News brief: First in shorts, last Brit in finals

When Andy Murray steps on Centre Court at Wimbledon tomorrow, he will be the first British gentleman to reach the Wimbledon finals since Henry Wilfred “Bunny” Austin in 1938.

Bunny is best known as the first tennis player to wear shorts. In 1932 he decided that the traditional tennis attire, cricket flannels, weighed him down too much. He suffered from jaundice and was handicapped by the weight of his sweat-soaked long trousers in hot weather.

Austin bought a pair of shorts to use at Forest Hills in the 1937 US Open, and subsequently became the first player to wear them at Wimbledon.

Here are 10 other “Bunny” Austin sparklers:

1. The nickname Bunny came from a comic strip, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

2. While still an undergraduate at Cambridge University he reached the semi-finals of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon in 1926.

3. By the 1930s, Austin was ranked among the world’s top ten players.

4. In his first Wimbledon men’s singles final in 1932 he was beaten by Ellsworth Vines of the United States in three sets. In the 1938 championship, Austin lost to American Don Budge, 6-1, 6-0. 6-3.

5. He was a key member of the British David Cup team that won three straight titles starting in 1933.

6. A pioneer, Austin is credited with the design of the modern tennis racket — the split shaft.

7. Bunny married the actress Phyllis Konstam in 1931, after meeting her on a transatlantic liner while travelling for the US Open. Together, they were one of the celebrity couples of the age

8. Austin played tennis with Charlie Chaplin, was a friend of Daphne du Maurier, Ronald Colman and Harold Lloyd, and met both Queen Mary and FDR.

9. Although ostracized by the All-England Club because he was a conscientious objector, he served as a private in the US Army Air Force during World War II.

10. He died on his 94th birthday in 2000, several months after appearing at Centre Court during a millennium celebration.

BTW: The last Englishman to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry, who beat German Gottfried von Cramm 6–1, 6–1, 6–0, in 1936 for his third straight championship…The last British woman to win Wimbledon was Virginia Wade in 1977

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10 things about Horace Clarke you don’t know

Between 1964 and 1976 the New York Yankees endured one of the longest dry spells in team history, 12 years without an American League pennant after winning five in a row and 14 flags in 16 years.

Those years, sometimes compared to the decline of the Roman Empire, became known as the “Horace Clarke Era.” But although Horace Clarke will never be favorably compared to other Yankee second baseman, like Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano, he was a steady leadoff hitter and decent ballplayer on some lousy Yankee clubs.

And although he was often criticized for his defensive play, especially turning the double play, Clarke led American League second baseman in assists for six straight years (1968-71) and putouts four years in a row (1968-71).

For many years, he ran a baseball program for youngsters in the Virgin Islands. Now 72, he is retired and living in St. Croix.

Wanna hear more about Horace Clarke. Keep on reading:

1. Born in Frederiksted, St. Croix, in 1940, Horace was the fifth of 10 men from the U.S. Virgin Islands to make the major leagues.

2. At home he was the youngest of six children, and was called Harry.

3. His father, Dennis, was a cricketeer and also played the violin.

4. Clarke was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 1958, and made his debut in 1965.

5. He became the Yankees regular second baseman in 1967 when Bobby Richardson retired.

6. Clarke hit only 27 home runs during his career, but his first two (1965 and 1966) were grand slams. He remains the only major leaguer to ever accomplish that feat.

7. Clarke’s best season came in 1969, when he hit a career-high .285 with 33 stolen bases.

8. The following season he broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth inning — within a month. Hoss victimized Jim Rooker on June 4, Sonny Siebert on June 19 and Joe Niekro on July 2, 1970.

9. Clarke was sold to the San Diego Padres in 1974, for $25,000. He retired at the end of the 1974 season with a .256 lifetime average, 27 home runs, and 151 stolen bases.

10. He led the American League in at bats in both 1969 and 1970, and in singles in 1967 and 1971. And Clarke had the lowest at bat/strikeout ratio in 1970, one K for every 19.6 ABs.