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Remembering Bob Stamm

December 31, 2014 06:20 PM

Bob_Stamm_(2)Remembering Bob Stamm

By Toby Smith

Robert Stamm was one of the nicest, most modest people I ever met.  Only I never met him.

I first came in contact with Bob in the late 1980s when, as a sports writer for the Albuquerque Journal I wrote a column that mentioned Bob and his father, Roy Stamm, both of whom had been who prominent tennis figures in Albuquerque, once upon a time.

Roy Stamm arrived in New Mexico in 1882 while still a boy. He picked up tennis by watching a group of visiting college students bat around a ball. Soon he became a tennis standout for Albuquerque High and then for the University of New Mexico where he graduated in 1898. For the next 50 years he promoted tennis in Albuquerque and across New Mexico.

Bob Stamm, the youngest of Roy’s three sons, telephoned me at the Journal to tell me he liked what I had said about his father. Clearly self-effacing, he did not mention what I had written about himself. Bob called me again several years later when I published an online article about New Mexico’s tennis roots for the USTA Southwest Section’s website. Once again, Bob called to thank me for putting a spotlight on his father. I had included some information about Bob’s achievements, but he was much too humble to bring that up.

A giant in the New Mexico construction industry, and a great supporter and contributor to civic causes, Bob Stamm died at his Albuquerque home on December 14.  He was 93.  

Encouraged by his father, Bob Stamm loved tennis from an early age. He won several junior and scholastic tournaments as a youth. Back then he was known as “Bobby” Stamm. Bobby licked just about anyone who showed up at the old zoo courts, now more familiar as the Barelas courts. Later Bob played at the Albuquerque Country Club.

As a student at Albuquerque High School, Bobby Stamm, from 1936 to 1938, won three consecutive state singles titles and three straight doubles titles. According to NMAA records, he is the only tennis player, male or female, to do that. Because of the way the New Mexico high school tournament is now set up, that feat will never be matched.   

Like his father, Bob Stamm went on to UNM and starred for the Lobos.

Allen Stamm, Bob’s older brother by a decade, was no slouch on a tennis court. He won a state singles title in 1928 and a doubles crown that year as well. Another brother, Bill Stamm, did not play tennis.

Bob Stamm continued to play tennis for several years, joining the Tennis Club of Albuquerque when it opened in the 1950s.

“I used to play in a foursome with Bob,” Dan Sisk, 88, and a retired Albuquerque attorney, told me.

What kind of player was Bob?

“Oh, he was really good,” Sisk said. “Very, very good.”  

In  his colorful autobiography, For Me, the Sun, published in 1999 by the Albuquerque Museum,  Roy Stamm recounts a landmark tennis match in the 1940s between Bob and Allen. Both Stamm brothers happened to be in the Navy at the time, and one day Bob, on his way overseas, visited Allen in southern California.

The subject of tennis came up during a conversation between the brothers. “Why don’t you two play each other,” their father, who was also visiting, suggested.  Because of the big age difference, the siblings had never played each other.

The Stamm men agreed to play and headed for a local tennis club. Their father went along to serve as the chair umpire.  

As a youth, Bob had received more tennis instruction than Allen had and won many more tournaments than his older brother.  Allen, however, didn’t let that bother him. On this day he charged the net at every opportunity and took a surprising 6-5 lead in the opening set.  Bob fought back and finally won the set in a marathon, 15-13.  The match ended there, for neither brother wanted to continue.  

Though I regret never meeting Bob in person, I’m glad to say I got to know him.

A memorial service for Bob Stamm will be held at 3 p.m. on Jan. 8 at the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Building, 1634 University Boulevard.