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Evans, Donald K.

(1904 – 1987)

Honor Award Induction: 1966 Hall of Fame Induction: 1996

Among his many accomplishments, Donald K. Evans is best known for the backstop that shares his name. In designing and producing the Evan Backstop, he solved the major impediment to the enjoyment and expansion of the game—the inconsistent bounces of the ball off the wires. He designed and built the freestanding taut wiring that is officially used today. The first installation was on Jimmy Cogswell’s court in Scarsdale, NY, during the winter of 1934-1935. (Fox Meadow Tennis Club).

In the early days, almost anything could happen before the Evans backstop became the standard. By 1932, when Cogswell and Blanchard had managed to lengthen the platform of the original court to 60 x 30 feet (the present standard size), they had found that taking the ball off the backstop had become such an important part of the game, that the backstop rule they had created remained. By that time, the wiring had reached 12 feet in height, and was of one inch mesh, as balls had tended to stick in the larger mesh size originally used. However, they were still plagued with irregular bounces. And, they realized that platform tennis would never develop into a game of skill if luck played such a large part in the bounces off the wiring.

Blanchard went for advice on solving this issue to the member of his group of players using the temporary first court at Fox Meadow most likely to come up with an answer, Donald K. (Don) Evans. Don was known as an imaginative problem solver and he had mechanical and wood-working talent, as he soon demonstrated. His answer was conceived and erected during the winter of 1934-35 on the Cogswell court by Don Evans, with the aid of John G. MacKenty. With the Evans backstop, the future of platform tennis was assured. Before long this new form of backstop became standard for all championship courts, first for the wiring at the ends and later for the side wiring as well, which is the present day configuration.

Donald Kirk Evans was born in White Plains, NY, and his family moved to Scarsdale, NY, when he was five. He attended Scarsdale Elementary School and the Lawrenceville School, NJ, and graduated from Princeton in 1926 with a major in English. After graduating, he worked on Wall Street and eventually became Secretary of the Riegel Paper Company, and Treasurer of Riegel Textile Company. He was a long-time resident of Scarsdale and belonged to Fox Meadow Tennis Club, the New York Yacht Club, and the American Yacht Club, where he was Commodore from 1953-1954. Besides sailing, he designed yachts and was an avid aquaponic gardener. Don retired in 1969 and moved to Bedford, NY, in 1973. He died there in 1987.

Source: Julie Doering (daughter), personal communication 2013

Don Evans (right) receiving Honor Award for Brook Kindred.
Don Evans (right) receiving Honor Award for Brook Kindred.