Tennis Pro From San Leandro Dies

Art Larsen was a teen prodigy, war veteran and flamboyant star who made the International Tennis Hall of Fame before a motorcycle crash in Castro Valley ended his career.


(Tuesday, Jan. 2: San Leandro historian Cindy Simons added some photos to the obituary published last week.)

Art Larsen, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969, died at age 87 earlier this month at the San Leandro Health Care Center after living here most of his life.

Larsen, who played tennis as a teen, went into the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war he resumed playing tennis and earned the nickname "Tappy" for his habit of rapping his racket on surrounding objects for good luck.

Between 1950 and 1954, Larsen rose to the top ranks of U.S. tennis with a series of tournament wins, and earned a reputation for flamboyance, reportedly arriving for matches after all-night parties, according to his Wikipedia profile.

His tennis career was cut short in 1956 when a motorcycle accident in Castro Valley caused some paralysis and vision loss.

"The old timers know about him but he went off the radar," said San Leandro historian Cindy Simons. "He was at the top of the tennis world." 

According to an obituary on San Leandro Bytes, Larsen died on December 7 and was buried on December 13. He is survived by his sister, Joyce Stengel, and her children: Willis C. Stengel, Carl A. Stengel and Patricia Rickner. He had no wife or children.

Cindy Simons January 01, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Art Larsen in his San Leandro home when I was researching the "San Leandro" photo history book. He shared several photos and allowed me to scan some of them. I have uploaded and added them here. He was a left-handed player who credited his success to keeping his eye on the ball and playing both forehand and backhand well. He considered himself a "touch" player who could do what he wanted with the ball. He won the U. S. Men's Single Championship in 1950. He told me that the motorscooter accident that ended his career was on Davis Street in San Leandro.
tony santos January 01, 2013 at 08:49 PM
At least Cindy had the opportunity to meet Mr. Larsen; I was not so fortunate as she; I tried meeting him on several occasions, but was unsuccessful even though he lived directly behind City Hall; I had discussions with a house keeper of his on a couple of occasions and she was nice; I mentioned I would like to meet with him. He lived quietly and it is great that Cindy was able to meet with him.
Fran January 01, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Art was a neighbor of mine. He was a true character and will be missed. He loved tennis 'til the day he died, watching matches, old and new, on the tennis channel daily, lamenting the fact that no one "played the net" anymore. Even at 87, he was very strong as I guess all athletes are. Mentally, he was still sharp as a tack. RIP Art
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