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Publication numberUS3203696 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateAug 31, 1965
Filing dateMay 10, 1962
Priority dateMay 10, 1962
Publication numberUS 3203696 A, US 3203696A, US-A-3203696, US3203696 A, US3203696A
InventorsSawyer Hermon R
Original AssigneeAlfredo Salazar
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Game apparatus
US 3203696 A
Abstract  available in
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

H. R. SAWYER GAME APPARATUS Aug. 31, 1965 3 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed May 10, 1962 FIG. 3

INVENTOR HER/MON R. SAWYER H. R. SAWYER GAME APPARATUS Aug. 31, 1965 3 Sheets-Sheet 2 Filed May 10, 1962 INVENTOR HERMON R. SAWYER BY KYM wit-AW HIS ATTORNEY United States Patent 3,293,696 GAME AFPARATUS Hermon R. Sawyer, Alfredo Salazar 583, Dept. 2432, San Isidro, Lima, Peru Filed May it 1962, Ser. No. 193,775 '7 Claims. (Cl. 273-29) This invention relates to the game of tennis and to apparatus for playing tennis.

Normally, a large portion of the time spent by players in a tennis game is expended retrieving tennis balls from various locations, both on and off the tennis court, Where such balls roll dead after one of the players either misses striking the ball with his racket, or strikes it and fails to drive it to the proper area on the tennis court. Such necessity for constantly retrieving the tennis ball after it is knocked out-of-play is laborious and objectionable to many tennis players, some of whom have answered the problem by hiring youngsters, sometimes termed ball boys, for retrieving the tennis balls during a game.

The principal object of this invention is to provide a novel and better answer to the above problem of retrieving tennis balls.

Other important objects of this invention are: to provide an apparatus used for playing tennis which eliminates the ball retrieval problem; to provide an apparatus which mechanically retrieves tennis balls during a tennis game and conveys them to a central station where they are ready and convenient for further use by the tennis players; to provide a tennis ball retrieval apparatus which is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, install and operate; and to provide a tennis ball retrieval apparatus which can be installed and used on outside tennis courts without being damaged or rendered inoperative by the weather elements, such as rain, mud or other debris.

In general, these objects are attained by surrounding a tennis court with a conveyor system which will carry tennis balls falling onto it to one or more ball stations where the balls are stored and held ready for further use by the tennis players, who can obtain a ball merely by stepping to the ball station and lifting a ball from an open ball rack. The tennis court is arranged or provided with means so that most balls, if not all, falling out-of-pl'ay will roll naturally by gravity onto the conveyor system.

The invention is described in connection with the drawings wherein;

FIG. 1 is a simpified plan view of a tennis court made in accordance with the subject invention;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged vertical section taken on line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged plan view of the conveyor structure located at one corner of the tennis court;

FIG. 4 is a vertical section taken on line 44 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is similar to FIG. 3, but with the ball trough covers being removed so that the conveyor belt pulleys are exposed;

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary perspective view of one corner and an end of the tennis court with portions broken away;

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of the ball station of the invention with portions being broken away;

FIG. 8 is a top plan view of the ball station;

FIG. 9 is a rear elevational view of the ball station with portions being broken away; and

FIG. 10 is a horizontal section taken on line 1llt of FIG. 7.

The novel tennis court 1 of this invention is rectangular, as shown in FIG. 1, and is surrounded by a fence 2, as shown in FIG. 6, which prevents tennis balls from being batted or driven beyond the immediate confines of the court 1. The playing areas of the court 1 are enclosed ice within the usual marker lines 3 and the court is divided into respective halves, designated 4 and 5, by a conventional net 6 extending across the middle of the court between its sides.

Each of the tennis court halves 4 and 5 is surrounded, on its two sides :and its outer end, by an identical U-shaped tennis ball retrieval apparatus. Since the ball retrieval apparatus for each of the tennis court halves 4 and 5 is identical, only one is described. In general, each ball retrieval apparatus includes a U shaped conveyor 8, composed of a pair of side legs 9, each extending between the net 6 and an outer corner of the court 1, and an end bight it) extending across the end of the court 1 and interconnecting the outer ends of the side legs 9. Each retrieval apparatus further includes a ball station-11 located in the middle of the end bight 10. The U-shaped conveyor 8 receives balls which are knocked or batted out-of-play and carries these balls to the ball station 11 where the balls are stored until they are ready for further use by the tennis players.

