generic zyprexa not as effective how to buy requip in london is toprol xl generic best pharmacy in tijuana mexico cefixime tablets ip 200 mg side effects can you buy levitra professional buy liposafe new zealand online buy over the counter saw palmetto online retin-a ge prices usa buy zyban online canada cilas 1190 particle size analyzer buy lamisil discount can i get zyrtec over the counter order female viagra canada thalidomide babies worldwide pharmacy lipothin buy pariet canada florinef phone orders buy blopress online no prescription united states generic uk paypal avandamet propecia pills online in the uk can buy clonidine over counter here;s use zetia coupon online what is the drug mestinon used for cost of levitra aceon online legally bactrim ships from india xeloda cost price best price for real minocycline trimox 100mg buy buying fertility drugs online no prescription mentax express canada natural antibiotics for horses moduretic cost canadian where to buy pravachol with echeck is it illegal to buy prescription drugs online from canada arimidex generic available date buy omnicef 15mg online order prednisone in prednisona kern pharma 10 mg efectos secundarios online pharmacy uk cystone what is levofloxacin 500mg used for levitra drug in canada pharmacy order cialis jelly online best wellbutrin prices professional sale vardenafil generic levitra buy flomax without a script allopurinol and azathioprine interactions can you buy pharmacy cheap zovirax where to get azulfidine pct best site get calcium carbonate reviews on wellbutrin for anxiety pomegranate juice benefits for kids can order moduretic canada what is diarex tablets buy celexa online no prescription united states side effects of hytrin terazosin where xenical brand paroxetine buy cape fear discount drugs raeford rd lynoral online motilium usa cvs prices nexium online pill store cheap prices redustat 120 reviews buy albendazole 40 mg drugstore 10 off 80 flomax on line for sale no script onlain kino limon levitra super active legal in england what is esomeprazole magnesium buy actoplus met xr information buy proventil online overnight delivery viagra online eu colchicine tablets cheap quibron-t no prescription acheter pas cher metformin buy tretinoin 0,05 usa elimite prix en pharmacie en france what is gabapentin 100mg used for low price mobic uk lexapro buy usa buying bactroban zetia lawsuit 2009 celebrex drugs like buy aspirin in singapore buy vantin 200 mg no rx elavil online order cipro no prescription buy accutane online with paypal how long to take indocin order brand advair diskus 120 mg buy kamagra soft bulk how to take soviclor what is phentermine hcl best price retin-a 0,025 seroquel uk online goodrx coupons work insulin pump uk propranolol generic reviews discount proscar online med online pharmacy zovirax not generic diflucan pills pregnancy what does doxycycline treat gonorrhea nature;s bounty acai 1000 mg voltaren with american express altace mg price skelaxin drugs interactions allegra from usa pharmacy what is aspirin yahoo answers zyvox 600 mg for free tegretol 100mg toprol xl mg tablet lamictal free shipping buy women viagra online best online pharmacy no prescription usa generic haldol by mail order levitra viagra comparison order prescription drugs online uk buy fluoxetine 15mg online buy generic terramycin online with prescription best generic for effexor xr fast singulair deleviery ocular side effects of xalatan zestoretic new zealand voltaren uk boots dove comprare il viagra in italia abilify refills target canada pharmacy jobs atrovent lowest price vasotec online shipping top 10 online deltasone sites ultimate blue pill reviews buy colospa pills online misoprostol buy no prescription calan medicines ordering low dose tenormin mentax generic reviews how to take meclizine buy cialis jelly lowest price over the counter antibiotics for urinary tract infection for men order indinavir where can i get zovirax from how to order trimox online aldactone online legally stromectol looking for generic augmentin overnite shipping can you only get brand levitra on prescription pharmacy of clomid is there a drug comparative to cordarone high dose revatio free coupon for acivir pills 100 mg prednisone daily zyrtec ulotka syrop can you buy pyridium over counter fastest terramycin uk delivery buy minipress online india best price mestinon feldene uk buy what medicine has promethazine and codeine cialis jelly overnight online propecia india how to use metformin for weight loss worldwide pharmacy coupon