Jul

19

 I recently read Jimmy Conner's book The Outsider, a Memoir.

Although a little sugary– too much mama this and mama that, wife this, wife that– and if you can get past the tedium of the same old guys going out to party– Jimmy and Nastase did this, Nasty did that– the book is down right unremarkable, however it was interesting to follow the birth and growth of popular tennis.

When I mentioned to two different people that I was reading this book the quick item brought up was that Jimmy married Chris Evert, right? Well, they were engaged, an item. Conners was chasing her around the tour when she was 17. He mentioned that her Mom was always around and that Chris was heavily guarded. He never married her but married the 1977 playmate of the year. He professes to not have been a drug guy ever and a non-partier until he basically hit his life long goals of winning wimby and the US open.

A few items I think you would be interested in:

His grandmother and mother trained him from a youth (St. Louis area), as did his grandfather some. His father was around but was overshadowed by the ladies of the home who nurtured him. His mom was a good tennis player and taught him a solid game. He did not do well in school.

His grandfather made him jump rope. Jimmy would have to jump for some period of time without a mistake or the stopwatch got reset. Jimmy would ask how much time and grandpa would say 10 minutes, then grandpa would change his mind after seven minutes and say, no let's do 20 minutes. This would mess with his mind. Grandpa would sometimes walk around close or behind Jimmy when he was jumping to make him feel rattled–if he made a misstep he would have the clock restarted. This in reflection was done to make him ignore distractions.

His coach, Pancho Segura–from wiki here: Pancho "Segoo" Segura, born Francisco Olegario Segura on June 20, 1921, is a former leading tennis player of the 1940s and 1950s, both as an amateur and as a professional. In 1950 and 1952, as a professional, he was the World Co-No. 1 player. He was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but moved to the United States in the late 1930s and is a citizen of both countries. He is the only player to have won the US Pro title on three different surfaces (which he did consecutively from 1950-1952).

Pancho to me was very interesting and I would like to read more about him. He would draw up a game plan for Jim on napkins before each match. Conners had a solid game and was able to form a strategy that basically shielded him from the adversary's strong points.

 Conners had OCD which came out in his behavior after winning Wimbledon. He would bounce a ball endlessly and not be able to pick it up and toss it up to serve, or he would have to check the locks on his windows and doors before going to bed multiple times, drive from the hotel to the game location at a certain time and with exactly the same route. In those days no one knew what OCD was. He just dealt with it.

He was and most likely still is an action junkie. He gambles and loved the playboy clubs. He would bet on himself to win tourneys. It was legal to do so.

He won 109 event championships, his enemy of sorts was Johnny Mac who knocked him out of first in world ranking.

He was a tenacious player, a fighter, a little guy who had to scrape for everything. He had slips of paper in his shoes outlining concepts to think about from his grandma when it was break time between sets.

The trading/life related item was when he first won his Wimbledon title. He said he was mentally in tennis nirvana. Pancho (genius move in my opinion) took him the next morning over to a local children's cancer ward for half a day to talk with and entertain the children who were suffering. He said his cloud 9 turned into a cloud zero as he saw what was really important. We can all use this lesson reminder in some form or another.

Charles Pennington adds:  

I share your thoughts on the Connors book. "Unremarkable" is a good one-word description. Autobios by Agassi and McEnroe were real page-turners, though they didn't always make the authors seem like admirable people.

The opening parts of the Connors book, which cover his childhood and family, are quite interesting, but after about the half-way point the book loses my interest. He mechanically lists results from tournaments after his prime that no one will remember. He spends several pages on the traits and personalities of the 4-5 dogs that he owns. Who cares?!

Also it's kind of a stretch for him to call himself an "outsider". He was an outsider to the tennis world as a child in East St. Louis, but by the time he was a teenager he was surrounded by LA celebrities and had Pancho Segura as his coach.


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