The United States Postal Service will dedicate a new stamp Tuesday to honor the extraordinary tennis star Maureen Connally Brinker better known as "Little Mo."
Long before she married and raised a family in Dallas, she was the best tennis player in the world -- and just a teenager at the time.
"She was the third most publicized woman in the world in the early 1950s, in terms of column inches," said daughter Cindy Brinker Simmons, who still lives in Dallas. "There was much written about her because she was so celebrated because she was just a teenager."
It's been 65 years since the player known as Little Mo dominated women's tennis. She was a phenomenal player with power, accuracy and a backhand that propelled her to a three-time world champion.
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"At age 18, she was the first woman and still, the only American woman, to win a calendar grand slam," said Brinker Simmons. The Grand Slam tournaments include the Australian and French Open followed by Wimbledon then the U.S. Open.
The nickname Little Mo came from a sportswriter who watched her play in San Diego, where she grew up.
"Nelson Fisher likened her to the battle ship, the very powerful battleship, the USS Missouri, and said that like, the USS Missouri whose nickname was Big Mo or Mighty Mo, that mom's powerful stroke rendered her opponents shell-shocked like that battleship. And a short derivative of Maureen is Mo," Brinker Simmons explained. "And mom was only 5-foot-4, so while the USS Missouri was called Mighty Mo or Big Mo, Nelson Fisher dubbed mom 'Little Mo.''"
The name stuck. And now in 2019, the incredible career of Little Mo will be commemorated with a stamp. Brinker Simmons was the one who got the call this day would happen.
"It's so stunning and astounding and for our family, so joyful," she said. Brinker Simmons learned about the stamp four years ago and worked closely with the USPS to make it happen.
She describes the image on the stamp as a "perfect embodiment of mom," she said. "It's her taking a half volley and you can see that determination, that focus in her shot then again, her grace and her athleticism."
Those championship years happened long before Brinker Simmons was born.
"She had a very short meteoric career from 1951 to 1954 because a horseback riding accident abruptly halted her career in July of 1954," said Brinker Simmons.
The next year at age 19, she retired, then married restaurateur Norm Brinker and moved to Dallas.
Two daughters came next, and to Cindy and her younger sister Brenda, the woman known worldwide as Little Mo was mom. She remembers a woman "who burned my toast and was late picking me up for carpool. She was fun, yes, but famous never."
"I thought her three Wimbledon trophies were table decorations. She was so humble, she never told my sister and me, she was famous," Brinker Simmons said.
"This little neighbor down the road told me my mom was famous, and that unlocked this mystery, this hidden secret of our family because mom really never wanted Brenda or myself to feel the pressure of following in the footsteps of a famous parent," said Brinker Simmons.
The Brinker sisters only had their mom a short time. Cindy was 12 when their mother died of cancer in 1969 at the age of 34.
"My dad, Brenda and I have said that mom was a remarkable woman who just happened to be a very good tennis player. And, the attributes that were most precious to me were her humility," Brinker Simmons said. "She was more joyful just being Mrs. Norman Brinker than she was receiving the accolades and the applause as Little Mo."
Cindy lost her dad in 2009, but recalls their years-long debate over what made her mom a champion.
"Was it hand/eye coordination, mental toughness, passion to win above others, natural talent? And after 10 years, my dad and I came up with the answer, and that was, she had an indefinable something," Brinker Simmons said with a laugh. "It was kinda of a cop out, I know, but it was a compilation of some many things."
"She was a champion, yes, the history books will always record what she did on the tennis court but she was a champion off the court. A remarkable woman who just happened to be a very good tennis player," she said.
The story of Little Mo and her passion for tennis goes on through the Maureen Connally Brinker Foundation, Inc. and will now go further with the new Forever stamp. Brinker Simmons says the USPS printed 20 million copies to be sold at 33,000 post offices.
"She was so authentic, and so real and so humble, it took your breath away. And yet, she was this world champion for three years in 1952, 53 and 54, number 1 in the world. That's so cool for a daughter to be able to honor that," she said.