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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Book Signing: “100 Years of Tennis at Hotel del Coronado.”



Book Signing at Bay Books, March 18, 6:30 p.m.

CORONADO – Ben Press was the head tennis professional at the Hotel Del for 28 years, where he entertained thousands of celebrities on the courts. He is a Coronado resident, a former tennis columnist for the San Diego Evening Tribune and has written for numerous tennis magazines and newspapers over the years.

In the world of tennis few have had the relationships or adventures of Ben Press. Now, at the age of 85, he has written a book called, “100 Years of Tennis at the Hotel del Coronado: Playground of the Stars.” It’s a pictorial tell-all of the once glamorous tennis courts that sat on Coronado’s white sand beach between the Victorian hotel and the Pacific Ocean.

“100 Years of Tennis” is a beautifully packaged coffee table tome containing 160 pages, 100 photos and a forward by Pam Shriver, international sports commentator and member of the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Shriver grew up playing on the hallowed tennis courts of the Hotel Del. “The vista from
the Del courts was my favorite,” recalled Shriver. “It had one of the world’s grandest hotels on one side, and the great Pacific Ocean on the other.”

“100 Years of Tennis” was four years in the making. The book opens with a history of the Hotel Del and photos of tennis players visiting the Del dating back to the 1800s.

Fittingly, the books poignant epilogue takes a look back at the ghosts of tennis past, and
the members of the Coronado Beach & Tennis Club – the average players with above average personality and a lust for the game of tennis who breathed life into the tennis program at the Del for decades.

The book is an accumulation of photographs and anecdotes no one else could possibly
have gathered or written, presented through the eyes and words of one of tennis’ great emissaries and all-around gentlemen of the sport.

“The courts are gone now,” said Press, “but at times the ghosts of tennis past still linger. I walked through the grounds of the Del just the other day, and I could still hear the harsh and familiar cries of the seagulls flying overhead. As I looked up I found myself remembering the sight of Air Force One gliding towards North Island Naval Air Station, a mere high lob from my teaching court. President George H.W. Bush and I were a pretty tough doubles team.”

The book captures the luster of the celebrity visitor ranging from players like Andre Agassi and Billy Jean King to household names like Walter Cronkite and football’s Tom Landry. Hollywood visitors are well represented through such tennis players as Errol Flynn, Gilbert Roland, Farrah Fawcett, Lucille Ball and Charlton Heston, just to name a few.

Press pays homage to numerous Coronado players as well, such as the Kingston Trio’s
Nick Reynolds, actor/dancer Johnny Downs and tennis professionals Alex Gordon and “Happy” Jack Campbell.

There will be a book signing at Bay Books Thursday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. The author will be on hand to sell books, sign existing copies and share memories of tennis at the Del.

“100 Years of Tennis” is available at Bay Books, the Hotel del Coronado, the Coronado Visitor Center, or by visiting www.benpress.com. The book sells for $29.95 and is available in hard cover only. For more information on the author and the book, call or write (619) 980-2142 or [email protected].

This release was prepared by Joseph Ditler and his company, Schooner or Later Promotions. Other Coronado PR clients include Lee Mather Co., Realty; VFW; Coronado Brewing Company; Tent City; Boathouse 1887; Tina Christiansen Gallery; and El Cordova Garage. For more information contact Ditler at 619.435.0767 or write [email protected].

The book, “100 Years of Tennis at the Hotel del Coronado,” was four years

in the making and captures a special time in Coronado’s history.

Author, Ben “Mister Tennis” Press, former head teaching professional at the

Hotel del Coronado, and a sage spokesman for Coronado’s golden years of tennis.

Photo courtesy Ben Press.

Mixed doubles has always been a popular facet of tennis at the Hotel del Coronado

and a premier spectator sport, as evidenced in this early photograph.

Photo courtesy Hotel del Coronado.

Victorian England is where the popularity of lawn tennis bloomed. Previously

a male only sport, it was soon to be a sport enjoyed by women too. “Properly

attired” women are seen here playing on the Hotel Del’s earliest court.

Photo courtesy Coronado Historical Association.

This President Bush was extremely competitive and carried his own weight on the court.

After all these years he continues to write to the author and share memories.

Photo courtesy Ben Press.

A young Nick Reynolds is congratulated by his father, Captain Stewart Reynolds, after

winning a junior tournament on the hotel’s courts in 1949. Nick later went on to be part

of the original Kingston Trio and a favorite Coronado son.

Photo courtesy Ben Press.

The great Lucille Ball was known for her acting, her comedy, and even for her dancing.

But she was a mother first and foremost. Here she is seen cheering on her son

Desi Jr. in a celebrity tennis match. Photo by Joe Ditler.

Regis Philbin has been called “the hardest working person in show business”.

He holds the Guinness World Record for most time spent in front of

a TV camera. His talents crossed into tennis as well.

Photo courtesy Ben Press.

The pro-celeb matches and tournaments were always a big hit for audiences.

Here, from left, are Mickey Rooney, Carmack Barryman, Coronado’s Alex Gordon

and George Murphy after a match on the Del’s legendary Court #4.

Photo courtesy Hotel del Coronado.

Some celebrities arrive with all the pomp and circumstance of royalty.

Others quietly check into the hotel and go about their business.

Farrah Fawcett burst upon the scene in the hit TV show “Charlie’s Angels,”

but kept her small town Texas charm intact. Photo by Joe Ditler

One of the great actors of all time, Charlton Heston. “We had ongoing monthly

doubles matches,” said the author. “and I’ve got to say that while he wasn’t

quite as good a player as he was actor, it wasn’t for lack of passion.

Chuck was a very good competitor.” Photo courtesy Ben Press.

Tennis at the Hotel del Coronado is no more. The historic courts were removed

as a victim of “progress” many years ago. But many, many people

still remember the wonderful exhibitions, camaraderie and competition

that took place on these hallowed grounds. Photo courtesy Ben Press.

Johnny Downs was a child actor in the original “Our Gang Comedy.” He was a

song and dance man on stage and screen, and a successful adult actor as well.

Here is is seen with actress Betty Burgess promoting their film, “Coronado,”

a 1935 comedy shot at the Hotel Del and Tent City. Johnny retired

and raised his family in Coronado and was a serious competitor

on the Del’s courts for many years. Photo courtesy Ben Press.

This fairy tale castle on the beach has lured hundreds of thousands of

people from around the world since opening in 1888. The tennis courts may

be gone, but not the memories. Photo courtesy Hotel del Coronado.


Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.