Pam Shriver traded in her prime courtside commentary position at the U.S. Open tennis tournament for a cubbyhole in what used to be a wet bar in her Brentwood home.
The shelves in the background of her ESPN reports hold an eclectic mix of books about the Baltimore Orioles — she’s a member of the team’s limited partnership group — Pushkin poetry and plays, rare editions of works by Mark Twain and Victor Hugo, books on parenting, books by the late sportswriter Frank DeFord, and the Baltimore-centered novels of author Anne Tyler. Shriver also set up an assortment of memorabilia from her five U.S. Open doubles titles and her singles runner-up finish in 1978.
Of course, she put tennis books on display. Lots of them, besides “Passing Shots,” the book she co-wrote, which was published in 1987. The mix includes books by or about Harry Hopman, Chris Evert, Monica Seles, Dick Enberg and James Blake. Among her favorites are two copies of Bud Collins’ tennis encyclopedia and a copy of “Pressure Is a Privilege” by Billie Jean King.
“Everybody covering a major from home, you have to have ‘Pressure Is a Privilege,’” Shriver joked during a FaceTime tour of her lair.
Concern for her family’s well-being led Shriver to decide she wouldn’t travel to New York this year. ESPN, which benefits from her copious knowledge when she interviews celebrities and analyzes tennis matches around the world, shipped TV lights, a camera and some cords to equip her new workplace. She had to rely on a local electronics store for a monitor so she could more easily tap into match statistics while chatting with fellow broadcasters on-site in New York. She also uses her kids’ long-corded gaming mouse for troubleshooting with the camera.
“My office is just off my master bedroom,” Shriver said. “One of my theories is I needed to double-door it with three kids at home.”
Those kids are the primary reason she stayed in California. Her oldest son, 16-year-old George, has Type 1 diabetes. He and 15-year-old twins Sam and Kaitlin are learning remotely from three different high schools — George at Palisades High, Sam at Viewpoint in Calabasas and Kaitlin at Harvard-Westlake. The children’s father, 81-year-old actor George Lazenby, comes to see them often. Three family members have underlying medical conditions, Shriver said, and she felt compelled to be with them during these strange times.
“The decision really wasn’t a decision in my case, given I’m a single mom of these three kids,” she said. “Obviously, we all want to be there. Tennis history is being written. I wanted to be there but I knew I just couldn’t.”
The length and risk of the cross-country flight was a big concern. “I felt like being on the inside and hearing all the U.S. Tennis Assn. was going to do to keep the bubble as safe as possible, if I could just sort of beam up and get there without the travel it may have been a different situation,” said Shriver, who won 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, 20 of them in women’s doubles with Martina Navratilova. “In the end, it was a pretty easy decision, but you miss being there.”
She misses the camaraderie, the up-close view of matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and experiencing her life and tennis career curling back on themselves. Her son George is the same age she was when she reached her lone Grand Slam singles final, the 1978 U.S. Open. “It’s kind of an interesting look back at how old I was, when I think about my son,” she said.
Shriver lost that final to Chris Evert, who became her friend and broadcast partner. The last flight Shriver took before the pandemic put life on hold was in February, when she attended the funeral of Evert’s sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin.