Local tennis fans are buzzing about the exhibition match between former pro stars Brad Gilbert and Wayne Ferreira at the historic Davie Tennis Stadium on Sept. 28.
Gilbert, formerly ranked No. 4 in the world, was born in Oakland. He coached Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick and is now a TV tennis commentator.
The exhibition, sponsored by Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, will benefit upgrades to the city's public tennis facilities as well as fund free tennis programs for underserved youths. A skills clinics and a VIP reception with live jazz also will be featured.
The Davie Tennis Stadium, a five-acre site that straddles the Oakland/Piedmont border, is named for former Oakland Mayor John L. Davie, a colorful individual who served five terms as mayor, once in the late 1800s and the others in the early 1900s. Stone portals, crafted by Work Projects Administration-era workers, form the entryway to the site, which was formerly a 19th-century rock quarry. The facility features five tennis courts and a rustic-style clubhouse.
In the 1930s, the Davie family, which owned the rock quarry at the time, donated the land to Oakland and Piedmont in memory of their father after his death. Davie had intended that the property be converted into a recreational area for Bay Area school children. Plans for a public swimming pool did not materialize, so tennis courts were installed instead.
Davie (1850-1934) left an irrepressible mark on the city during the expansionist 1920s.
"Davie loved being mayor," Oakland history author Beth Bagwell wrote. "He was a dramatic-looking man with a flowing mustache and a dapper wardrobe. One of his signature traits was always wearing a fresh red carnation in his lapel, in memory of his wife who died in childbirth."
During his years as mayor, important changes came to Oakland, including development of the port, the opening of the airport, and increases in industrial businesses (Oakland earned the nickname "Detroit of the West" when General Motors and Chevrolet opened assembly plants here). Food processors, canneries, cotton mills and machinists developed sites in the flatlands in proximity to rail and shipping lines during Davie's years in office.
He was always on hand to boost each new achievement, Bagwell wrote.
"He also loved the lake as if it were his own private lagoon. He rowed on the lake every day and took a personal interest in the ducks and geese, instituting daily feedings by the rangers."
Toward the end of his long career, Davie took up residence at the grand Hotel Oakland on 13th Street, regaling bellboys and guests with countless stories of his boyhood days as a mule skinner on the Erie Canal (before the Civil War) and his escapades in old San Francisco when he worked as a butcher and sang opera on the side.
Davie Tennis Stadium is at 198 Oak Road, at the foot of Lakeshore Boulevard. More information about the exhibition is available at www.daviefest.org.
Learn more about the life and times of Davie in the Oakland History Room at the Main Library. The exhibit, "Oakland! 100 years of Boosterism and Image-making" on display through October, features Davie and other boosters. Davie's autobiography, chronicling his colorful life, is also available in the history room. Call 510-238-3222 for exhibit hours.