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Archive for the ‘Hall of Fame’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Family, Friends, and Hall of Famers Celebrate Charlie Pasarell’s Ring Ceremony

Charlie Pasarell and the rest of the Hall of Famers in attendance.

Charlie Pasarell and the rest of the Hall of Famers in attendance.

Charlie Pasarell Celebration

As tournament director and managing partner, Charlie Pasarell was instrumental in helping to build the Indian Wells tournament into the world-class event it has become.

So it was more than fitting that he received his official International Tennis Hall of Fame ring last night on the Stadium court, in front of an adoring crowd, before the start of the evening session.

Charlie was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. But the HOF has a wonderful tradition of presenting the ring at a home location that affords the best opportunity for the inductee to be surrounded by as many family and friends as possible.

The stadium ring ceremony was a public affair. The celebration dinner afterward, emceed by Pam Shriver, was much more intimate; attended by some Charlie’s immediate family, as well as his extended family in the tennis community.

Also on hand were several other Hall of Fame members, many of whom spoke glowingly about their friend and fellow-inductee. Those in attendance included Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Donald Dell, Bud Collins (pants as colorful as ever), Butch Buchholz, Brad Parks, Rosie Casals, Billie Jean King, Roy Emerson, and Mark Woodforde.

Charlie, with his father and son looking on, was just as moved by this moment as he was at his official induction in Newport. After an encore viewing of his video tribute, and hearing the touching tributes of his friends, it was obvious to see how touched he was by this moment.

Looking out at the familiar faces, his voice at times struggling to control his emotion, Charlie offered a simple, “Thanks to all my friends who are here today. I’m touched by all the support.”

(Click thumbnail for a larger image)

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PostHeaderIcon Bob Hewitt’s Long Overdue Removal from the Hall of Fame

As tennis’ International Hall of Fame was preparing to announce its’ induction class for 2012, information was coming to light about a previously-inducted Hall of Famer and abuse allegations that seemed too hard to ignore. But that’s exactly what officials at the Hall of Fame appeared to do, infuriating many in the tennis community.

The subject of this firestorm was Bob Hewitt; a standout doubles player in his day who won all of the Grand Slam doubles titles for both Men’s and Mixed doubles. In later years, he went on to become a junior coach. This is where the story goes horribly wrong. Instead of coaching his young charges, he preyed on them sexually. Some of the victims, all young girls, were as young as 12. By all accounts the abuse was widespread and systemic.

A criminal probe was launched in early 2011. By the fall of 2011, word had spread of the allegations, and several witnesses had come forward against Hewitt. Mary Carillo even did a “Real Sports” story on the Hewitt allegations. But that’s as far as it got in terms of the tennis world.

Hall of Fame officials initially declined action because there was no criminal complaint on the matter. Finally, Tony Trabert, then president of the ITHOF, promised to conduct an investigation on the matter. But he never followed through. By the time the 2012 crop of inductees was being named, the matter had reached the boiling point because of the ITHOF’s inaction.

Mark Stenning, Hall CEO, publicly admitted in May that no investigation had been conducted. When an investigation was finally complete, it resulted in Hewitt’s suspension from the Hall of Fame on November 15, 2012. His plaque has been removed, as well as all other to him on Hall of Fame materials. Hewitt is “suspended” because they felt that expulsion was only appropriate if he were found guilty in a criminal proceeding. But for all practical purposes, Hewitt has ceased to be a Hall of Famer.

Stenning said afterward, “In hindsight, we certainly could have handled this more swiftly.

You think?

Better late than never, I guess. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for “due process”, but it took the Hall of Fame well over a year to take action on this matter, in spite of the pleas of many respected members. To their credit (because I do believe they should be given some credit) they spared no expense to investigate the matter once it became clear that Trabert had dropped the ball.

I’m not sure their late-game heroics can make up for their earlier inactivity, at least not for the victims. It’s easy to say you’re sorry after the fact when there are consequences. But it would have been much better if someone at the Hall of Fame had done the right thing from the outset, especially since the Hall of Fame is supposed to embody the best of tennis. And there was nothing “best” about this.


