Dick Williams

Titanic Survivor’s Journey To The U.S. Singles Final 100 Years Ago

There was a lot different about the US Open 100 years ago than it is today. For starters, it was not called the U.S. Open, but the “Nationals” in the era before tennis was professional. It was also held on grass courts in the quiet, quaint confines of the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island, the modern-day home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But the 1913 U.S. Nationals in Newport was the scene of the unfolding of what some call the greatest story in the history of the sport.

A year earlier in 1912, Dick Williams was en route to the United States from Europe to enroll in Harvard when he survived the sinking of the Titanic in incredible fashion, enduring the night in the frigid North Atlantic water while hanging onto a collapsed lifeboat. Seventeen months later, fresh off leading the U.S. Davis Cup team to victory against Britain, Williams reached the final of the modern-day US Open. Williams played U.S. Davis Cup teammate Maurice McLoughlin in the U.S. singles final on August 26, 1913 – 100 years to the day of the start of the 2013 U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.

Lindsay Gibbs narrates the singles-final run of Williams 100 years ago in her book TITANIC: THE TENNIS STORY ($12.95, New Chapter Press, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-Tennis-Story-Lindsay-Gibbs/dp/1937559041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377217682&sr=8-1&keywords=Titanic+The+Tennis+Story) in this book excerpt.

 

Nevertheless, later that month, just a few days off the boat, he went into the 1913 Nationals at Newport … believing that it was his year and that he could earn that trophy. He knew what he was doing this year. Nothing was a surprise to him. He was a stronger player, more used to his public profile and a better man than he had been a year ago. He could close his eyes and see himself holding that trophy. He could feel the waves of closure flowing through his body, making everything worth it.

He had a close match against Gustave Touchard in the second round that almost cost him an early exit from the tournament, but just like in the Davis Cup match against Dixon, he was able to dig deep and take the fifth set 7-5. It didn’t hurt that when Touchard was serving at 4-3, 40-30 in the final set he was called for a foot fault, after which, rattled, he double faulted and then really blew his stack. Still, for Dick a victory was a victory. He was sure he could carry the momentum to win the title.

Aside from a close four-setter in the fourth round against William Johnston, the Californian with the big Western topspin forehand, Dick had an easy time after Touchard, making it all the way to the final, where of course his new friend and teammate Maurice McLoughlin waited for him. Mac was trying to win the title for the second year in a row and continue his run as the best player in the country. For Dick, the championship had special symbolic value. He yearned to finish the journey he started sixteen months earlier when he boarded the Titanic with his father.

After having played against each other almost every day for the past three months, both players knew each others’ game as well as their own. Dick was able to handle the forceful serves of his Davis Cup teammate like no one else and often dictated play off his own racket. After losing a hard-fought first set 6-4, Dick continued his aggressive play and was able to steal the second set 7-5 – becoming the first player to secure a set from Mac at the tournament. The tennis was some of the most dazzling play that the Newport fans had ever seen. After some tense play early in the third set, the match was up for grabs. As the crowd grew louder and louder after every point and they started to move in between points, leaning on the edge of their seats to see every shot, Dick started to struggle. He tried to focus in, to block the world out with his tennis like he had been doing for the past year and a half, but it wasn’t working. The clapping began to sound like the ship breaking into two. Cheers sounded like cries. The memories he was trying so hard to block out came crashing down on him at one of the worst times possible. Mac took control of the match mid-way through the third set and eased to a four-set victory 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. “The California Comet” had another trophy for his shelf and Dick had to wait another year for another chance.

“Titanic” Survivors’ Fascinating US Open Match

It was 98 years ago, on August 28, 1914, that one of the most fascinating confrontations in the history of the U.S. Championships took place.

Two men – Dick Williams and Karl Behr – who both survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the most famous sea disaster in history, incredibly met in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Championships at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island. The two tennis standouts met for the first time on board the rescue ship Carpathia, Williams nearly having his legs amputated after surviving the night in an overturned life-boat while Behr was lucky to escape on the second life boat launched, before the major panic set in. Two years later, the two face each other in the country’s national championship after having been teammates on the U.S. Davis Cup team earlier in the summer.

