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BY HOOK OR BY CROOK

Aug. 25, 1975
Aug. 25, 1975

Table of Contents
Aug. 25, 1975

National East
Bart Starr
Baseball
College Sports
Harness Racing
Nature
Riordan-Dell
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK

The green pastures of tennis would appear to provide rich grazing for all, but Bill Riordan and Donald Dell continue to have trouble settling the boundary disputes

There is no telling exactly when the game of tennis came in off the lawn, shed its prissy white pants and gave itself over to the real world of politics, litigiousness and Charlton Heston playing the Cookie Monster an eight-game pro set challenge match on universewide tape delay from the rings of Saturn. The fact is that the turning point in tennis was as well hidden as those in more prosaic areas—dat old debbil fuel crisis, for instance. Nobody saw it, and nobody cared.

This is an article from the Aug. 25, 1975 issue Original Layout

Well, almost nobody. Surely two people knew, two men of vision and idealism, two men with lofty goals, the zest for power and a mutual inclination to take the bull by the horns in their own inimitable styles. That Bill Riordan, sitting in a dress shop in Salisbury, Md., and Donald Dell, commanding his law offices down the road in Washington, did not see fit to combine forces and lead tennis into the promised land was the most grievous hurt to afflict the sport since the Bartkowitzes—Peaches and Plums—failed in the big time. Instead, Riordan and Dell have proceeded to fight and bite.

Riordan and Dell do their things from the position of "tennis manager." Sometimes they are referred to as "player representatives" or "agents." But don't be caught calling Dell an agent, because he is a lawyer, and he will get you. Riordan says he doesn't care what you call him—he isn't a lawyer—but he might get you, anyway. The two men are not in exactly the same position as, say, Mark McCormack, who owns Arnold Palmer, Cleveland, the Rock of Gibraltar and probably you and me. But they are somewhere in that vicinity.

Dell represents just about every living, breathing American tennis player from eight to 80 who can put a ball over a net. When he was captain of the Davis Cup team in the late 1960s, Arthur Ashe said, "Having Donald Dell captain is a special feeling, like having John Kennedy president." In his new book Portrait in Motion with Frank Deford, Ashe says, "There are two people in my life I would trust with my life: my father and Donald Dell."

Riordan, on the other hand, represents only the semi-adorable James Scott Connors, who can also play a little.

So that is who Donald Dell and Bill Riordan are.

At present Riordan, in the name of Connors as front man, is suing Dell, Jack Kramer, who is the executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals, and Commercial Union Assurance Company for $10 million in Federal Court in New York for alleged violations of antitrust laws: i.e., keeping Connors out of the 1974 French Open. On his part Kramer has filed a $3 million suit in Federal Court in Indianapolis against Connors and Riordan for libel. That suit specifically cites letters and articles in which Riordan is quoted as charging Kramer with "lining his pockets" with appearance money for ATP players and characterizing Kramer and Dell as "piranhas who have attempted to monopolize the game."

Not to be outdistanced, Riordan is now countersuing for libel. Surely, too, he is behind still another suit, the $5 million number Connors filed against Ashe on the eve of Wimbledon, accusing him of "maligning" Connors in a letter to the ATP membership.

Riordan says, "The ATP stands for bans, boycotts and baloney. They are suing me for calling Kramer a piranha, which is nothing but a small fish. His ATP cronies get away with calling me a nihilist. Throughout history monopolists have labeled populists as nihilists while their leaders danced on the grave of Marie Antoinette. Get that down, kid. That's an original. These men are frauds and purveyors of distaste. Kramer? He only centers the ball. Dell is the quarterback. I'm going to expose them for the charlatans they are. And another thing. Dell deals in darkness. You got to like that one."

Dell, who says he will not waste his time countering "spurious charges," seldom is quoted on the subject of Riordan. However, he recently used what he calls "Riordan rhetoric" to deplore the tactics of "this apostle of hate."

Said Dell, "It frustrates me that everything good I've worked for in tennis over the years is being poisoned, defiled, ruined by Riordan. When you're somebody, you don't have to let everybody know about it, but Riordan is a nobody. It's a fluke that anybody even knows his name. I'll tell you one thing—I don't lie awake nights thinking of Bill Riordan. I don't waste my time. I never think about him the way he does about us.

