When my parents bought our house in Claremont in 1943, a clay tennis court came along with it. This was the last thing they needed, but apparently the previous owners, the Fry family, played tennis, so we inherited the court along with an arrangement with a group of local businessmen. The deal was that they would maintain the court and, in exchange, get to play there on Wednesday afternoons, when Claremont stores were closed, and on Sunday mornings.
So from a very young age I got to watch a lot of doubles tennis. I remember the players very well, especially Mr. Magwood, who must have been at least 70 and looked more like 80. He used a loosely strung racket, never broke a sweat, and always seemed to be on the winning side.
I learned to play at summer camp and then got a lot of use out of the court. I wish I could say that I became a good player. I would teach my friends how to play, and within weeks most of them could beat me. When I was in my 30s and living in Massachusetts, a friend and I played a friendly match. He beat me 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. I felt better when he told me that as a teenager he had defeated Arthur Ashe at tennis camp.
Growing up with a back yard tennis court instilled in me a love of the sport, so when I got to Boston it was only natural that I started going to the annual U.S. Pro tennis tournament at Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline. During the 1960s and ‘70s, I saw such great players as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Jimmy Connors, and Bjorn Borg.
And I remember seeing Arthur W. “Bud” Collins, whose articles I regularly read in the Boston Globe sports pages. He was plainly visible in the television booth, broadcasting the matches on WGBH-TV, Channel 2. You could hardly miss him, given his flamboyant outfits.
In the mid-1970s, Bud needed a lawyer, and he picked me. The result was a friendship that has endured ever since. Every year until the late ‘90s, when they stopped holding the tournament, Bud would host us and others at Longwood, meaning dinner on the grass among women in flowery dresses and men in striped pants, followed by the tennis matches.
Bud didn’t just write about tennis. He covered all sports and, for twenty-five years, wrote a Globe travel column called “Bud Collins Anywhere.” He wasn’t just a journalist; he was a man of the world. Whatever he was writing about, he was lucid, erudite, and funny.
In 1994, Bud was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, and for a number of years thereafter he continued as a tennis commentator on NBC Television and the Tennis Channel. In recent times, however, Bud has had some health problems that have kept him away from center court, and pretty much at home when he hasn’t been in the hospital.
Last September was an exception. His wife, Anita, bundled him up and drove him to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, for the U.S. Open. Surrounded by the world’s greatest players and 23,000 spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Bud was honored by the renaming of the U.S. Open’s media center in his honor. The inscription on his commemorative plaque reads “Journalist, Commentator, Historian, Mentor, Friend.”
Valentine’s Day is now upon us, and my friend Bud Collins is resting at home. I proudly wear my “Bud Collins U.S. Open Media Center” lapel pin, which is big enough to include a picture of Bud and two tennis rackets.
The words on the plaque are simple and accurate. I have borne personal witness not only to his great journalism skills but also his countless acts of kindness over the years. This one’s for you, Bud.