does ceftin cause weight gain order actoplus met lowest price gonorrhea treatment azithromycin 250 mg suprax generic form tadacip online coupon code side effects fexofenadine hydrochloride 180 mg cephalexin for sale australia long term side effects of taking singulair aspirin 100 mg 20 tablet fiyat? purchase sildenafil citrate online what is solaraze gel diclofenac sodium gel shatavari online usa no prescription como se usa el benzac ac 5 better than prednisone buy metformin inhaler canada finax usa cvs prices cozaar prescription information lasix price at walmart levlen where can i buy it cheap fucidin pills 192 bus route manchester what does bupron sr alli without insurance tretinoin 0.025 cream 20gm zentel 200 mg 6 tabletas nexium 10 mg prospecto isoptin over counter uk trial erection packs 3 no prescription misoprostol philippines pharmacy india pharmacy mastercard buy azulfidine with paypal zyclara imiquimod cream celebrex reviews for spinal stenosis interaction between prednisone alcohol order ortho tri cyclen from mexico without prescription diclofenac 100 stada retard terramycin price philippines why has gyne-lotrimin been discontinued prednisolone 20mg tablets difference between viagra professional and viagra super active propecia making hair loss worse best prices canadian pharmacies prevacid cheapest price ampicillin 1000 order viagra in canada online order ralista cheap prescription solutions log in antabuse rite aid effexor xr comparison apcalis sx phone orders recommended dosage for biaxin xl where to buy roaccutane in canada buy grifulvin v 5 aspirin 75mg dispersible tablets buy wellbutrin overseas forum review buy propecia online generic name for augmentin buy ditropan in india online the online drugstore sinemet fml forte over counter minipress pas cher safe place order kamagra oral jelly colospa cheap price januvia 100 mg tablets price lady era for dogs buy amitriptyline 20 mg for nerve pain paroxetine 5mg tablets can you buy tetracycline online generic phexin no prescription kava kava vitamin shoppe review famciclovir cats side effects buy generic mircette with bonus levothyroxine sodium 100 mg how to get benzac in australia prometh with codeine uk which uk site to buy glycomet generic lithium usa pharmacy how much does lamictal cost at walmart generic altace usa pharmacy online forum buy astelin prescription sildenafil caverta generic buy bactroban usa how to take unisom side effects of wellbutrin sr 150 us pharmacy online lozol tretinoin gel 0.025 side effects lowest price probalan best place buy nitrofurantoin meclizine discount voucher how much trazodone for sleep viagra online purchase in india suhagra without a script billig proscar online kaufen lortab side effects in elderly where to purchase lithium batteries is viagra banned in saudi arabia januvia 50 mg tablets cefadroxil to buy in the canada without a prescription lithium carbonate 450 mg tablets kamagra kaufen deutschland paypal zaditor medication side effects rabeprazole tablets use alphagan mg buy buy tretinoin 0,05 lowest price azithromycin dosage for children with strep throat finasteride tablets 1mg review cardizem tablet sale rxlist top 200 lowest price aleve health canada clozaril ordering fluoxetine mexico revista online boticario trandate on line for sale no script baclofen drug class buy probalan online overnight price of cialis 20mg terramycin drug classification buying extendaquin from canada no prescription lipothin free trial viagra kamagra cialis levitra online pharmacy clonodine phenergan no script needed moduretic shop net ventolin nebules 2.5 mg salbutamol costco lithium batteries how to use retino-a cream 0,05 buy kamagra gold without rx omnicef antibiotic rxlist zofran zydis 4 mg 10 tb order meclizine 25 mg safe buy tegretol online buy lopid uk dapoxetine lowest price myambutol prescription only albenza tablets from buy viagra professional comprare cymbalta costco levitra no prescription pharmacy super viagra candian what does the antibiotic bactrim do buy entocort capsules diabetes medication glucophage side effects femara vs generic letrozole purchase ginseng pills how to take mevacor mg shatavari medicine children should i do a second round of accutane viagra vipps pharmacy consumer reviews on abilify capoten not generic cipla cialis review american alligator facts everglades diakof cheap omnicef next day health canada penegra alesse generic side effects what does it is to viagra as viagra is to a green m&m mean long time side effects toprol xl medicine ciprofloxacin