SIOUX CITY – Rick Rudeen bleeds that particular color called Clemson Orange.
Others may emerge, but the winningest singles player in NCAA men’s tennis history is likely the only Clemson University graduate now living in Dakota Dunes, S.D.
There have been times, though, when Rudeen and his wife, North High graduate Mary Kaye Siganos, proudly wore other collegiate colors like Morningside maroon or University of South Dakota red.
And, if history had taken a different course, Rudeen might have ended up wearing the black and gold of the University of Iowa.
“That’s an interesting story,’’ says Rudeen of the black and gold scenario.
“My father, Roger, grew up in St. Paul, Minn., graduated from high school there (Harding) and then played baseball at the University of Iowa.
“He wanted to play basketball, too, at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes were probably a little above his talent level.
“He was an outstanding pitcher on the baseball team, though, and wound up being selected on the United States team in the Pan American Games in Chicago in 1959.’’
The Pan Am baseball games were played the first couple days at old Comiskey Park (The White Sox were in the thick of a run to the World Series), but then moved to Wrigley Field.
Venezuela won the gold medal over Puerto Rico.
Two of Roger’s Pan Am teammates were Lou Brock and Ty Cline, both destined for the big leagues, signing not long after with the Chicago Cubs.
The Chicago Tribune paid little attention to the Pan Am Games baseball and only ran a boxscore of the gold medal game. The U.S. defeated Cuba for the bronze medal in the nine-country competition.
In the small world department, the acknowledged Hawkeye hoops star during Roger Rudeen’s years in Iowa City was Dave Gunther, a favorite son of Le Mars.
And, in the course of time, Rick’s son, Danny, wound up marrying Gunther’s granddaughter, Kenzie Kuchera, like Danny, a Morningside graduate.
Although Rick was born in Chicago and grew up in Tampa, Fla., where he starred in tennis at Leto High School, the long and winding road of life many times wraps around the globe.
At Clemson, Rick Rudeen won 172 singles matches and another 153 in doubles. This weekend, he’ll be inducted in the Clemson University athletic Hall of Fame.
"The 172 matches will probably be always the record because Clemson, for one, and most other schools, don't play that many matches anymore," said the humble Rudeen.
Among others, he’ll join one former teammate in that Hall, Richard Matuszewski.
It was Matuszewski who upset him in the semifinals of the United States Tennis Association Circuit development tournament at the old Sioux City Racquet Club in the summer of 1985.
In that tournament Rudeen and his partner, Brazilian Nelson Aerts, were top seeded in doubles, but were denied a title.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by Clemson. I’m humbled by this honor. You think of all the hard work and dedication you put in to improve,’’ says Rudeen. “I had a demanding coach, Chuck Kriese, and we’d spend as much time on the running track at Clemson as on the tennis court it seemed like at times.
“In college days, especially, I’d have a racquet in my hands 363 days a year and then in my three years as a pro you’d hit even on the days you played in tournaments.’’
The Rudeen family lived on the Northside while son Danny and daughter Alexa were attending North High.
Danny ended up being the third leading scorer all-time in Morningside basketball history. Alexa starred in softball at North and South Dakota.
And, athletic genes course through family veins.
Mary Kaye was a standout on North’s 1982 state volleyball championship team and her brothers, Stan and Steve, were outstanding prep athletes at North and dad, Spero, was an accomplished baseball and softball player.
A computer science major at Clemson, which is located in a town of the same name in South Carolina, Rick was introduced to Mary Kaye by her mother, Helen, when he played the USTA tourney in Sioux City in 1985.
“We dated by mail, primarily, for three years,’’ recalls Rick. “I was busy with tennis all over the world and she moved to California and was living with her brother, Stan, out there.
“When the tournaments came to California or Arizona we’d try to get together.’’
After attending Iowa State, Mary Kaye wound up graduating from San Jose State. The couple married in 1988.
Rick helped run tennis academies after his playing days, but finally said he’d had enough tennis and pretty much hung up his racquets.
He caught on with Gateway and worked there for more than a decade and is still involved in the computer service industry.
When he retired he pretty much threw his racquets against a back fence as 15-year-old Andre Agassi did in 1985 when he lost a first-round USTA Circuit match here in Sioux City to Karl Richter, 6-4, 6-3.
Interestingly, Richter and Rudeen won a U.S. Open doubles main draw match over John McEnroe and Peter Fleming in 1986 when McEnroe and Fleming showed up late (New York traffic snafu) for the match and had to default.
“That situation is called a lucky loser match. McEnroe had lost in singles and 5,000 had showed up to watch him in doubles,’’ recalls Rudeen. “But when four guys walked out to play there was a chorus of boos when McEnroe wasn’t there. I think there were 150 people watching at the end of our match.’’
Rudeen played all over the world, from England, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and China as a pro.
He never made the main draw at Wimbledon, but did so in the Australian Open.
“Sioux City has obviously become our home,’’ said Rudeen. “I've always said and truly believe, the friendliest people in the world live in the Midwest and Australia.’’
A large number family friends and relatives will attend the weekend Hall of Fame ceremonies and the inductees (from all sports) will be introduced at halftime of the Clemson-Syracuse game Saturday in “Death Valley.’’