Pancho Gonzalez

"Voces," the 13-part documentary series that highlights Latino culture on PBS, next features "Pancho Gonzalez: Warrior of the Court." The doc premieres on KOCE on Nov. 21 @ 10 pm, while KCET will air it sometime in 2007. Considering that Gonzalez was born and raised in L.A., it's a major coup that the OC station will beat the LA station to the punch.

Gonzalez learned how to play on public courts at Exposition Park before quitting high school and crashing the almost exclusively white sport (including the clothes the players wore). He won the U.S Open twice, then turned pro at a time when the amateur game reigned. The prime of his career was spent criss-crossing the country, dueling the likes of Jack Kramer, Tony Trabert, and Ken Rosewall. His last hurrah came at Wimbledon, as tennis began the open era, when Gonzalez, then 41, outlasted Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9. The classic match eventually led to the tie-breaker rule.

Gonzalez never got true recognition for his greatness, in part because of his prickly personality. His serve, wrote Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price in a fascinating profile published a couple years back, "falling as straight and deadly as an executioner's blade was so clean that other players beheld it with wonder." Price also quoted Gussy Moran, she of lace panties fame, who said that to watch Gonzalez was to see "a god patrolling his personal heaven."

The doc came about because of the perseverance of Pancho's late brother, Ralph, and director and co-producer Danny Haro. It originally aired on Spike TV in 2005. For the PBS version, they've added about ten more minutes. You can read Q&As with Haro, who lives in Sierra Madre and runs Higher Ground Entertainment, in the Oct.-Nov. issue of Tu Ciudad (being an Emmis publication, newsprint only) and the Nov. issue of Hispanic Magazine.

* * *

Those of you who didn't get a chance to see the Baseball Reliquary's exhibit, "Mexican-American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues," at Cal State LA earlier this year have another chance. The exhibit is currently on view through Dec. 15 at the Library & Learning Resource Center of the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The exhibition is the subject of Jay Berman's recent article in the Downtown News.

November 17, 2006 2:29 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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