Map of Courts Played
Bulgarian Wins = ReMax Logo / NOCO Wins = Red Square / Green Dudes = Team Win View NOCO vs Bulgaria in a larger map

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sublette Park aka The Social Evil Hospital - Revenge is sweet!

One week to the day from our Benton Park mixed doubles match we decided to hold a rematch at the courts at Sublette Park located near The Hill in the City of St. Louis.   Before the match Scott, Toni and Laura decided to meet at Park Avenue Coffee and not go to the courts until Stan arrived and called wondering where they were.    As a realtor Stan is usually rushed on weekends and is often late so it was time to turn the tables.  At 10 minutes past the appointed time a text was received from Stan who knew instantly he'd been tricked.

A few minutes later all were at the park.   Sublette Park was originally the site of the Social Evil Hospital constructed to serve St. Louis legal prostitutes!  Yes prostitution was legal in St. Louis for a short period in the 1870's.   The Social Evil Hospital changed to a women's hospital after the prostitution law was repealed.  In 1906 a young woman named Josephine Baker was born on this site.   Josephine is one of the most famous St. Louisans of all time.  After the building was demolished a park was constructed and named for William Sublette who was a prominent fur trader.

On first appearance the courts were really rough.  Large cracks were visible and the entire surface is almost totally gone.   The park does have some bathrooms which were open.   The X-Balls were opened and Scott/Laura won the toss and elected to receive.  Right of the bat Stan aced Laura with a serve that took a funky crack bounce.

Eventually Stan and everybody else lost their serve for the first five games.   At 3-2 Scott finally became the first person to hold for a 4-2 lead.   Laura was hitting strong forehands up the middle and Scott successfully beat Toni down the line for a 6-4 1st set win.

The second set was a disaster for Scott/Laura.   Toni began placing her volleys perfectly and also pounded Laura in the thigh with a high volley (see pic above).  Now this was War!  But she continued and  took a really high lob and hit a one bounce overhead winner to negate a great Scott defensive retrieval.   Stan was serving well in the second set hitting at least 4 aces.   Stan and Toni rolled to a 6-1 victory.

As it was a hot day it was decided to play a USTA 10 point tiebreaker to finish.   Scott/Laura won a comical first point at the net finally getting Toni to hit into the net.   They continued to win points and got out to a 9-4 lead.

On match point Toni served to Scott's forehand and Scott hit a short chip wide to Toni's backhand.  She hit a short ball up the middle and Scott seeing the hole left when Toni moved wide ripped a winner up the middle to seal the match.  6-4, 1-6,1-0

Location is a 10 and court condition is 4 for an average of 7.  In 2009 the Riverfront Times named these courts some of the best in the city.  A lot of wear and tear has obviously occurred.

The courts location close to the Hill leads to an abundance of great places to eat.  Some of our favorites which could accommodate  sweaty tennis players are Gioias Deli, Steve's Hot Dogs and Milo's Bocce Garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Battle of Benton - Mixed Doubles at Benton Park

Stan and Scott have a regular mixed doubles game with two of their good friends Laura and Toni, both USTA rated 4.5 players.  Instead of watching the Wimbledon mens final we decided to bring that rivalry to Benton Park in the City of St. Louis and record it on Stlforgottencourts.    Benton Park is located south and west of the Soulard Neighborhood.

Two tennis courts are located at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Arsenal Street.   The park features several ponds, a bridge, walking paths, a monument to German-American Hero Friedrich Hecker and frequently hosts summer concerts.   The Benton Park neighborhood and the park are full of history and great architecture.  The area is takes its name from Senator Thomas Hart Benton who is famous amongst other things for participating in two duels on Bloody Island.

We inspected the courts and noticed several cracks, missing netstraps, average surface and lights that no longer function.   The remainder of the park appears to be well maintained. The city generally has done a good job maintaining their public courts but these are definitely in need of some work.   We opened a can of X-Balls and began our warm up.

Toni and Stan won the toss and elected to serve.  Stan served a tremendous game that went to several deuces and finally held on with a tough cross court shot.   At 4-4 Stan and Toni broke Scott after he drilled several balls right at Toni down the line and Toni
volleyed each one back finally picking off a low dipper and hitting a drop shot volley winner.   Toni held her serve to take the set 6-4.   

