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Brilliantly Obsessive Site Documents Tennis Ball Can Designs

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I’ve been obsessed with athletics aesthetics for most of my life, and I’ve been obsessed with metal cans for the past year or so. Those two interests collide, brilliantly, on the misleadingly titled website, which, despite its name, is not about vintage tennis balls. It’s about vintage tennis ball cans.

If that’s a topic you’ve never thought about before, well, you and me both. But the guy who runs the site, Brad McCall, has thought a lot about it. He’s thought so much about tennis ball cans, in fact, that he’s developed his own numerical classification system for them — sort of a Dewey Decimal System for this specific packaging category.

McCall’s website, which he describes as “my personal project to bring some type of order to all the different types of tennis cans and containers that I have discovered during my collecting frenzy,” includes examples of over 1,000 different tennis ball cans (along with some boxes and other containers), most of which come from his personal collection. After recently discovering the site, I clicked around and was blown away by both the quantity and the quality of the can designs. Here’s are some particularly nice ones:

Nice, right? I didn’t even know those larger 12-ball cans existed.

The great thing about all of this, of course, is its niche specificity. Like all great collections, this one may not be wide, but it’s very, very deep.

I emailed McCall and asked to interview him but never heard back. Too bad, but his website pretty much does the talking for him. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with it — if you care about tennis, sports design, graphic design, packaging, or collecting, it will almost certainly be time well spent.

A final note: I didn’t stumble upon this website on my own — someone pointed me toward it. But I can’t remember who that someone was, and I can’t seem to find the email or DM in which they did so. If that someone was you, please let me know so I can give you proper credit. Thanks!

Update: Reader Tyson Klear has identified himself as the person who steered me toward this site. Thanks so much, Ty!

Update, Jan. 23, 2024: I’ve just heard from a tennis ball can collector named Mark Chandler, who informs me that Brad McCall died a year or two ago, which explains why I never heard back from him. Too bad — R.I.P.


Your Daily(ish) Dose of Kittens


Can of the Day

Love the name “Oilzum” and the way the “Z” is ever-so-slightly bigger/higher than the other letters. Not quite sure why the spokescharacter appears to be a burglar, though.

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I have some errands to deal with this morning. Play nice while I’m away, okay? Thanks. — Paul

Comments (23)

    I suspect the character on the cap is meant to represent the cap and goggles of an old-times motorcyclist


    LOL my comment page was empty before I could get my post up…woulda replied here instead : – )
    ( and I’m guessing they wore those before they actually had helmets but how did they keep it from flying off?)

    Came to say the same thing before the site crashed on me. Before helmets became a normal motorcycle accessory, circa post-WWII, motorcyclists typically wore aviator goggles. And if you search for old-timey photos of motorcyclists, you’ll see cops and military couriers wearing that kind of helmet. What a great can!

    It’s so endearing how your cats seem inseparable. I’ve never had cats so I don’t know if this is normal or not?

    If two cats are from the same litter — as these two are — it’s not uncommon for them to be buddies. The term is “bonded siblings.”

    And yes, it’s very endearing. My previous two kitties, Tucker and Caitlin, were also siblings, and they used to groom each other, which always made my heart melt a little.

    Even though the Dewey Decimal is a scam, I absolutely love that Brad made one! I don’t think it would quite work for the sports world at large, but I respect it all the same.

    As usual super cool can(s) O the day.
    btw, I think that “burglar” is a biker with goggles and a Brando-style cap (I’m sure it has its own name)
    Re: Biscuits and Waffles pic O the day, “OH brother!”

    Bar and chain oil is used with chainsaws! I am guessing the goggles are eye protection but have no idea about the hat!

    Paul, this is bordering on pornography. Good gracious, and we thought YOU had a niche with Uni-Watch.

    I’m almost convinced Buscuit and Waffles are very realistic poseable toy cats and you are postitioning them like this. They are impossibly cute together!

    That website is amazing. I can’t help but think of the quote by the late comic Mitch Hedberg:

    “I think Pringles’ original intention was to make tennis balls… But on the day the rubber was supposed to show up, a truckload of potatoes came. Pringles is a laid-back company, so they just said “F*** it, cut em up!””

    Love Mitch he was classic and like Norm he thoroughly amused himself and didn’t really care if he was amusing to others…
    Love Pringles cans… a few years back they even sold a tiny speaker that went into the end of a can…eBay time

    As a math teacher, I do a lesson where the students predict, then calculate the percent of a can of 3 tennis balls that is empty space. You can do it using the formulas for cylinders and spheres. It is a surprising answer and an exact fraction. Try it without googling the answer!

    I have an Oilzum work shirt that I made a while back – always loved the old-timey motorcycle guy logo

    Actually reminds me of the old Phantom comic character or even Green Hornet…

    I remember when I first heard of the Iron Man competition when I was a teenager I thought it was named after the Marvel character LOL

    Anyone else old enough to remember when tennis balls transitioned from white to yellow, during the game’s professional and recreational boom in the ’70s (I know, apostrophe catastrophe, but the keyboard is limited)?
    Today, we don’t think about it, but imagine how noticeable it would be if white balls were used at the U.S. Open or Wimbledon.

    Yep. And as is its wont, Wimbledon didn’t add colored balls till long after the other majors had. Change comes slow round those parts. It was odd watching that one tourney still using white balls through the mid-1980s (they didn’t make the switch to yellow balls until 1986).

    I remember playing with white balls as a very young kid (early 1970s), but yellow balls were just coming into vogue then and I probably didn’t even see a white ball after the mid-1970s

    These cans are great. Nice colors and fonts. But the Oilzum beats them by an ace. Game, set and match.

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