When we were in Newport, RI five years ago, we found ourselves at a sandwich shop. I happened to walk around the corner, and there was the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. I swore that next time we were in town we’d go, and in April, the Wife and I did.
From the Wikipedia: “While the modern game of tennis originated in late 19th century England, most historians believe that the games ancient origin is from 12th century France, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand. It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use, and the game began to be called “tennis”, from the Old French term Tenez, which can be translated as ‘hold!’, ‘receive!’ or ‘take!'” One can play “real” tennis at the Hall, though we did not.
There were plenty of artifacts: old racquets of players, videos, newspaper articles (e.g., about the scandalous apparel of women players in the 1920s that showed the knee!), info about the infamous “battle of the sexes” between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (Hall of Famers both), histories of the Grand Slam and other significant tournaments, and lots of trophies.
But the key is the display of all the players and contributors. Each of them are represented on a kiosk that allows you to see video of the players, a quote, and their major accomplishment; you can see the info here. Interesting that I recognize some old timers’ names such as Bill Tilden and Helen Wills Moody. Then there were the Aussies I remember growing up, such as Rod Laver, Toy Emerson, Tony Roche and Fred Stolle, onto the players from the Open Era, which began in 1968, “when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs…This has allowed tennis players the opportunity to make a good living playing tennis.”
There was a video of the Hall speech by Andre Agassi, a 2011 inductee. A great player early on, he seemed to waste his talent and sank to a ranking of #141, but found his focus again and became a #1 player. This year’s inductees include Jennifer Capriati and Guga Kuerten, who will join the ranks on July 14, 2012.
At least a couple players who are in the Hall I got to see play personally: Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, doubles specialists, who played singles and doubles, I believe, at the OTB Open tournament in Schenectady, NY in the early 1990s.
One person in the Hall who I was totally unfamiliar with was Dr. Robert Johnson, indicted in 2009 as a contributor. “Without the guidance of Dr. Johnson, however, [Althea] Gibson, [Arthur] Ashe, and countless others might not have succeeded so mightily. Dr. Johnson trained, coached, and mentored African Americans from his home in Lynchburg, Virginia for more than two decades.” Dr. Johnson died in 1971.
I’ve been to several Halls of Fame: baseball (Cooperstown, NY), basketball (Springfield, MA), the surprisingly interesting horse racing (Saratoga Springs, NY), the disappointing and now defunct soccer (Oneonta, NY). The International Tennis HoF is a good one.