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Moose
10-28-2008, 08:46 AM
(I admit it. I never heard of her before today. Big story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer)


Her time finally has come

Her name had a certain buoyant lilt to it.
Ora.

Ora Mae.

Ora Mae Washington.

The finest athlete you never heard of.

In the opinion of those who were there to see her and to those to whom tales of her deeds were passed on, she was, and remains, the greatest black female athlete ever.

Sleek and streamlined, nimble and fleet of foot, she played with a feline grace and a single-minded ferocity. She was a combination of pace and passion, able to see two plays ahead, able to elevate the play of those around her. The game, almost any game, just seemed to come naturally to her.

On the tennis court, she was a tireless retriever with a savage overhead game that knocked the fuzz off the ball. On the basketball court, she was a wizard who seemed to have conjured time travel - over here one instant, over there the next.

She was born in Virginia and then in that rambunctious, rollicking decade known as the Roaring Twenties, she migrated to Philadelphia and hired out as a housekeeper, which was a fancy word for maid. Out of curiosity, she went to the Germantown YWCA, picked up a tennis racket, found it fit like a glove, and proceeded to rattle off an undefeated streak that reached 12 years. Twelve.

She was so dominant, so overpowering, that the only reason she retired was at the apologetic request of the American Tennis Association, which fretted that young black women of the day who might otherwise try the game were scared away by the utter brilliance and indomitability of Ora Mae.

In 1931, the Philadelphia Tribune wrote: "Her competitors are frequently beaten before the first ball crosses the net."

So she picked up a basketball and found that it felt to have been permanently attached to her hand, and she proceeded to captain and coach teams that in the 1930s lost a total of only six games. Six.

Playing for the YWCA-sponsored Germantown Hornets, Ora Mae's first team went 22-1. In 1932, she joined the professional Philadelphia Tribune Girls and barnstormed the country, taking on all comers.

The Philadelphia Tribune Girls, sponsored by the newspaper of the same name, won 11 straight Women's Colored Basketball World Championships in the 1930s and '40s, a dynasty by any definition.

In his book, Hard Road to Glory, the late Arthur Ashe wrote: "The Philadelphia Tribunes were black America's first premier female sports team."

But it was Ora Mae's fate to have come along at a shameful time in our history, when segregation held cruel sway, and civil rights were still almost half a century away. So it was that most of the country was denied the opportunity to see her.

What they must have missed.

Rest of story: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/sports/33431394.html

Moose
10-28-2008, 08:48 AM
From Ora Mae's Wikipedia entry:

She won eight American Tennis Association (ATA) singles championships and went undefeated from 1924 to 1936. With a number of different partners, she also won every women's doubles championship between 1925 and 1936, and mixed doubles championships in 1939, 1946 and 1947. She also played basketball for the Germantown Hornets and the Philadelphia Tribune Girls. She starred for the Tribune Girls from 1932 to 1942, during which time the team was acknowledged to be the best African American women's team in the country.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ora_Mae_Washington

mmmm8
10-28-2008, 08:53 AM
WOW

Ti-Amie
10-28-2008, 08:56 AM
Thanks Moose.

shtexas
10-28-2008, 08:58 AM
I knew all about her.











Just kidding.

Very impressive indeed.

Jay
10-28-2008, 09:15 AM
Truth be told, her name sounded familiar when I first read it. I probably heard of her in passing.

Her record is very impressive. Thanks for the post, Moose :)

GVGirl
10-28-2008, 10:19 AM
Ora Mae Washington was one of the many featured in last year's Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit at the US Open called "Breaking Barriers, honoring the achievements of African Americans in tennis." The exhibit may still be on tour around the country but I think its permanent home is the Schomburg Center in NYC.

Now I'll have to look for my photos from the exhibit.

Another one of my US Open tips-check out the Hall of Fame exhibit! :yes:

mmmm8
10-28-2008, 11:12 AM
Ora Mae Washington was one of the many featured in last year's Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit at the US Open called "Breaking Barriers, honoring the achievements of African Americans in tennis." The exhibit may still be on tour around the country but I think its permanent home is the Schomburg Center in NYC.

Now I'll have to look for my photos from the exhibit.

Another one of my US Open tips-check out the Hall of Fame exhibit! :yes:


The Schomburg Center was two blocks from my apartment and they had some really interesting exhibits, but I never ended up going :(

Scotty
10-28-2008, 11:17 AM
This is very cool. Thanks for sharing, Moose. (Philly's whipping up that 'champions are from here' frenzy, aren't they?)

Wonder how many other champs pre-Althea/Arthur are equally unknown?

oohsalmon
10-28-2008, 02:23 PM
I had heard of Oda Mae Brown :p

mwoods
10-28-2008, 04:14 PM
I had heard of Oda Mae Brown :p

I've heard of Ore Ida Potatoes.