hcl silagra medication order singulair reviews for children seroquel pills sleeping pills natural products like viagra triderm unguent prospect lithium battery delivery can you order cozaar can i order dostinex online aldactone cheap australia pharmacy roxithromycin barato cipla propecia generic vivus qsymia sales buy topamax in usa protonix overnight delivery alphagan prescriptions buy brimonidine ophthalmic evecare without a script buy viagra jelly with e check arava order in the us cialis super active pills buy online buy dostinex tablets us what does prazosin danazol usa cvs prices cozaar comp blood pressure cheap prescription drugs no insurance amantadine common cold alavert australia pharmacy non prescription pharmacies amoxil online canada metronidazole tablets 200mg erexin-v canada overnight delivery what is the dose of methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis chlamydia in men long term effects buy nexium low cheap price no prescription feldene human enhancement drugs public health nexium oral betnovate equivalent in usa buy depakote quick olanzapine dosage for psychosis picture of furosemide 20 mg tablet buy citalopram no prescription uk online pharmacy getting doxazosin in australia order differin no rx canadian pharmacy can you take hydrochlorothiazide daily buy periostat 20 mg can you take lipothin daily bupropion pills sweat optimmune for dogs side effects cipro discounted acquistare benicar in italia otc sildenafil uk nizagara direct pharmacy is canadian generic viagra safe buy cleocin gel overseas avalide 20 mg side effects of nymphomax cloridrato de sertralina faz engordar morning after pill cost walmart voltaren sr 100 dosage lexapro at a canada pharmacy no prescription needed mexico diclofenac online nizoral online canadian blopress for sale australia tadapox free shipping order endep online with visa buy aciphex generic rabeprazole comprar adalat original buy kamagra singapore zyvox barato lithium canada overnight delivery best place buy olanzapine buying mentat ds syrup using paypal fluoxetine capsules 20mg uk what is ephedraxin drugs pulmicort pharmacy acticin online canadian pharmacy zanaflex pills online in the mexico canadian tadacip tablet levitra generic prices albuterol sulfate inhalation solution 0.083 recall robaxin legal in england kamagra oral jelly 100mg jellies online pharmacy that sells viagra how to buy venlor lasix to buy in england india cafergot price cheap viagra jelly approved lasix medicine for cats metformin in the uk now discount zovirax mg where can i get tamoxifen combivent online coupons citrato de sildenafila generico keppra pediatric iv dose is cabgolin a prescription drug generic shallaki switzerland orlistat for sale australia revatio from australia cialis jelly woldwide shipping flonase discount voucher mirapex er side effects without cheap glucotrol xl meclizine 12.5 mg tablet order bactrim on line uk get cheap plavix buy imuran uk septilin cheap rhinocort nasal spray diclofenac 50mg dosage buy indinavir uk meloxicam 15 mg get high does buspar cause weight gain or loss buy aceon online perindopril ventolin no prrescription pletal 100mg tabletten anwendung lowest priced premarin can i make gasex cleocin no prrescription order singulair online uk maximum dosage celebrex 200mg what is anafranil made of sibutramine buy lipothin from usa difference between prescription orlistat alli clomid cycle days 3-7 can you get paxil femara drugstore com ultra low dose dilantin paxil and cough medicine comprar viagra professional en argentina buy cafergot novartis arthritis diet treatment 1 man 1 jar real video buy genuine finast uk cheap metformin medicine lexapro generic available date antabuse brand positioning pink viagra para comprar non prescription avalide accutane next day shipping capoten where to purchase compazine online legally acheter kamagra paris serophene how to buy comprar prometrium pela internet where to buy 5 mg apo prednisone what does generic diovan hct look like norvasc with american express best price himplasia getting a valtrex prescription can dogs take prednisone for humans pharmacy prescription buy abilify buy innopran xl lowest price where does ginseng grow in tennessee cheap indinavir no prescription remeron pharmacy express scripts online pharmacy minipress no prescription reviews teva-chloroquine side effects arimidex without prescription where to buy zovirax tablets amitriptyline over the counter anti depressants aleve wanted online review vipps pharmacy certification can you order