Carroll: The Empires Strike Backhand

It was just a few years ago that it seemed inevitable that Forest Hills Stadium would have an inevitable date with a wrecker’s ball and would be replaced by condominiums. The stadium was in a bad state of disrepair and it seemed like a lifetime ago that it was home to concerts by such legendary names as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Monkees, and Hall & Oates just to scratch the surface. The United States Tennis Association moved the US Open, which had clearly outgrown the place, to Flushing Meadows, in 1978.

Against all odds,  Forest Hillis Stadium has made an improbable comeback as it has hosted a wide array of concerts the past three summers. This summer the Stadium will return to its tennis roots as it will host six matches between July 31 and August 12 of the New York Empire of World Team Tennis.

Last week the New York Empire held a press event at the West Side Tennis Club to introduce its coach, Douglaston native Patrick McEnroe, and their star player, Christina McHale,  who currently ranks 57th on the women’s tour.

Like his famous older brother John, Patrick McEnroe has a charming self-deprecating sense of humor. He did not have much success, probably through no fault of his own, captaining either  the US Davis Cup team or being in charge of player development for the USTA. “Andy Roddick will be playing for of us in one home match and one away. He was the last American to win a Grand Slam event and that was back in 2003–a fact that I am frequently reminded about!” Patrick said with a hearty chuckle.

McEnroe added that World Team Tennis is the only true co-ed professional sport and that male and female players are equally compensated.

Unlike most tennis matches where patrons are expected to be quiet, WTT officials want fans to cheer or even boo. Music is played between points to further create a lively atmosphere.

World Team Tennis was the brainchild of Billie Jean King in the early 1970s, whose team back then, the Philadelphia Freedom, inspired Elton John to write his 1975 big hit of the same name. It has survived the last 4o years but it has largely been under the sports radar.

Christina McHale said that she believes that the fact the WTT season is taking place in August will attract quality players since it’s a way of getting some competition in before the US Open. She may have a point as such well-known US Open players as Caroline Wozniacki, John Isner, Sam Querrey and, Donald Young will be taking part in the WTT.

The WTT championship will take place at Forest Hills on August 26 which is the eve of the start of the US Open. League executives figure that will draw a who’s who of tennis royalty.

The Mets realistically couldn’t have asked for a better road trip as they went 7-2 as they took two out of three from both the Cleveland Indians and the pesky Philadelphia Phillies while sweeping an awful Atlanta Braves team who certainly don’t resemble the teams that used to drive the Mets and their fans crazy for at least a generation.

Most significant was the fine pitching performance turned in by Jacob deGrom who has not had it easy the last couple of weeks because of a strained muscle that runs from his back to his chest, and more importantly, dealing with a health scare involving his newborn son.

In case you’ve forgotten about those terrific Atlanta Braves teams which had one of the best pitching staffs in history led by Hall of Famers Greg Maddux Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, and an offense led by third baseman, Mets killer, and certain Cooperstown inductee Chipper Jones, I highly recommend reading “When The Braves Ruled The Diamond” (Sports Publishing) written by longtime baseball and travel author Dan Schlossberg.

While the Mets were enjoying a fruitful road trip the Yankees were enduring a disappointing 3-6 homestand. Sunday’s finale at Yankee Stadium typified the frustrations of the Bronx Bombers as Michael Pineda, a pitcher the Yankees are relying heavily on this season, got lit up by the Tampa Bay Rays. Alex Rodriguez had to leave the game with oblique stiffness (which sounds similar to the injury that sidelined Jacob deGrom). At age 42 you get the feeling that these kind of ailments are going to become more common for A-Rod.

Congratulations to Queens Vocational &Technical senior Mauricio Bustamante who was awarded a $2,000 college scholarship by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

A lot was made of ESPN firing its controversial baseball analyst Curt Schilling after he posted an offensive cartoon relating to the North Carolina legislation that stripped its LGBT residents of anti-discriminatory protections. What didn’t get as much play was the Twitter response of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy who attacked Schilling for promoting the baseless transgender bathroom bogeyman myths.

Michael Strahan has to be thinking that his days as a Giants linebacker were a walk in the park compared to the cutthroat world of network television. Strahan, who has partnered with Kelly Ripa for the last four years on the phenomenally successful syndicated morning TV show, “Live with Kelly & Michael,” is leaving for a higher-paying twice-a-week gig on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

What made things thorny for Strahan was that Disney executives, who oversee both ABC and “Live with Kelly & Michael,” ordered him not to tip off Kelly Ripa until he was given the green light by them. Needless to say, she was understandably livid at her perceived lack of respect from the Disney/ABC brass.

Movie art has become the latest status item for folks who like to collect things that aren’t stamps, coins, or sports cards. Choice Collectibles has art pieces ranging from film superheroes to classic Warner Brothers cartoons that range in all price points, with some costing four figures. Another movie collectible company, Kernel, is selling a crossbow likeness from the upcoming film, “Assassin’s Creed” (which is based on a popular video game) for $1,200. The company claims that the film prop replica is based on an exquisite 15th century crossbow.

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