TENNIS STAR DARRELL HUDLOW HAD THE HOTTEST DRIVE-IN AROUND

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

I wished there were more guys like Darrell Hudlow.

Redlands, the city where football tried to be king, soccer and softball became high-level sports, while swimming, baseball, track & field and golf willed its way to prominence, there was an original Mr. Tennis.

It might’ve been Hudlow.

In a city that’s produced multitudes of high school and collegiate tennis champions, Wimbledon and U.S. Open players, Hudlow comes quickly to mind.

Darrell Hudlow, one of the first top-flight players at the University of Redlands back in the 1930s, had quite a list of opponents that could have included Bobby Riggs and definitely included Jack Kramer and Gardner Malloy (photo submitted by Rachel Roche, assistant athletic director and head sports information at the University of Redlands).

I wasn’t even aware he played tennis. The place to go dancing, said once-young lovers, was Hudlow’s drive-in, located on “the highway to Redlands.”

 

He was Hudlow’s proprietor. Upon moving to Redlands in 1979, you couldn’t miss the greenish sign out there on a Redlands Blvd. building — where the Bank of America now sits, I think.

Hudlow was a University of Redlands Hall of Famer.

It was stressed to me by someone –  probably by my City Editor, Dick West –  that Hudlow had been a tennis player. A damned good one at that.

Jim Verdieck may well be the name associated with championship tennis around Redlands, but Hudlow showed up on the scene long before Verdieck came to the city.

Verdieck’s teams won an unheard-of 921 tennis duals over a 38-year span. In 35 of those years, Redlands copped the conference championship. There were plenty of top players, namely Verdieck’s sons, Doug and Randy, not to mention Ron and Richard Bohrnstendt.

Hudlow may have set an early tone for high level tennis in Redlands.

Hudlow’s, incidentally, is a now-disappeared liquor store over on that Redlands Blvd. site. The old-timer just laughed.

“I went into the liquor business,” he said. “I quit tennis because I didn’t have time anymore.”

The liquor business, at least in Redlands, was taboo in those days of the 1940s and 1950s.

“The university fought me,” said Hudlow, who carried a grudge against his alma mater for years. “It was a staid old school. You couldn’t even dance up there.

“Anyway, they took this liquor thing to the city council.”

Hudlow won when the school turned over a new leaf, he told me.

When the school inducted him into its relatively new Hall of Fame in 1984, they extended a familiar hand. “The university,” he said, sarcastically, “is having a cocktail hour before the (Hall of Fame) dinner.”

Maybe, I told him, he ought to provide the liquor.

“If I did that back when I was going to the university,” he said, “I’d have gotten kicked out of school.”

The UofR had long been a dominant tennis program.

Hudlow was conference singles champion from 1937-39.

It was curious timing. Verdieck, who hailed from nearby Colton, was playing football for a dynamic group called the Vow Boys up in Palo Alto. Stanford University had vowed that it would never lose to USC.

Following a loss to USC in 1932, Stanford players vowed they would never again lost to the Trojans.

Hudlow, for his part, was playing championship-level tennis while Verdieck was making football his mission.

He’d won amateur singles titles in Arizona, Michigan and Arkansas.

Some of his opponents were Frank Kovacs, a Wimbledon champion who later lost to Bobby Riggs in the 1941 U.S. Tennis Championship finals.

Bobby_Riggs_at_1939_Wimbledon_Championships
Bobby Riggs, a 1930s and 1940s tennis star, might have played Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow along the way. “I can’t remember if I played Bobby Riggs,” he said (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Hudlow also played Gardner Mulloy, the four-time U.S. Tennis Champion (with William Talbert) in doubles.

Then there was Welby Van Horn, who lost to Riggs in the 1939 U.S. Tennis Championship finals. Hudlow beat Van Horn at Ojai, Calif.

Another big name opponent was Frankie Parker, a former U.S. Tennis champ.

Said Hudlow: “I played Jack Kramer in an exhibition in the university gym,” he said, “to raise money so I could go back east. I think we played to a tie that night.”

Jack_Kramer_portrait
Jack Kramer might have been the biggest name in tennis for a few decades. Kramer and Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow once played an indoor tennis exhibition (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Kramer, who would become a huge tennis executive in years ahead, was a U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion.

“I can’t remember if I ever played Bobby Riggs,” said Hudlow. “I knew him. You know, on rainy days at country clubs, all people do is sit in the clubhouse playing poker. I held his one-dollar bills for him.”

Hudlow was in the second class of UofR Hall of Famers.

The headliners had to be Verdieck himself, along with football coach Frank Serrao.

Lee Fulmer (baseball, basketball), John Fawcett (cross country, football and track), Charles Gillett (football), Lee Johnson (track), faculty member S. Guy Jones, track’s Samuel Kirk, Donald Kitch (football, basketball), Sanford McGilbra (football, basketball, baseball), Robert Pazder (football, basketball, baseball), football and tennis star Randy Verdieck.

While Hudlow was inducted, so, too, was his coach, Lynn Jones (1928-44).

There was a lengthy list of names, likely trying to catch up with a near century’s worth of athletes and other sports-related contributors that needed to be enshrined.

Hudlow, who died on June 19, 1998, said he didn’t play tennis for nearly 40 years before he sold his liquor store.

When he decided to return, he played recreationally.

Darrell Hudlow, in his later years, put aside playing tennis because he had plenty of other activities to take care of, including business-related items. His tennis-playing lifestyle took him to places and opponents that eventually made him a Bulldog Hall of Famer.

“I could tell you lots of stories,” he said, chuckling. “I think I’ll hold off for awhile.”

 

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