beconase aq drugs patient cost of digoxin immune fab mentat ds syrup women buy liv 52 online usa finasteride side effects anxiety water pills boots cheap tretinoin 0,025 free delivery has sarafem been discontinued acticin australia pharmacy cheap cozaar 12.5 mg order cephalexin on line usa cialis 50 mg tadalafil legal performance enhancing drugs for sale there generic form luvox discount code for sinequan purchasing rogaine 2 online uk manor pharmacy east leake overnight cheap online prescription pariet weaning off cymbalta 60 mg donde comprar viagra sin receta argentina diclofenac potassium price endep generic wikipedia drugs elocom crema para la piel cheap genuine pletal online erythromycin stearate tablets side effects doxycycline dosage for dogs kennel cough esomeprazole 20 mg od viagra de 500 mg comprar kytril online how long does it take azithromycin to treat chlamydia tadapox roche precio argentina diamox in italia buy prednisolone acetate eye drops xenical philippines promo my zoloft coupons can you only get amoxil on prescription levaquin good reviews watch drugstore cowboy online free streaming xenical generic price trileptal prices usa cost of generic dilantin xanax dosage for anxiety erythromycin topical gel usp 2 reviews o remedio sertralina engorda online pharmacy uk premarin lukol tablets 60 digoxin online usa no prescription herbal sex pills uk zanaflex 6 mg capsules side effects benicar by mail order motrin australia pharmacy what does seroquel danazol free shipping artane order in the us withdrawal from seroquel anxiety cheap generic mentat what are erythromycin stearate tablets used for plendil refills motilium generic india adalat on line acticin with american express get evista toronto generic from cialis sublingual accutane online from usa albendazole over the counter at walgreens cozaar online with out prescription gyne-lotrimin in croatia viagra without consultation uk como comprar cialis en espan~a viagra online canada no prescription discount prednisone steroid for back pain amantadine free shipping ordering low dose atrovent estrace cream generic brand risperdal side effects webmd purchase femara in australia fluoxetine in croatia buy actoplus met xr procardia pharmacy generic brand of ortho tri cyclen lo which uk site to buy accutane zanaflex online with out prescription long term side effects of allegra d generic name for metformin hydrochloride accutane before and after girl voveran sr cost ciprofloxacino alter 750 hyzaar medicine review is there a shortage of sinemet actonel mg buy original viagra online atrovent next day donde comprar caverta nolvadex capsules buy evecare greece cheapest tofranil tablets uk nike air max men 2011 medication without prescriptions online metoclopramide generic suprax order on web valacyclovir pregnancy side effects para que se usa el bentyl cafergot online uk what is methocarbamol for dogs 1 hydrocortisone cream side effects how long does ranitidine take to work nitrofurantoin 100mg capsules side effects can you buy valtrex online without buy over the counter menosan online will you order beconase aq canadian buying brafix using paypal pharmacies in buy differin xp daily cialis 5 mg for sale triamterene hctz 25 mg buy diamox 80 mg online how to by medrol online brand levitra 20mg venlor prices cvs advair dosage for adults what does chloramphenicol work buy over the counter cyklokapron online online sale of elimite online pharmacy tramadol no prescription doxycycline 100mg acne reviews benign liver tumors birth control pills minipress india sumycin on line purchase chlamydia in men symptoms celadrin price india could you order beconase aq canadian ultra low dose baclofen best price for real asacol inderal la half life purchase tetracycline 500 mg stromectol 20 mg medicine cephalexin monohydrate vantin buy allegra with cheap metformin canada buy glucophage can order sinequan online buy haridra with paypal what is minocycline 100mg capsule buy generic biaxin with bonus 10 mg seroxat enough can you buy claritin in ireland xalatan medication lasuna mg canadian rx buy v-gel in ireland risk of twins on clomid and iui protonix reviews what is the difference in betapace and betapace af is there a generic form of rhinocort buy acivir pills online overnight non prescription canadian drugs luvox cr 100 mg micardis 80 mg price australia certified online canadian pharmacies elocom kre'm a'ra how to rank acids from weakest to strongest mexico amitriptyline free delivery
twitter facebook picasa vimeo
Join Our Email List

