Jai-Alai Chalk Talk Hall of Fame

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Right place...Right time

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 09:36:58 PM by 4decadepro

As I've said in previous posts...and I have been 'outed' several times. I received all the attention I could ever need in 26 years of play...so I choose to post with an anonymous handle. From a Sports Illustrated interview June 23, 1975 with Pele's U.S. debut on the cover to many videos and newspaper articles till my retirement in the 90's, I learned at first innocently and at the end with veteran savvy. But now is the time for the present and future of today's pelotari to be in the spotlight. The only purpose I wish to serve is to elaborate, correct or add to observations that pertain to the era that I know and experienced firsthand. I am able to do this thanks to Tiger's website.

I started playing amateur at 14 and like most of the chalkies I join here, I became enamored with the sport of Jai-Alai at an early age...from sneaking into Miami Jai-Alai at 16 years of age to watch the immortal Churruca, Chimela, Ondarres, Orbea etc...memorized their player numbers & full names. Played in Mexico (Olympics 1968), Spain, France...did it all, wouldn't change a thing... being the 'first' American, I witnessed firsthand the transition from all Spanish to Americans trickling into the sport. From debuting 1968 in Miami before Jai-Alai expanded into the Northeast...I played at all WJA frontons. When Joey, Kirby, Mazza I & II, Kent, Charlie, Owens (his father too), J.J., Benny, Jimmy, Sergio, Echave, Paul I, Ramon, Mark & Paul Bournazian, Pete, Daniel & Butler (their father also), Marshall, Corky, King, James, Luis IV, Freddy & Teddy, Leif, Art, Ron made their debuts, I was there waiting with open arms of respect...I felt I always received the same respect in return as 'the veteran American'...some showed me right away they were special...others didn't make it...forgive me because I have left out more Americans than space allows me to list here. You know how it is said competition brings out the best in everybody...Well, I just played my game and I feel we all had fun. If anybody named above disagrees...then I was naive and wasn't aware of any disrespect...please feel free to enlighten me.

I played many quinielas with Joey, Juaristi, Asis, Rufino, Bolivar, Echeva, Jesus, Uriarte, Arra I & II, Mendi, Zabala, Michelena as well as all the Americans listed above, and too many more to list here, playing opposite. No, most of the time I was a side note, I wasn't special...I lost more points against them than I ever won, but I endured as best as I could. I was just lucky to be there.

Roommates over the years included Juaristi, Salazar I, Cortarena, Rufino, Romo, Elorrio, Renedo, Mondra, Solaun, Mendi, Zabala, Echaniz II, Gondra I & II as well as a variety of the Americans I have already mentioned. I learned Spanish fluently on my own and was well accepted after living three off seasons in Gernika, Spain.

After the strike, a whole slew of Americans started. Most had no experience and were ill-prepared for what was in store from the fans. But I had already been booed & cheered by the best of fans at all frontons from Miami to Hartford. So for the most part, as a veteran, I was a favorite...and I would be remiss not to mention playing with Lively, Phil, Rabak, Greg, Lenny, Massaro, Dale, Dave, Dennis, Chris, Dan, Darrell, Jimbo, Brock and so too many more replacement players to list...forgive me. Thrust into a bad situation, they did the best they could. I felt they looked up to me once again as the veteran American. I respected them tremendously also. I won many games with some of them. Again, if any of them didn't feel my respect, please let me know.

The last performance I attended was closing day last year at Ocala...I am not up on all the current happenings at the few frontons that are still open. It is sad...but through this channel and the people that post here...I try to keep up as best I can with what is happening in the world of pelota vasca today.

But please...this started out about Marshall, whose memory is much more important!! For I am most blessed to be alive and healthy.

I am excited about Big Bend and Texas. I pray and hope for the best.


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