May

4

 I knew Niederhoffer better than Hogan, and we played often at every sport imaginable, and using equipment of one against the other to homogenize our strengths. It's quite clear that he trounced me in tennis, ping pong, badminton, squash, and every other racket contest, except I was a nudge better in paddleball and racquetball. He beat me, Hogan and another top player in an informal late 90s All Racquet fest at his CT home, and carried a gimp leg into and gimper out of the event. There's no question who was the best overall.

Victor Niederhoffer comments: 

Those were the days. -v

Howard "Uncle Howie" Eisenberg writes:

Gentlemen:

My recollections of the event follow. Since it was 36 yearsago and I am at an advanced age, I may be off by a point or two in the recounting.

Vic, coming off wins in the 1975 US, Canadian, and North American squash championships decides to win the International Racquetball Assn championship, never having played the game. This is widely quoted by Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, Esquire Magazine, and other publications including a 7 page article about Vic in the NY Times Sunday edition all of which focus on the prediction of the eccentric commodities speculator who wears different colored sneakers along with his tieless business suits in meetings with clients of his 1/2 billion dollar hedge fund such as George Soros.

There is very little racquetball being played in the NY area at the time. He enlists my aid to learn the basics. Although far inferior to him in racquet sports, I attempt to impart what I know about 4-wall handball to him. He acquires the rudiments of the game practicing with me and mostly by himself at the 92'nd St. YMHA using dead racquetballs on a court with an 18 foot ceiling on which it is virtually impossible to hit effective ceiling shots. He continues his training regimen that includes running through the streets of Manhattean wearing sweat socks as gloves, holding a squash racquet "to ward off muggers". We go to Vegas 2 months later. Vic plays a 1'st round match watched by Ektelon founder, Charley Drake, Keely, and Hogan who is to be Vic's second round opponent. All of them scoff at this "big mouth" upstart who has provided locker room bulletin board material with his presumptuous prediction of victory as he lumbers around the court in a manner that would never have him confused with Barishnakoff.

Vic and I bet Drake $500 on the Hogan match. Thirty seconds before it begins, Keely comes running over with another $500 to bet which we cover. It isn't in traveller's cheques. Our upbringing at the Brooklyn dens of iniquity where the heavy action on handball, paddleball, pool, crap games or whatever takes place has tought us that if you want to ensure getting paid,the money has to be up - in cash. Hogan takes a quick 10-0 lead and it looks like Vic not only doesn't belong on the same court with Marty, he shouldn't be in the same state with him. Things get a little more under control after that with the two trading points, Hogan winning 21-11. Throughout this game and the entire match, Hogan attempts to psyche Vic out by facing the back wall, placing 2 hands on it and sticking his ass out at Vic for 8 of the 10 seconds allowed to receive serve. The 32 year old Niederhoffer has been playing tournaments and money games since he was 10 years old, so this purile attempt by the 17 or 18 year old neophyte has as much effect on Vic as a minnow on a barracuda. The second game is a continuation of the 1'st with no one taking more than a 2 or 3 point lead until 18-all when Vic gets Hogan out and runs the 3 points to win.

Initially in the 3'rd game, it looks like Hogan has been broken with Vic taking a substantial early lead. However, there is a pervading dynamic in this match. Hogan is playing racquetball, serving with great velocity, driving, and killing while Vic is playing squash in a racquetball court, serving softly, retrieving, keeping the ball in play and rarely going for a kill shot. Marty's well honed racquetball skills come to the fore as he gets to 17-19, then runs 3 for match point. The 5' 7" Hogan then executes a black power salute thrusting his fist in the air in Vic's direction. Undaunted, Niederhoffer approaches Hogan and reaches down to place the ball on his forehead. Hogan serves and Vic hits the 1'st back wall kill shot he has attempted in the whole match to regain the serve. This is followed by a squash shot, a boast, which is hit into the left wall, hits the right wall, and unreturnably just grazes the front wall. After a timeout giving Hogan a chance to feel the pressure, Vic hits a terrible serve which Marty drives past him deep to the left. With the ball dieing near the back wall, Niederhoffer reaches behind him and with wrist action, flicks a backhand into the left sidewall. The point of impact is more than 1/2 the court back, which if the angle of reflection is to equal the angle of incidence could never reach the front wall. However, the clockwise spin imparted causes the ball to hook at a greater angle off the wall continuing to the front where it rolls out in the right crotch.

With a full glass back wall, the only way for the players to hear sounds from the outside is via the microphone used by the ref. That is, unless there is an elated uncle bellowing in delight at 100 decibels at what has just transpired. It was this loss and a loss to the aging Charley Brumfeld in the finals of the nationals a year later after Hogan had won most pro events that resulted in the epithet of Hogan not being able to win the big ones. By the following year, Marty's superiority was firmly ensconced with him transcending whatever residual trepidation resultant from the Niederhoffer loss . Perhaps the echos of the Eisenberg victory expostulations had tamped down by then.

Regards,

Howie


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