NEWPORT, R.I., September 4, 2013– On Friday, September 6, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will gather hundreds of tennis enthusiasts and industry leaders at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City for The Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas, an annual social event that celebrates tennis and honors some of the sport’s greatest champions and contributors. A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award to ESPN, in recognition of the company’s longstanding commitment to the sport. George Bodenheimer, executive chairman of ESPN, Inc. will accept the award on behalf of the organization. Bodenheimer served as ESPN president when the company first acquired rights to Wimbledon and the US Open.
In addition to celebrating ESPN, The Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas will also pay tribute to a host of tennis luminaries including Rod Laver, who will receive the Eugene L. Scott Award and the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2013- former world No. 1 Martina Hingis, Australian tennis great Thelma Coyne Long, and dedicated tennis industry leaders Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, and Ion Tiriac.
“ESPN’s dedicated coverage and innovative tennis programming has been integral in keeping fans engaged in tennis and helping to grow the sport around the world,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. “They have shown a steadfast commitment to tennis, and we look forward to recognizing their dedication and support at The Legends Ball.”
On September 7, 1979 at 7 pm, the sports world was changed forever when a first-of-its-kind cable network dedicated strictly to sports burst onto the airwaves. Curious viewers tuned in to hear ESPN anchor Lee Leonard say, “If you love sports…if you really love sports, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to sports heaven.” Moments later, his co-anchor George Grande announced the first score ever reported on SportsCenter- Chris Evert’s victory over Billie Jean King at the US Open.
Exactly one week later, ESPN aired their first tennis telecast, a Davis Cup tie between the United States and Argentina featuring John McEnroe and Guillermo Vilas, with Cliff Drysdale on the call. In the 34 years since, the network has brought the sport’s biggest matches and most dramatic moments from tennis courts around the world into the living rooms of millions of tennis fans.
With each passing tennis season, ESPN has displayed its steadfast commitment to the sport, developing an astute on-air team, constantly adding more hours of coverage, creating innovative digital platforms, and celebrating tennis’ rich history through fascinating special programming.
The network that has done so much for tennis is showing no signs of slowing down. Already the complete rights holder for the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and a broadcaster of Roland Garros, in 2015 ESPN will add the complete US Open rights and coverage to their tennis repertoire. While tennis has undoubtedly benefited from an exceptional relationship with ESPN since the network’s birth, the new opportunities brought forth with the US Open partnership means the best may still be yet to come.
The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award honors an exceptional company that shares Joe Cullman’s enthusiasm for tennis and has also made a significant contribution to society at large – both philanthropically and through outstanding generosity of spirit. Cullman served as President and Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum from 1982-88, a tenure during which the organization was elevated to worldwide recognition. He hoped that visits to the historic site would inspire young people to play tennis, learn and appreciate its history, and honor the great players of the past.
The Legends Ball, held annually since 1980, brings the tennis world together to celebrate the history of the game and honor some of the sport’s great contributors all while raising money for the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.
The Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas is co-chaired by John Arnhold, chairman and CIO of First Eagle Investment Management, and his wife Jody; Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and CEO of Brooks Brothers Group, Inc., and his wife Debra; Jim Goldman, president and CEO of Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., and his wife Gigi; and Eric Zinterhofer, founder of Searchlight Capital Partners, LLC and chairman of the board of Charter Communications, Inc., and his wife, Aerin.
A host of Hall of Fame tennis legends are expected to participate in the evening’s festivities. Joining Laver, Hingis, Drysdale, and Pasarell will be Hall of Famers Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Monica Seles, Gigi Fernandez, Pam Shriver, Martina Navratilova, Peachy Kellmeyer, Stan Smith, Bud Collins, Vic Seixas, Dick Savitt, Donald Dell, Jan Kodes, Russ Adams, Owen Davidson, and Butch Buchholz.
A silent and live auction at the event will feature once-in-a-lifetime, exclusive experiences including ticket and travel packages to Grand Slam events; luxury travel packages; and priceless items including tickets to the Grammy Awards; Owner’s Box seats for a Celtics game; autographed memorabilia; and much more.