Preferably, the side portions of the tennis court surface are sloped downward slightly toward the conveyor side legs 9, as shown in FIG. 2 by the reference number 12, so that balls rolling on the court 1 will have a natural tendency to roll toward the conveyor side legs 9. Balls traveling through the air beyond the tennis court 1 will strike the fence 2 and be deflected back onto the court Where they will eventually roll onto the conveyor 8. The narrow areas 13 between the conveyor 8 and the fence 2 are sloped downward toward the conveyor 8 as shown in FIG. 2. Hence, rnost balls which are out-of-play will roll to the conveyor 8 without further aid by the players. The few balls that roll dead on the center of the court 1 can easily be tapped towards the side of the court 1 where they will roll onto the conveyor 8.

CONVEYOR STRUCTURE The side legs 9 and the end bight 19 of the conveyor 8 include a series of endless conveyor belts, including side belts l6 and end belts 17, traveling in a corresponding U-shaped ditch 18 dug along the sides and ends of the court 1. Each belt 16 and 17 is supported at its opposite end-s on respective pulleys. FIG. 5 shows the pulley arrangement at one corner of the court 1 with the side belt '16 riding on the side corner pulley 19 and the end belt 17 riding on the end corner pulley 20, the pulleys 19 and 26 being arranged at right angles to each other and rotative- 1y mounted in bearing blocks 21. The pulley supporting the other end of the side belt 16 is not shown in the drawings. It is not believed to be necessary to show this pulley since it is similar to the pulleys H and 2b. The pulleys supporting the inner ends of the end belts 17 will be described later in connection with the ball station 11.

The side and end belts 15 and it? are supported intermediate their respective end pulleys by a series of H- frames 22 mounted at longitudinally spaced points along the ditch its, as shown in FIG. 2 illustrating a section of a side leg of the ditch 18. The H-frames 22 support a trough-shaped cover 23 which rests on the tops of the H-frarnes 22 and the opposite edges of the ditch 18. Preferably, the H-frames 22 and the trough-shaped cover 23 are formed of plastic or thin metal and includes a center section 24 which rests wholly on the H-frames 22 and a pair of inwardly and downwardly sloped side sections 25 located on the opposite sides of the central section 24 and extending between the H-frames 22 and the edges of the ditch 18. Both the side sections 25 and the center section 24 are perforated with many holes of about /4 inch in diameter so that Water and debris can pass freely through the cover 23 into the bottom of the ditch 18.

The center section 24 of the trough cover 23 is concave is o or cupped in cross-section, as shown in FIG. 2, so that tennis balls will roll down the side cover sections and come to rest naturally in the center cover sections 24. The top runs 26 of the belts 1: and 17 travel in and rest on the bottom of the center cover section 24 while the lower runs 27 of the belts ride on the horizontal cross bars 28 of the H-frames 22. It is seen from FIG. 2 that the top runs 26 of the belts are located a short distance below the surface of the court 1 to provide a suflicient drop for the balls to roll by gravity into the center section 24 and rest on the top belt run 26. FTGS. 3 and 6 show the overlapped arrangement of the portions of the trough cover 23 at the corners of the court 1.

Preferably, the ditch 13 is connected to a drainage disposal means, such as a sewer, for draining water and debris from the ditch 18.

BALL STATION A ball station 11 is located at the rear center of each end of the court 1 midway the length of the end bight it) of each U-shaped conveyor 8 and between a pair of aligned end conveyor belts 17 running along the outer end of the tennis court. Each ball station 11 is identical and includes a bottom casing 32 which is partially buried in the ground a short distance and is covered by a top plate 33. A hollow elevator hood 34 rests on the casing top plate 33, extends upward from it for about three feet and carries a ball-storage and dispensing rack 35 which projects horizontally forward from the hood 34 toward the court net 6. The balls received by the ball station 11 from the end conveyor belts 17 are elevated by the ball station and deposited in the ball rack 35 where they are readily available for further use by the tennis players.

A pair of pulleys 36 and 37 are rotatively mounted in the bottom casing 32 for supporting the end belts 17. These pulleys 36 and 37 are mounted on respective shafts 38, journaled in the bearing blocks. The shafts 3S carry interengaged gears 40 which cause the pulleys 3a? and 37 to rotate at equal speeds in opposite directions to each other. The shaft 38 carrying the pulley 36 is driven by an electric motor 41 resting on the top plate 33 of the casing 32. The motor 41 drives the shaft 38 through a power train including a gear reducer 42 driven by the motor 41 and driving a chain 43 engaging a sprocket on the shaft 33. The motor 41 rotates in a direction which causes the top runs of the end belts 17 to travel inwardly toward each other, as shown by arrows in FIG. 10.