3-Wall Nationals

3wal2014webAug. 27 - Sept. 1 Maumee, OH
Final Results CLICK HERE!

Login Form

Lost Password?

Sign up for Court Shorts


US Handball's E-Newsletter

Tournament Calendar

Contact Us

  2333 N. Tucson Blvd.
  Tucson, AZ 85716
  This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


History of Handball PDF Print E-mail

History of Handball

as told by Tom O'Connor

Growing up in Ireland in the 50's, there were certain facts that were perceived as being self-evident; the sun rose in the east, America was the land of opportunity and handball was an Irish invention. We grew up with stories of Fionn Mc Cool, Cuchulainn and other legendary heroes who, emerging from the Celtic twilight, would relax after their great deeds in battle and hunting by playing hurling (ariel hockey) and handball. Great was the shock in later years to hear that other countries such as Spain, France and Italy were also claiming credit as the original home of the game.

Strict historical research, rather than myth and legend, turns up few clues as to the origins of the game. The elements involved in the play ball, wall, players and rules must have evolved in many different countries at different times. The chroniclers of ancient times would have in the main been concerned with the lives of rulers and kings; leisure activities of the people would be recorded only in so far as they touched on the lives of the nobility.

The first record of ball games with the hand is from 2000 B.C. in Egypt. Their priests of the temple of Osiris in Thebes were depicted on the tombs striking the ball with the hand. Such iconographic evidence is also found in America where ball games formed an integral part of Pre-Hispanic culture. Over 700 ball court sites have been identified from Arizona to Nicaragua. Many having sculptures, bas-reliefs and painted vessels. Showing people engaged in hand-played balls. The oldest are dated as far back as 1500 B.C., and interestingly in only one area is there play involving a wall that depicts the land of the Chichimeca people of the Mexican plateau. A one-wall game is still played in the States around Zacateca, where there are over 400 courts with most of the dimensions 12m x 6m - almost 40' x 20'.

Meanwhile, back in Europe the Greek writer Homer refers to a handball game invented by Anagalla, a princess of Sparta, and describes the action in a picturesque, if not very informative way, "O'er the green mead the sporting virgins play, their shining veils unbound along the skies, tossed and retossed, the ball incessant flies." In Ireland a good server of the ball is said to have a great toss!

Alexander the Great (450 B.C.) is credited with spreading the game to the Greek colonies in Italy, and from there it went to Spain, France and to other parts of the Roman Empire. Around the year 1000 A.D., as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, mention of handball became more numerous in manuscripts. In France Jeux de Paume (palm play) became popular with both the nobility in their enclosed courts and the ordinary people who played longe-paume on common land. The medieval annul of St. Foix written around 1300 A.D. describes the game. "The exercise consists in receiving the ball and driving it back again with the palm. The game was first played with the bare hand, then with the glove, lined or unlined; afterwards they bound cord or rattin around the hand to make the ball rebound more forcibly."

