THE LOU BLUHM PRESENTATION
TO THE ACBL BRIDGE HALL OF FAME
by
Tom Sanders

 

As Lou Bluhm's long time partner and longer time friend, it is an honor and a privilege for me to be a part of this ceremony tonight.

I've thought a lot about Lou in the past 10 years. Sometimes fantasizing how things might have turned out had he not been taken from us at 50 years old in the prime of his life and with no- telling- how- many-bridge- tournaments yet to be won. Other times, like tonight, thinking about what it was that set him apart from other bridge players.

I could never imagine a more perfect partner. Have you ever had a partner who seemed to always make the right play? I remember so many times on defense thinking, Lou, if you have such-and-such card, you better play it now or they're going to make this hand. Then I'd glance down at the table and there would be that very card, just played, looking up at me, seeming to say, you knew if he had me, he was going to play me. . Yes, I suppose I did.

He played the game with aplomb and self-assurance, and with the imagination of a skillful novelist.

When things went wrong, and they invariably do, Lou was unflappable.  This trait re-enforced partnership confidence and not only served him well in bridge as well as life...but later during his ordeal.

He was always known for his high standard of deportment and ethics.  These outstanding characteristics are the essence of class and the epitome of the consummate expert. In 1989, he was, and remains, the only recipient of ACBL's Distinguished Player Award. 

Lou was happy with his relatively simple lifestyle and moderate surroundings. Besides a few lady friends from time to time, his passion was bridge, poker and gin rummy. He made his living playing cards. His near addiction was sports. He was a true sports fan and an authority on most. It pains me he missed out on so many sport milestones that he would have enjoyed, like: the Braves of the 90s; the Atlanta Olympics; the Falcons in the Super Bowl; and, since he was a golfer, the phenomenon of Tiger Woods.

He faced the awful dilemma that fate dealt him in the Summer of 89 like it was a tough bridge match. Lou moved to Tennessee and started a series of experimental protocols designed to improve his chances. All told, he was in the hospital 7 times.

Lou didn't have medical insurance. Because of a broad spectrum of bridge friends that contributed a significant amount of money to a special fund, he was able to afford these treatments. Many of these friends are here tonight and, once again, I want you to know Lou knew of your participation and was overwhelmed by your generosity.

Now is the time that Lou would have wanted me to acknowledge some others that were very important to him during his ordeal: Peter Weichsel and Alan Cokin for organizing the fund; Bart Bramley, his then regular partner, for his vigilance in keeping in touch almost daily and twice coming to visit Lou in Nashville; and, of course, Carol for the meals she cooked and all she did to make Lou more comfortable.

In the many hours we spent in conversation, it wasn't long before I realized his short term goal was to get to the Spring NABCs in Fort Worth to help his team defend the Vanderbilt they had won the year before.

Amazingly, considering how badly he felt some days, he not only made it to Fort Worth, but, according to his teammates, he played as magnificently as ever. Their result in gaining the semifinals can attest to that.

Sitting down in our seats on the plane to come home, I said to him, "Heard you played great, tell me about some of the hands".

He wanted no part of that, as he pulled out the hand records of some hands I'd Played, he said, "No, let's go over these hands".

Considerate and unselfish - that's the way he was.

Not many days after we got back, when he had fought it about as long and hard as was possible, he went into the hospital for the last time. A few hours before he died, as I was approaching his room, the nurse stopped me and said, "I'm worried about Mr. Bluhm. He's been in and out of consciousness all day and I haven't been able to communicate with him at all".

I said, "Let me see what I can do".

I sat down beside the bed, and, after calling his name a few times, he was lucid. I said, "Blummer, got a hand for ya"

After what seemed like an eternity, he said, "OK".

I gave him some hand and said, "Whatta ya bid?

After an even longer pause, he finally made a bid..and then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep. And, you know what? I don't remember the hand nor his answer. But what I will always remember is ... he got it right, he made the right bid. Isn't that something? Probably the last words he uttered on this earth was a bridge bid, and true to his genius .. it was the right one.

That's a sad story. And since this is a night for joy and celebration. It is with much happiness that I present Lou Bluhm to the ACBL Bridge Hall Of Fame. In so doing his name with his picture shall be enshrined in Memphis and the memory of a great player, a loyal friend and a terrific guy shall be with us forever.

Tom Sanders

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