TOKYO — "How do I get in touch with Joe Namath? I've got to give him the word — the fellas fighting in Vietnam want him to go see them."

Donald Dell, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup champions and an intense, all-out go-getter, slammed the phone into its cradle. "This is the third time I've phoned Namath's hotel. He still hasn't returned from visiting military hospitals in the Tokyo area."

Dell was talking in a refreshment room at Komazawa Gym, Tokyo, where his world amateur tennis champions were in the second and final day of their goodwill matches against Japanese.

"You know, it was a big thrill for us to win the Davis Cup down in Australia and bring the world amateur tennis crown back to the U.S., but it was an even bigger thrill for us to visit U.S. military hospitals in Vietnam. We all felt that way about it."

"I went into one ward of a hospital in Saigon and a wounded Negro said to me; 'Where's King Arthur? Where is he?' I told him to hold on, then I went and got Arthur Ashe, our top player and the world's No. 1 ranked amateur — Arthur went over to the wounded guy, who didn't believe it was him..

"He said, `King Arthur, tell me what it's like back in the real world.' That's how those guys feel when they see someone from sports, or any other kind of celebrity," Dell said.

"We gave exhibitions — in Saigon, outside of Saigon at Da Nang — and other places and everywhere we went they asked us, 'When's Joe Namath coming down?' I told them I didn't know; but I told, them that when I got to Tokyo I'd get in. touch with Joe, although I'd never met him. What's he like?"

"He's for real," somebody said, "but what's good is that he doesn't have any idea just how big he is. He doesn't seem to have any conception. of his popularity."

Dell picked. up the phone and started dialing. "Boy! — If somebody could get it across to Namath how much it would mean, if he went down toVietnam. All he'd have to do would be to toss a football around with the boys out in the street. They'd really get a kick out of that."

Again, Namath wasn't to be found. Dell hung up and talked tennis. "How did we win the Davis Cup? It was easy — our guys gave us 100 per cent effort 100 per cent of. the time, sometimes even more.

"What's the tennis picture like in the U.S? There's a lot of people pushing the guys on our team now. We've got depth and we've got determination. Our future isn't just bright — it's fluorescent.

"Another thing, we're young. Ashe and Charles Pasarell are 25. Stan Smith is 22 and Bob Lutz is 21. Me? I'm 30."

.Just then an attractive young Japanese girl entered the room and approached Dell, offering him a program and a pen. He signed the program and smiled at the girl. She blushed.

"Mr. Dell, why are you a bachelor?" she asked.

Dell, who is never floored — no matter how unusual the situation — rose to the occasion. "I guess it's because nobody would have me." She giggled and blushed.

"But now that you ask," Dell said, "what are my chances with you?" Blushes. Giggles. Speedy exit.

Dell picked up the phone. "If I could just get in touch with Namath."

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now