With his colorful style in both commentary and fashion, tennis writer and broadcaster Bud Collins livened up the tennis world for nearly 50 years. He died at his home in Brookline, Mass., at age 86.
His death was announced by his wife, Anita Ruthling Klaussen, on her Facebook page.
Collins, a longtime columnist for The Boston Globe and an analyst for CBS, NBC, ESPN and the Tennis Channel, was best known not only for his commentary during NBC’s Breakfast at Wimbledon broadcast live on weekend mornings but also for his lively pants and bow ties, sometimes yellow, sometimes purple, always vibrant.
In his remembrance of Collins, NPR’s Only A Game host Bill Littlefield wrote:
“He was almost as well-known for his sartorial splendor — more specifically for the gaudy pants that became a kind of trademark. In our conversation during the 2002 French Open, I mentioned to Bud that one of the players, Jeff Grant, had noted Bud’s trousers.
” ‘I think he had some kind of green and pink pastel with some flowers,’ Grant told me. ‘Vintage Bud.’
“I asked Bud for comment, and he responded, ‘I can categorically state that I have been paid by no one to wear anything. And no one would pay me to wear anything, and most people are surprised when I even pay for those creations.’ “
The pants were his “trademark and a symbol of the gusto he brought to his reporting,” NPR’s Tom Goldman reports.
“Collins wrote several tennis encyclopedia, and coached tennis at Brandeis University where one of his players was future activist Abbie Hoffman,” Tom says. “But it was his years of tennis columns and commentary that defined his career.”
The Globe wrote:
“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, all while remaining one of the most congenial people anyone met courtside or in the press box.”
“Few people have had the historical significance, the lasting impact and the unqualified love for tennis as Bud Collins,” tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted. “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. I will miss him and I will always cherish our memories of our journeys together.”
The New York Times wrote that “while he focused on tennis, he mused about anything that caught his eye” and covered combat in the Vietnam War. The paper adds:
“Mr. Collins was much the showman. He often quoted his imaginary Uncle Studley’s reflections on tennis. Steffi Graf was ‘Fraulein Forehand,’ Bjorn Borg was ‘the Angelic Assassin’ and the 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.”
Collins’ role as a tennis commentator had been limited in recent years as his health failed, but last year he attended the U.S. Open in New York, where the media center was dedicated and named in his honor.
Listen to NPR’s Only A Game host Bill Littlefield remember Collins on Here & Now.