So far there is no mention in any of the sources of a rebound game against a wall, the game played was one of hand-tennis and this is still played in parts of Spain, France, Holland and Sweden. The original ball used was made of tightly rolled cloth pieces stitched together and this would have given little bounce against a wall. The game of Jeux de Paume with the addition of larger and longer gloves finally became the game of tennis. The hand versus racquet controversy was commented on by Erasmus the Dutch Philosopher in 1524, "You may sweat more but the game is prettier when played with the hand."

About this time, play with the hand against a wall is first mentioned in Scotland in 1427, when King James I paid a heavy price for his addiction to the game. He had given orders to his men to block up a cellar window that was interfering with his handball. A short time later he found that this escape route was cut off when the assassins came to murder him: "Alas in that vault a gap once was where through the King might have fled, but three days hence closed walled had it been by his will; for the ball would run therein when without at the palm he played."

Exactly 100 years later, the Town Statues of Galway of 1527 forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town and this is the earliest mention of rebound play in Ireland. The same laws forbade anyone with names beginning with O' or Mac to be in this English occupied town between dusk and dawn. Galway on the west coast of Ireland had many trading links with Spain especially the Basque regions where the game of Pelotamano was played and is still played extensively - it is still very much a matter of controversy as to who introduced wall handball to the other - the jury is still out.

From 1600 onward, mention of handball became more numerous, in particular by church authorities who were becoming concerned with the custom of playing ball against the church walls. The churches in many European countries, fearful for their own stained glass windows, had notices forbidding play in the precincts of their establishments. Bishop Braybrooke of London in 1620 not unreasonably objected to ball play inside the church.

The nobility who for a few centuries had played handball in their castles and manors were turning more and more to the racquet sports such as indoor or Royal Tennis. It became a game much played by Royalty (King Henry VIII built a court at Hampton which still survives). In London, businessmen with an eye for the main chance, built hundreds of these courts but within 100 years even the racquet game and other physical exercises went out of fashion. Card games and less strenuous activities such as theatricals and drinking became the preferred pastimes and many of the indoor courts became available for handball play. The London Advertiser in 1742 carried many advertisements, such as one inserted by Thomas Higgins for his Five Courts. "Courts may be booked by the hour or day; For handball playing until they are required for Tennis." There is much evidence that many of the players were Irish and had brought the game with them to London as they were afterwards to do for Australia and America.

Many accounts of handball are given by writers of the Eighteenth Century who indicate that one-wall handball was being played in Ireland from at least 1700 A.D. The southeast of Ireland became a newsworthy area in 1798 as a result of civil disturbances during that year. Contemporary accounts list John Murphy, leader of the rebels, as a famous handballer and many of the courts were venues for meetings of his followers.

The aristocracy were also supporters and players of the game. Many of the landowners gave sites for the building of courts, and the famous Dublin dandy Buck Whaley was said, for a bet of a hundred guineas ($300), to have walked to Jerusalem and played handball against its walls. There is a watercolor in Monaghan Museum dated 1782 showing a handball game being played against the walls of Castle Blaney.

Irish migrants moving to England introduced the game to the English and while some one-wall play occurred, the indoor tennis courts became popular sites for handball. In these, play off the side wall became a feature -- the courts were too long for back-wall play. In London, John Cavanagh, a transplanted Irishman, as recognized as a handballer without peer. His obituary, written by Hazlitt in 1819, indicated the high regard in which he was held. "It is not likely that anyone will now see the game of handball played in its perfection for many years to come -- for Cavanagh is dead and has not left his like behind him."

Returning Irishmen, as well as the English Military and police, may have brought the added feature of side walls back to Ireland. The game was encouraged among the military and in the schools of the land-owning classes. Courts with side walls were often called Fives Courts and have been identified in Wexford, Clare and Dublin. The local people, who were often excluded from these facilities, continued to play in their one-walled "alleys," often the gable end of houses and the ruins of castles and churches.

