Join Date: Jun 2004
I have no doubt that were she a competitor in today's era Maureen Connolly would have been a dominating factor, for many of the reasons already given. As Rollo says she could be a vital inch or two taller. With access to all today's advantages in technology and fitness regimes she would be competing with the biggest hitters. Look how J2H modelled her game to compete with the Williams sisters. Serve does not play a massive part in the women's game even on grass nowadays and her return of serve would immediately get her into any point. As Roan points out the one thing she had in abundance was mental toughness and IMO this is a good 50% of the equation. She quite simply refused to lose and she would have the ability to make her opponent always play that one extra shot giving an added opportunity of an error.
Below is an article published in World Tennis in 1958 concerning the Supreme Court of California ruling in the final appeal of Connolly v. Pre-Mixed Concrete Company. There are some very interesting facts there and it gives actual details of the accident:
A calm judicial appraisal of the financial return which a tennis champion can reasonably expect, forms the hard core of a recent decision of the Supreme Court of California, whuch unanimously affirmed the $95,000 award, made by a jury to Maureen Connolly, who had been severely injured while horseback riding in July 1954. The judgment of the trial court was appealed on two principal grounds: the question of negligence and a claim that the large sum awarded was excessive.
In disposing of the contention that the defendant, a company selling concrete mixed in a transit-mixer on the way to the job, the Court, in the opinion written by Chief Justice Gibson, reviewed the history of the accident in considerable detail. The testimony showed that the big truck, with its drum revolving and making considerable noise as it turned, and with a faulty exhaust pipe which added to the racket, made a left turn off the highway, into a side road eighteen feet in width. It was going at a rate of about fifteen miles per hour and could have stopped within twenty feet. Miss Connolly, with two other girls, was riding along the side road toward the main highway, Miss Connolly and a companion on one shoulder and the third girl on the other. Their horses immediately showed signs of fright and they waved to the driver in an effort to stop him. According to his testimony, he saw the girls waving but decided that the best way to avoid an accident would be to get beyond them with his noisy vehicle and so did not stop. As he approached the three riders, he was watching the single girl to his right as her horse seemed to him to be in danger of going down the bank, and he swerved his truck to the left to avoid hitting her. Miss Connolly's horse whirled and her right leg was caught by the left rear mudguard of the truck and she was thrown to the ground. The muscles of her leg were torn loose below the knee and the bone was exposed. She was hospitalized for ten days and had to wear a cast for several weeks.
The defendant concrete trucking company contended that Miss Connolly had had time to dismount when she saw the danger that confronted her, that her horse had whirled before putting her on notice that it was easily frightened, and that she might have taken a bridle path to reach her destination instead of riding along a public road. It also defended the action of its driver, claiming that he took a "last clear chance" to avoid the accident when he decided to get by the horses and remove the noisy truck from the scene as quickly as possible. The Supreme Court, however, held that the jury had properly passed on the question of negligence after hearing all of the testimony, and that its determination, that the driver of the transit-mix truck in its noise-making condition was guilty of negligence, must stand.
Turning to the question of whether the $95,000 verdict was excessive, the Supreme Court first stated the general rule saying: "Nor can we agree that the judgment must be reversed on the ground that the damages awarded were excessive. The general rule is that the amount of damages fixed by a jury and thereafter approved by the trial court on denial of motion for a new trial will not be disturbed on appeal unless the evidence shows that the award is so disproportionate to any reasonable limit of compensation as to indicate that it was the result of passion, prejudice or corruption on the part of the trier of fact."
Concerning the nature of MIss Connolly's injuries, the opinion pointed out at this point, that considerable muscular tissue had been destroyed, that there was a 40% loss of blood supply to the right foot, that the pulse at the top of the right foot had been considerably weakened and at times was absent, and that there had been testimony by a physician to the effect that she probably would encounter substantial difficulty in the use of her right foot in middle and older age.
After reviewing in considerable detail Miss Connolly's tennis career and listing the championships she had won, the Supreme Court proceeded to an analysis of the testimpony concerning her probable future earnings as a professional. It said:
"Plaintiff made several attempts to play tennis after the accident but found that shooting pains developed in her leg, and she stopped playing the game because of her injuries.
"The accident occured in July 1954, and it had been plaintiff's intention to take part in the United States championship tournament and then turn professional in October. She planned to go on a three-months professional tennis tour, for which she had been offered a percentage of the receipts, with a guarantee of $30,000. It was estimated that she would have recieved $62,500 if the tour had extended outside the United States, that she would have received additional revenue from various sources, such as endorsements of sporting goods and other articles, and that she would have cleared $50,000 during that year. Other witnesses estimated that her earnings during her first year as a professional would have been $75,000. There was evidence that the plaintiff had not yet reached the peak of her career and that she could expect at least seven or eight years' participation as a professional."
Who were these expert witnesses who cme to Miss Connolly's aid with their testimony in regard to her probable future earnings? With the usual lack of concern for anything except the facts disclosed and the legal principles involved, the Court does not bother to name them. It does give descriptions of three of them:
"The witnesses who testified as to plaintiff's earning capacity had extensive knowledge of professional tennis, and their opinions were based on their experience and information concerning the amounts earned by other tennis players. One of the witnesses had been a professional tennis champion for six years and had conducted two professional tours. Another witness, who had been connected with tennis for thirty-six years had been on the Australian Davis Cup team for a number of years and was a tennis writer for a newpaper. The third witness, the sports director for a broadcasting system, had been a champion athlete and was familiar with the earning capacity of champion tennis players."
To take the argument that Miss Connolly , as an amateur never had demonstrated the actual earning power, the Court added: " Loss of earning power is an element of general damages which can be inferred from the nature of the injury, without proof of the actual earnings or income either before or after the injury, and damages in this respect are awarded for the loss of ability thereafter to earn momey."
The closing paragraph of the opinion reads: "When consideration is given to the circumstances, inclusing the loss of earning power and the nature of the injury, we cannot say that the verdict is excessive."
According to this then Maureen would have been lost to the amateur game later in 1954 so there would not have been much more to add to her career record.
I don't know how inflation has worked in the US so I wonder how much $95,000 in the late 50s would be worth in today's terms?
Certainly her tragic death in 1969 was a tremendous loss to the tennis world for she had much to contribute as a mentor and coach. But for Maureen, Ann Jones would have ended up as an also ran with the one French title to her credit.
Maureen was asked to coach the British 1965 British Wightman Cup team. At this stage Jones who had more or less been relegated to the status of a housewife playing tennis since the beginning of 1964 and was on the verge of retiring was introduced to Mo who made her reconsider her whole attitude to the game and decide to continue. She responded by beating her personal nemesis Billie Jean Moffitt in their WC rubber and then, on grass a surface on which BJ normally tramped all over her they played a pulsating first set of 16-14 at Forest Hills. A reinvigorated Jones made 6 Slam finals in the next 4 years winning another French beating Bueno in a match some commentators rate more highly than her 69 Wimbledon win over Court and Wimbledon in 1969 including the Court win. Over the course of those four years Ann would go and stay with Maureen in her now home state of Texas. Ann says Maureen used to talk to her long into the night and it was the inspiration and guidance she received from these sessions which were ultimately responsible for her Wimbledon triumph.
I find it hard to judge players from the early part of the 20th century and while most would have Connolly around the #6 or so in an all time list, I would place her as the #1 post WWII player ahead of Court and Graf.
Margaret Thatcher - Michele Bachmann two strong women of our time.