Eminent tennis writer and commentator Bud Collins, whose spirited work rendered him the sport's premier historian, conscience and connoisseur of fun, was honored Sunday by having his name affixed to the U.S. Open's media center.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Collins, 86, who uses a wheelchair. He then added the punchline: "It's sacrilegious."
For almost a half-century, Collins' well-chosen words filled newspaper columns and television broadcasts. Ubiquitous in tennis circles and highly visible in shockingly flamboyant pants -- he wore crimson and navy trousers with an aboriginal New Zealand design, and red and black striped socks coordinated with his red bow tie Sunday -- he has been a constant friend and mentor to generations of journalists, players and officials.
Among Collins' original bon mots, read in his hometown Boston Globe and heard on TV, were nicknames for the dastardly Women's Tennis Association ranking computer ("Medusa"), a love score ("bagel"), German Hall of Famer Steffi Graf ("Fraulein Forehand"), steely American champ Chris Evert ("The Ice Maiden") and the powerful Williams siblings ("Sisters Sledgehammer").
On Sunday, Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon lauded Collins, generally considered the first sports journalist to make a seamless transition from print to television, for the "creativity and vision in promoting tennis that not only remains his biggest legacy but also plays a major role in the way the sport is viewed today."
Women's tennis pioneer Billie Jean King recalled that Collins, who has written eight books on tennis history and is a walking museum of the sport's facts and tidbits, "was one of the few that cared about women's tennis before it ever became popular. I love him as a friend, but I also love him as a historian. We wouldn't know half of the facts that we know about tennis if it weren't for Bud."
Retired New York Times columnist George Vecsey, who first met Collins when Vecsey worked for Newsday, recalled Collins' generosity to young reporters and his "nice pants."
Since taking a fall in his New York hotel room during the 2011 Open, resulting in a ruptured quadriceps that required 10 surgical procedures, Collins was forced to curtail his travel to tennis events worldwide. But he was in his now-eponymous media center Sunday, greeted by waves of reporters, cameramen, former players and tennis officials.