Four inducted into Hall of Fame

The ACBL Hall of Fame inducted four new members into its ranks last evening at a banquet to  celebrate the latest additions to the prestigious body. Gaylor Kasle, who died last year, and Howard Weinstein were the recipients of the von Zedtwitz Award, which honors players with impressive tournament records who are either deceased or no longer actively playing, while John Carruthers and Jay Whipple received the Blackwood Award, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the game outside of expertise at the table. Additionally, Fred Stewart was named as the recipient of the Lazard Sportsmanship Award.

George Jacobs was Master of Ceremonies

George Jacobs was the master of ceremonies.

Howard Weinstein

Weinstein of Midway UT and Rancho Mirage CA won 10 NABC titles between 1991 and 2019, including two Reisingers, a Vanderbilt, the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs, and the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs, and 12 second-place finishes. He won silver medals in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl and the 2019 Wuhan Cup and two bronzes (1998 Rosenblum and 2000 Olympiad). He was honored with the Sidney Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award in 2015. Additionally, he has an extensive record as a volunteer and administrator.

One of those titles was won with Ralph Katz, who presented Weinstein with the award. Katz has known and played with Weinstein decades. “Howie is a superb card player and a creative bidder,” Katz said. “If there was an ethics award, Howie would no worse than tie for first every year. He’s also a gentleman at the table and an excellent partner.

Ralph Katz and Howard Weinstein

“Howard has been so much more than a great player, understanding partner and supportive teammate. He’s been a selfless volunteer on behalf of our favorite game. The Hall of Fame committee could not have made a better choice. Besides being a great bridge player, he’s an even better person: modest, friendly and honest.”

Weinstein moved to the California desert eight years ago, and during the pandemic, “pretty much retired from bridge” because he didn’t really enjoy online bridge. The desire was not there, and the cheating scandals were part of the reason too.

Weinstein thanked the Hall of Fame committee and ACBL archivist Tracey Yarbro for organizing the event. He noted the many friends and players who are no longer here, and wished his parents could be here. “I’ll always remember the people I met through bridge,” he said.

Gaylor Kasle

Mike Passell and Gaylor Kasle

Kasle, who died in October at 81, won 12 NABC titles between 1973 and 2019, including a Vanderbilt, the Baze Senior KO twice and the Mitchell Open BAM, and 11 second-place finishes. He won two world championships – the Rosenblum in 1994 and the Senior Bowl in 2003 – along with two silvers and a bronze in world senior team events.

“We all loved Gaylor, and we’re so sorry he’s not here tonight,” said Jacobs, who went on to tell Gaylor’s favorite joke (we’ll spare you). It was then time for Dennis Kasle, Gaylor’s brother, to take the stage, and he got up and made his way to the podium, somewhat slowly.

“I was told I had seven minutes,” began Dennis.

“Five now,” retorted George, on his way back to his seat.

There are obviously a lot of stories to tell about Gaylor, who lived a rich life. Dennis described growing up with Gaylor as a “wild ride.” He thanked “anyone and everyone” who had anything to with Gaylor receiving this award. He thanked Barbara, Gaylor’s wife, and his daughter, for bringing the family, and listed Gaylor’s impressive list of accomplishments.

“The most amazing thing about Gaylor is that he was able, in an era when it was difficult to win masterpoints, to amass more than 30,000 masterpoints playing with partners who you might consider relative beginners. I mean, that is amazing.”

The Kasle brothers’ parents were good bridge players; Dennis described their father as “the finest bridge player in the state of Indiana in the 1950s.” When they did teach the boys bridge, their father told them, “You have to respect the game and honor it.” They liked to go to tournaments and bring the kids along, who would play sometimes but often explored their surroundings. Dennis recalled the time their dad gave them $50 and told them to take a taxi, see a movie, have dinner and have a good time. Well, neither of them really wanted to do that. Dennis mentioned the Dodgers were playing the Reds, but Gaylor suggested they go to the track. They’d never been to a racing track before, and soon got bored and left. Dennis still wanted to catch the ballgame, but instead, Gaylor took them to a backroom casino. “So, we started rolling craps,” recalled Dennis. “Gaylor liked to tell the story joke that I was so small, I couldn’t see over the table to read the numbers. That’s not true, but I had a hard time rolling the dice across the table. Anyway, so we’re rolling dice, and who walks in but Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese. The game was over, and they came to gamble in the casino. Here we are rolling craps with the Dodgers.”

Dennis said that “Gaylor wanted to experience the things that older people do as soon as he could.” He was a shrewd businessman, full of charm. He loved bridge and was lucky to find it and make it his business. He “built the road and paved it, and the people today are driving on it.”

Mike Passell took the stage. “When Barbara asked me to speak tonight, I literally thought of hundreds of Gaylor stories,” he said. Although not all of them are fit to print, the influence Gaylor had on the many young future professionals he mentored is legendary. Being on the road is tough work, but Gaylor had the personality and humor for it. Passell told a story about being partners with Gaylor in a pair game: “In the middle of the game, we’re playing this nice husband and wife. On the first hand, Gaylor opened 1NT and the wife overcalled 2*H* and I doubled and we collected 800. And the husband starts screaming at his wife. So, we went on to the next board, and Gaylor kept the same board and switched directions. So I opened 1NT, the husband overcalled 2*H*, Gaylor doubled – now we knew where all the cards were so we beat him 1100.”

Passell noted that Gaylor was a wonderful player. “One thing I do wish – it’s a great honor to be in the Hall of Fame – I wish he could have been here to enjoy it.”