"Connors is always announcing that he wants to settle the lawsuit. He claims it's hurting the game he loves, that he just wants to get on with playing tennis. Is he forgetting that he sued? He's the plaintiff. All he has to do is pick up the phone to get this over with. But, no, we all know who's behind this one: Riordan. This guy is a gutter fighter, and there's no way I am climbing down to his level."

On the wall of Donald Dell's law office at Dell, Craighill, Fentress & Benton, a few blocks from the White House, there is a small painting framed in elegant wood and hung higher than any other picture in the room. Higher than a photograph of Dell's twin 2-year-old daughters. Higher than the lithographs of his schools, Yale and the University of Virginia Law School. Higher, even, than an autographed family picture of his mentor and a former candidate for Vice-President of the United States, Sargent Shriver.

The painting is signed by Carole Osche, a striking blonde Pan American stewardess before she married Dell. It is a painting of the Davis Cup.

For nearly 15 years now there has scarcely been a time when the name of Donald Dell was not associated with the Davis Cup. He was a member of the team in 1961, '62 and '63 during his peak years as a player. In 1968, just after serving as an advance man in Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign, he accepted the position of captain and led a rejuvenated U.S. side to back-to-back victories after a four-year losing streak—a streak that had been lengthening since he left the team.

Dell resigned under fire following the 1969 cup matches. Open tennis was the new wave then. Dell envisioned his bellwethers, Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith, as "the Palmer and Nicklaus of tennis in the '70s" and himself as their business representative. Having taken the Davis Cup team around the country, demanding that the players be paid prize money rather than under-the-table guarantees, Dell knew he was becoming "too commercial" for the USLTA.

Dell always insisted that he desired only to "maximize" himself in the Davis Cup captaincy. To get into it and do the best job he could in turning the team around. To win, and then get out. He never wanted a kingdom, or even a rose garden. And when USLTA President Alastair Martin told Dell he was undergoing terrific pressure to unload him, Dell said that was O.K., too. "I'll resign quietly," he told Martin. "But just remember one thing. I'm going to be in professional tennis a long time after they've forgotten how to spell your first name."

In his New Frontier days Dell had assisted Robert Kennedy in his 1966 campaign for Democratic office seekers in the Midwest, inevitably teaching and competing with the Senator on the tennis court. Of his weekends at Hyannis-port Dell once said, "It was unbelievable. Everyone there was a General Gavin or a William Styron or a Lillian Hell-man. I just sat in corners and sucked my thumb."

But critics have suggested that Dell took more out of Camelot than a merit badge in celebrity gazing; he has been accused of Kennedy-inspired "steamroller tactics," of "ruthlessness" toward those who crossed him or his clients.

Moreover, there are many people in tennis—and not just Bill Riordan and Jimmy Connors—who contend that Dell never left the Davis Cup team. His legacy was his own coach, Dennis Ralston, who became captain and won three more cups on the broad back of Smith before the rules were changed and the International Lawn Tennis Federation let everybody play. "Everybody" turned out to be some Australian chaps named Laver, Rosewall and Newcombe, who beat the U.S. in 1973. Since then, with Connors sitting on his hands and with Ashe not exactly falling over himself to play, the Yankee side has been defeated in successive years by a couple of se√±ors, Colombia and Mexico.

The claim that Dell still controls the team is based on the fact that nearly all U.S. Davis Cup personnel are managed by him, including former Captain Ralston. It is hardly Dell's fault that he happens to represent all the best U.S. players with the exception of Connors and Dick Stockton. Still, it is no secret that Connors' refusal to compete in cup play is as much a result of the Riordan-Dell fallout as it is an outgrowth of Connors' much-publicized pique at Ralston.

That messy business began in 1972 in Jamaica during a cup match against the British Caribbean team when Connors was passed over for one of the two starting singles spots in favor of Tom Gorman and Erik van Dillen, a pair of Dell stablehands. Connors had outplayed both men on the indoor circuit, but was experiencing problems in Kingston when Ralston named his team. Insiders admit the existence of a personality clash between Ralston and Connors, and that the captain considered the 19-year-old a "loudmouthed spoiled brat."

After the U.S. had clinched the match 3-0 Connors was scheduled to play singles on the final day, when he suddenly left Jamaica because of the death of his grandmother. He has never returned to the Davis Cup team.

Later that spring the U.S. met Mexico in the next round. Connors had a plane ticket paid for by the USLTA to join the squad in Mexico City, but he never showed, choosing instead to go to England and practice on the grass for Wimbledon. The following year he volunteered his services to the team for the final round, but was turned down by Ralston.