The first set loss was motivating to Scott and Laura and they came out firing.   Laura held her serve by hitting a great cross court volley past Stan's outstretched racket.   Scott and Laura decided to use the unusual tactic of hitting to Stan because Toni was making great shots from everywhere on the court.

The strategy picked up some steam and Scott/Laura rolled out to a 3-1 lead.   At 4-3 Scott served and after a tough rally Laura pushed Stan deep in the forehand corner and Stan unleashed an amazing topspin corner to corner winner to seal the break.

On Toni's serve a break point was earned and during a rally with Scott, Toni hit a short
high ball that Scott was ready to put away..... The ball bounced on a crack and kicked left forcing Scott to make an error.   Toni held on for a 5-4 lead and then Laura was broken for a 6-4, 6-4 victory for the feisty Bulgarian and his partner.  

Generally the ball bounces were consistent.  Location and setting in historic Benton Park are a 10 but court condition is closer to a 5 for a 7.5 rating.   These courts would get a lot of use if they were renovated.   There are some great nearby St. Louis standbys such as Gus' Pretzels and Hodaks.  However you can't beat the convenience Luvy Duvy's Cafe right across the street.
of the

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Wapelhorst Park - The Wimbledon 2014 Edition

St. Louis has been experiencing some unseasonably cool July weather.   This great weather plus watching Wimbledon which has increased our appetite to play tennis.   Last week we headed to Wapelhorst Park in St. Charles for our fourth match on the west side of the longest tributary in the United States, the Missouri river.

The courts sit in a small corner of a larger park which features a water park and baseball fields.   The courts are in excellent shape with one small exception.   The court is striped with bright yellow pickleball lines which make it very difficult to accurately call serves because the two lines are very close to one another.

If you are not familiar with pickleball get acquainted because it is apparently a craze among seniors.  The Villages in Florida have installed over 100 pickleball courts for their seniors.   Here is a short video on the phenomenon - Introduction to Pickleball.

The courts are lighted but do not have a restroom facility close to them.     As we began to warm up with the X-Balls it was apparent that not much sand was in the surface coating resulting in a fast court with very low bounces.   The match finally began and started out 2-2 from there it went downhill for Scott as Stan began really dialing in his backhand.

Stan hit winners off the backhand of every variety including passing Scott down the line on a serve and volley, cross court and down the line winners.   Accordingly he reeled off the next four games to win the first set 6-2 and Scott's dream of a threepeat began to fade.

However, the second set started out well for Scott as he began focusing on Stan's forehand and hitting lots of winners off of his own forehand.   Scott rolled out to a 3-1 lead.   The fifth game of the set was epic.   Stan served and Scott worked his way to a break point.

On the first break point a 20 shot rally ended with Scott pushing Stan in the forehand corner and coming to the net, as Scott stood stunned, Stan hit a beautiful topspin lob that landed on both lines in Scott's backhand corner.   Both players had multiple chances to win the game and finally Scott won it with two consecutive forehand winners for a 4-1 lead.  Not to be outdone Stan won 8 of the next 9 points to get back to 3-4.   Scott held on though and closed out the set 6-3 on a serve and volley winner.  We spun the racket to decide 10 point tiebreak or full set.  The tiebreaker won.  

Stan reclaimed the momentum by winning six points in a row to get to a 6-0 lead.   Scott stayed focused and fought back to a 6-9 score.  Then he stayed in the match by drop shotting Stan, then lobbing over his head and knowing Stan would retrieve what should have been a winner Scott went to the net and volley it away to get to 7-9.  Alas this was as far as Scott would go as Stan hit an unreturnable serve to finish it.   6-2, 3-6, 1-0 .  This now makes Scott 0 for 4 West of the Missouri River.

