“The score never interested me, only the game”*…
All you need is a ball and a wall.
The mantra of handball players everywhere is also a manifesto on the sport’s accessibility. A deceptively simple game with a steep learning curve, handball — in one form or another — has been played since at least the 15th century, when its earliest recorded occurrence (1437) has King James I of Scotland ordering the blocking of a cellar window that was interfering with his courtyard play.
In 1884 the rules for modern handball — in short, you hit a ball against a wall with your hand until your opponent fails to return it — were made official by Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association, and the rest is history…
The perfect game? “‘Tennis for savages’: A visual history of handball in America.”
* Mae West
As we revel in the “twack,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Wilbert “Uncle Robbie” Robinson, a career major league catcher who had become the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to try to set a record of sorts by catching a baseball dropped from an airplane being flown 525 feet overhead. The team was in Daytona Beach, Florida for spring training and in the market for a publicity stunt; they settled on the idea of a world-record catch. And when all of his players demurred, Uncle Robbie agreed to do it.
The Dodgers recruited Ruth Law, an aviatrix in town to drop golf balls in another publicity stunt, to execute the “throw,” but at the suggestion of a member of her ground crew, Law substituted a grapefruit (from a mechanic’s lunch box) at the last minute and tossed that from her cockpit instead of the rawhide.
The grapefruit hit Robinson in the chest– and made such a mess that he thought he had lost his eye (because of the acid burn and the blood-like splatter that covered him). But he twigged to the gag when he saw his teammates burst out in laughter. Outfielder Casey Stengel, later a successful manager himself, claimed to have convinced Law to make the switch; but Law herself told the true story in a 1957 interview. From this point on Robinson referred to airplanes as “fruit flies.”
Wilbert Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.