vintage Coney

the game

Brief History

American Handball has its roots in Ireland. The earliest written record of the sport is a town statute issued in the town of Galway in 1527 that actually bans handball from being played against the walls of the town. None-the-less, the game survived and is known as Gaelic Handball today.

Irish immigrants brought the game to the States and by 1873, handball had reached the west coast.During the great depression, children playing handball during the great depressionpeople sometimes played in the streets for their next meal and a little friendly betting on the games is still a part of the experience today.

The popularity of one-wall handball leaped with the development of New York City's beach-front vacation communities. Beach-goers played up against the sides of the wooden jetties and the draw of the sport led to the Parks Department building handball courts in parks, beaches and recreational centers around the city.

Click here for further reading on handball history.

Leagues and Organizations

The famous West 5th Street Seaside Courts at Surf Avenue in Coney Island and the West 4th Street Courts at Waverly Place in Greenwich Villageare the two mainstays for professional players in the city.

To join, come down and start playing or check out the USHA's website for more info.

The USHA is the main national organizing body for all forms of handball played in the States today.

West 5th Street Seaside Courts at Surf Ave in Coney Island



West 4th Street Courts at Waverly Place in Manhattan
COOL HANDBALL FACTS

ABE LINCOLN
It is a historically-documented fact that Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, was an avid handball player.

This cover of Ace magazine from 1971 shows then Senator Lincoln playing a game of "fives" as handball was sometimes refered to at the time.

Abraham Lincoln playing handball on the cover of Ace magazine, 1971
Abraham Lincoln's handball
To the left is a photo of President Lincoln's handball, preserved at the Smithsonian.

BILL COSBY
Bill Cosby picked his neighborhood handball courts to be the setting for what turned out to be one of his most famous standup routines, "Handball at the Y."Bill Cosby

ED O'NEILL
Actor Ed O'Neill is an avid handball player
Actor Ed O'Neill was nearly late to his audition (2:34-3:29) for Married with Children because he was playing handball. Even though he came directly from the courts, his sweaty and disheveled appearance happened to be perfect for the part of Al Bundy.



KNOCKAROUND GUYS

The 2001 major motion picture Knockaround Guys shot on location at the West 5th Street courts. Several regulars served as handball consultants for Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich. More stills are available at www.streetplay.com.vintage photograph of behind the scenes of Knockaround Guys, with Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich (from streetplay.com)