Court location is a 10 and court condition would be an 8 primarily because of the pickleball lines which really cause problems calling serves.   Average Score a 9.    An old north county favorite Saullo's Pizza is nearby for an after match meal.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

East St. Louis Tennis Courts Revitalization Update

We just wanted to share some of the photos of the hearing over in East St. Louis about revitalizing the tennis courts.  This is a big step in helping bring the great game of tennis back to East St. Louis and helping cultivate some amazing home grown talent that could become some of the greatest players in tennis history ala Jimmy Connors.  We will keep you guys up to date on the progress and we can't wait to play on them once they are finished!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Best of Five - Ackfield Park

Finally spring has arrived and this week we had a perfect morning to test out the courts at Ackfield Park in the City of Shrewsbury.   These two courts sit behind the Shrewsbury police station in a 6.8 acre park which includes ballfields and sand volleyball.   The courts are an astroturf surface and are in great shape except for a few large seams which have developed in a couple spots.

In the last couple years USTA has changed league rules so that split set matches are ended with 10 point tiebreakers.   We decided to try a new format which was to have our match consist of the the first to win three 10 point tiebreakers.   A mini best of five format if you will.  A can of X-Balls was opened and the match was on.

As we began our warm up we quickly determined this astroturf surface was faster than most and really reacted to both topspin and underspin.   Scott quickly got out to a 3-0 lead and increased it to 5-2 at which point Stan played a series of great points to get back in the tiebreaker.   Stan finally took the lead 8-7 and then finished the first tiebreaker with two great points.  The first was a spectacular lob over Scotts head after he followed a mid court volley to the net and the second was a deep down the line slice backhand past Scott at the net.  First tiebreaker goes to Stan.

Second tiebreaker started in a similar fashion.  Scott stormed out to a 5-2 lead and Stan battled back.   At 5-5 the turf seam came into play as Scott drove a forehand down the line and it hit the seam and dipped under Stan's outstretched racket.   At 8-5 Scott served two great serves in a row to finish the second tiebreaker 10-5.

Third tiebreaker.   This one again started out with Scott taking a 5-2 lead.   Again Stan battled back to 5-5. Scott fended off a couple great body serves with slice balls that dropped at Stan's feet.  Again at 8-5 two good serves by Scott finished the breaker 10-5.

Fourth tiebreaker.   Scott roared out to a 6-0 lead and tried to add a new rule the 7-0 shutout just like ping pong.  Stan wasn't buying it and took the next point getting Scott to hit a ball wide.   Stan fought furiously to get back into the tiebreaker.  At 5-7 Stan came to the net on a deep ball to Scott's forehand which Scott took right back down the line for a winner.   Stan got back to 8-6 with a perfectly hit dropshot.   The next two points and the match went to Scott for a 10-6 tiebreaker  and 3-1 match victory!

Surface was tough to adjust to but consistent on all except one point during our match.   Location is great right off hwy 44 and Shrewsbury exit.   Location is a 10 and Court Condition is an 8 for a rating of 9.   A great nearby eatery is the famous Porters Fried Chicken for an after match  snack.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

East St. Louis - Judge Milton Wharton

During our work in East St. Louis we attended a meeting of the Financial Oversight Committee for the East St. Louis School District.   During that meeting Judge Wharton gave a passionate speech supporting tennis and putting in context the tough environment awaiting many of these kids.   Its worth a listen to the audio link below and a read of the article on the Judge below.  He is an interesting character.

Link to story via .  The story is embedded below.

