On a night full of them, here are some selected quotable highlights from Sunday’s SCTA Hall of Fame Gala Induction evening held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. It was a sell-out crowd and one of the most memorable Hall of Fame gala’s the SCTA has ever celebrated.
Master of Ceremonies Pam Shriver did a masterful job introducing all the presenters, who then introduced the Class of 2015 honorees: Kathy and Wayne Bryan, Brian Teacher, Jeanie and Dr. Jerry Buss, Bill Rombeau and Pam Teeguarden.
Mike Bryan (a surprise guest) caught up with his parents’ presenter Tracy Austin at the recent U.S. Open. “I asked Tracy what she remembered most about my mom and she said, ‘She was the hottest girl out there, just beautiful.’ So good job to my dad.”
Austin interviewed both Mike and Bob Bryan at the U.S. Open and asked them what it was like working on the court with both parents. “It was mom who got us first,” Austin quoted the boys as saying. “From 2 to 4 it was mom who taught us technique. She was always so calm and taught us the strategy. And then we got to go do dad’s court from 4 to 6.’ Then in her own words, Austin continued: “You can just hear it, and imagine Wayne yelling at all the different courts. Dozens of kids on the courts and the workouts. I think that’s where you learned how to play doubles so well.”
Wayne Bryan acknowledged Jeanie Buss and said her boyfriend, legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson, visited with Mike and Bob in Australia a few years back. “They were coming off a big Davis Cup loss in Southern California after being undefeated for several years,” Wayne said. “They were crushed. The team lost. They felt responsible. No one talks to you when you’re losing. They don’t know what to say. A great guy and champion like Phil Jackson walks in, big smile on his face, and says, ‘I hate streaks. I hate records. I love when they’re over so you can start over again.’ ”
Jeanie Buss was just 19 years old in 1981 when she was named the general manager of the L.A. Strings. “My dad would be so tickled with this honor because not a lot of people knew that his first venture into sports was owning a tennis team, the L.A. Strings,” Buss said. “All he wanted to do was win a championship. And he did that in 1978 when Chris Evert and IlieNastase won that championship.”
Presenting Jeanie and Dr. Jerry Buss, Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors spoke eloquently about coming to Los Angeles in the heyday of tennis like so many other greats who started here. “The great players who passed through here like Jack Kramer, Bobby Riggs, Pancho Gonzales, Pancho Segura, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall. You name it, and they’ve all come here to play here and to hone their skills and also their legacy,” Connors said. “And we had great tournaments like the Pacific Southwest. Can you imagine if those courts could talk; what great stories.”
Connors added, “Getting two guys who are the tops of their games with bad attitudes (he and John McEnroe) to sellout the Forum, 17,000 strong. It was (Jeanie’s) tennis with a twist. All the great players of the day were lined up and wanted to be a part of it.”
She thanked Connors for being there and added, “I had to twist his arm a little bit.” She told the crowd about having to babysit Connors’ son Brett and took him to an amusement park next door to where the Strings were playing in Hershey, Pa. “He ran away from me and I think we shut the place down for a few hours until we found him.”
Ben Press presented Brian Teacher and said he taught all three Teacher children to play tennis in San Diego.Press rattled off the names of the world-class tennis pros Teacher coached, including Andre Agassi, Greg Rusedski, Jim Grabb, Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor.
Teacher said he had the pleasure to play with Bobby Riggs as a young junior. “He was an insatiable gambler,” he said. “A few years before he played the ‘Battle of Sexes’ I would hit with Riggs, and with the Fritz brothers, Guy and Harry, whose father was a pit boss and a professional gambler. I would give him one serve and love-15 and 2-0 and I would beat him, and then we had to keep working the bet. And the Fritz brothers would put $100 on Bobby and we would have to figure out what percent I would get. Eventually the edge of the handicap would be so tight that if I missed one ball here or there, I could lose the match.
Bill Rombeau was a recognized tennis industry innovator who led the SCTA (as president) from 1998-2008. He was a “mover and shaker” behind the scenes and also served on various USTA National Committees. Bob Kramer remembered Bill as “a fine outstanding individual – someone who you’d let raise your children.”
Bob presented Bill’s award (posthumously) to his wife, Sharon and daughters Kira and Nicole. In accepting, they expressed heartfelt thoughts about their late husband and father’s accomplishments.
Pam Teeguarden won Grand Slam Doubles titles at the US Open and the French in the 1970’s and was a regular in the World TeamTennis league, founded by Billie Jean King. In 1981 she was a member of the LA Strings, helping to bring a Championship to Jeanie Buss, who was the General Manager. Pam’s brother Ron recalled how Pam had the “killer instinct” needed for the professional ranks and Anne White noted how she hated to play Pam because of her “consistent backhand lobs.”
Fashion and winning were the code words for Pam Teeguarden’s special night. Kathy Bryan said Pam and Gussy Moran brought tennis and fashion together. Teeguarden wore the first all-black tennis outfit in the history of tennis in 1975 at the Bridgestone Doubles Championships in Tokyo, and set the stage for the today’s trendsetters.
As Pam Shriver presented the award to Pam Teeguarden, she noted that this reminded her of her (Shriver’s) very first professional match, where she (Teeguarden ) was her opponent. After all this time, they are once again on stage together!
As the evening concluded, Kathy Bryan reiterated what Connors said about Southern California earlier in the evening: “Growing up in Southern California was really like Camelot,” she said. “We had the best of everything. The tournaments, the coaches, the tournament directors. I just think we were so lucky to be here because everything was here to realize our dreams.”
Photos by Cynthia Lum