In 1974 tempers simmered. Ralston claims that before cup play that season he tried to phone Connors on three occasions but was not allowed to speak to him. Riordan says J. Harcourt Woods, the chairman of the USLTA Davis Cup committee, contacted him about the possibility of Connors playing. According to Riordan, Woods said the team did not need Connors against Mexico, but could use him in the following round against South Africa.

After Mexico's upset victory in Palm Springs, on the same day Connors was defeating Laver in his first challenge match, Woods called Connors "unpatriotic."

Riordan has made Dell a plotter in all of this. Yet Dell says he never fully agreed with Ralston in his handling of Connors. "When I was captain, I wanted to win above anything," Dell says. "I would make Jimmy Connors' mother my manager if that's what it took to get him to play. In 1973 Laver and Newcombe didn't join the Australian team until the last match, and I'm not sure I wouldn't have brought in Connors if he sincerely wanted to play. But Dennis is a strong-willed individual, and when he makes up his mind, that's it."

Some think the Dell-Riordan quarrel affected the composition of this year's cup team. For example, why wasn't young Vitas Gerulaitis, a Riordan man, chosen for the team after he destroyed the Mexican star, Raul Ramirez, at the Philadelphia Indoors three weeks before Ramirez wiped out the U.S. team?

Ashe, for the defense, says no man should be picked for the squad on the basis of one match. Yet Ralston picked Stockton (also a non-Dell man, remember), and then played him in the key doubles with Bob Lutz on the basis of no matches. Both Lutz and Stockton are backhand side players in doubles and had never competed together. They blew a big lead in losing. So what price Stockton? It is a measure of the deep-seated feelings in both camps that a rumor persists that Stockton was selected only to pacify the anti-Dell faction.

"My feelings must have really been torn," says Dell, who has become cynical rather than angry about the entire affair. "Ramirez, my Mexican guy, against all my U.S. guys. Who do I root for?"

The new Davis Cup captain, Tony Trabert, is not known as a "Dell guy." But neither is he a bosom buddy of Connors (read Riordan). To be sure, Riordan claims he got Trabert the job doing the TV commentary of the Connors-Newcombe challenge match only to have to listen to criticism of his client. Riordan has said, "Tony sometimes talks like a man who has lost touch with reality." Nor did Connors take kindly to some of Trabert's remarks on the telecast, and this may be another reason for absenting himself from the team. The bleat goes on.

Because he has so many Establishment credentials it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Dell, like his nemesis Riordan, has been a maverick for most of his 37 years. In addition, though it must be distasteful to both, their spat has resulted in their becoming solidly entwined—like Fric and Frac—in the public domain.

Bud Collins, the barefoot Boston bard of the tennis media and a friend of both, recalls the time a few winters ago when Dell was struck by an auto in London and hospitalized with an injured leg. "I sent a telegram to Donald," says Collins, "which read, 'Who was driving, Riordan?' Then I realized that it couldn't have been Bill, of course. He'd have been more thorough."

At Yale, says a man who knew him there, Dell was never In. To many, he was hostile and arrogant, probably a result of his competitiveness on the tennis court. At 15 he had been a phenomenon out of Bethesda, Md., the national boys' champion, but never again would he dominate on any level.

Out on the tour in the summer of 1964, Dell stayed in Portugal and skipped a domestic tournament. In those days the USLTA controlled a player's life, permitting him only one week in Europe after Wimbledon. Dell was suspended and prohibited from taking any expense money for two years. But he got a lawyer and threatened to expose the system of fake amateurism and under-the-table payoffs. The USLTA backed down.

"I was the brash, arrogant bad boy," Dell says, "but the whole system was so damn phony, I vowed to try and change it. Players had to earn their rights sometime."

That time came in 1973, when the ATP became the first players' organization to hold together during an important crunch. After the Yugoslavian association in effect demanded the head of Nikki Pilic and suspended him for nine months, Wimbledon went along with the suspension, thus precipitating a boycott by the ATP. Dell, its legal counsel, held the ATP in line by cable and transatlantic calls during the struggle at the precipice, and 89 of 92 players signed letters of withdrawal from the tournament. At some point it must have flashed across Dell's vision that Nikki Pilic of Split, down there pounding at the gates of Wimbledon, was Donald Dell of Bethesda, pacing the anterooms of the USLTA just 10 years before.

As business representative for Ashe, Dell signed him up with the Head racket company in what is perhaps the richest deal in the history of tennis. Shortly thereafter Dell brought Ashe and WCT together in another whopper of a contract calling for more than three-quarters of a million dollars. Laver and Newcombe, among other Australians, are embittered because Ashe has continued to outpoint them in visibility and in money while consistently being beaten by them on the court. And Dell sympathizes with the Australians, saying that such contracts do tend to "spoil incentive."

Since he was counsel for ATP and present at its creation, Dell must have taken part in the drafting of that body's original constitution, which forbade personal contracts for guaranteed income, permitting participation only in prize-money tournaments. But at this same time Dell was said to have been negotiating World Team Tennis contracts for several of his clients. Today 10 of his men are WTT players, but Dell was also a party to the agreement that prohibited Connors from competing in the 1974 French Open because he was a WTT player.

Dell is also the major licensing agent for ATP, in which capacity, evidence suggests, his intentions have always been honorable. Instead of working solely for his own clients, he has been serving the entire organization. An American Airlines-sponsored tournament in Tucson might have started out as a Dell all-stars contest, but it has ended up as a $200,000 tournament for the whole ATP.

In addition, the ATP official ball contract was made with Spalding, which didn't exactly make Executive Director Jack Kramer and Dell's own Stan Smith popular with their employer, Wilson Sporting Goods. The deal, however, provided further evidence of Dell's fairness.

As tournament promoter, TV announcer, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, butcher, baker and candlestick maker, Dell is the unquestioned heavyweight king of conflicts of interest. Can he talk his way out of that one? You bet.

"Are all of these real conflicts?" Dell says. "Certainly they are. But the issue is disclosure. Are the conflicts disclosed to all parties? Yes, they are. Everyone in tennis who is doing anything has conflicts of interest. If they didn't, they wouldn't know what was going on. But they should be judged on disclosure and performance. If I was a crook, I'd be out on my tail from any of these jobs. If I didn't perform, I'd be out.

"At every ATP board meeting I lay everything on the line. Am I fair in serving two masters, the ATP and my own players? If I'm not, they should fire me.

"I bend over backward, like Caesar's wife, to support the ATP. On TV I don't hide the fact that I manage players. I'm proud of my players because of what they stand for and what they help me stand for. My name and integrity are worth more than any single deal we can make for anybody. If my guys ever foul up on a contract or commitment, they're on the carpet. Remember this one thing, and don't forget it: I represent the nicest and most honorable guys in the game today, and that's no accident."

It was in the spring of 1972 that 51-year-old Bill Riordan officially came together with 19-year-old Jimmy Connors. This was no accident—remember, the nicest and most honorable guys in the game today were already spoken for.

One imagines the occasion being featured by sparks and little cherry bombs going off inside their brain cells. But, probably, Riordan just walked up to the infant prodigy and offered him a lollipop. It could have been love at first sight.

Over and over again Riordan is questioned about how this marriage of convenience and chaos came to be, and always the litany of meeting and melding is rendered in the same way. A shrug, a smile, then a sigh.

Thankfully omitting "Once upon a time," Riordan begins almost wearily. "The story is already so famous," he says. "But his mother Gloria and his grandmother Two-Mom said how nice I was, and wouldn't it be great to have a guy like me represent a guy like Jimmy. We're generations apart, as you know, but practically the same person. The only difference is that when I started out, I made the choice between good and evil, and picked good. This kid went the other way."

Riordan's two challenge matches for Connors staged in the Vegas desert were true extravaganzas, and every PR type alive seemed to contribute his wares. Yet Riordan stood alone. Whenever interest sagged, there he was to hype the event with just one more controversy, one more crisis.

His final gimmick, on the morning of the Newcombe match, nearly made Sidney Gathrid, the Caesars Palace director of entertainment, apoplectic. At a breakfast meeting of match officials Riordan burst in and roared, "That's it. It's all over. Connors doesn't go on. We demanded blue towels on the court, not paper towels." The victims should have known Riordan by then; they should have realized it was only another joke. But they turned stark pale, anyway.

The Jimbo-at-Caesars shots worked twice, but they were mere bagatelles compared to what Riordan did long ago with a dead tournament at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York.

It was called the National Indoors, and he took it out of the Big Apple and set it down in the Big Chicken, his adopted home of Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern shore. With financial aid provided by the town's chicken industry, Riordan promoted the National Indoors into a major title. In the next few years he originated several other indoor events, taking the game to the bushes—Macon, Ga., Omaha, Birmingham, Roanoke, Va.—and singlehandedly he made indoor tennis in this country.

