Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jimmy Connors Gets Defensive in Memoir

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jimmy Connors Gets Defensive in Memoir

Article excerpt

The St. Louis area has produced several world-class tennis players, including Wimbledon champions Arthur Ashe (who attended Sumner High School) and the doubles team of Ken Flach and Robert Seguso (who attended SIU-Edwardsville). But the player who scrawled the name St. Louis on the map was tennis' original bad boy, Jimmy Connors.

Actually, his place on the map was on the wrong side of the river. As Connors recounts in his new memoir, "The Outsider," he was born in 1952 in East St. Louis, where his grandfather, John Connors, had been the mayor and his father, Jim Connors Sr., was in charge of collecting tolls on the Veterans Bridge.

While some juicy stories about his grandfather, father and brother John associating with criminals get brief mentions, Jimmy devotes a lot more ink to two women in his life: his tennis-playing grandmother, Bertha Thompson, and her equally sporty daughter, Gloria Thompson Connors. Gloria had been a touring tennis player and coached celebrities in Hollywood before settling with Jim Sr. in East St. Louis (and later Belleville). But she lived her tennis dream through her son Jimmy.

Among the many things that Jimmy shrugs off in this plain-spoken book is the notion that he was a mama's boy. True, Gloria was his coach and business manager, and even after Jimmy climbed the rungs to the No. 1 ranking (where he remained for a record five years), mother and son spoke 10 times a day, but Gloria wasn't a tyrant.

That was Jimmy's role.

Anyone who remembers the white-collar world of tennis before Connors came along knows that he was a workhorse of a different color. In the '70s, tennis was evolving from an amateur pastime to a big-time business that fought football and boxing for the regular- guy audience, and Connors was the sport's ill-mannered mascot. …

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