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Notebook / Ray Ripton : He's 73 but Still Walloping His Younger Tennis and Golf Opponents

January 07, 1988|Ray Ripton

At 73, Gene Rosenthal of West Los Angeles plays better tennis and golf than he or his opponents have any right to expect. His younger playing partners who consistently lose to him on municipal tennis courts and at Rancho Park Golf Course would probably testify to that, if grudgingly.

Although he is a little hard of hearing and wears glasses--his only concessions to age--he still likes to knock the socks off opponents. And Rosenthal, a semi-retired businessman, does so with a consistency rare for athletes of any age, say those who have played against him and usually lost.

The will to win has been with him a long time, probably before he won gold medals in the Junior Olympics of Pittsburgh nearly 60 years ago. That competitive spirit probably is a big reason why he became a three-sport star at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh in the 1930s and why he was recently inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Western Pennsylvania.

Rosenthal was a three-letter man in football and basketball and won a letter in tennis at Carnegie Tech, according to a publication of the Pennsylvania sports hall. The publication was given to The Times by one of Rosenthal's current playing partners, who asked for anonymity because he loses to him so often.

The publication said Rosenthal played halfback on offense and defense and Carnegie Tech "had not as yet de-emphasized their athletic programs and . . . played a big-time schedule of the strongest teams in the country."

The publication recited a few of Rosenthal's moments of glory on the football field:

"Who can forget the 60-yard touchdown pass he caught to upset Purdue, 7-0, in 1935! Purdue was undefeated and was led by their All-American (quarterback) and future pro Hall of Famer, Cecil Isbell. (With the Green Bay Packers, Isbell's favorite target was Don Hutson, also in the pro Hall of Fame.)

"In 1936, he scored the winning touchdown to beat (New York University), and in 1937 he made an impossible catch in the end zone against Marshall Goldberg and the Rose Bowl-bound national championship Pitt team. Although (Tech) lost, (it) was the only team to score more than one touchdown against the Panthers that year."

But Rosenthal's favorite football moment, the publication said, was when he was part of a goal-line stand against Notre Dame in 1937. Carnegie Tech kept the Fighting Irish out of the end zone for four downs inside the 10-yard line and went on to a 9-7 upset win.

Rosenthal played football professionally for one year, earning a weekly salary of $15, probably less than Eric Dickerson tips his caddy after a round of golf.

During World War II, he served six years in the Navy and was discharged as a lieutenant commander. He has been married for 45 years to the former Lucille Mendoza, and they have two children and two grandchildren.

The UCLA women's soccer team, coached by Afshin Ghotbi, won its club league championship for the fifth consecutive year. This season the team was 15-3-1.

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