James Henry van Alen   [1902-1991]

Professional Sports Figure

James [Jimmy] Van Alen will be remembered as the founder of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1954, an institution which was recognized as such by the International Tennis Federation in 1986. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is housed in the largest tennis museum in the world, and is located in Newport, Rhode Island. As of 2010, the International Tennis Hall of Fame had over 200 inductees, including most of the well known tennis players since tennis became an international sport just prior to the turn of the twentieth century.

James Van Halen was much more than just the founder of the Tennis Hall of Fame. During the earlier parts of his life he was a poet, a musician, a raconteur, a publisher, a writer and a civic leader in the community in which he was born and in which he lived for much of his entire life. But that was not all. Van Alen also had impeccable credentials as a tennis player. He was captain of the lawn tennis team at Cambridge University when he was there as a student. Upon his return to the United States, Van Alen became a well known amateur tennis player. During the 1930’s Van Alen was the United States lawn tennis champion three times. In other words Van Alen knew what he was talking about when he criticized certain aspects of tennis.

As a critic of tennis, Van Alen had strong views on the rules and the scoring system used in tennis. He felt that the scoring system with terms like ‘love”, “deuce” and “advantage” dated back to the times tennis was first introduced in England. As a result of these confusing and ancient terms and rules, he felt that tennis would never become a popular sport played by millions.

Based on his strong views, Van Alen proposed a simplified scoring system whereby tennis games would be scored simply by 1, 2 and 3, instead of 15, 30 and 40. The player who first got 4 points in a game would be declared the winner. He also proposed to eliminate the rules for ending the match. In case of a tied game, he proposed a nine point tie breaker, with the player who first scored five points becoming the winner of the match. Van Alen’s simplified scoring system went by the term VASSS, for Van Alen’s Simplified Scoring System. The important benefit of the VASSS system was the shortening of the game, because he felt endless playoffs were boring to most of the fans.

Van Alen was married twice. His second wife, Candy, shared with Van Alen his interests in sports, and especially in tennis. As a matter of fact some claim that it was Candy who came up with the idea for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Both also had common interests in journalism and publishing. And both enjoyed the summer life style in Newport, Rhode Island. Since Van Alen came from an affluent family he was able to indulge in the many activities described above. But he used his talents well.

James Van Alen was a descendant from a wealthy Dutch American family, and he lived a long and satisfying life. Much to his chagrin the VASSS tennis scoring system was never adopted by the tennis world. He passed away at age 88, not from old age but by a domestic accident in his home. He died after striking his head in a fall in his home in Newport, Rhode Island. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is a memorial to his contributions to the game of tennis.

 

REFERENCES

The information above was gleaned from several web sites including wikipedia and an article in Sports Illustrated.

 

 

E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels

 

 

 

PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC

 

EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015

 

FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015

 

PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015

 

 

 

DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS

 

ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017

 

THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017

FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015

 

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