Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Two Petes, by Paul Nussbaum MSW

July 18 was already one hell of a day. It was exactly 10 years ago that (July 18, 1987), I was shot on the freeway while driving down to visit one of my best friends. I received a phone call from my Mom on July 18, 1997. She stated that on the front page of the Daily Breeze Newspaper, the headlines read, " Rolling Hills Dr. Faces Sex Charges." The first name that went through my mind was Dr. Pete Fischer, my heart skipped a beat. I think I only knew three doctors who lived behind the gates (Rolling Hills). Pete was the only one who was single and preferred being around teenage boys rather than adults his own age. To me Pete was like a teenager but in an adult sized body.

I had known Dr. Fischer back in the early 70s and I remember the first day he came to the Jack Kramer Club and asked a small group of juniors to call him “Pete” and did anybody want to rally with him? I recall that with the help of Del Little (at that time, manager of the club) he ended up hitting with Mark Lewis on Robert Lansdorp’s teaching court. I always liked Pete and he always acted appropriately when we were with him at the club or visiting him at his home in Rolling Hills.

In 1978  through 1979, I spent about two hours every night hitting balls from a basket to help Pete with his backhand and other strokes. In turn, he did the same with me. So, in a way we were both coaching or teaching each other. I have to say that Pete, even though he was not very coordinated, was good at dissecting problems and was able to provide good solutions, resulting in improvements. 

So, as they say, “Life is sometimes stranger than fiction!” Well, who wouldn't be? In my conversations with Eliot Teltscher, we seem to agree that if Pete did not do these things, then he’s getting a raw deal. But, if he did this crime, he is getting off lightly. Perhaps the only one who knows the truth is Pete. I just don’t understand how someone who is so smart ends up doing something so stupid that he ruins his life.

Let me digress a little further. When I would return home from Sonoma, in the early 80s, from Christmas break, Pete would contact me and ask me if I would play tennis with this skinny, 90 pound twelve year old on a daily basis until I returned to go back to school. I was really impressed at how good this kid was. I remember Tracy Austin and Eliot Teltcher when they were his age and Pete Sampras was much better! This little kid gave me a black rubber washer and told me to put it down at the end of my tennis racquet, where the strings came to an end. He said that this black washer would help dampen the impact when hitting the ball. Sometimes the washer would fall out and we would have to stop playing and search the tennis court until we found it. I thought that this was really a zany idea, but who was I to argue when a 90 pound boy could handle the hardest first serve I could deliver! I saw in Pete Sampras what Pete Fischer saw and that was the finals on center court at the US Open. I have to really thank Pete Fischer for allowing me to have this experience with his protégé.

Paul Nussbaum MSW © 2006

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