On June 5, 1953, one of America’s first sporting icons died of a heart attack in a small apartment in Los Angeles, broke and all but banished from the life he led as the best tennis player in the world.
Bill Tilden, according to numerous accounts of his death, had planned to leave the next morning for a trip to Texas where he would play some exhibition matches and then to Cleveland for a tournament. Though he had lost numerous friends and moneymaking opportunities after two arrests for soliciting sex from underage boys, Marrion Anderson and her son Arthur remained like family to Tilden. Arthur, in fact, was his tennis protégé and had practiced with Tilden earlier that day before the Andersons were supposed to meet him for a going away dinner.
When Tilden didn’t show up on time, Arthur went to the apartment and found him laying lifeless across the bed, his suitcase packed and ready to go.
For about 30 years, that suitcase — as well as a number of Tilden’s trophies and personal items that he left to Anderson —…