Articles for further reading and discussion:

PostHeaderIcon Andre Agassi Finds Happiness and Opportunity on the Tennis Court

I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.

Andre Agassi, Open.

It was a shockingly unexpected comment from one of the game’s greats, and a hero to many, me included. However, all things change with time. And if the huge smile on Andre’s face during the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes Champions Showdown’ (part of the PowerShares series) was any indication, he’s had a change of heart.

The final events of the PowerShares series are coming up this week in Denver and Anaheim, with Andre participating in both for a shot at finishing in the top three for a share of the $1M prize money. I had a chance to chat with Andre before his matches in San Jose, and one thing is certain: Andre is having the time of his life these days, and is wholeheartedly enjoying his association with a sport that was once the source of great turmoil and pain.

The 42 year-old Vegas showman lit up the arena with comprehensive victories over Jim Courier and John McEnroe. It was vintage Agassi: smacking backhands to the corners, crushing forehands, and blasting service returns winners at will past the net-charging McEnroe. When I asked Andre before the match how he was able to juggle his business ventures while still playing competitively in events such as this, he jokingly responded, “You’ll see tonight that I don’t spend too much time playing tennis anymore“.

To the contrary, Andre’s play was an impressive display of shot-making. Both Courier and McEnroe did their best to keep the ball out of Andre’s strike zone with high topspin, low angled slices, and deeply chipped shots with very little pace. It was a strategy that probably would have worked against most other players, but not against a guy like Agassi with the ability to hit the ball cleanly on the rise from both sides, no matter where he is on the court. It was inspiring tennis.

The best part of the evening, hands down, was seeing the joy on Andre’s face as he played. It’s a fitting reward for a guy who once hated tennis “with a dark and secret passion”. In fact, Andre’s current state of happiness with the game of tennis is palpable. It’s given him everything he holds dear, including his wife of eleven years, Stefanie, and their two kids, Jaden and Jaz. Steffi, in particular, provides the stability that allows him to pursue his passions.

I have a strong infrastructure and great people around me certainly. But my wife is where it begins, because without that foundation at home none of this would be possible.

The biggest slice of “this” is most certainly Andre’s work with his Andre Agassi Foundation For Education, helping disadvantaged kids get the education needed to succeed in life, and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Andre’s continued efforts on behalf of the foundation have helped grow its’ endowment to over $550M to help build charter schools across the country.

“Am I a philanthropist? Yeah, I give a lot of money, but I feel there should be more to it. I came to the conclusion that what I am is a facilitator. I bring a lot of people together to create a vision, to get involved, to put leadership in place and get people to go above and beyond” (Bob Cohn, “Tennis no longer 1st in Agassi’s life“, TribLIVE, Oct. 14, 2012).

As if his foundation work wasn’t enough, Andre has created the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes’ line of training equipment with his good friend, Gil Reyes. The philosophy behind the BILT machines is one of maximizing training while also protecting the athlete’s body and joints. As Andre put it, it’s a bit “surreal” how it’s all come together – the culmination of their work together, combining all the knowledge they’ve amassed over the years of Andre’s time on tour.

This particular time in my life is really special because it’s a full-circle kind of journey for me to see the sport give a platform and allow me to do some of the things I care about off the court. To watch what Gil did for me… and see it turn into a business that will help others like it helped me.

Even with his loaded schedule, Andre still finds time to enjoy the current generation of top players. When I asked if he thought his best play could match up with that of the “Big Four”, his answer was a quick and decisive “No”. He went on to say, “The game has gotten better, and it keeps getting better. What these guys do now is they have as much offense as I ever thought of having, and their defense is far superior.” But when asked if he can still take a good rip at a ball like the old days, he smiled and said, “Oh yeah.” Having witnessed his demolition of Courier and McEnroe, I agree.

Andre has always been one of the greatest ball strikers to ever play the game. But six years removed from his dramatic retirement at the US Open, he’s that and much more. Andre is a man who’s driven to give others the opportunity for education that, ironically, he never had. And he’s gone from hating tennis to realizing its’ potential to help others achieve success and personal happiness.

We should all be so lucky.

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