Born: June 17, 1929
in Lima, Ohio
Died: March 4, 2016
As a journalist and television commentator, no media professional had as vibrant a personality as Arthur “Bud” Collins. His trademark bow-ties, colorful trousers that often seemed like they could glow in the dark, were custom made from fabrics he collected in his world travels covering tennis for more than 50 years. One thing Collins collected as well: a voluminous knowledge of tennis that was delivered with infectious enthusiasm. His television commentary was often more entertaining than the match he was covering, and his writings for the Boston Globe starting in 1963 provided him a forum to become the preeminent and foremost authority on tennis in the world.
Collins was born in Lima, Ohio, attended college at Baldwin-Wallace College but made Boston his home and working headquarters for more than 50 years. He launched his impeccable career as a graduate student at Boston University in 1959, where he found time to write for the Boston Herald and coach the tennis team at Brandeis University. He began his journalistic tennis exploits in earnest upon joining the Boston Globe in 1963 and made his foray into the electronic media side working for the local Boston PBS radio affiliate WGBH. Collins became a bona fide tennis expert, and in 1968 joined CBS Sports on its tennis broadcasts.
While Collins was always seen as a voice of tennis, he equally made his mark on the printed sports section pages of the Boston Globe. His writings were often times as verbose as his broadcast commentary, but it was an endearing trait that was the essence of the man. Vintage Collins writing found him colorful and clever at the same time, this passage on Rod Laver: “Rodney the L is what’s happening in tennis these days. He goes into the Longwood veldt this afternoon to resume a rain delayed pursuit of another professional singles championship, and if he wore a top hat you’d think he was Mandrake the Magician. Instead he’ll be wearing a crinkled white cloche that looks as though a flapper had slept in it. It was probably willed to him by Clara Bow, but it does the job. . . . His eyes seem like a pair of blueberries in a tureen of borscht.”
Collins brought wit, charm and an encyclopedia of knowledge to each of his journalist endeavors. While he remained the cornerstone of the Boston Globe’s tennis coverage, he worked with CBS for four years, becoming a staple of NBC’s tennis coverage in 1972, where he remained until 2007. For the next 35 years, Breakfast at Wimbledon included strawberries and cream, world class tennis, and Bud Collins. In 2007, he took his indomitable talents to ESPN and the Tennis Channel.
Collins treated tennis fans to his colorful prose by authoring The Education of a Tennis Player (with Rod Laver) in 1971, Evonne On the Move (with Evonne Goolagong) in 1974, a memoir, My Life with the Pros (1989), and several updated versions of Bud Collins Tennis Encyclopedia, the latter being the bible for tennis facts, figures, and authoritative prose from the game’s leading historians.
In 1999, Collins was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, who awarded him the Red Smith Award, America’s most prestigious sports writing honor. Fittingly, he was elected to the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 2002.
As a journalist and television commentator, a historian and a vibrant personality, and as a communicator unlike any other in his time, Bud Collins was at the forefront of tennis since the early 1960s. Collins covered more major championships than any American reporter, and always conveyed his ample knowledge of the sport with an infectious enthusiasm. Collins gained as much fame as many renowned players, working tirelessly at his craft, not just entertaining but educating the public, adding immeasurably to the popularity of tennis.
While attending his 61st US Open in 2015, the USTA unveiled the Bud Collins US Open Media Center in honor of the great ambassador to the game.