Photos by K. Davidoff
Every year we celebrate black history month during the month of February and try to pay tribute to some of the best handball players who either played at the AAU and/or the USHA.
This year we would like to honor Mr. Winfield Ballance, an African American top handball player from the '60s, who competed among the all white-dominated handball sport during the most tumultuous years in American History.
In Handball History, Mr. Ballance is rarely mentioned because he never won national titles, but that's not a valid reason for not talking about him, his talent or his top achievements. Old handball followers still remember him as the fastest man on the court "I faced Winfield Ballance in the semis. His game was totally different from Holmes. He was the fastest man I ever played throughout my entire 54 years of playing handball," wrote Dan Flickstein in one of his articles "Lessons in Handball are Lessons in Life"
But despite Ballance's special talent, he never got the credit and recognition he deserved as the fastest man in the handball world. Somehow that honor went to Steve Sandler in another handball article written later on by... who else?.... Dan Flickstein “One-Wall Fastest Players...............of all-time”
Mr. Ballance also beat most of the best players of the 60's and reached the semifinals of many tournament including the singles and doubles of the 1-wall nationals. In one of his best runs at the national level he trounced USHA Hall Of Fame player Howie Eisenberg in the quarters and barely lost to HOF Ken Davidoff in a close tiebreaker that could have gone either way in 1963. He reached third place at the national level (see photo of draw below).
Soon after the 1963 1-wall nationals, he quietly retired early from handball competition.
We have never got the opportunity to watch Naty Alvarado Jr play in person so we decided to watch him play at the NYAC Invitational in 2015. We are aware he's not younger anymore and most likely his best game was played in the past. But we liked the idea he was playing Paul Brady, where the Irishman pushed Mr. Alvarado to the max where we got to appreciate Alvarado's skills.
There are two ways to get into the Hall – objectively, like Paul Brady, who has captured so many titles and that makes him a strong candidate for the Hall, and subjectively, like 1-wall player Davidoff, who got in the Hall after winning one USHA title in his entire handball career, but was considered to be the best for a period of time.
Alvarado Jr. may have not won as many titles as Brady, but he's a strong HOF candidate based on his game, his serve and his national titles in the '90s.
Even in the four-wall game, there are 4-wall players who were known to have several USHA titles and an excellent game, and got inducted into the Hall. Mr. Alvarado seems to be heading that way. We are confident Mr. Alvarado Jr. will get into the Hall.
Photo from Facebook
It's exactly 110 years since Philip Casey, the man who promoted and tried to popularize the handball sport in the 19th century, passed away.
Mr. Casey built his own handball court in Brooklyn where many important people came to practice and play on a daily basis.
Nowadays, we have Dave Vincent on the West Coast, promoting handball through the WPH website that includes a message board, a pro tour and a live video streaming where most handball fans can watch matches online. The WPH site also has an extensive video library where handball fans can watch and learn from the games.
The WPH concept was born exactly 100 years after Mr. Casey's death.
Congratulations to Dave Vincent and his crew for doing an extraordinary effort promoting the handball sport around the world.
Photo by cardcow.com
The outdoors handball season is here and everyone is scrambling to find a Park to play or organize a handball tournament to prepare themselves for the ultimate showdown during the summer.
It’s the perfect time to get up, get out there and find your Park.
We asked Tyree: what’s your favorite Park to play handball?
“The Central Park handball courts. Every Park has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to playing handball. I personally prefer to play in Central Park rather than in Coney Island. The courts are well taken care and the ball tends to have a true bounce. The Coney Island courts are too old and in need of a big make over” Tyree said.
“It’s also a matter of adapting to them. In the past, the Brighton Beach Baths handball court (walls) were made out of wood, but people didn’t mind and enjoyed playing handball all year round”
There are more than 2,000 courts in New York and plenty of room for everyone to enjoy outdoors activities.
Photo by PSAL
The Midwood handball team got good and bad news this year.
The good news is that Jennifer Rogers will be coming back as a handball coach for both: the boys and girls teams “Mrs. Rogers asked me to help her out with the boys this year” said Tyree.
“It's going to be a tough year for Midwood”
The bad news is that Midwood doesn't have handball stars this year “90% of the players in the boys team are freshman and a few are sophomores” said Jennifer Rogers.
“I don't know how I'm going to manage this year, I'm also the Coach for the girls' team”
Having established players is always a plus for any handball team, but we believe Mrs. Rogers could do fine without stars. Back in the 60's and 70's, the PSAL (Public Schools Amateur League,) produced some high school handball players that weren't considered stars, but were good enough to beat any national open player during those years.