John Carruthers

Joey Silver and John Carruthers

Carruthers of Kingsville ON received the Blackwood Award, traditionally reserved for talent and service away from the table, although he possesses an impressive tournament resume. A four-time NABC champion and 13-time Canadian champion, Carruthers won a silver medal in the World Senior Pairs, and he was inducted into the Canadian Bridge Federation Hall of Fame in 2015. But Carruthers is equally well known as a writer, editor, coach, teacher and administrator. Carruthers served 21 years as the editor of the International Bridge Press Association Bulletin, 16 years as editor of the Ontario Kibitzer, and has been a contributor to bridge publications in more than a dozen countries.

Fellow Canadian champion Joey Silver presented the award.

“John is a great player, but he’s a modest person. His proudest achievements have been connected to his support of Junior players. He’s been a coach, mentor and nonplaying captain for many teams, especially Canadian ones. In 1991, one of those teams won a silver medal in the World Junior team championships. ACBL’s new boss Bronia Jenkins was on that team! He even organized the World Youth Bridge Championships when it was held in Canada in 1997.”

Silver concluded his remarks with a nod to Carruthers’ wife, Katie Thorpe.

“The key to John’s success? His wife, Katie.”

Carruthers accepted the award, noting that he was “truly grateful, humbled and honored” to receive it.

After acknowledging the many friends and family members from around the world in attendance, Carruthers dove into some of his favorite memories from his long career.

“I’ve had the good fortune to partner some of the best players ever: Joey Silver, David Lindop, Howie Weinstein and Katie Thorpe. David and Howie, especially, are such good partners, that they apologize when I make a mistake!

“I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing and playing with two of my bridge heroes: Adam Meredith, of the UK, whose nickname was “Plum,” and the legendary fellow Canadian Eric Murray. With Murray, I progressed from opponent to teammate to partner to friend.”

Murray’s intimidating but humorous persona was the source of several stories from Carruthers.

“When Eric was to be inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame, he asked me to be his presenter. ‘John,’ he said, ‘All my friends are dead: Will you present for me?’

“On another occasion, Murray said I reminded him of one his partners, the great Doug Drury, saying, ‘You’re a good opening leader, a competent declarer, and a pretty good bidder. But on defense, I’m on my own.’”


Jay Whipple

Jay Whipple and Bob Heller

Whipple of Boca Grande FL was honored as 2020 Nadine Wood Volunteer of the Year for conceiving and building the virtual club program, allowing clubs to survive online during the pandemic, a massive project that was built in mere weeks thanks to his round-the-clock efforts. He was ACBL president in 2018, served two terms on the ACBL Board and one as a trustee of the Educational Foundation. He created the Common Game in 2012, a free service for clubs that shares hand records across participating clubs and provides analysis and competitive rankings to players. In 2022, at the request of the Board, he conducted a review of the ACBL’s IT department.

“Jay is always available,” said ACBL President Joann Glasson, who nominated Whipple for the award. “When I asked if he would step in and help find a solution for us, his response was ‘I can get there tomorrow.’ It’s astonishing to me. He’s a guy who could be doing anything with his time. He just spends his days giving back to the game.”

Jacobs described Whipple as “the Jan Martel of the ACBL.”

“There is nothing he does that doesn’t make the ACBL better,” Jacobs said. “And it’s lightning fast. Always for the good of the ACBL, always for no pay, always at mach one.”

Bob Heller, who preceded Whipple as ACBL president, presented Whipple with the award.

“Jay is an amazing person,” Heller said. “Jay’s timeline is measured in seconds, minutes, occasionally hours. He just does it. We are all beneficiaries.”

Heller noted that in the months since the award had been announced and Whipple’s contributions had been documented, he had gone onto complete about five more projects for the ACBL, including one just announced at a Board meeting this week to incorporate a strength of field component in event awards, which might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars without Whipple’s volunteer effort. He also had a hand in encouraging Bronia Jenkins to apply for the job of executive director, a move that has drawn widespread praise.

Heller quoted Jay’s wife, Kimberly Whipple in comparing Jay to the Wizard of Oz: “It’s incredible to watch him help people realize their potential.”

But his constant drive for improvement can also be a source of friction, Heller noted. “He doesn’t suffer fools. He has no patience for people who don’t follow through on what they’re expected to do. His standards are set so high, he expects everyone else to meet those expectations.”

Whipple accepted to yet another ovation.

“I really do appreciate this,” he said. “What I do is pick up pieces and try to make things happen. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Lots of people are involved.”

He spoke about the importance of mentor relationships, encouraging all to become mentors. “Wait for opportunities to be a mentor,” he said.


Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award

Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart

Fred Stewart of Bradenton FL was the recipient of the Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award. Stewart was presented by former partner (and stepson) Steve Weinstein.

“Fred is an obvious choice for the sportsmanship award,” said Weinstein. “He is my stepfather, my first partner, and the greatest influence of my life. This honor is well past due. Fred’s a great competitor, but he never lets it get in the way of his graciousness. He’s the first to congratulate the opponents on good bidding or play. He’s admired by all at the table and away from it, too.

“I’ve known Fred since I was 5. He once told me, ‘You can always tell a lot about a person by the way they play a game.’ Fred always prioritized what was right over every other consideration.”

“Michael Rosenberg gave Fred the highest compliment: ‘He’s the most worthy winner ever of this award.’”

Stewart said that he was honored to be selected by the committee, but he quickly pointed to many others in attendance who were role models for comportment as well.

“I’ve been fortunate to play with three terrific people: Steve Weinstein, Kit Woolsey and Steve Beatty. All great players and great sportsmen. As I look around the room, there are so many people here tonight who could win this award. This is a tribute to them all because bridge is such an intensely competitive game, but it should be played with grace and honesty.”

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