The side belts 16 are also driven by the motor 41. This drive is accomplished by a long transverse drive shaft 44 extending across the end of the court 1 adjacent the end belts 17 and having its ends coupled to the side corner pulleys 19. The long transverse shaft 44 is driven from the shaft 38 carrying the pulley 37, located in the ball station casing 32, through a set of engaged bevel gears 4-5, as shown in FIG. 10. The long shaft 44 extends through and is journaled in suitable hearings or bosses mounted on the bottom casing 32. The long shaft 44 is driven in a rotary direction which causes the top runs of the side belts 16 to travel toward the end of the court, as shown by an arrow in FIG. 5.

Balls enter the bottom casing 32 on the end belts 17 through the openings 4:: and are dumped off the ends of the end belts 17 into an upwardly-opening chute or channel-shaped trackway 47 located between the end belts 17. The channel-shaped traclrway .7 lies in a substantially vertical plane and is ]-shaped, as seen in FIG. 7. By describing the tracltway 57 as being J-shaped, it is meant that it includes a bottom curved or hook portion 48 extending from adjacent the end belts 17 forward in the casing 32, and a vertically extending stem portion 49 which extends upwardly through the hood 34 and terminates near the rear end of the ball rack 35.

An endless elevator belt 50 runs along the inside of the trackway 47 in spaced relationship to it to carry balls in the trackway along the hook portion 4-8, up the vertical stem portion 49 and drop them into the ball raclr 35. The

belt 5% runs on a bottom pulley 51 which is fixed on the long transverse shaft 44, as shown in FIG. 10, and a top pulley 52 rotationally mounted in the top part of the hood 34. The elevator belt 5i) receives its drive from the bottom pulley 51 and the long shaft 44. The spacing between the elevator belt 50 and the trackway 47 gradually converges from the end of the trackway, adjacent the end belts 17, to the bottom of the hook portion 48 of the tracltway, then remains at a substantially constant or uniform spacing of a dimension suflicient for the tennis balls to be frictionally held between the elevator belt Siland the trackway 4-7 with enough force for the balls to be rolled up the vertical portion 49 of the trackway by the travel of the elevator belt As the balls reach the top of the vertical stem portion 43 or" the trackway 4-7, they drop into the rear portion of the ball rack 35. The ball rack is an elongated opentopped receptacle having a bottom 56 sloping forwardly toward the tennis net 6 and a front lip 57 serving as a stop for balls in the rack 35. Usually, the rack 35 is long enough to hold from 4 to 6 balls, but is may be dimensioned to hold any number of balls desired. To insure that balls reaching the top of the trackway 47 drop into the rack 35, instead of continuing to travel with the elevator belt 59, the inside of the hood 34 is provided with a deflection plate 53 to force the balls to enter the ball rack OPERATION Before beginning a game of tennis on the novel court 1, the motor 41 is energized to drive the two end belts 17 inwardly toward each other and toward the ball station 11, to drive the two side belts 1-5 toward the end of the court and to drive the elevator belt in the ball station, all of these conveyor belts being driven simultaneously. Thereafter, the motor 41 continues in operation during the remaining time that the court 1 is being used. it will be understood that each half of the court includes a similar ball retrieval apparatus and that both are in operation during a tennis game or match.

Thereafter, the players can begin their game. As tennis balls, designated by the reference number 60, fall out-ofplay, they usually roll into the trough-shaped covers 23, either at the sides or the ends of the court and come to rest on one of the conveyor belts 16 or 17. The balls 69 may fall out-of-play for any number of reasons, such as one player missing a ball, or failing to drive it to the correct area of the court on the opposite side of the net 6, or driving the ball into the net 6, or driving the ball into the fence 2.

As a ball 60 drops onto the sloping side portions 12 of the court 1, or on the sloped strips 13 between the trough covers 23 and the fence 2, these sloping surfaces cause the ball to roll by gravity into the trough covers 23. As the ball 69 comes to rest on the conveyor belts 16 and 17, these continuously traveling belts carry the all along the trough covers 23 until it eventually reaches e ball station 11. If the ball 69 drops onto a side belt it carries the ball to the corner of the court 1 and drops the ball onto the adjacent end conveyor belt 17, which then carries it to the ball station 11.

