Bud Collins, the passionate, often irreverent face of tennis for nearly half a century in his TV broadcasts and newspaper and magazine columns, died Friday (March 4, 2016) at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 86.
He had suffered from Parkinson's disease and dementia, his wife, Anita Ruthling Klaussen, said.
Arthur "Bud" Collins popularized tennis for millions of Americans in its boom years after the start of the Open era in 1968, when professionals were finally allowed to compete for the major championships.
He was hired by the Boston Globe to write a general sports column in 1963. He noted that he was allowed to write about tennis as much as he wanted. In 1966, Greg Harney, the producer for Boston's Public Broadcasting Service TV station, WGBH, approached Mr. Collins to do commentary for live tennis matches. It was a gig that revolutionized sports journalism and made Collins a pioneer in his field.
"I began doing the commentary, and I just kept doing it for a long time," Mr. Collins, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994, once told the Washington Post.
Mr. Collins did the play-by-play for "Breakfast at Wimbledon," NBC's live coverage of the event, at its inception in 1979, after the network had previously confined coverage to taped matches. In 1983, NBC shifted him to analysis and interviews when Dick Enberg was given the main broadcasting role. Mr. Collins spent 35 years on NBC's Wimbledon coverage before being dropped by the network in 2007. He also worked as an analyst for CBS, ESPN and the Tennis Channel.
"In my lifetime, which … goes back to radio, there are only two people nationally, sports voices, that dominated their sport for six decades: Don Dunphy in boxing and Bud Collins in tennis," Enberg, 81, said.
Mr. Collins was much the showman. Balding and bearded, he could be spotted in a crowd by his wardrobe, one that favored bow ties and custom-made, colorful signature slacks. Yellow, violet and burgundy were among his favorite colors, and strawberry embellishments were added for Wimbledon.
He also was well-known for player nicknames and turns of phrase that were as colorful as his wardrobe. He often quoted his imaginary Uncle Studley's reflections on tennis. Steffi Graf was "Fraulein Forehand," Bjorn Borg was "the Angelic Assassin," and hard-serving Venus and Serena Williams were "Sisters Sledgehammer." He considered himself the representative of the everyday player, or the hacker, as he put it.
"Integrity, passion, intelligence, wit, compassion … Friend … I, like many, will miss you terribly," Hall of Fame player Chris Evert wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Collins also was a writer and senior editor at World Tennis magazine. His Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia, first published in 1980, went through several editions, and he followed it with The Bud Collins History of Tennis and Total Tennis.
"Few people have had the historical significance, the lasting impact and the unqualified love for tennis as Bud Collins," Hall of Fame player Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. "He was an outstanding journalist, an entertaining broadcaster, and as our historian, he never let us forget or take for granted the rich history of our sport."