On this day, Williams emerged victorious by a 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 margin and went on to incredible win the championship defeating top-ranked Maurice McLoughlin of the United States 6-3, 8-6, 10-8 in the championship match in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history at the time.

The following is the narrative of the pre-match scene between Williams and Behr in Newport 98 years ago as told by author Lindsay Gibbs in her book TITANIC: THE TENNIS STORY, an historical adaptation of this story that can be described as the most incredible in the history of tennis. The book is available where ever books are sold, here via Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-Tennis-Story-Lindsay-Gibbs/dp/1937559041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346068847&sr=8-1&keywords=Titanic+Tennis+Story or directly via publisher New Chapter Press at www.NewChapterMedia.com. The book can also be downloaded on Amazon.com’s Kindle at here: http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-The-Tennis-Story-ebook/dp/B0087GZGTO/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1346068847&sr=8-1

 

The locker room at the Newport Casino was silent. Dick hated silence.

This had not always been the case. He used to love the quiet, he used to seek it out, crave it. His favorite moments growing up had been when he found time to himself in the Swiss countryside, just watching the world and enjoying the silence. A chance to think.

But now silence was his worst enemy. Now when things were silent his mind filled the void with echoes of cries. With­out diversion, his mind had a harder time warding off the de­tailed memories of the ship. The archways, the marble stair­case, the carvings in the wood.

In the last couple of years, he had become an expert at small talk. He had mastered his father’s act of talking to strangers. Once the shy athletic star, he now had in-depth conversations about the weather, fashion, politics. He would start a conver­sation about anything, with absolutely anyone. Because when things were this silent, this still, he felt the ground moving underneath him, as though rocking on a wave. He saw the smokestack falling. He felt the water.

A locker slamming aggressively shut came as a welcome distraction. The horror disappeared and his head instinctive­ly turned in the direction of the sound. There he was, in the greatest of ironies. Karl Behr. The only person in the world he didn’t dare engage in small talk with. The only person in the world who didn’t provide a distraction from the thoughts.

The only person who made it worse. Unfortunately, he was the only other person in the locker room right now. They were about to face off in the quarterfinals of the lawn tennis championships of the United States.

He quickly jerked his head back around and resumed tying his shoes. Had Karl been looking at him? Did he seem angry? Did he look like he was about to speak? What if he tried to talk first? What if Helen came by to wish him luck? He wished tying his shoes was a more complicated activity so he could shut out these thoughts. He had promised himself he wasn’t going to do this. He had promised himself that this was just another match. He would not fall apart now, not when he had come so far.

Sweat poured down his face and he was unsure whether it was the Rhode Island late August heat, the stuffiness of the musty locker room this late in the tournament, or his over­active nerves that was causing such a reaction. He was sure that this was not the way to be feeling right before such a big match, no matter who the opponent was. He had to get himself together.

This was the quarterfinals of the U.S. Nationals, for God’s sake. This was his year. Two years ago he’d taken Maurice McLoughlin to five sets, and last year he’d lost to Mac again, but in the final. Now he was the defending finalist and this was the year he was finally going to do it. He was going to lift that trophy he had been hearing about since he was a youngster. He’d held so many tennis trophies; would this one feel differ­ent? He wouldn’t ever find out if he didn’t get himself together here. He checked the tension of his racket strings. It was of course just perfect. He always made sure it was perfect. Tight, but not “board tight.”

The only thing that mattered was winning this match. Win this match. Win two more. Win the trophy. That was it. Simple. He had the talent. He had the shots, the fitness, the de­sire…He had it all. He just had to stay focused and to not let anything or anyone get in the way. The door opened and a portly tournament official broke the silence with his expected announcement: “Mr. Behr, Mr. Williams, it is time to take the court.”

Neither man said a word. Dick still didn’t look up, unwill­ing to risk a moment of conversation until a net was between them. He sensed Karl picking up his racket bag and when he heard the footsteps pass him, he followed, looking down at his shoes the whole time. He felt again for his rackets and towels to make sure everything was in place. He took a deep breath and jumped up and down a bit as he walked to get his blood flowing. Jumped up and down on healthy legs. His healthy legs that he wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for…

The chatter, and then cheers, of the Newport crowd came just in time to stop the train of thought.

