Bud Collins, 86, tennis authority, broadcaster

Excerpts from the Boston Globe

1964 Collins WGBHIn the early 1960s, after joining the Globe as a tennis writer, Bud Collins took a giant leap into the future of sports journalism when he stepped in front of a TV camera to offer commentary. As he expanded the reach of columnists, he called himself a “scribbler and a babbler,” and the words that emerged were as colorful and memorable as the custom-tailored pants he wore while covering more than a half-century of tennis championships.

In newspaper columns and as a TV commentator, Mr. Collins provided the sport with its most authoritative voice, and he also wrote a tennis encyclopedia and a history of the game. He was 86 when he died Friday in his Brookline home…

Considered the first sports print journalist to establish a regular second home on TV, Mr. Collins began offering tennis commentary for Boston’s WGBH-TV from the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill not long after he became a Globe columnist in 1963…

“He broke the barrier, the notion that you could be a newspaper guy and they would want you on TV,” said Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy…

WGBH Auction Classics (Part 3) with Bud Collins, Bob Cousy, and Russ Morash

Mr. Collins’s first Globe byline appeared on Dec. 22, 1963, with a dateline of Adelaide, Australia, where he covered the Davis Cup. “This is another world,” he began, “where Christmas comes in the Summertime, the Davis Cup matches come the day after Christmas, and both events have achieved such spectacular acceptance that they are regarded almost as seriously as beer drinking.”…

Having begun his tennis run in an era when players were far more accessible, Mr. Collins was on a first-name basis with the sport’s luminaries. After losing a Wimbledon match to Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert walked off the court to find Mr. Collins waiting, microphone in hand, on live television. “Nice pants, Bud,” Evert quipped…

While visiting Vietnam with the US Davis Cup team in 1969, he wrote about US combat soldiers and flew with Marines who fired rockets at enemy bunkers from a jet that “quivered abruptly as the fireballs left the belly pod. ‘Cu-wump! Cu-wump! Cu-wump!’ ” At one point in the trip, Mr. Collins also dined on terrier stew. “I felt like a traitor to Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Old Dog Tray,” he wrote…

Born in Lima, Ohio, Arthur Worth Collins Jr. grew up in Berea, a suburb west of Cleveland. In 1999, he reminisced in the Globe about winning a third-grade spelling contest in 1938. As a prize, he and his mother rode in a Pullman sleeper railroad car to Buffalo, where a limousine spirited them to a swanky hotel to see Niagara Falls. “As the Depression raged, it seemed all the more unimaginably plush,” he wrote…

He stayed in Berea to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, and after a stint in the Army, he drove to Boston, undaunted by a rejection letter from Boston University’s graduate program. BU admitted him, and he also worked part-time at the Boston Herald. No one wanted to cover tennis, and an editor sent him to cover the state women’s championships at Longwood. “ ‘Now, don’t question me. You’re new on this and you just have to do what I tell you to do,’ but I was secretly thrilled,” Mr. Collins recalled his editor saying, in a video interview on a BU website…

“Of course he was this country’s foremost authority on professional tennis — that much is indisputable,” said Timothy Leland, a former managing editor and assistant to the publisher who joined the Globe as a reporter in 1963, at the same time as Mr. Collins. “He was a walking encyclopedia of tennis history.

“But that’s not really what Bud was all about. He was a sweet, kind, gentle man. To know him was to love him. There wasn’t an egotistical bone in his body. He was just a wonderful human being.”…

A memorial service will be announced for Mr. Collins, who in addition to his wife, daughter, and Rob Lacy leaves his stepchildren with his second wife, Betsy Bartelt and Kristin Hunt of Colorado, Sharon McMillan of New York City, and Gretchen West of Ohio; his stepchildren with his wife, Danielle Klaussen of Cambridge and Karl Klaussen of Brookline; and 11 grandchildren.

 

6 thoughts on “Bud Collins, 86, tennis authority, broadcaster

  1. From September 2015:

    “The United States Tennis Association honored Collins, a busy man who has always had time for others…

    His commemorative plaque was already on the wall when the first balls of this year’s United States Open were struck and the media center, fittingly and finally, was named for Collins.

    “Journalist, Commentator, Historian, Mentor, Friend,” read the inscription.

    Anyone who had been around the Open for more than the last 20 minutes obviously knew of the multiple roles Collins filled, but a poignant ceremonial punctuation came on Sunday morning, along with Collins, down from Boston and still, at 86, quickest with the line to fit any tennis occasion.

    “I’m lost for words,” he said after the tributes from Billie Jean King and others. “It’s sacrilegious.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/07/sports/tennis/celebrating-bud-collins-at-the-us-open-a-tennis-treasure-told-in-words-and-pants.html

  2. I met Bud a few times in the early 90s, mainly when he was covering tennis at the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame. The first time we met was at an afternoon party. I was in a big straw hat. Bud bowed and thought I was a Spanish princess (I have zero Spanish DNA). He referred to me as the Infanta. When I finally convinced him I wasn’t, he was still chatty, charming, and genuine. I always liked his reporting, and he really loved the game. RIP, Bud.

  3. Bud Collins was to tennis what Milton Cross was to opera! I away enjoyed sharing stories with him when he and his wife Anita came to attend a BSO concert in Symphony Hall. He also got me into the New York Marathon so I could run officially back in the early 80’s. Bud loved Italy, Opera, and Puccini as much as he loved tennis. RIP…dear friend. ” Pace,pace mio Dio!”…”La Forza del Destino” by Giuseppe Verdi.

  4. Bud was a rare talent; friendly, approachable, funny, and always focused. One day he asked me if I read The Globe and when I said I didn’t (with some lame excuse) he immediately pulled out a note book and ordered a subscription for me. Building an audience one reader at a time. What a guy.

  5. For me, it was Bud Collins’ open smile and affable manner that was his trademark. He was one of those celebrities who always seemed glad to see you, no matter who you were. He brought a special light with him wherever he went — a great lesson for all of us. And he — together with a bunch of good people at WGBH — helped popularize tennis and made “Longwood” a household name.

  6. I will always remember Bud with a smile on his face. He was a lovely and gracious man.

    The year I spent working in London, I looked him up at Wimbeldon. It was not hard spotting him. Yeah, the pants!

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