Four wall paddleball

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Four wall paddleball, or paddleball, is a popular court sport in the Upper Midwest of the United States (particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin), on the West Coast of the U.S. (particularly in southern California) and in the Memphis, Tennessee area. It is played with a paddle and small rubber ball on a standard handball or racquetball court, with similar rules to those sports.

History[edit]

Four wall paddleball was invented in 1930 by Earl Riskey, a physical-education instructor and later Director of Intramural Sports at the University of Michigan.[1] The paddleball trophy, awarded annually to the person who has done the most for the game, bears Riskey's name.

The university's Intramural Sports Building was built with a large number of squash and handball courts, and the school's tennis players often practiced on them during bad weather. Sometimes they used wooden paddles from paddle tennis instead of tennis rackets for their workouts. Riskey thought that a game played with paddles on a handball court might be a good addition to the intramural program. The courts at the Intramural Sports Building in Ann Arbor are still the site for many national championship tournaments.

Other sports (notably paddle tennis) used paddles, but the ball proved more difficult to create. Riskey found that if the fuzzy surface was removed from a tennis ball, the resulting ball had a suitable bounce for the game. Dime-store rubber balls were also used. The choice of ball remains one of the most contentious issues of the sport today. There are standard paddleballs (made by Ektelon), but the sport is also played with a racquetball. This difference changes how the game is played. For instance, when playing with a standard paddleball the ceiling ball is an impractical shot; however, when playing with a racquetball the ceiling ball is the shot of choice.

The game[edit]

Paddleball can be played with two players (singles), three players ("cut throat"), or four players (doubles). The rules of paddleball are similar to indoor racquetball, and both sports are played on the same 40-by-20-foot (12.2 by 6.1 m) court. The most-significant differences between paddleball and racquetball are:

  • Paddleball players play with a solid paddle, rather than a strung racket.
  • A paddleball is slower (and slightly larger) than a racquetball.
  • Paddleball games are played to 21 points, instead of 15 or 11 (as in racquetball).

There are other minor differences, but racquetball players tend to pick up the sport quickly and many players are good in both. Marty Hogan, Charlie Brumfield and Bud Muehleisen, for instance, each held national open titles in both sports; Hogan held both national open titles during the same year.

The differences in the paddle and the ball make for longer rallies than in racquetball, and use more of the court. As a consequence paddleball tends to be more physical, and contact between players (while discouraged) occurs more often than in racquetball. Playing the sport at the highest level requires an advanced degree of fitness and endurance, similar to that required by squash.

Four men playing paddleball
Doubles players jockeying for position; (left to right) Rick Florence, Kirk Loveday, Jim Durst and Clair Steffan (2008). Loveday and Florence were national-caliber players at the time, and Steffan has won Senior Olympic gold medals in paddleball.

The official governing organization for paddleball is the National Paddleball Association (NPA), whose website is the official source for current rules and tournament schedules.[2]

Equipment[edit]

The official paddleball ball is an unpressurized black ball with a small hole, slightly larger and heavier than a racquetball. Early in the sport's history, many of the better players honed their paddles and guarded their designs. Other players—most notably Bud Muehleisen—started with commercial paddles by Spalding or Marcraft, and modified them to meet their personal preferences. Old tennis rackets could be cut down into paddles, and these "paddle rackets" (as they were called) gave a player such an advantage over a standard wooden paddle that a new game evolved from it.

Competitive paddles are still made in small shops, but the technology has advanced beyond early paddles. Modern paddles combine polymer foams, high-strength metals, graphite and epoxy resin. Paddles are made in home shops by craftsmen such as eight-time national champion Mike Wisniewski of Bay City, Michigan, who builds a few paddles—more than needed for personal use, but not enough to be considered a manufacturer. These "Wiz paddles" are well-enough made that they are often kept on display when not in use. A few small manufacturers (notably Hillbilly Paddles) produce hundreds of paddles per year.

Related games[edit]

Several games are similar to four wall paddleball, and some are played on the same court:

  • Handball, from which four wall paddleball was derived, is played with both hands and no paddle.
  • Racquetball, derived from four wall paddleball, uses a racket tethered to one hand.