Just another opponent.

Just win this one match.

Just don’t think.

ARE QUERREY AND ISNER READY TO TAKE THE TORCH OF AMERICAN TENNIS?

With the opening 2010 tournaments being held on American soil, the spotlight shines on one of the world’s most successful tennis playing nations.

For many years, Americans have dominated the sport. From the days of Bill Tilden to the modern era of Pete Sampras, Americans are never far from your thoughts when it comes to one of the world’s favorite sports.

So many great stories accompany the nation’s participation in tennis. From the crusading careers of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe to Bill Talbert redefining medical thinking on diabetes. From Dick Williams’ terrifying ordeal aboard the Titanic to Andre Agassi’s many battles with personal problems compounded by his recent revelations of crystal meth use. McEnroe, Connors, Courier, they all delighted crowds with their contrasting personalities.

America reads like a grand soap opera of tennis. Its many great champions have left imprints of grandeur and finesse on the minds of those who have seen them play.

As a Brit looking at the role of honors, it makes one quite envious. Yes we have had fine champions too. But not many have come since Fred Perry in the 1930s. It kind of makes you feel like the less-successful younger brother vying for daddy’s love.

Another fine column from Melina Harris touched upon the issue when looking at the rise of Melanie Oudin and John Isner in the men’s and women’s games but, when looking at recent Grand Slams, where will America’s next great champion come from?

Pete Sampras did not compete following his triumph at the 2002 US Open and his official retirement announcement came just before the 2003 showpiece which makes Andy Roddick the sole American Slam winner since the great Pete. Since then, the domination of R-Fed and Rafa Nadal has given American tennis fans food for thought, although Roddick has made a further four finals.

Federer mimics some of the great American Champions in his mastery of opponents. Who better to break Sampras’ impressive Slam total and memories switch back to the “changing of the guard” at the fourth round of the Wimbledon Championships in 2001 when Federer overcame Sampras in five sets. Who knew what would happen next?

The sport has undergone a similar change. Former Eastern Block territories are beginning to taste success and stars from nations previously unheard of in tennis echelons are emerging left, right and centre.

America has noticed the changes in Davis Cup play. Having won more titles (32) than any other nation, they have only lifted the title once (2007) in fifteen years and made the final on only two other occasions (1997, 2004).

Top ranked player Roddick is No. 7 in the latest ATP World Rankings while John Isner (25) and Sam Querrey (31) also hold Top 50 rankings.

James Blake (55), Michael Russell (68), Mardy Fish (71), Taylor Dent (78), Rajeev Ram (82) and Robby Ginepri (100) make it nine players in the Top 100 – an enviable total.

But since Sampras’ retirement in 2003, they have only amassed a total of 35 ATP Tour titles between them and 19 of those were picked up by Roddick. However, the terrible injuries suffered by the likes of Dent and Blake cannot be ignored.

The end of year Championships have also proved quite fruitful. Blake was a losing finalist to Federer in Shanghai in 2006 while Roddick has regularly participated and performed well.

Querrey and Isner are relatively new kids on the block and the USA holds high hopes for the boys. Well-liked on and off the court, they have gained fans worldwide with their playing styles and beaming smiles. Isner reached the fourth round of the 2009 US Open and was seeded at the 2010 Australian Open following the late withdrawal of Gilles Simon. He eventually lost to finalist Andy Murray in round four and his performances were duly noted by the world’s press.

Querrey is another with a growing reputation and his string of finals in the summer of 2009 certainly showed his potential while many know him as much for his rowdy loyal support as for his skills with a racket.

This column is not an attack on American tennis but a debate starter about where the next great Champion could come from. Do Isner or Querrey have what it takes to play their way in to the long and proud history of this great nation?

As an overseas observer I have long been wowed by the long list of great American players and having spent the summer working for the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, I have learnt a great deal about the proud history of the sport there.

After Sampras’ induction in 2007 and Roddick’s Grand Slam performances guaranteeing him entry (he also has time to win more let’s not forget) who of the current crop has what it takes to gain their place alongside their illustrious predecessors?

The future looks bright and the hope is America’s relative barren spell may be ended soon. With 2010 Davis Cup play on the horizon, and Querrey and Isner now leading the team, it could be a chance to shine on a truly global stage for the tallest combination to ever pair up in singles for the USA.

U.S. Presidents and Connections To Tennis

As the Presidential campaign winds down in the United States, it is interesting to speculate whether Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain will be a “friend of tennis” in the Oval Office. Tennis players with high incomes may be partial to John McCain for tax purposes, while Barack Obama seems to be more engaged in the sport. Obama played tennis while growing up in Hawaii and follows the sport, as witnessed by a friend of mine who works in political circles who, back 2007, spoke with Obama, who gushed over watching the US Open on television the previous night – in particular James Blake’s five-set win over Fabrice Santoro (Blake’s first career five-set victory). As a working member of the tennis industry, author of the new book On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) and as the great, great, great nephew of James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States, I have a great interest in tennis and in U.S. Presidential history.

Who was the most tennis friendly President? Teddy Roosevelt might warrant consideration as he was the man responsible for creating the White House tennis court in 1902. Tennis was part of his exercise regimen and had a group of Washingtonians who comprised of what was called his “tennis cabinet” – a group of players with whom he would talk policy between serves and forehands. Roosevelt may have been inspired in his tennis pursuits by two of the greatest American players of the time – Bill Larned and Robert Wrenn – who were members of his famed “Rough Riders” that fought under his command in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. Roosevelt in his book, The Rough Riders, bragged of the enlistment of Wrenn and Larned along with “an eclectic group of eastern dudes and western deadshots.” Roosevelt prided in the fact that on two occasions as U.S. tennis champion, Wrenn had “saved this championship from going to an Englishman” referencing Wrenn’s final-round victories over Brits Manliffe Goodbody in 1894 and Wilberforce Eaves in 1897. Larned won a record seven U.S. singles titles – 1901, 1902, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911.

Warren Harding, the 29th President, played tennis early in his life and became re-engaged in the game when the United States recaptured the Davis Cup in 1920. He hosted the winning U.S. team and the Cup to the White House on May 6, 1921 – the first time the famous trophy visited the home of the President. U.S. team members Bill Tilden, Bill Johnston, Dick Williams and Watson Washburn competed in exhibition matches against each other on the White House court, with Harding enjoying the action with his family and staff. President Harding, in fact, appointed Davis Cup founder Dwight Davis as his Assistant Secretary of War in 1923. Davis was subsequently elevated to Secretary of War (the modern day Secretary of State) in the next administration of President Calvin Coolidge starting in 1923.

Coolidge, the 30th President, was the first U.S. President to host and preside over the making of the Davis Cup draw – no doubt at the urging of Davis himself – and hosted the festivities on March 17, 1927. The draw was held on the front lawn of the White House and Coolidge picked out of the Cup the card with Czechoslovakia on it – drawn against Greece in the first round of the European Zone. Wrote the New York Times of the event, “Surrounded by diplomats from the twenty-five nations entered into the tournament, he drew the card bearing the name of Czechoslovakia from the bowl of the trophy. Joseph C. Grew, Under Secretary of State, then picked Greece, which was paired with the nation of the President’s choice. The various diplomats then formed in line and each withdrew the name of one nation from the cup.”

Herbert Hoover, the 31st President, was also a fan of the game. When running against Democrat Al Smith in 1928, Hoover received a great tennis endorsement from all-time great Helen Wills, who made her public announcement of her support of Hoover for President the day before her win at the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills. In her press announcement in support of Hoover, Wills stated, “All youth can admire Herbert Hoover because of his sincerity, intelligence and great industry. His achievements in the past have been marked with success because of his ability for organization and his wonderful powers of perservance.” During his administration (1929 to 1933), four U.S. Davis Cup matches were played at the nearby Chevy Chase Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland – 1929 vs. Japan, 1930 vs. Mexico, 1931 vs. Argentina and 1932 vs. Canada – with Hoover dispatching his wife to represent him at the matches.

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Franklin Roosevelt’s connections to tennis came from his cousins Grace and Ellen, who were both U.S. champions – Ellen winning the singles title in 1890 and the pairing with Grace to win the doubles – becoming the first sisters to win a major title. It is interesting to note what President Roosevelt did NOT do in one famous episode in tennis history. On July 20, 1937, the United States Davis Cup team competed against Nazi Germany in the decisive day of the Davis Cup Inter-zone Final at Wimbledon in what many call the most dramatic and politically important Davis Cup match of all time. American Don Budge and Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm played the decisive fifth match where, famously, von Cramm received a pre-match phone call from German dictator Adolf Hitler, who told von Cramm that winning the match was of great political importance to the Fatherland. Budge, who won the match when he came back from two-sets-to-love to win 6-8, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 8-6, said later of Hitler’s phone call, “I thought why didn’t Franklin Roosevelt call me? Didn’t he give a damn?”

Harry Truman, the 33rd President, was the second Commander in Chief to host the Davis Cup draw as he presided over the ceremonies on February 3, 1947. Said Truman shortly before reaching into the Davis Cup trophy to pull of the names of nations in the second post-World War II staging of the competition, “I hope the time will come when we can settle our international differences in courts, just as we settle our tennis differences on a court.”

President Dwight Eisenhower was more of a fan of golf and delegated “tennis duty” to his vice president Richard Nixon, who gave out the winner’s trophy at the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills and Davis Cup Challenge Rounds. In 1957, he famously presented Althea Gibson, the first black to win the U.S. singles title, with her winner’s trophy at Forest Hills. Two years earlier, Nixon also presented the Australian Davis Cup team with the Davis Cup trophy after the Aussies completed a 5-0 shutout of the United States at Forest Hills. Nixon was told by Australian Davis Cup Harry Hopman that day that he might someday be “the youngest president in American history.” Nixon next touched the Davis Cup in 1969 when, as the 37th President, he welcomed the victorious 1968 U.S. Davis Cup team that defeats Hopman’s Australian team in the 1968 Davis Cup final in Adelaide, Australia. That ceremony, that also featured the challenging Romanian Davis Cup team, featured some awkward moments as Bud Collins documented in his book The Bud Collins History of Tennis. Wrote Collins; “President Richard M. Nixon, a bowler and golfer who secretly despised tennis, hosted both final-round teams at a White House reception. This was a nice gesture, but the Chief Executive caused a few awkward stares when, as a memento of the occasion, he presented each player with a golf ball. Perhaps these were left over, some speculated, from the golf-happy Eisenhower administration. “I’m a Republican, but I’ll never vote for him again,” grumbled Cliff Richey. “Why he do this?” said a puzzled Ion Tiriac. “No golf courses in Romania.”

Lyndon Johnson, Nixon’s precedessor, was not a tennis enthusiast but did host the winning 1963 U.S. Davis Cup team at the White House. On January 15, 1964, Johnson hosted the victorious U.S. team at the White House and spent 45 minutes with team members Dennis Ralston, Chuck McKinley and Marty Riessen as well as U.S. captain Bob Kelleher and U.S. Lawn Tennis Association President Ed Turville. As Johnson introduced the team to his press secretary Pierre Salinger he said, “There’s my tennis player. If I can teach Salinger to ride a horse, maybe he can teach me to play tennis.”

Gerald Ford, the 38th President, was known as an avid player and used the White House tennis court more than any President since Teddy Roosevelt. After watching 14-year-old Tracy Austin beat Virgina Ruzici in the fourth round of the 1977 U.S. Open on television, President Jimmy Carter placed a call to the pig-tailed wunderkind to offer his best wishes and congratulations.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, played tennis in his youth and was known as perhaps the biggest sports fan among U.S. chief executives. He hosted many athletes and sports teams – including tennis stars such as John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe, Pam Shriver and others. On September 15, 1981, Reagan and his wife Nancy hosted a U.S. Tennis Association contingent to the White House that included U.S. Open champions McEnroe and Austin and the U.S. Davis Cup and Wightman Cup teams. Said Reagan of the 1981 U.S. Open finals, “Nancy and I watched the TV Saturday and Sunday and the matches were so breathtaking I nearly turned blue.” Stan Smith and Marty Riessen hit tennis balls for the assembled group on the White House tennis court – highlighted by Smith hitting a ball that broke through the flimsy, deteriorating net. “I don’t oversee the operation as closely as my predecessor” said Reagan of the White House tennis operations. Nineteen-year-old Shriver proudly told Reagan during the 90-minute visit, “This was my first election and I voted for you, sir.” Ashe then chimed in to Reagan, “Well I didn’t vote for you. But I’m all for you, and I hope your policies work, Mr. President.”