Back then Bill Veeck and Kelso the horse were all anybody cared about on the Eastern shore. Now Frank Perdue, the chicken king from Salisbury, is all over national TV, pushing his juicy hens, and Riordan has Frank over to play tennis. All the chickens have come home to roost in Bill Riordan's backyard.

Irish through and through, Riordan grew up in a large family on Long Island. His father was president of Stern Brothers department stores. Sports were a big part of Bill's early years, especially tennis and boxing. In 1930 his father took Riordan to his first tennis match, the finals at Forest Hills in which Johnny Doeg, a lefthander, beat Frank Shields 16-14 in the fourth set. The 10-year-old was hooked. He has been to every Forest Hills since, including last year's when another lefthander, this time his own, was the winner.

The senior Riordan's game was prizefighting. He owned a piece of Jack Delaney, the light-heavyweight champion, and he was a fixture in first row, ringside at Madison Square Garden as well as at all the Catskill training camps, where he often took his son. Some of Bill Riordan's proudest possessions are pictures of himself posing with Max Schmeling, Max Baer and Marcel Cerdan.

Riordan prepped at the Newman School in Lakewood, N.J. (alma mater of F. Scott Fitzgerald, he never hesitates to point out), where he played some tennis and wrote a humor column for the Newman News. An admirer of Evelyn Waugh and George S. Kaufman, Riordan drifted quickly into satire. "Some of my greatest lines came very early," he says.

He worked his way through Georgetown University and began collecting the Damon Runyon characters he loves to emulate, particularly a local bookmaker named Feets. The son of Feets went by the name of Turtle and, in those days, they called Riordan "Willie." He came out of the Army and what he calls "an easy war; I never went overseas," with administrative experience gained as a major in the Supply Corps. Then he went to work in New York in his father's store and climbed up the merchandising ladder. In 1946 he married a pert redhead, a Colorado farm girl named Terry Andersen whom he had met under the Biltmore clock, and they spent five nights a week hitting the spots. In 1950 they lost a baby in a crib death, and six weeks later Riordan's father died. Soon he was drinking heavily and hating New York.

The Riordans moved to Denver, then back East to Salisbury, where they opened a small specialty dress shop. Three years later Riordan was broke and forced into an "intellectual decision. My mother told me there were three types of people who can't drink. The Irish, the Indians and everybody else. I stopped. I had been smoking three packs a day. I quit cold on that, too. I turned the business around."

There were four outdoor courts in Salisbury with grass growing in the cracks when Riordan moved there in 1954. He started a junior development program and jumped into tennis with the vengeance of a man who needed something to replace all those martinis. His program became so large and popular that the local baseball Pony League tried to kill it with a contract clause prohibiting a youngster from engaging in both sports.

Riordan coached the Wicomico High tennis team to a 58-4 record. He organized massive junior tournaments and sent to the state tournament good young players who came back champions. He started invitational eight-man weekend events, and the town became a hotbed of tennis activity for adults as well as children. During this period Riordan founded the Eastern Shore Tennis Association, was active in the Middle Atlantic Lawn Tennis Association (MALTA) and was elected a delegate to the USLTA in 1964, the same year he brought the National Indoors to Salisbury.

That tournament was a landmark event in more ways than one. Sports Network televised it coast to coast and the announcer did a lengthy interview with Riordan. The announcer was Jack Kramer. A first-round loser in the tournament was Donald Dell.

With MALTA and the new indoor tournaments as his power base, Riordan became the strongest single figure in the USLTA. Certainly he was the smartest, although even then this was not considered that terrific a compliment. At one time he was a member of 11 USLTA committees. His players competed on both the Caribbean circuit and in some of his indoor events and he cemented relations with foreign players, especially South Americans and East Europeans.

"Riordan realized the key was getting close to the players," says Dell. "He was a damn good promoter and always treated everybody well."

In more recent years, however, some foreign stars have complained about Riordan. Ray Moore, the self-professed hippie from South Africa, claims Riordan barred him from the indoor circuit because of his outspoken opinions against U.S. marijuana laws. Patricio Cornejo, a Chilean, accuses Riordan of reneging on an agreement to let him play some U.S. tournaments. Jaime Fillol of Chile and Gerald Battrick of England speak of Riordan's carelessness regarding tax withholding money. Most recently Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia says Riordan defaulted on part of a guarantee promised him for appearing on the indoor circuit last winter.

Underneath Riordan's bluster and verbosity, he is a devoted family man—his son is a junior at the University of Utah; a married daughter works in the physics lab at MIT. He is, moreover, a man of sharp intellect and simple tastes, who quotes Shakespeare and Donne, wears rumpled suits, drives a used Dodge and has an outrageous sense of humor. He once used his own home to stage a fiendish gag on what he considered the uppity social set of Salisbury. This was a fraudulent "musicale" to which 300 of the town's finest were invited. Properly wined and primed, the unsuspecting guests then sat in shock as a Riordan conspirator, posing as "the distinguished pianist from the Peabody School in Baltimore, Dr. Franz Hauptfmann," proceeded to play Jingle Bells while downing huge slugs from a bottle of Scotch.

Another time Riordan informed Dell, a student at Virginia Law who played Salisbury twice, that a bevy of beauty contestants was staying on the top floor of the players' hotel, but that the sponsoring Jaycees had been assured that there would be no monkey business. After midnight Dell was discovered poking around the attic with a flashlight in a vain search for the fabricated lovelies.

Riordan's most treasured inventions have centered on a fictitious player, Stanley Stampenzak, the great Polish junior champion, about whom he would regale his junior players for hours. Stampenzak was a dangerous sort who would arrive at his matches via Air Warsaw wearing a Nazi war helmet, swig from a thermos of vodka and coldcock anybody who got in his way. Since Stampenzak was always being suspended for terrorizing linesmen and opponents, nobody ever got a glimpse of him, but few are the pros now on the tour who did not fear Stanley in their youth. Brian Gottfried says, "I believed in Stanley for two years. Then I talked to somebody who said he played him in a tournament. The dummy gave me the wrong date."

Not only Dell, but Ashe—the current president of ATP—and most everybody else were friendly with Riordan back then. He was especially gifted in under-the-table handouts and, Ashe remembers, he sometimes rewarded a player who had had a good tournament with extra cash.

"The one picture I have of Riordan," says Ashe, "is him peeling some $100 bills off his wad, and saying, 'First class, first class' out of the side of his mouth. Other promoters paid you on the sly because it was illegal. Riordan made a show of it, acted like he was granting a favor and never looked you in the eye."

When open tennis reared its head in 1968, Riordan fought it tooth and nail. He was at the zenith of his power, but an open game with players controlling their own destinies would change all that.

In the mid-to-late '60s two tragedies hit the Riordan family. His sister Peggy died from burns after her negligee was set ablaze by a spark from the fireplace in a cottage in Lake Mahopac, N.Y. and his brother Mike was killed when a mud slide hit his home in Mandeville Canyon, outside Los Angeles.

In this same period Riordan came into tons of money from the stock market when Scientific Data Systems, in which he had substantial holdings, sold out to Xerox. After the windfall, Riordan's first thought was to start drinking again. Instead he elected to plunge into the tennis wars that were threatening to destroy him as an independent promoter. It was right then that Riordan assumed the mysterious profile the public has come to know and love—a stealthy figure lingering in doorways. "This was my 1920s gangster period, my Arnold Rothstein look," Riordan says. "I did a lot of fingering lapels and whispering in ears."

In the midst of his battles with WCT, with the USLTA, with Kramer and Dell, each one surpassing the last in sheer tedium, Riordan discovered, nurtured and, in a pact straight out of The Devil and Daniel Webster, grabbed a precocity named Jimmy Connors and created one of the most controversial figures on the American sports scene. It was no shell game that Bill Riordan pulled off this time. Like it or not, the game of tennis is going to have him and his star player to kick around a long time.

"We've even taken on Johnny Carson," Riordan said recently. "I announced my guy would not go on the Carson show because of the derogatory things Carson had said, and Jimmy is so sensitive. What does Carson know from anything? Now the guy is so puzzled and mad at Jimmy; you should have seen his face in Vegas. I figure if you're going to go after somebody, go after God. Who else can tell Carson to go to hell and get away with it but Jimmy Connors? That's what promotion is all about."

So the two masterminds of tennis are actually Caesar's wife and Arnold Rothstein. Last summer after Connors had won the national clay courts championship at Indianapolis he was questioned on national television by the PBS announcers, Kramer and Caesar's wife. It was a short and innocuous exchange. But what could one expect? It might have been the first time in TV history that two men conducted an interview with a third who had just sued them for $10 million. That is what tennis is all about.

THREE ILLUSTRATIONS