Hall of Fame Story about the Warsaw Embassy Courts

July 25, 2020
Warsaw Embassy Courts

One of the most fabled stories about platform tennis is the Embassy Wars, when Ambassador Stoessel had courts built at the US embassies in Moscow and Warsaw, and then created a tournament for the diplomats and invited guests. Renowned journalist George Krimsky wrote a great tale for Platform Tennis Magazine (page 8 of the magazine) http://platformtennishalloffame.org/search-and-explore/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/1935.

There are many other stories if you search Warsaw on the VMHOF website. We were lucky enough to hear firsthand from Willem (Bill) Hoogstraten, who wrote to the APTA a few years ago. (We weren’t able to connect after the first email but here is his account to add to the rich history of overseas platform tennis.)

“I am 94 years old and live, with my wife Cicilia (Ila) in Chicago. I'm writing to you because I found that there is a Platform Tennis Association, and even a Museum, in the USA. I find that very interesting, because of the following...and here comes the story!

Quite a while ago, in the 1970s, we were living in Warsaw, Poland, after having been stationed and working for KLM Airlines, in, then already 11 countries from between 3 to 4 years and, sometimes, longer. Our eldest son already graduated from American high school in Singapore, where we lived for 8 years and was in college in Chicago. Our youngest son started high school (in the basement of the American Embassy) in Warsaw and graduated from Cairo American High School, when, in 1979, we had moved to Egypt.

OK, back to Paddle! Richard Davies, who was, at that time, the U.S. Ambassador in Poland was a good friend of mine and he invited us to join the paddle tennis team of the Embassy. This we did and enjoyed it a lot. The team had some pretty good players (Rich Davies being one of them!) and some of the Marines also loved to play. Now, in one of the last years of the 70's, our team was invited again by the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow to play a tournament against the U.S. Moscow team. Ila and I were both happy being included to go with the team but, as it happened at a very busy time for me (I had to arrange a number of important charter flights with my staff) I could not go, but Ila did! Now, on the day of departure the team went to the Warsaw Central Railway station, in the morning. I still had enough time to take Ila to the station and wish the team great games. Then, when the whole team was there, ready to board the train, two U.S.Marines from the Embassy, in full uniform, unrolled a large white sheet that had, in big words on it "Warsaw beats Moscow!" This was, of course, unheard of in Poland, which was still under a strong communist government, but we saw hundreds of people at the station pointing at it and loud laughing and a couple of Police Officers just turning their backs and walking away!

Shortly, after this "incident" the train departed on the long trip to Moscow. The tournament there started only 2 days after the group's arrival, so they all had a nice time for some site seeing. However, at the Red Square, Ila slipped on the big street bricks, fell and hurt her leg! It was not real serious, but it prevented her from being able to participate the next day, in the paddle tournament. Anyway, the (American) Moscow players were quite a bit stronger than the Warsaw ones and won the tournament.

We played a lot more paddle in Warsaw and enjoyed it a lot!”

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