Ted Schroeder, the 1942 U.S. Open and 1949 Wimbledon tennis champion, who had been a longtime critic of the sport in which he found fame, died early Friday at his home in La Jolla after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 84.
Schroeder was on the same level as the great Pancho Gonzalez and Jack Kramer in the 1940s. He just didn't stay at it as long and never turned pro, despite the urging of his lifelong friend Kramer.
"To me, he was a great partner, a great champion and a great friend," Kramer said Friday.
In his 1942 win in the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills, Schroeder beat Frankie Parker of Los Angeles in five sets, and several news reports said Schroeder "toyed with Parker" for parts of the match.
His biggest moment was in 1949, when he defeated Jaroslav Drobny of Czechoslovakia in a five-set Wimbledon final. That was to have been his springboard match into the pros.
Instead Schroeder signed up to play in the U.S. Nationals, then an amateur event, and also committed to the U.S. Davis Cup team, where he and Kramer had starred and dominated for years as singles players and a doubles team.
"He never did turn pro," Kramer said. "He came back to L.A. and worked in the office for our pro operation for a few months, and then he got a chance at another job, took it, bought a house in La Jolla and was there to the end."
The job he took was in public relations with Convair, an airplane manufacturer. In La Jolla with his wife, Ann, he raised three sons and became a fixture in the area, especially at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. One of his proudest moments in recent years was when the U.S. Davis Cup team selected the club for a first-round match in February.
Even though he didn't have a long playing career, Schroeder never really left tennis. He was a nonstop advocate for improving the game, streamlining it and being smarter about marketing it. He considered most U.S. Tennis Assn. executives bureaucratic bumblers, and he not only wrote directly to many of them to tell them that, but also did so face-to-face when the opportunity presented itself.
"It was hard for people to really get to know him, because he seemed so grumpy," Kramer said. "He'd be calling up people and firing off faxes to tennis officials, complaining about this and that. But that was just Ted."
One of Schroeder's most recent public tirades was directed at Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who skipped a quarterfinal-round match in Rancho Mirage in April because his wife was about to give birth. Schroeder pointed out that Kramer's son, David, was born in 1946, when Schroeder and Kramer were winning the Davis Cup in Australia.
Nor did the players escape the wrath of Schroeder, who in 1978 fired off a three-page indictment to the Associated Press of that era's players. It said, in part: "With only rare exceptions, and individually and as a group, the men's professionals are the most penurious, avaricious, graceless, artless, boorish group in the history of professional sport."
Frederick Rudolph Schroeder was born July 20, 1921, in Newark, N.J., and grew up in Glendale.
He attended USC for two years before transferring to Stanford, where he met his wife. He graduated in 1942 and served in the Navy in World War II.
Besides his U.S. and Wimbledon singles titles, Schroeder won three U.S. doubles titles, all with Kramer, and a U.S. mixed doubles title with Althea Louise Brough Clapp of Beverly Hills. He also won national junior, intercollegiate and amateur tennis titles. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., in 1966.
His wife, a club-champion golfer, died in April 2005. Schroeder is survived by sons John, a former pro golfer in Encinitas, Richard of Las Vegas and Robert of Denver; a brother, Heath; and sisters Jean and Janet. His body will be cremated. Memorial services are pending.