Shriver honored by tennis royalty at Silver Tennis Ball

The ballroom glittered Wednesday night, and it had little do with the sparkling silver tennis balls in the table centerpieces at the Sheraton Inner Harbor.

The sparkle came from the tennis royalty assembled for the evening to honor Pam Shriver and her charity event the Tennis Challenge, which was retired after 25 years.

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Elise Burgin and Ellicott City's Beatrice Capra — the newest area tennis star, who made a major impact at this fall's U.S. Open — were all here for the tribute to Shriver.

And the stories were flying even before the official celebration began.

"I met Pam for the first time when she was 12 and playing an exhibition when I was in town for the Baltimore Banners," King said. "I noticed her because she was so articulate and smart. And you could see in her eyes that she was going to do something special. When I saw her at the Open in 1978, I said, 'I know her!'

"Pam is still doing great things. She helps me with the Cal State charity event that presents an award named for her late husband, Joe Shapiro, who taught there. And she was the emcee and auctioneer in Washington for the event I do with Elton John. She raised $300,000 for the Aides Foundation, and she did it. It was her, because she's so funny and has a gift that is getting stronger all the time."

Frank Deford, who is not a Hall of Fame tennis player, but like Shriver a Baltimore native and a virtuoso at his art form, writing for Sports Illustrated for decades, told perhaps the most unusual story.

"My favorite Pam story," Deford said, "was when we were in Paris for the French Open and Pam took three men, me, her hitting partner, Hank Harris and another fellow who I can't remember to the Folies Bergere to see naked ladies. We had a fine evening, probably better than Pam had. But I've always thought that was the height of thoughtfulness. Pam is very original and very sweet in her thinking."

Later, Deford presented Shriver with the Cystic Fibrosis Breath of Life Award, for her efforts in raising more than a million dollars for that charity.

"It is one thing to be like me and have lost my daughter to the disease," Deford told the crowd. "It's another to be like Pam and have no connection with it and do what she has done. I think it is much more generous, more gracious for someone without a connection to give of themselves the way Pam has."

Evert and Navratilova, who have shared their careers with Shriver and helped her get the Tennis Challenge, which has raised more than $4 million for children's charities, off the ground in its first year, both have fond memories.

As she was signing a bottle of wine for the charity auction, Evert recalled Shriver's introducing her to President George H.W. Bush and how over the years of his presidency they got to stay at the White House and Camp David together.

"We had so much fun," Evert said. "And she's naturally a great mom, like she's naturally a great sister, daughter and friend. We both agree the best thing that ever happened to either of us has been motherhood."

Navratilova, who with Shriver became the most successful doubles team in women's tennis history, also thought about Shriver as a mom when asked about her favorite memory.

"I have a lot of favorites from when we were playing," Navratilova said. "And I've been to so many of her events, I don't even remember the first one, other than it was good to be able to have a positive impact. But seeing her with her kids — I've stayed at her house in L.A., and seeing how she is with those three kids is just magic."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad