By Randy Walker
The 1977 U.S. Open was one of the most chaotic and crazy major tennis tournaments ever played. The number of quirky storylines that came out of the tournament is uncanny. For starters, it marked the last time that the historic West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills hosted the event after 62 years. It marked the site of trans-sexual Renee Richards playing in the women’s singles event. Tracy Austin made her major debut at the age of 14. John McEnroe made his U.S. Open singles debut – and received his first ever code of conduct penalty. Michael Fishbach beat former U.S. Open champ Stan Smith using a “spaghetti” racquet.
Perhaps the craziest episode occurred on September 4 when a fan in the stands was actually shot in the leg by a stray bullet. The summer of 1977
was one of the most turbulent in the history of New York City with riots, looting, the “Son of Sam” killer on the loose, and this strange shooting was yet another chapter in this strange staging of the national tennis championships of the United States.
The excerpt from my “On This Day In Tennis History” book (for sale and download: https://www.amazon.com/This-Tennis-History-Day-Day/dp/0942257421/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1599231498&sr=8-1) can be seen below:
1977 – James Reilly, a 33-year-old resident of New York City, is shot in the left thigh as a spectator at the John McEnroe – Eddie Dibbs third-round night match at the U.S. Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. The shooting, from a .38 caliber gun, occurs at the start of the match near Portal 8 in the north section of the stadium and delays play for about six minutes as Reilly is taken from the stands to the first aid station and then to nearby St. John’s Hospital. Most of the 6, 943 fans in attendance are not aware that a shooting had occurred. Police conclude it was likely a shot that came from outside the stadium. McEnroe wins the best-of-three set match 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
In 2012, the New York Times made a call out to try to find Mr. Reilly that was left unanswered (as seen here: https://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/were-you-shot-at-the-1977-u-s-open/) Mr. Reilly would be 76 years old in 2020. Does anyone know his whereabouts? If so, let us know! Email me at Rwalker@NewChapterMedia.com
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