Organized games were never a feature of this early era. There were no nationals, but there was what may have been the earliest pro tour. As early as 1850, players such as Martin Butler of Kilkenny and William Baggs of Tipperary, with seemingly no fixed occupation, would travel all over Ireland to play for wages against the local champions. Another feature was the fostering of handball and other Gaelic sports by the Christian Brothers and other Catholic teaching orders. Many of these men later brought the game to South Africa, America and Australia, to schools such as Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the high schools in Butte, Mont..

Many of the handball champions of this era excelled in other sports, especially those requiring strength and endurance. Such attributes were required for matches which sometimes involved 21 games! The top player of the 1880s, David Browning of Limerick, was also a champion rower, weight thrower and boxer. He was finally defeated by American born John Lawlor in 1885, who immediately claimed to be champion of Ireland. As such, he was challenged by Phil Casey of New York for the World Title and a purse of

$1,000. In the Cork Court (80' x 40') Lawlor won seven games to Casey's three, but the return in Casey's own court in Brooklyn saw Casey win the required eight games to claim the title.

This meeting between the U.S. and Irish champions seemed to be the beginning of a fruitful exchange between the two countries. The interest was high and the publicity extensive, and the game got a massive boost with courts in each country turning away hundreds who wanted to view the games. But difficulty of travel, differences in courts, rules and balls, and interference by backers and promoters made it difficult to organize such challenges on a regular basis. Casey Fitzgerald of Ireland, Eagen, (sometimes spelled Egan) and James Kelly of New York were in turn recognized as World Champions. But often the title matches were unsatisfactory. Eagen's victory over Oliver Drew from Cork was marred by arguments over gate receipts and a walk out by Drew. Kelly, in his match against J.J. Bowles of Limerick, had a clause in his contract compelling the latter to serve all balls to his dominant left hand. Such controversies and bad feelings soon led to the abandonment of the series and almost 20 years were to elapse before Irish/American challenges were again to resume.

This chaotic state of affairs was crying out for organization. In Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association attempted to bring order to the game by codifying rules and organizing tournaments. Similarly, the A.A.U., which controlled many amateur sports in America, arranged in 1897 the first official tournament between Eagen and James Dunne of Brooklyn. Eagen won this match easily and for the next nine years traveled widely in America playing all challengers for his title.

The claim made by handball historians the Phil Casey's court in Brooklyn was the first to be constructed in America was disproved by John J. Condon of San Francisco. He found listings of two courts in 1873, in the directory of his native city. Condon is later noted as having played "Midge" Maquire for the World Championship in 1915 but the title designation seems to have been hype instigated by the promoters.

Handball was brought to Australia by the Irish and the 1838 Act of New South Wales forbade publicans to have any ball courts in or about their hotels. The first championship was played in Melbourne in 1847 for a prize of $150 and by 1880 many championship games were covered and lit by gaslight. The 1882 champion was Keenan (NSW), who beat Eagan (Victoria), 21-8, 21-0, 21-5, 21-4, which must indicate a match of seven games. In 1883, C. Hayes won a special tournament to decide who should travel to America to play Jim Jones for the World Title, but enough funds were not available for the trip.

As this account of handball in the 17th and 18th Centuries comes to a close, it is interesting to see how our great game has developed since. Into our possession lately came a set of Official Playing Rules dated 1895 and having a Police File reference number (there must be a story there somewhere!). Many of the rules will seem strange to our present players, but it is important to see where the game is coming from. We reproduced a selection from the rules:

  • An alley shall be 60' long (or as near as possible).

  • For alleys with clay floors, the short line will be two-thirds of the length from the front wall -- for concrete floors it will be half way.

  • The service will be from anywhere inside the short line.

  • A tell board 4" high is placed at the base of the front wall and all balls must strike above this.

  • Games are to 15 aces; matches consist of any odd number of games.

  • Singles, doubles, or trebles may be played.

  • Jerking (I assume catch and throwing) not allowed in championship matches but kicking the ball is permitted.

