Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, June 26, 1999

Reck’s, Yee’s stories
need to be told

THE juxtaposition of their obituaries stunned me. They ran next to each other in adjoining columns in Thursday's Star-Bulletin.

Lawlor M. Reck and Bo Ming Yee.

They deserved more than just the basic several lines you find in an obit. Their final stories should be told, especially in the sports pages.

I remember doing a column on Yee, who died last Sunday in Denver. He was 83.

To say that he was a tennis professional is too simplistic. He was more than that, a lot more.

He knew the likes of Bill Tilden, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Bobby Riggs and Jimmy Connors; taught tennis to such celebrities as Jane Russell, Dinah Shore and Charlton Heston.

And many of Hawaii's top players went to him to fine tune their games or condition their tennis rackets.

He was the first Asian-American to play in the U.S. Open.

Not bad for a boy from Palama.

I met Bo Ming through another Palama boy and McKinley High School graduate with the same Chinese upbringing, Bill Gee.

Gee, the late associate sports editor for the Star-Bulletin, used to fill me in about Bo Ming's exploits. I figure Bo Ming had to be something because Gee was more into golf than tennis.

I went to Bo Ming's modest tennis shop, pulled up a chair and listened and listened.

It was chicken-skin, mind you, hearing him talk about the time he, Henry Kamakana Sr., Tatsuo Todo and Lefty Nakano traveled by boat, train and car in 1937 to play on the mainland.

They played in the National Public Parks Championship in Pittsburgh. Slipping and sliding on the clay courts, they wound up playing barefooted on the hot surface.

Of course, the U.S. Open was different. Shows were required, as well as long white pants.

When an injury shelved his playing career, Bo Ming made tennis his business with his shop on Makaloa St. He moved to Colorado three years ago to be with his three daughters.

"I'll miss the weather," he said when he left.

Now, it's our turn to miss him.

RECK, who lived in Kaaawa, died June 14 in Ithaca, N.Y., while attending his Cornell class reunion.

He never attained notoriety as an athlete, but Reck loved football. So much so that he made a curious mark in the history of football in Hawaii. A footnote, if you will.

A dreamer, Reck wanted to promote a postseason college football game in Hawaii, his adopted home.

When Mackay Yanagisawa and Ray Nagel, then UH's athletic director, wanted to apply to the NCAA in 1979 for a postseason game called the "Pineapple Bowl," they were surprised to learn that the name was patented by Reck.

Reck and his partner, ex-Farrington and Michigan State football star Bob Apisa, had the name, but not the game. As private individuals, they couldn't get to first base with the NCAA.

And so, plans for the Pineapple Bowl soured and the idea didn't reach fruition.

Reck copyrighted other names as well. One of them was the Aloha Bowl. But he couldn't fight the powers-that-be and gave up his dreams of being associated with a postseason game that he knew Hawaii needed.

Three years later, Yanagisawa and Nagel did get NCAA approval for the Aloha Bowl. Reck went to all but two of them over the years - as a fan, probably wondering to himself what might have been.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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