Judge Milton Wharton to leave bench

Milton Wharton, who went from being a laid-off welder to a judge presiding over the Metro East's most sensational criminal trials, including the Christopher Coleman case, will retire at the end of his term next year.
Wharton, 65, became an associate judge in St. Clair County in 1976, and has remained on the bench for 35 years.
His unmistakable style is a throwback: bow ties, cigars, fedoras. His judicial style has been just as unique.
"He handled things differently than any other judge," said John O'Gara, a defense attorney and St. Clair County public defender. "He really cared about the defendants. He'd say to them 'Where are you going in your life?' He also never lost sight on society at large and would incorporate that into each individual."
Wharton is known for giving speeches and life advice to defendants. His wood-paneled courtroom became an intersection of race, society, and law. Wharton, a black man, often uses history to plead with the defendants - many of them young, black men from East St. Louis, his hometown - to steer away from crime. He does everything from opine on a defendant's hair, clothes, and tattoos.
"In court he was courteous to everyone in front of him and made sure everyone got a fair trial," O'Gara said. "He is a patient man. He has a very practical sense of what's going on in front of him and the impact it has beyond him," O'Gara said.
Wharton spent many years handling juvenile cases. He said on Monday that his work there was the most fulfilling.
"I still get thank you notes from children I can't remember," Wharton said. "They are now adults who want to let me know I had an impact on their lives."
Wharton later became a criminal judge. Most memorably, he presided over the high-profile trial of Christopher Coleman, who was convicted in May of strangling his wife and two young sons. Coleman opted to have Wharton sentence him instead of a jury. He faced the death penalty, even though Gov. Pat Quinn said he commute any new death sentence.
Wharton told a story of being a young lawyer years ago, visiting the Menard Correctional Center, the Illinois maximum-security prison at Chester.
"I saw a lot of young men, age 19 and 20, but I came away with something else I saw that shocked me: I saw old men in wheelchairs, with canes and with beards. Those were the ‘lifers,'" Wharton said. "A life sentence is most potent retribution." He added: "A sentence of death may be expedient from the standpoint of the court but I also believe it would compound the tragedy that the family already has experienced, and would make me engage in a symbolic sentence of death."
Wharton, who has been teaching part time at Lindenwood College in Belleville, said he plans to continue that pursuit. His replacement will be decided in the November 2012 election.
His focus on education and young people was noticeable in 2004, when 22 year-old University of Illinois Engineering student Kyai Gibson stood in Wharton's courtroom.
Gibson was months away from graduation, but he and a pair of friends had held up a Fairview Heights dry cleaner that spring.
Wharton was in charge of his sentencing.
"I'm so sorry," Gibson said, pleading with Wharton for leniency. "I hadn't meant to throw away my life."
Wharton lamented: "There are days when you really hate to be a judge. It breaks my heart."
Gibson got seven years in prison.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jimmy Connors, East St. Louis, Social Media and Relationships


This is not our normal post but instead an incredible story about our blog entry Stalking Jimmy Connors and its amazing effect on the St. Louis tennis community and the community of East St. Louis.   When we went to East St. Louis in the fall of 2012  we were chasing the ghosts of tennis history.

We wanted to see where Jimmy Connors played, lived etc and of course we ended up playing our usual match in Belleville finding no suitable courts in East St. Louis.   We posted our blog as usual and here is the story of what happened.    The blog post in short order became our most popular entry and still today is viewed almost four times more than any other with only the Hudlin Courts blog within spitting distance.

Scott and Stan's tennis team captain Bob Faust read the blog and discussed it with Scott one day and said, "I wonder if we can get USTA to do something in East St. Louis to bring tennis back."   Bob then had conversations with USTA who was receptive. Scott and Stan have both done quite a bit of real estate work for Bank of America. It so happened that one of Scott's assignments many years ago was in East St. Louis where he had befriended Joe Lewis, Jr. who is now the City of East St. Louis Treasurer.

A meeting was convened between USTA and City in early 2013.   The City and USTA were very receptive.  

The conversation included tennis programs and rebuilding tennis courts.    In the fall of 2013 an opportunity presented itself.  A comprehensive program called The 40 Days of Nonviolence would kickoff in January 2014 and would be willing to allow USTA to work with kids for six Saturdays in a row.

The response to the opportunity was amazing USTA St. Louis District and USTA Missouri Valley contributed funding to buy new racquets for the participants and funded the installation of an Exhibit on African American Tennis History at East St. Louis City Hall called Breaking the Barriers.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame provided the Exhibit at a tremendous discount to help make it happen.   Then volunteers started coming out of the woodwork to help work with the kids.   Over 60 volunteers participated and volunteered their Saturday mornings to teach basic tennis to approximately 50 kids per week ranging in age from 5 to 18.

The program took place at the Mary Brown Center a fantastic building designed by Buckminster Fuller and run by the Lessie Bates Neighborhood House who has been a community anchor in East St. Louis for 100 years.  Mary Brown Center is located in Lincoln Park which has 4 tennis courts that are unplayable.

A USTA Grant has been applied for which may cover up to 25,000 of the estimated 200,000 cost to completely rebuild the courts.   The
tennis community appears to be ready to raise the remaining 175,000 from private donors and corporations.  

