The New York Times Magazine:
Who Made That Tennis-Ball Hopper?
A frustrated gym teacher’s new use for a trash can.
By PAGAN KENNEDY
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 drawi...