This day in sports: John McEnroe loses his cool at Wimbledon in 1981

John McEnroe celebrates after defeating Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1981.
John McEnroe celebrates after winning his first Wimbledon title in 1981.
(Associated Press)

In a fit of bad manners, John McEnroe shouted “you cannot be serious” on this date in 1981 during his 7-6 (5), 7-5, 6-3 first-round win over Tom Gullikson at Wimbledon.

McEnroe’s tantrum was prompted when his return of Gullikson’s serve was ruled out by chair umpire Edward James. He also called James “the pits of the world” and an “incompetent fool.”

McEnroe asked that head referee Fred Hoyles be summoned when James assessed the No. 2-seeded American from Douglaston, N.Y., a point penalty.

After McEnroe lost his argument with Hoyles, Gullikson held serve and McEnroe called Hoyles an “imbecile” on the changeover, which drew another point penalty from James.

McEnroe, who was two outbursts away from forfeiting, was later fined $1,500.


The Dodgers on Monday were scheduled to play the first of three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. The Angels were to face the Boston Red Sox in the first of three at Angel Stadium. Both games were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a look at other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

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June 20, 2020

1938 — In a rematch portrayed as “Roosevelt vs. Hitler” and “good vs. evil,” Joe Louis of the United States knocks out Germany’s Max Schmeling at 2 minutes 4 seconds of the first round before 80,000 fans on a humid night at Yankee Stadium in New York to retain the world heavyweight championship. An undefeated Louis had lost to Schmeling in 1936. It is Louis’ fourth defense of his title, and the bout’s political implications draw more than 100 million people to listen on the radio.

1994 — The Houston Rockets, led by center Hakeem Olajuwon, win their first NBA championship by beating the New York Knicks 90-84 in Game 7 of the Finals. Olajuwon has 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots. Vernon Maxwell adds 21 points for the Rockets, while Derek Harper leads the Knicks with 23.

1999 — In one of the biggest upsets in the history of Wimbledon, No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis of Switzerland loses in the first round 6-2, 6-0 to Jelena Dokic of Australia, a 16-year-old qualifier ranked No. 129. Dokic wins three qualifying matches to get into the main draw at the All England Club in London. Other top seeds to lose in the opening round of a major include Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1994 and Virginia Ruzici at the Australian Open in 1979.

2001 — Karrie Webb of Australia sets two scoring records in the second round of the LPGA Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del. She fires a seven-under-par 64 for a three-stroke lead that puts her at 11-under 131, topping the 36-hole record by two strokes. The round includes a 29 on the front for the lowest nine-hole score in the 47-year history of the tournament. Webb would go on to beat Laura Diaz by two strokes to become the youngest player, at 26, to clinch a career Grand Slam.


2006 — The U.S. soccer team is eliminated from World Cup play at Nuremberg, Germany, when it loses 2-1 to Ghana. The U.S. ties the score late in the first half, but Ghana, on a controversial call, is awarded a penalty kick that it converts to regain the lead as the half is extended into extra time.

Despite spikes of COIVD-19 cases, sports leagues are stubbornly moving forward with resuming or starting their seasons, writes columnist Bill Plaschke.

June 20, 2020

2007 — For the first time, Americans are the top choices in the NHL draft in Columbus, Ohio. The Chicago Blackhawks select center Patrick Kane of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights with the first overall pick. The Philadelphia Flyers then select left wing James van Riemsdyk from the U.S. under-18 team with the second. Ten American players are selected in the first round of the two-day draft.

2012 — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is convicted by a jury in Bellefonte, Pa., on 45 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. The accusations had led to the firing of Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, who died of cancer Jan. 22, 2012. The university’s Board of Trustees ousted Paterno in November 2011 for what was called his “failure of leadership” surrounding allegations about Sandusky.

2014 — Michelle Wie wins the U.S. Women’s Open at the Pinehurst No. 2 course in Pinehurst, N.C., for her first major championship when she beats top-ranked Stacy Lewis by two shots. Wie makes a 25-foot birdie putt on the 71st hole and then closes out her victory with a par on the last for a final-round 70. Lewis shoots a 66 that includes eight birdies.

2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo sets up Silvestre Varela for a late goal to give Portugal a 2-2 draw with the U.S. in group play of the World Cup at Manaus, Brazil. Ronaldo, Portugal’s star who had been bottled up at midfield by a crowded U.S. defense, takes advantage of a loose ball and passes to Varela, who scores on a powerful header past goalkeeper Tim Howard late in extra time.

Sources: The Times, Associated Press