Originally written on Tennis Panorama  |  Last updated 11/10/14

The New York Times Magazine:

Who Made That Tennis-Ball Hopper?

A frustrated gym teacher’s new use for a trash can.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/magazine/who-made-that-tennis-ball-hopper.html?ref=magazine


In the 1960s, Jake Stap ran two Wisconsin tennis camps, where he spent way too much time gathering the tennis balls scattered around the courts. “That was the bugaboo — getting the kids to pick up the balls,” said his daughter, Sue Kust.

One day, driving to his job as a gym teacher in Highland Park, Ill., Stap pinched the ball that was rolling on the seat beside him. The rubber yielded under his fingertips. “That’s when I woke up,” Stap said. He rigged a wastepaper basket with a rigid wire handle and bars across its bottom: pressing down on a ball would cause it to squeeze through the bars and stay in the basket. He called his device a “ball hopper.”

That summer, at camp, “it was a mad dash for the ball hoppers,” Kust said. Stap noticed a few men drawing on sketch pads on the sidelines of the courts. “I walked over and asked them what they were doing, and they said, ‘We’re thinking about marketing this.’ ”

On the advice of a lawyer, Stap applied for a patent and founded a company in 1968. He ran Ball Hopper Inc. out of his garage; his daughters assembled the ball hoppers, twisting on wing nuts. They sold just 87 the first year.

And then came the tennis mania of the ’70s: Billie Jean King, Bjorn Borg and white short shorts. Suddenly everyone wanted one. “We sold them to pro stores, and the big chain stores picked it up,” Stap said. “I quit teaching.” Kust said: “When people saw how it worked and how simple it was, they would always say, ‘I could have thought of that.’ But they didn’t think of it.”


Dr. Heiner Gillmeister, a historian at Bonn University in Germany, has studied the origin of tennis.

The game of tennis began in medieval monasteries. How was it played? The ball could be hit or kicked on the volley or on the rebound. The rectangular halves of the cloisters became our tennis courts.Balls had to be served on the roof of the gallery.

You once wrote that a 12th-century monk believed devils played tennis in hell. Was that the first mention of the game in recorded history? Yes, the first mention of tennis comes from Caesarius of Heisterbach, a German monk. Looking for a suitable image to describe the pains awaiting a sinner in hell, he could not think of worse torturers than tennis-playing devils.

Who invented the tennis lesson? The first tennis lessons were administered to princes and young noblemen who received their education in the medieval monastery. Their teachers were those members of the religious community who mastered the ball better than the Bible.

Excerpt used wiht permission of the New York Times magazine

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Andre Johnson requests to be traded or released

James Harden suspended for groin kick to LeBron James

Mark Cuban will play the President in 'Sharknado 3'

Five most exciting one-bid conference tournaments

Report: Redskins interested in Ndamukong Suh


Report: Darrelle Revis likely to hit free agent market

Le'Veon Bell could face up to a four-game suspension

Report: Giants place franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul

Vikings GM: Team has spoken with Adrian Peterson

Yu Darvish on notion he quit on Rangers: ‘That’s BS‘

Tiger Woods' agent refutes drug suspension claim

WATCH: Whiteside, Len ejected after getting into wrestling match

WATCH: Texas-Baylor fight leads to seven ejections

Nik Stauskas wears Michigan State gear after lost bet

Bret Bielema takes away player's car after DUI

NHL player traded after daughter's heartbreaking letter

Curt Schilling unloads on Twitter trolls again

Pirates Corey Hart cut his foot getting into a whirlpool

Steve Spurrier joins Twitter, jabs Clemson

Michael Jordan makes his first Forbes billionaire list

Nick Young rips ESPN anchor over Iggy Azalea insult

Sad LeBron literally looks in mirror after loss to Rockets

Could Holly Holm be a worthy challenger for Ronda Rousey?

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Texas-Baylor fight leads to 7 ejections

Mark Cuban will be Prez in 'Sharknado 3'

Report: Redskins interested in Suh

Report: Revis likely to hit free agency

Steve Spurrier joins Twitter

MJ makes Forbes billionaire list

Nick Young fires back at Robert Flores

Sad LeBron literally looks in mirror after loss to Rockets

MLS 2015 season preview

Report: Broncos to franchise Demaryius

James Harden kicks LeBron in groin

Lynch: 'I was expecting the ball'

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.