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Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr.

Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr.

There is a legend, unfounded, that when Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr., was given his first toy by his father, to play with in his carriage, it was a tiny croquet mallet and ball.

Whether this be true or not, young Swope began playing the game at his father's home in Great Neck at the age of nine. His training, under his father's demanding tutelage, produced a razor-sharp croquet eye and occasionally temper to match.

The opportunity to play the game with such wizards as Alexander Wollcott, Beatrice and George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, and Neysa McMein not only brought young Swope to a competitive level in strategy and tactics with the older generation, but also provided him with a smattering of vitriol, often the essence of the contest on that great sloping field.

By the time the Swopes moved to Sands Point, Swope, Jr., was so much in demand as a partner (there was heavy betting in those days) that he gave up what he clains was "a promising golf career" to devote himself to croquet.

At Sands Point the game continued its 9-wicket, 2-stake form, with great distances available to drive one's opponent's ball away. This was also true at Margaret Emerson's beautiful, tree-shaded, night-lit course across Sands Point Road, where the annual Gerald L. Brooks Memorial Tournament was held. Here newer if not younger faces entered the fray: George Abbott, Howard Dietz, the great lyricist, Harold Guinzberg, head of Viking Press, Richard Rodgers and his stately wife Dorothy Rodgers (dubbed "Legs" by Herbert Bayard Swope, Sr.) as well as Ogden Phipps and Averell Harriman.

Young Swope finall retired the trophy, after returning from World War II, in great struggles with Averell Harriman, as crafty, determined and talented an opponent as he is at the negotiating table, and Guinzberg. The last victory was at Mrs. Margaret Emerson's newer place in Glen Head, on a field which had 3 feet of beautiful soil added atop its almost 100 yards of length!

When "Ottie" Swope (he'll tell you why the nickname) went to work in Hollywood, he quickly became part of the Samuel Goldwyn group of players: George Sanders, Jean Negulesco, Louis Jourdan, the brothers Howard Hawks and William Hawks, and, of course, Samuel Goldwyn and the "Little Prince" Michael Romanoff.

Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr. was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 1981.

Articles

The Wicket Men of Hollywood in Sports Illustrated
What is Your Favorite Sport, and How Much Time Do You Devote to It? in Sports Illustrated

 

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