An ode to the sport of tennis by Mike Wallace

Browsing the archives, we found this oddity--a love letter to the sport of choice for 60 Minutes correspondents in the 1970s


Browsing through the archives, we recently came across this 70s-era oddity--a sort of love letter to the sport of tennis by Mike Wallace.

You won't find any of Wallace's trademark zingers in this piece; in fact, there are no interviews at all. The only questions posed are the philosophical kind: "What kind of game is tennis really? And why do those who play play it?" Clearly, this isn't the kind of story "60 Minutes" would run today. But in 1973, when the broadcast was still in its infancy, Wallace could show footage of himself in his tennis whites, dashing around the court as his voice narrated in a dreamy tone, "These are the dreams of tennis..."

Legends of the U.S. Open
We scrubbed the "60 Minutes" archives back to the 70s for our favorite moments in tennis

Mike Wallace has been a tennis fanatic for decades. He produced this "60 Minutes" piece, titled "Tennis, Everyone?," in his mid-50s and continued to play well into his 80s. Now 93 and retired, he recently visited with "60 Minutes" producer Ira Rosen, and Wallace recalled the matches they played more vividly than some of the stories they reported.

Nearly 30 years ago, a 26-year-old Rosen interviewed for a job as Mike's producer. His resume wasn't particularly long at the time. "Mike looked at me and said, 'I know what I can do for you, but what can you do for me?,'" remembers Rosen. Noticing the tennis mementos behind Wallace's desk, Rosen responded that he had played for the Cornell tennis team. The job was his. Years later, Wallace explained the hire to him, saying: "I could always fire you, but at least I could get 6 months of tennis out of you first."

Wallace never did fire Rosen, and the two played singles whenever they were on the road shooting "60 Minutes" stories. "You had to lose to him, otherwise the shoot would go horribly," says Rosen. "It was part of my job-- get the interview, get the room, figure out who the cameraman was, and lose to Mike."

After matches, Mike often boasted to interview subjects that he'd beaten his young producer, says Rosen. "He would tell people like Marlon Brando." Once, Wallace even announced his winning score over the loudspeaker at the office.

CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager got similar treatment when he and Morley Safer once played doubles against Wallace. "I knew that if we lost he would be talking about it for years. We did and he did," says Fager. "He wasn't that good but he was tenacious as hell, just as he was in an interview. And he taunted us from the other side of the net with the same ferocity and language as when ambushing a bad guy on 60 Minutes."