USTA Texas and the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame mourn the loss of 2006 inductee Ben Ball, who passed away peacefully on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at the age of 94.
Ball began playing tennis in his early teens, but took a break from the sport until the 1960s when a Davis Cup match in Dallas rekindled his interest. He started playing in a regular group at Samuel Grand Park and soon began to volunteer for the Dallas Tennis Association and the Texas Tennis Association (now USTA Texas), helping with their junior programs.
Throughout the 1970s, Ball served as president, vice president and treasurer of the Dallas Tennis Association and president of the Texas Tennis Association until he was hired as the Texas Tennis Association executive director in 1979. During his 15 years of leadership, he helped grow the organization from two staff members to ten, strengthened the junior and leagues programs and expanded the membership.
Ball, with help from Ron Fisher, was instrumental in developing and implementing the first computerized tennis ranking system (STAR) in the country. He also helped develop the first two tier junior competitive program which was able to handle the large junior draws in Texas and create equal competitive play. Continued large draws led to the current three tier system (1989). Because of this system, USTA Texas has had the largest per capita junior membership for over 30 years.
Ball held a national doubles ranking as high as #5 with partner Glenn Ivy. In mixed doubles he reached a ranking of #3 with partner Nony Michulka. Ball was also the non-playing captain of the Crawford Cup Team and the Bitsy Grant Cup Team, helping lead the teams to first and second place. He was awarded the W.T. Caswell Award in 1976 and the Julius Zinn Senior Spirit Award in 2001.
Tributes began to pour in on Facebook as the news of Ball's death spread throughout the Texas tennis community. Mikey Thorp Herndon wrote, "A teacher, a leader, an innovator and a friend. He is missed already. Hard to think of Texas Tennis without thinking of Ben." Rory Craig Frazee commented, "Ben was a real Texas treasure and a servant to the sport of tennis for generations. May he rest in peace." Ken McAllister, who succeeded Ball as executive director of USTA Texas posted, "He was our Texas tennis legacy who will be missed but never forgotten."
Read more about Ben Ball at texastennismuseum.org.