Times Staff Writer

Kramer might have been best ever

Greatness is a word sometimes tossed around casually in sports, but when it’s right, it’s right, and one of the greatest players in the history of tennis turns 87 today. So celebrate Jack Kramer.

He might have been the greatest of all time, but Kramer said the best he had ever seen was Don Budge, and lists Ellsworth Vines, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, and, yes, probably Roger Federer in the same group.

“It’s hard to compare eras,” Kramer says. “But I believe if you gave Don Budge modern equipment, a lighter racket instead of a wooden one, he’d more than hold his own.”


Kramer, who was probably the first world-class player to concentrate on a serve-and-volley game, won the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills in 1946-47 and Wimbledon in 1947.

He doubtless would have won more if the open era had happened earlier.

Instead, he played a series of 88 matches against Bobby Riggs (and made $87,000); and then 123 matches against Gonzales (and made $75,000).

Kramer, who lives in Los Angeles, became the leading promoter of pro tennis tours, pushed for the open tennis era that included both pros and amateurs, and was the first executive director of the Assn. of Tennis Professionals.

Trivia time

What was Kramer’s yearly salary as the leader of the ATP?

Medal mania

You’re watching the Beijing Olympics and you’re wondering where that athlete went to school in the U.S.?

Chances are it’s USC, or maybe UCLA.

There will be 38 former or current athletes and six coaches from USC at the Olympics; and 32 athletes plus six coaches from UCLA.

The Trojans have sent more athletes to the Games than any university -- from 1904-2004 a total of 363, including at least one gold-medal winner at every Summer Olympics since 1912.

Size matters

They’re No. 2. That would be the Seattle Seahawks, who will open their 19-acre, 220,000-square foot practice facility next month, second in size only to the one being built by the New York Jets.

Included in the Seahawks’ new amenities: a two-story weight room, a kitchen, dining area, an auditorium and room outdoors for three complete fields. Players, though, are extra.

Call Lester Hayes

You never know where great ideas are going to come from, and this one is from Corvallis, Ore., where the Oregon State Beavers are planning to debut their new football uniforms in their opener, Aug. 28 at Stanford.

According to the Portland Oregonian, the Beavers’ Nike uniforms produce a “tight, shrink-wrapped fit that minimizes grab points.”

Minimizing grab points can only be a plus for anyone trying not to get tackled.

Trivia answer

One dollar.

And finally

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle said the Rockets are trying to make themselves bigger in a town dominated by the Texans and Astros, so their gamble in acquiring Ron Artest is understandable:

“Just win, baby. Character? Not important. Potential for trouble? We’ll take our chances.”