Similar games are played on different courts:

  • One wall paddleball, using the same type of paddle but played outdoors against a single wall with a different ball.
  • Three wall paddleball, using the same type of paddle but played on dedicated outdoor courts with sidewalls coming back to the service line.
  • Paddle tennis, using similar paddles and played on a court similar to a tennis court.

Squash is a somewhat-similar game, played with a long-handled racket on a similar (but different-sized) court. The court is shorter and wider, and the ceiling and bottom 19 inches (48 cm) of the front wall are out of bounds. The rules of squash are also different. It is considered a more-defensive game than paddleball, while racquetball is considered more offensive.

Men's champions[edit]

Men's National Singles Champions
Year Site Champion Hometown
1962 Madison, WI Paul Nelson Madison, WI
1962 Madison, WI Paul Nelson Madison, WI
1963 Madison, WI Bill Schultz Madsion, WI
1964 Flint, MI Paul Nelson Madison, WI
1965 Ann Arbor, MI Moby Benedict Ann Arbor, MI
1966 East Lansing, MI Bud Muehleisen San Diego, CA
1967 Bloomington, IN Paul Lawrence Ann Arbor, MI
1968 Minneapolis, MN Bud Muehleisen San Diego, CA
1969 Ames, IA Charlie Brumfield San Diego, CA
1970 Fargo, ND Charlie Brumfield San Diego, CA
1971 Flint, MI Steve Keeley E. Lansing, MI
1972 Knoxville, TN Dan McLaughlin Ann Arbor, MI
1973 Eau Claire, WI Steve Keeley East Lansing, MI
1974 Ann Arbor, MI Steve Keeley East Lansing, MI
1975 Livonia, MI Dan McLaughlin Ann Arbor, MI
1976 Adrian, MI Steve Keeley San Diego, CA
1977 E. Lansing, MI Steve Keeley San Diego, CA
1978 Ann Arbor, MI R. P. Valenciano Flint, MI
1979 Ann Arbor, MI Marty Hogan San Diego, CA
1980 Lansing, MI Dick Jury Haslette, MI
1981 Ann Arbor, MI Steve Wilson Flint, MI
1982 Lansing, MI Larry Fox Ann Arbor, MI
1983 Ypsilanti, MI Steve Wilson Flint, MI
1984 Lansing, MI Steve Wilson Flint, MI
1985 Saginaw, MI Steve Wilson Flint, MI
1986 Davison, MI Mark Kozub Livonia, MI
1987 Ann Arbor, MI Marty Hogan St. Louis, MO
1988 Davison, MI Andy Kasalo Calumet City, IL
1989 Ann Arbor, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1990 Davison, MI Mark Kozub Livonia, MI
1991 Saginaw, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1992 Midland, MI Andy Kasalo Kalamazoo, MI
1993 East Lansing, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1994 Pontiac, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1995 Eau Claire, WI Mark Piechowiak Bay City, MI
1996 Midland, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1997 Midland, MI Bob Groya Bay City, MI
1998 Midland, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
1999 Pontiac, MI Andy Mitchell Kalamazoo, MI
2000 Ann Arbor, MI Andy Mitchell Kalamazoo, MI
2001 Kalamazoo, MI Andy Mitchell Kalamazoo, MI
2002 Livonia, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
2003 Midland, MI Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI
2004 Ann Arbor, MI Kelly Gelhaus Riverside, CA
2005 Ann Arbor, MI Kelly Gelhaus Riverside, CA
2006 San Diego, CA Chris Crowther Riverside, CA
2007 East Lansing, MI Kelly Gelhaus Riverside, CA
2008 San Diego, CA Aaron Embry San Diego, CA
2009 Ann Arbor, MI Cesar Carrillo Memphis, TN
2010 San Diego, CA Mike Wisniewski Bay City, MI[3]

The table below has been sourced from information on the NPA website:

Men's National Open Doubles Champions
Year Site Champions and Hometowns
1962 Madison, WI John Blanchieu and Maurice Rubin (Detroit, MI)
1963 Madison, WI Bob and Dick McNamara (Minneapolis, MN)
1964 Flint, MI Bob and Dick McNamara (Minneapolis, MN)
1965 Ann Arbor, MI Harold Kronenberg and Galen Johnson (Eau Claire, WI)
1966 E.Lansing, MI Harold Kronenberg and Galen Johnson (Eau Claire, WI)
1967 Bloomington, Ind. Harold Kronenberg and Galen Johnson (Eau Claire, WI)
1968 Minneapolis, MN Bud Muehleisen and Charlie Brumfield (San Diego, CA)
1969 Ames, IA Bud Muehleisen and Charlie Brumfield (San Diego, CA)
1970 Fargo, N.D. Bob and Bernie McNamara (Minneapolis, MN)
1971 Flint,MI Craig Finger and Paul Lawrence (Ann Arbor, MI)
1972 Knoxville, TN Evans Wright and Dan Alder (East Lansing, MI)
1973 Eau Claire, WI Evans Wright and Dan Alder (East Lansing, MI)
1974 Ann Arbor, MI Steve Keeley (San Diego, CA) and Len Baldori (East Lansing, MI)
1975 Livonia, MI Dick Jury (East Lansing, MI) and R.P. Valenciano (Flint, MI)
1976 Flint, MI Steve Keeley (San Diego, CA) and Andy Homa (Williamston, MI)
1977 Ann Arbor, MI Dick Jury (Williamston, MI) and R.P. Valenciano (Flint, MI)
1978 Portage, MI Dick Jury (Williamston, MI) and R.P. Valenciano (Flint, MI)
1979 East Lansing, MI Dick Jury (Haslett, MI) and R.P. Valenciano (Flint, MI)
1980 Ann Arbor, MI Bob Sterken (Ann Arbor, MI) and Greg Grambeau (Ann Arbor, MI)
1981 Flint, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1982 Kalamazoo, MI Steve Wilson (Flint, MI) and Kevin McCully (Ann Arbor, MI)
1983. Midland, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1984 Dearborn, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1985 Pontiac, MI Andy Kasalo (Calumet City, IL) and Andy Mitchell (Ft. Wayne, IN)
1986 Dearborn, MI Andy Kasalo (Calumet City, IL) and Andy Mitchell (Ft. Wayne, IN)
1987 Dearborn, MI Andy Kasalo (Calumet City, IL) and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1988 Portage, MI Andy Kasalo (Calumet City, IL) and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1989 Southgate, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1990 Canton, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1991 Taylor, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1992 Lansing, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1993 Eau Claire, WI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1994 Midland, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1995 Kalamazoo, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1996 Davison, MI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1997 Eau Claire, WI Andy Kasalo and Andy Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI)
1998 Davison, MI Mike Wisniewski (Bay City, MI) and Mike Czabala (Ann Arbor, MI)
1999 Eau Claire, WI Andy Mitchell and Andy Kasalo (Kalamazoo, MI)
2000 Kalamazoo, MI Andy Mitchell and Andy Kasalo (Kalamazoo, MI)
2001 Midland, MI Andy Mitchell and Andy Kasalo (Kalamazoo, MI)
2002 Bloomingdale, IL Mike Czabala (Los Angeles, CA) and Mike Wisniewski (Bay City, MI)
2003 Eau Claire, WI Andy Mitchell and Andy Kasalo (Kalamazoo, MI)
2004 Bloomingdale, IL Kelly Gelhaus and Steve Lerner (Riverside, CA)
2005 Riverside, CA Kelly Gelhaus and Steve Lerner (Riverside, CA)
2006 Ann Arbor, MI Kelly Gelhaus and Todd Entriken (Riverside, CA)
2007 Riverside, CA Kelly Gelhaus and Todd Entriken (Riverside, CA)
2008 East Lansing, MI Mike Wisniewski and Chad Krager (Bay City, MI)
2009 San Diego, CA Mike Orr (San Diego, CA) and Todd Entriken (Riverside, CA)

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.hickoksports.com/history/paddleball.shtml[dead link]
  2. ^ "National Paddleball Association". Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "National Paddleball Association National Champions List". National Paddleball Association. Retrieved November 17, 2013.