After almost 70 years as a player and a coach, local tennis legend, Sam Shore, died on July 10, in his home in Port Washington, at the age of 92.
Born in the US, the youngest of four children of Russian parents, Sam had grown up in the Bronx helping his parents run a candy store. There was no money for sports, just the regular street games that kids play. But maybe it was the skill of stick ball and baseball that gave him his hand-eye coordination for tennis.
Sam worked through the '30s depression, mostly at night so that he could play and teach tennis in the daytime. One job working in the mailroom of a Wall Street firm led him to tennis when someone suggested it to him. He was 23 at the time. Another of his jobs, a night shift linotypist at the Daily News allowed him to play tennis during the day. (He ended up retiring from the Daily News in 1968.) In 1932, he got a day job at the 71st Street Armory, putting up nets and playing with people who had no partner.
He married Jessica in 1942 and together they started their own tennis club in Port Washington in 1948, when court costs were $1 midweek and $2 on weekends. The five-court tennis club stood just southwest of the corner of Shore Road and Manhasset. In 1978, he sold the tennis academy property to Ames Ressa.
Sam Shore never took a tennis lesson in his life, but he became one of the great teachers of our area, achieving the vice-presidency of the USPTA in 1954/55 and winning the Player of the Year Award of that organization in 1981, 82 and 88.
A national player since 1972, he captured 10 national titles, represented the United State in international play in 1973, winning the Dubler Cup, which is now a team competition. Ranked nationally as high as #1 in doubles and #3, Sam was inducted into the Eastern Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
In addition to a successful public life, Sam also leaves behind a legacy for his family and friends that his eldest granddaughter, Susan Tupper, characterizes as the "best" kind: "He truly left the world a better place than he found it." She notes, "He was generous with his time, talent, and his life," and adds, "My family and I are of the opinion that you can't leave the world a better place unless, in the end, you have given more than you have taken. This 'giving' was the essence of our grandfather-Pop-Pop.
Susan also recalls, "We can never once remember him complaining about all the work he did or his long hours. We often wondered if he ever slept..."
Port Washington Tennis Academy President Dick Zausner knew Sam for 50 years. He recalled how Sam started teaching at the academy in '78. "At the time, Sam was about 72 and still full of vigor and not ready for retirement. I thought he'd be able to continue teaching for a few years. As it ended up, he worked at the academy for 20 years. Now he's finally retired."
Susan, Karowitz, manager of PWTA, commented, "Tennis was his whole life. He lived for tennis. I can't think of anyone who fits that description more."
Bob Binns, head pro at the PWTA and longtime friend and neighbor of Sam's said, "We try to teach the kids about honor, dignity and sportsmanship. No one who has ever graced this place or any tennis place stood for this more than Sam. Last week the kids all honored him. Their first winning volley was in his honor."
Jean Tarsy spoke of Sam when he owned and operated Shore Tennis Club. "No matter what your level of play was, Sam would always find a game for you. He could get good players to play with people who were just beginning. There was always a friendly and congenial feeling at his tennis club."
Bill Levine echoed Jean's sentiments, adding, "Sam was a wonderful guy who ran his club with dignity and fortitude. It was his way or no way, but his way was fair and even-handed. If you weren't that way, you were asked to leave."
"Elegant" is a word Bill used to describe Sam. "He was tall, lanky and handsome," with an elegant tennis style. Unlike the pros of today, "Sam hit the ball with a flat backhand and forehand. He was beautiful to watch."
"Sam changed the face of tennis in Port. You no longer had to be a rich guy to belong to a club. For $300, you could play anytime. Even today, after 20 years, people are still upset because his facility closed."
Sam was the beloved husband of Jessica; loving father of Ed Shore and Annabelle Mayers and devoted father-in-law of Felicia Shore and Dr. Robert A. Mayers. He was also the adoring grandfather of Susan, Linda, Terri, Nancy, Jessica and Bryan and seven great-grandchildren.
He will be missed.