As the ball 69 enters the entrance opening 46 on the side of the casing 32, it drops oi the end belt 17 into the inlet of the trackway 47 and falls to the bottom of the hook portion 43 of the trackway 47. As the ball 60 reaches the bottom of the trackway, the elevator belt 50 engages it, because of the gradually converging space between the trackway 47 and the belt 5%, presses the ball against the trackway 47 and rolls it up the vertical stem portion 49 of the trackway 47 until it reaches the top of the trackway. At this time, the ball drops into the forwardly sloped rack 35 and rolls forward until it is stopped by the rack lip 57 or by another ball resting in the rack 35. Before dropping into the rack 35, the

ball 60 may strike the deflection plate 58 which deflects it into the rack 35.

As balls are needed in playing the tennis game, a player will remove them from the front of the ball rack 35. Normally, this can be done merely by the player taking one or two steps rearward from the ball serving line and reaching out to select a ball from the rack 35. Hence, the players can continue their game with little or no interruption to obtain the balls.

It will be understood that although only one embodiment of the invention is specifically described, the invention may embrace various embodiments which are obvione from an understanding of the described embodiment and are embraced Within the claims of the invention.

Having described my invention, 1 claim:

1. A tennis court apparatus for retrieving tennis balls which are knocked out-of-play, said apparatus comprising: a rectangular tennis court including a pair of sides and opposite ends and a tennis net extending across the middle of said court between its opposite sides to divide the court into halves; a ball station mounted adjacent each half of said court for storing and individually dispensing a plurality of tennis balls; a series of moving conveyors extending along both sides of each court half and along the end of each court half, the conveyors of each court half being arranged to catch and bodily transport balls to the ball station for that court half from the sides and end of that court half; and ball guide means located along the sides and end of that court half to cause balls to roll into said series of conveyors.

2. The tennis court apparatus of claim 1 including a series of ditches running along the sides and end of each court half; and said series of conveyors are mounted in said ditches below the top surface of said court and above the bottoms of said ditches.

3. The tennis court apparatus of claim 2 wherein: each of said conveyors is an endless belt having a top run traveling longitudinally along the ditch near its top; and

sloped plates are located along each side of said top run between the top run and the edges of the ditch to form a trough with said top run traveling along the bottom of the trough; said sloped plates being perforated to allow rain water and dirt to pass through said plates into the bottom of the ditch.

4. The tennis court apparatus of claim 3 wherein: each ball station is located adjacent the end of one court half; the side conveyor belts running along the sides of said one court half are arranged to carry balls to and deposit them on the end conveyor running along the end of said one court half; and the conveyor on said end of said one court half is arranged to carry balls to said ball station.

5. The tennis court apparatus of claim 4 wherein: said end conveyor travels on a pair of end pulleys, one of which is mounted in said ball station and driven by a power means located at said ball station.

6. The tennis court apparatus of claim 5 wherein: said side conveyor belts are driven by said power means located at said ball station.

7. The tennis court apparatus of claim 6 wherein said ball station includes: a ball dispensing support raised above the level of said court, and a ball elevator operative to receive a ball from said end conveyor and raise it to said ball dispensing support.

References Cited by the Examiner UNITED STATES PATENTS 7/37 Littell et al. 27329 7/60 Patterson et a1. 273-54 X FOREIGN PATENTS 11/14 Great Britain.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2087575 *Jan 11, 1934Jul 20, 1937LittellGame device
US2944819 *Jul 7, 1955Jul 12, 1960American Mach & FoundryBowling pin removing apparatus
GB191426829A * Title not available
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4116436 *Apr 15, 1977Sep 26, 1978Gunnar BjorhnBall-collecting apparatus
US4280697 *Nov 27, 1979Jul 28, 1981Sueto YuasaTennis training device
US4299383 *Nov 27, 1979Nov 10, 1981Sueto YuasaTennis training device
US5125654 *Aug 24, 1990Jun 30, 1992Transita Vertriebs - Und Handelsgesellschaft MbhTennis ball retrieving system
US5195744 *Nov 13, 1991Mar 23, 1993Video Baseball, Inc.Baseball batting practice apparatus with control means
US5398926 *Feb 7, 1994Mar 21, 1995Skinner; Andrew J.Game accelerating table tennis table top
US6834776 *Jul 6, 2002Dec 28, 2004Lynne CorveseTennis ball retrieving device
WO1990012621A2 *Apr 20, 1990Nov 1, 1990Mickey A HallBaseball batting practice method and apparatus
U.S. Classification473/474, 198/610
International ClassificationA63B47/00, A63B47/02
Cooperative ClassificationA63B47/025
European ClassificationA63B47/02E