Midway through the program a reception was held to highlight the Exhibit and Martin Rogers a tennis coach from St. Louis came and talked about his personal experiences with Richard HudlinJuan FarrowArthur Ashe.

The exhibit was amazing and fostered education, conversation and connections amongst all who took the time to see it.  For example, Scott and Bob Faust found out they both took their first tennis lessons from the same woman local pro Bunny Wall whose son Steve teaches at Creve Coeur Racquet Club.

We certainly did not envision the effect of Stalking Jimmy Connors but are truly grateful to the volunteers, City of East St. Louis, USTA St. Louis District, Lessie Bates Neighborhood House, USTA Missouri Valley, Heritage ExpositionRK Builders, 40 Days of Nonviolence and The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Because of you an amazing experience was had by the kids and the volunteers.   Tennis is alive and well in East St. Louis.  Now on to finding the rest of the money to build those courts!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What the H is an X-Ball?

There is a new tennis ball in town, move over Prince, Dunlop and Wilson the X-Ball is here.   In February we were provided with a case of The X-Ball's for our use throughout the year on the blog.   We recently used them in our last blog entry Chicken Tennis.   We found the balls to have excellent bounce, durability and still retain a soft feel.    If you would like to order some you may buy them direct from

So here is the X-Ball story direct from the founder. The brand was started in 1997 by Paul Prior just after he retired off the tour and started coaching. At that time it was part of Volkl Africa which was the Southern African representative of Volkl Tennis based in Switzerland. The company noticed a gap in the local and international market sue to the variety of high quality tennis balls available. The brand of X-Ball was created upon the belief and foundation of producing a tennis ball that a professional player would love. Very quickly we had good success based on the good products. We soon had distribution clients in Europe, South America and Asia.

One of the important developments over the years is the rubber compound and ball felt. The Magna-Rubber compound we now use allows the ball to be more cushioned by the string bed of the racquet, giving greater feel and comfort during good contact and less shock during bad contact of the ball and racquet. A big part of being in the US now is that we have been able to develop and purchase from a US supplier the felt. The felt has the highest wool content in the industry giving the ball a thicker, longer lasting felt than our competitors.

X-Ball has been producing and leading the development of the "Transitional/ Quickstart" tennis balls since 1998 and have run various testing. The one major point that we feel is that these tennis balls are really designed for all ages, not just U10 players. In testing we had found that rally length with the Orange training ball tripled when played with by the average 3.5 player. By increasing the rally length players were able to spend more time playing tennis and less time picking up balls, more time practicing their strokes and running after the balls, meaning that players improved faster and received more of a work out in the same period of time.

In the late 90's we spent many research Dollars on these products which then allowed us to find the solution for the best performing pressureless tennis ball in the market. The X-Ball Air ball plays most like a pressurized tennis ball than any other pressureless tennis ball winning many awards in the European market.

X-Ball was launched in the US in 2013 and was created as a division of Pennies for Reading (, a not for profit Employee owned Co-operative. The goal of Pennies for Reading and X-Ball as one of the divisions of the organization, is to run businesses to create profits and funds to invest into the employees lives and communities lives, making the city more sustainable while raising it hopefully from the position of the poorest city in the United States.

X-Ball continues to pursue the goal of being one of the major tennis ball brands internationally.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chicken Tennis? Why you ask.. because Jerry Gassel turns 80 this month!

Chicken Tennis ...the tennis version of Beer Pong? A few weeks ago Scott's doubles partner from his teenage years, Dan Gassel, contacted him and asked him to write a letter for his fathers 80th birthday.   He also asked him to sign the letter "The Chicken Plucker"    A smile came to Scott's face thinking of those fun times in North County playing tennis and earning the nickname from Jerry because he worked in the kitchen at Kentucky Fried Chicken along with a few other tennis players.    Of course those memories are intertwined with tennis and north county so we said why not a blog to celebrate the 80th Birthday of Mr. Gassel!   Many of the places we played tennis are now gone including LarMor Swim Club, West James Courts(Where Scott and Dan took lessons), the former Bellefontaine Swim and Tennis Club and the courts at Pruett Park which are no longer playable.