Reagan left the tennis-playing to his Vice President and successor George Bush, who not only had a strong penchant for playing the game but came from a strong tennis bloodline. Bush’s great uncles Joseph Wear and Arthur Wear were bronze medalists in tennis at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis – Joseph pairing with Allen West and Arthur pairing with Clarence Gamble. Joseph Wear also went on to serve as U.S. Davis Cup captain in 1928 and 1935 – having the opportunity to work with both Bill Tilden and Don Budge. Bush, whose mother Dorothy was also a standout ranking junior player, also entertained many tennis players during his term and remains an active player, competing often at Chris Evert’s annual charity event and frequented the U.S. Clay Court Championships, the Tennis Masters Cup and Davis Cup as a fan when held at the Westside Tennis Club in his hometown of Houston, Texas

Bush attended the U.S. Open when he was Vice President under Reagan, but Bill Clinton was the first sitting President to attend the U.S. Open when he took in the men’s semifinals on September 9, 2000, watching Marat Safin beat Todd Martin and Pete Sampras beat Lleyton Hewitt. He also called Venus Williams after she won the U.S. Open women’s singles title that year and told her “You worked really hard” prompting the witty Williams to ask Clinton for a tax cut on her hard-earned U.S. Open prize money.

After leaving office, Clinton again created tennis headlines when he attended the French Open in 2001 and was, in fact, jokingly blamed for Andre Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Sebastien Grosjean. Clinton sat to watch the match after Agassi won the first set 6-1, but Agassi proceeded to lose 12 of the next 14 games to go down two sets to one. The five-months-out-of-office Clinton then briefly left the court, as Agassi went up a service break in the fourth set 2-1, but when Clinton returned to watch the match, Agassi lost his service break and proceeded to win only one more game in the match, losing 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. “I was bad for him,” Clinton said afterward, referring to Agassi. “I was bad luck. I left, and he won three games. I hated to come back.”

Like his father, George W. Bush, the 43rd President, was a tennis player, but later in life did not play the game as much as he resorted to jogging and cycling for exercise. As governor of Texas in 1999, Bush penned a note of congratulations and good luck to U.S. player Alex O’Brien when named to the U.S. Davis Cup team to face Britain in the Centennial year of the competition, writing “All athletes should consider it an honor to represent their country. Sadly, a number of America’s top tennis players do not share this view. I commend you and your teammates for stepping forward when asked by Captain Tom Gullikson and the USTA. Your patriotism, team spirit and work ethic are inspirations for athletes of all ages.”
His most infamous connection to tennis came just five days before the 2000 Presidential election when it was revealed publicly for the first time that he was arrested for drunken driving in Maine on Sept. 4 1976 with Aussie tennis legend John Newcombe in the car with the future president. “I was drinking beers, yeah, with John Newcombe,” Bush said in a briefing with the press. “I’m not proud of that. I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much, and I did that night. I learned my lesson. I told the guy (the arresting officer) I had been drinking, what do I need to do? He said, ‘here’s the fine.’ I paid the fine.” Newcombe didn’t comment on the incident for another two weeks until after the election. “When it came out I just did the first thing that came into my mind – I went underground mate. I didn’t put my head up,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press of when news of the arrest first surfaced. Newcombe described Bush as a “good bloke” who would make a “pretty good president” and said the drunk-driving incident was a minor one in terms of how far Bush was over the limit. “That’s something I’ve laughed about with George for the last 24 years,” Newcombe said. “That’s something that just happened that night. We were just a couple of young blokes going out and having a good time. We didn’t do anything wrong, basically. We probably shouldn’t have been driving at that stage but it wasn’t that anyone was badly inebriated.”