Vaughn Baker is “Special” to the Coastal Point newspaper, a monthly publication covering the beach community in the state of Delaware beach community. He recently published a very interesting article talking about nearly 60 years of pickleball history.
He says, “Many are surprised when I say “pickleball history,” but in a few weeks, pickleball will be 59 years and counting. I recently took a look at the book written by a friend, Olympian Dick Squires, called The Other Racquet Sports.”
Baker recounts Dick’s exceptional prowess in both tennis and squash during his time at Williams College. He clinched the Williams College tennis singles title four times and the squash title twice. Furthermore, he stood as a New England intercollegiate singles and doubles tennis champion and reached the finals twice in the National Intercollegiate Squash tournament.
Notably, Dick also secured U.S. championships in tennis (1949), squash (1953), and platform tennis (1966, 197, and 1983), setting a record at one point for holding more national titles in racket sports than anyone else.
In the piece titled “A Slice Of Humble Pie Helps You Aim High,” published in the Coastal Point on December 12, 2018, Baker highlighted his initial encounter with Dick. It revolved around his introduction and advocacy of platform tennis.
The Emergence Of Pickleball
Squires’ book, written in 1978, addressed the emergence of pickleball, a sport officially 13 years old by then but one that had only been effectively organized for about a year when the publication was released.
Amidst tennis’s burgeoning popularity, he expressed concerns about how it could overshadow other smaller racket sports. Dick meticulously rated and ranked 13 other racket sports in his book, notably including the then-new pickleball.
Rudimentary Pickleball Court
Taken to their rudimentary pickleball court upon arrival, he had realized the awesome potential of the game by the following lunchtime! He drew parallels with this experience to when he had introduced platform tennis.
He describes the origins of pickleball, tracing back to how Pritchard and his friend Bell had “band-aided and band-sawed” some old badminton equipment and ping pong paddles one afternoon after returning from their golf game.
The property had an asphalt-surfaced badminton area, which they used as a court. According to USA Pickleball, they placed the net at the badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net to begin with.
Conducive To A Half-Volley Game
As the weekend progressed, Pritchard and Bell discovered the asphalt surface was also conducive to a half-volley game, and they lowered the net to 36 inches.
Barney McCullum joined them a week later, and, hey presto, the game was born! The three men created the first rules soon after, using badminton as their yardstick.
The book also elucidated the evolution of certain game rules, such as the establishment of the no-volley zone to counter the overly aggressive “Big Game” serve-and-volley style of play prevalent in tennis during that era.
Pritchard’s construction of the first pickleball court in 1967 marked the first stages of the sport’s growth, albeit slow, with only 10 courts in use by 1973. The founders’ determination led them to copyright “Pickle-Ball” and vigorously promote it, especially in schools equipped with badminton courts.
You will notice the spelling of “Pickle-Ball” with a hyphen, which was how the inventors originally wrote it.
Pickles The Dog
Dick faced considerable criticism for featuring pickleball prominently in his book and for his favorable appraisal of the sport. Despite opposition, he stood by his newfound belief in the game’s potential, providing valuable promotional insights to Barney McCallum, who took on the role of a promoter.
Explaining the game’s name, Dick shared its origin, attributing it to Pickles, Pritchard’s cocker spaniel, who displayed a keen interest in the sport as Baker describes:
“Dick did explain the game was named after Pickles, Pritchard’s cocker spaniel, who seemed to enjoy the game as much as the rest of us, jumping out of the underbrush and nabbing a loose ball.”
Moreover, a friend of Baker’s was a knee surgeon well-versed in tennis injuries and had treated Pritchard, who in turn had told him that he had named the game after his dog.
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