However one court came to mind as the right place to play this match.   The Riverview Gardens High School Courts because they sat literally across the street from 1211 Shepley the home of the Gassel Family where Jerry and Carol  raised two wonderful daughters and Scott's doubles partner Dan.

As we arrived at the courts we could see they were in bad shape however one thing had improved.  The courts had real nets.   Back in Scott's day the nets were made of chain link fence.   Many a competitive tennis match was played on these courts back in the day.  Scott played many a match here against his high school nemesis Ken Eckert a proud Riverview Ram.  Today the courts look little used.  Scott brought Chris Gassel (no known relation to Jerry) with him.  Chris is the behind the scenes compiler of this blog.    Stan as usual was busy selling homes for Remax Select which means he was slightly late so we had a few minutes to warm up.   Chris is a beginner and has been taking  tennis lessons from Mark Platt so we hit a few balls until the Riverview Gardens Security Guard showed up and informed us we could not play tennis during school hours.

We called Stan and met him at Bella Fontaine Park adjacent to the Bellefontaine Neighbors Recreation Center where they have two courts.   They used to have four but two have been converted to basketball.   We opened a can of balls from our new sponsor The X-Ball and got ready to play.  In order to celebrate Jerry's 80th we put the special "Chicken Plucker" rules in effect.   For the first set we put two cans four feet from the net on each side in the drop shot zone.   If either player hit the can he automatically wins the game and forces the other player to eat one piece of KFC from the bucket we acquired from Scott's old workplace.    Scott won the toss and served and earned a game point.

Stan lobbed over Scott's head and Scott ran back spun around and hit an inside out forehand passing shot to win the game.  He then broke stan and held for a 3-0 lead.   Although several attempts were made to hit the can it proved to be very difficult.   You also now had the added responsiblity if you were at net to defend the can which Stan did successfully using his Bulgarian goalie skills!  As usual Scott could not count Stan out and he fought back to 4-5 with Scott serving with a set point.  On set point both players went for the can and ended up at the net where Stan hit a fantastic lob volley over Scott's head to save set point.   He continued on to break and even the set at 5-5.   Scott was able to break and hold to close out the set 7-5.

We changed the rules for the second set putting four cans on the service sidelines.   Stan fought hard to start and broke Scott on a great short angle backhand which missed the can but was devastating nevertheless.    At 3-2 Stan served and held at love for a 4-2 lead.   Scott served and Stan won three more points in a row forcing triple break point.   Things were not looking good for Scott.   Then lightning struck...

Scotts first serve smashed into the can automatically winning the game and sending Stan to the KFC bucket.  Now 4-3 Stan managed to survive the chicken and close out the set at 6-3.   However the game was now changed as we both knew the cans were now a factor.

We decided to play a USTA 10 point tiebreaker to decide the match.   The tiebreaker rule was hit the can automatically win the tiebreaker.  Both players were now going for the cans on every shot knowing that a can hit was an automatic match win.

Of course there were a few errors and Stan was the steadier and went out to a 7-2 lead.   Scott fought back hard.   Both players were all over the cans but nobody could hit the mark.   At 9-8 Stan had the first match point.

He came to the net on Scott's backhand and Scott somehow floated a slice passing shot down the line past Stan to even it at 9-9.   Back and forth it went with each player having multiple match points.  Finally at 15-14 Scott served for the match.   His serve nearly missed the can but was in Stan went for the can on Scott's backhand side and Scott went backhand crosscourt for the can.  Stan approached the net and Scott finished the match with a forehand down the line pass!  16-14 tiebreak win.   After four straight losses to Stan the Chicken Plucker rides again 7-5, 3-6, 1-0!

The courts are in need of work.  They were missing netstraps, nets were coming apart and most importantly the surfacing is cracked and uneven and retains water.   Water was constantly pushing out of the court and some sections were uneven and could create bad bounces or more importantly trip hazards.   The rest of the facility is in great shape.   Our rating on condition is a 5 and location is a 7 for a combined rating of 6.   The location next to the Police and Fire Station can cause some noise issues.   A nearby attraction is the General Daniel Bissell House and a great place to eat is Central Realty favorite The White Barn.

Happy 80th Birthday Jerry Gassel!  This Blog's for you!