline and techniques, has given generously of himself to open the doors of tennis opportunity to ongoing generations. And therein comes the fulfilling adventure of doing something he approaches every day with passion and enthusiasm.
With racket in hand, he's more like 78 going on 18.