Bud Collins: The Man With the Traveling Pants

On the Baseline Tennis News
Aug. 27, 2008

FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—If you see a man at the US Open wearing pink pants, striped socks and pink sneakers, you can bet it’s Bud Collins.

For decades, his colorful, trademark trousers have brought international attention to–not only himself–but to a game that he loves.

Despite being away from tennis after having surgery on his ankle earlier in the summer, he can be seen hobbling around the US Open press room on crutches, analyzing, commentating, and writing his way through another Grand Slam.

Pants included.

When asking Bud to reflect on some of his most memorable moments in tennis history, he is always eager to talk about his favorite tennis legend: Billie Jean King.

At the time of their meeting in 1961, Bud was working in London as a sports writer, covering a boxing match, when he saw a teenager named Billie Jean Moffett win the Wimbledon doubles final for the first time with Karen Hantze. “I was very pleased to be there with these two young Americans,” he said. “So I asked somebody how I could meet the players. I had only been to Wimbledon once, but I didn’t know my way around.”

He was directed to the club-house door, where he met Billie Jean and Karen. He congratulated them, and said, “I don’t want to hold you up. I know you’re eager to get to the [Wimbledon] Ball. They looked at him and said, “What Ball? We’re not going to any Ball. We don’t have any clothes for a Ball. We’re broke,” they said. “We’re living in a rooming house.”

When Bud realized how little money they really had, he said to them, ‘Could I take you to dinner?’ “I never had two women say yes so fast in my life.” Bud and Billie Jean have been fast friends ever since. “I love women’s tennis, and have always kept them high in my mind, he says. “I probably was writing about it when no one else was.”

Two of Bud’s favorite moments from the U.S. Open come from the women’s tour.

1974 — “When Billie Jean King played against Yvonne Goolagong in the final at Forest Hills on grass. They were both attacking each other, which was exciting, because they both knew how to do it. I’ve never heard a crowd so rapturous, as they kept playing “whatever you can do, I can do better.”

1997 — “When Venus was coming along, getting to the final (unseeded) – nobody had done that before, she was ranked No. 66 (or something like that) and she’s playing in the semifinals against this big Romanian kid (Irina Spîrlea), and she had to save two match points to do it, and they were tremendous backhand shots down the line.”

When asked about his picks for this year’s U.S. Open final, he said, “This is a tournament that (a) nobody can win,” although he does think Dinara Safina will be one of the finalists.

Bud also weighed in on some of the young new-comers, like Caroline Wozniacki, who just won the Pilot Pen. “It’s funny when you say ‘young new-comers’ – they’re all young!”

“But I think it’s wonderful for women’s tennis.”

Bud also sighted Asia Muhammed as having a promising future on the WTA tour. “I met her. She played well yesterday. I would love to see some of our young Americans do well, but I’m delighted by the way the game is more international – more international than when I started covering it.”

He also noted a power shift that is undeniable the tennis world. With so many Russian players competing at such high levels, Bud says, “I don’t’ know if it’s a new cold war, but it looks like the Russians are going to take over. They see the brass ring and they’re going for it.”

Just in time for the US Open’s 40th anniversary of open era tennis, Bud has crafted a new book entitled, The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. How much does a book like that cost, you ask? Bud says, “It’s very reasonable – only 4 cents a page.” But consider yourself forewarned—it’s heavy. But then again, it should be.

The always charismatic Bud Collins is never alone in his travels. He and his constant companion, Anita (a.k.a., his room-mate, personal assistant and always his wife) have been married for 14 years, after meeting on a blind date.

Anita, a photographer who didn’t follow tennis before they met and didn’t even know who Bud Collins was, simply glows when talking about the man who she calls “the nicest person I’ve ever met.” Bud says of his 14-year marriage: “It looks like it will stick.”

You have to admire a man who’s not afraid to wear pink.



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