Arnold Palmer

The most interesting man in the world (The tennis version)

By Bob Stockton

You know those Dos Equis TV commercials that feature THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD. “I may not always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” he says, “Stay thirsty my friends.” Who would be this man’s equivalent in the world of tennis? We’d like to nominate Sidney Wood, the man who won Wimbledon 80 years ago at the age of 19. Wood, who passed away in 2009, has his posthumously published memoir now on the market called THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS ($15.95, New Chapter Press, available here:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257847/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=tennisgrancom-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0942257847&adid=0RGZS17NN7W96K5BJHMH&) where tales are told that will give people a lot of reason for saying that Wood could have been “THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.”

Consider about Wood:

  • Among other starlets and movie stars, he dated Grace Kelly, the future Princess of Monaco, and actually dumped her before she begged for another chance
  • He once hired a bi-plane to chase after a train he missed after taking too long during a whistle stop in Kansas City
  • He played tennis and clowned around with actors and super stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, The Shah of Iran, chess superstar Bobby Fischer among many others
  • He was the brain child behind creating box seats at the U.S. Championships – the modern day US Open
  • Got into the laundry business with Don Budge and Arnold Palmer (and having gun-slinging actor Gary Cooper sometimes deliver laundry to patrons)
  • He qualified for the US Open doubles championship with swashbuckling Robin Hood actor Errol Flynn
  • He was the major person fighting behind the scenes to allow Althea Gibson to break the color barrier at the U.S. Championships in 1950.
  • He had his hand-prints (supposedly) immortalized in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre only to have it disappear the next day!
  • Created a rooftop tennis club in Manhattan
  • He beat King Kong’s girlfriend Fay Wray in ping pong using his shoe
  • He created Supreme Court, the indoor tennis court surface that helped pave the way for professional tennis in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • He won the “Wimbledon Final That Never Was” (and be the youngest player at the time and hold the record for a half century.
  • He was part of the only U.S. Davis Cup team to come back from an 0-2 deficit.

This year’s Wimbledon marks the 80-year anniversary when he and Frank Shields, his pal and the grandfather of actress Brooke Shields, reached the Wimbledon final, where the U.S. Tennis Association forced Shields to default the final to rest an injured knee for Davis Cup. Shields’ semifinal win over Jean Borotra was just as dramatic as when Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, hit the home run at the end of the movie THE NATURAL except, in Shields’ case, it was in real life! He basically finished off the last three games of the match on one leg, serving five unreturnable serves (from 4-3, 40-30 in the fourth set) to win the match and reach the final.

We could go on, but we suggest you buy the book.

Here’s a little more about the other MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD…

Mark McCormack To Be Inducted In International Tennis Hall Of Fame

On Saturday, July 12, the International Tennis Hall of Fame will induct its Class of 2008 – Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Gene Scott – in ceremonies at the home of the Hall of Fame, The Casino in Newport, Rhode Island. Hall of Fame journalist Bud Collins profiles all three inductees in his just-off-the-press book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, click here for 39 percent discount). Today, we present to you the profile of Mark McCormack, the founder of the International Management Group.

Mark McCormack

United States (1930-2003)

Hall of Fame-2008-Contributor

By founding IMG (International Management Group) as a young man of 29, Mark Hume McCormack would revolutionize sports agentry and marketing on a world-wide level, much of it to the benefit and growth of tennis.

McCormack, a lawyer and an exceptional golfer who quali­fied for the U.S. Open and British Amateur, first turned his atten­tion to that sport. Tremendously imaginative, a business genius, he sensed new opportunity on the links. It was in the forms of three men who would become all-time greats: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Through their play and his man­agement they became wealthy and kindled increasing interest in golf.

When tennis became “open” in 1968, blending amateurs with the previously outlawed professionals, McCormack was quick to act, realizing that this game should attain far broader popularity, and that he could be a positive force in its rise.

Immediately, he signed on to represent the world’s foremost player, Australian Rod Laver, also to represent the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (aka Wimbledon), a relationship that continues to this day.

Laver was the first of a long line of tennis players to select McCormack’s IMG as their agent. Among them other Hall of Famers Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Bjorn Borg, Jim Cou­rier, Pete Sampras.

Mark’s thoughts and ideas flowed in all directions in sport, and beyond. IMG became the world’s largest independent pro­ducer of TV sports programming. His system has spread and promoted economic advances for players, tournaments, ten­nis institutions and the game’s industry as a whole. In 1992, the Times of London named him one of “A Thousand People Who Most Influenced The 20th Century.”

Born Nov. 6, 1930, in Chicago, he grew up there, graduated from William and Mary College (’51) and Yale Law School (’54), and served a year in the U.S. Army in 1956. He was inducted into William and Mary’s Athletic Hall of Fame for golfing prow­ess in 1958.

IMG acquired the Nick Bollettieri Sports Academy in 1987, continuing Nick’s successful tennis “boot camp” that trains out­standing players from across the globe.

As an author, he somehow found time to write Things They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, a best seller in 1984 published in 82 countries.

Mark’s second marriage was to a standout American tennis player, Betsy Nagelsen in 1986, eight years after she was the final­ist at the Australian Open. A 2008 inductee to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, he died May 16, 2003, in New York