Match: Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton: How Two Outsiders - One Black, the Other Jewish - Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History

Match: Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton: How Two Outsiders - One Black, the Other Jewish - Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History

by Bruce Schoenfeld
     
 

Althea Gibson first met Angela Buxton at an exhibition match in India. On the surface, the two women could not have been more different. The daughter of sharecroppers, Gibson was born in the American South and grew up in Harlem. Angela Buxton, the granddaughter of Russian Jews, was raised in England, where her father ran a successful business. But both women

Overview

Althea Gibson first met Angela Buxton at an exhibition match in India. On the surface, the two women could not have been more different. The daughter of sharecroppers, Gibson was born in the American South and grew up in Harlem. Angela Buxton, the granddaughter of Russian Jews, was raised in England, where her father ran a successful business. But both women encountered prejudice, particularly on the tennis circuit, where they were excluded from tournaments and clubs because of race and religion.

Despite their athletic prowess, both Gibson and Buxton were shunned by the other female players at Wimbledon in 1956 and found themselves without doubles partners. Undaunted, they chose to play together and ultimately triumphed. In The Match, which has been hailed as an "important contribution in spreading the legacy of Gibson,"* Bruce Schoenfeld delivers not only the little-known history of Gibson's life but also the inspiring story of two underdogs who refused to let bigotry stop them — on the court and off. Here, too, is an homage to a remarkable friendship.

*Publishers Weekly

Editorial Reviews

L. Jon Wetheim
“Bruce Schoenfeld has written a terrific book...[that] limns the textured and unlikely relationship between Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton.”
Robert Lipsyte
“A reminder of the best and worst in sports.”
Lesley Visser
“Heartwarming....Both the book and the women are to be valued and respected.”
Bud Collins
“Schoenfeld captures the not-so-good-old days of...tennis that are virtually forgotten in these affluent times.”
Chris Evert
“Remarkable...an overdue portrait of Althea Gibson.”
Starred Booklist
“It’s surprising how little the...world knows about [Althea] Gibson...who broke tennis’ color barrier..Schoenfeld...gives [Gibson]...[her]due.”
Jon Entine
“A remarkable tale of a friendship.”
Washington Post Book World
“A valuable book...[that] illuminates a vanished era of women’s tennis.”
The Crisis
“Schoenfeld is a true sportswriter—able to bring to life the sweat and intensity of Gibson’s matches.”
Chicago Tribune
“A detailed look at an era, a friendship and a sport.”
Bruce Schoenfeld
Journalist Bruce Schoenfeld wants to set the record straight -- and, thanks to this valuable book, he succeeds. His dual portrait of Gibson and her Jewish doubles partner and friend, the Englishwoman Angela Buxton, illuminates a vanished era of women's tennis.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Professional tennis players today can earn millions of dollars on the tour and off the court, but that was not the case 50 years ago when Gibson and Buxton were two of the top women's tennis players in the world. Coming from widely divergent backgrounds (Gibson from a poor black family in Harlem, Buxton from a well-to-do Jewish family in London), the two hooked up in the mid-1950s and became tennis partners and lifelong friends. While Gibson is certainly the better known of the two, Buxton led an interesting life in her own right, and Schoenfeld does a terrific job of capturing not only the individual personalities of Gibson and Buxton, but also the spirit of the time in which they played. Both were trailblazers, and although Gibson had the more difficult road to travel, fighting to overcome racism, sexism and financial concerns, Buxton was often snubbed in English tennis circles because of her religion. Still, it is Gibson, perhaps the best female athlete of her time, who is the star of Schoenfeld's often poignant work. Gibson worked hard to become a tennis champion, but her inability to earn a living from the sport plagued her throughout her life, forcing her to engage in some madcap business schemes. Schoenfeld's is an evenhanded portrait of Gibson (whose description is not always a flattering one), and his book is an important contribution in spreading the legacy of Gibson, a woman worth remembering. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Althea Gibson, once the most famous tennis player in America, belongs to the "whatever happened to..." school of athletes, and this book by Schoenfeld (The Last Serious Thing) provides the fascinating answer with verve and style. A kind of dual biography of famous African American tennis player Gibson and unknown British tennis player Angela Buxton, The Match also describes the 1940s and 1950s in tennis history, an era before sports became an international obsession, tennis players earned salaries, or blacks competed in sanctioned events. In the tennis community, brash, gangly Althea from Harlem and wealthy Jewish Angela from England were ostracized because of race and religion. Undaunted, they teamed up as doubles partners many times and won a Wimbledon victory in 1956. Later, Althea played tennis exhibitions on Harlem Globetrotter tours, golfed professionally, and unsuccessfully sought a recording career. Afterward, as Althea sunk into poverty and poor health, her life once again became intertwined with Angela's life in a marvelous way. Recommended for all public libraries. Kathy Ruffle, Coll. of New Caledonia Lib., Prince George, B.C. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The story of an unlikely friendship between two tennis players: a black woman from the US and a Jewish woman from England. Schoenfeld (The Last Serious Thing: A Season at the Bullfights, 1992) opens in the 1990s, when former Wimbledon champion Althea Gibson, famous for breaking the racial barrier in competitive tennis, was destitute, unable to pay her bills or buy the medication she desperately needed to maintain her health. Seriously considering suicide, Gibson called her friend Angela Buxton to say goodbye. Buxton, who partnered with Gibson to win the 1956 Ladies Doubles Wimbledon championship, was having none of that. She calmly turned off the stove she was tending and listened to Althea's woes; then she helped her friend financially and solicited the help of others in the tennis world. This gesture was typical, Schoenfeld writes, of a friendship that stretched back more than 40 years. With this great serve of an opening, the author is off and running as he examines each woman's early life, tracing their paths from girlhood to their first meeting in 1951, when an awed Buxton asked Gibson for her autograph. It was the beginning of an extraordinary relationship that would last a lifetime. Though the narrative is a bit dry at times, Schoenfeld succeeds in solidly depicting the two women as they blazed through the tennis scene of the '50s, their friendship growing ever stronger. The author is particularly adept at recreating the tournaments Gibson and Buxton played, individually and together, although he lingers overly long on the details of the matches themselves. Sound research-but missing the personal touch. Agent: Andrew Blauner

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060526528
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/01/2004
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.05(d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Schoenfeld, an acclaimed magazine and television journalist, is a frequent contributor to many national and international publications, including Sports Illustrated, Travel & Leisure, and the New York Times Magazine. He won Emmy Awards for his writing on the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and the 1996 Olympic Games in Barcelona. He is the author of The Last Serious Thing: A Season at the Bullfights.

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