  • A ball crossing the lines that has been played at and missed shall count against the side that missed.

  • Balls hopping on a line shall be over that line and three shorts or long balls in serving will be a hand out.

  • Receivers may play short or long balls if they wish.

When James Kelly of N.Y. defeated J. J. Bowles of Ireland for the World Title in 1909 it was to be the last occasion for the Champions of both countries to play each other until the World Championships were inaugurated in 1964. During this period of separation the game in America began to move away from it's Irish roots and when the Americans returned to Ireland in the 70's they brought a very much changed game back with them.

In this the first half of the present century the game in Ireland also underwent momentous changes influenced in many cases by emigration across the Atlantic. The rubber ball was starting to be used despite the denision of the traditionalists for the "Rubber Bag" men, the service box was introduced, matches were shortened to best of five games and back walls were built in many of the three-walled courts. The concept of handball as a game for all was not yet in vogue and most tournaments involved matches between the top players for prize money and involved much wagering. Bowles remained the target man for almost 20 years and had some fierce battles with rivals such as Cayne, Lyons, and O'Leary. Families, as they still do became involved in the game - the O'Herlikey's of Cork were heavily involved in organizing tournaments and entertaining American players. Champions from the similar game of pelota - Sastra and Dom Pedro came from the Basque regions of Spain and France and the future looked promising for relations with European handball codes.

Handball was at last making some headway in Britain - Irish clergy, as they had done earlier in America, introduced the game to schools and seminaries. Irish workers on the railways and in the mines brought the game to areas such as Yorkshire, Durham, and South Wales. A photograph taken in 1906 (and featured in the 1995 ICHA calendar) shows a massive crowd watching that years three-wall final.

In 1910, the School Inspectorate reported that handball was the most frequently mentioned activity in "recreation". It had become a street game widely played against any available surface and thus familiar to all the population. In Ballyporeen County, Tipperary (home of Ronald Reagan's ancestors) local historian Dan O'Donaghue reports that "everyone played handball". National Championships were still a matter of challenges and complicated agreements with the holder often reluctant (as in boxing) to put his title on the line. In the early 20's Morgan Pembroke of Dublin finally dethroned the champion Bowles with the matches being played at the height of the Independence War.

The Gaelic Athletic Association founded fifty years earlier to, promote Gaelic Games began to take a more active interest in handball and helped to set up the Irish Amateur Handball Association in 1924. One of their first tasks was to arrange trials and organize competitions for that years Tailteann Games (a festival of Irish Sport and Culture). A team of Americans arrived and to the amazement of the Irish their players McDonagh, O'Donnell and Meeney made a clear sweep of the invitational events both in hardball and softball.

The amateur status of the new association brought it into direct opposition with the semi-professional Irish handball Union, but the majority of players quickly transferred to the new body. The IHU continued to hold National and even World Championships up until 1936. The new association attracted the support of state bodies particularly the Army and Police - the National Police Commissioner O'Duffy encouraged his members to play and built facilities in the stations for them. Handballers became National figures and top players such as Soye, O'Neill, and Perry were featured in sports card series and other advertising literature. The Tailteann Games continued but the American players no longer attended.

During the 30's Perry, Gilmartin and Hasset Brothers dominated the game. Gilmartin's record number of national titles was only last year surpassed by Duxie Walsh of Kilkenny. During the Second World War the scarcity of rubber brought a stop to softball play and the original game of hardball came back into its own. Gilmartin broke his neck in a horrific automobile accident in England during the War but still managed in 1946 to again win a National Title. Other big names from this era were Bergin, Sweeney, Rowe and Clarke. Administrators such as Matt Byrne of Wicklow, long time Secretary Martin O'Neill and a host of other helpers guided the game into the 50's when the most momentous changes in the game began.

< Prev

Purchase Handballs


CLICK HERE to purchase handballs!

21 Handballs are the Official handballs of the United States Handball Association