The front court player serves the ball to start the game. The Miami fronton was built with the purpose to showcase Mirs talents. Mir served as the chief judge and match-maker at the Miami fronton until he retired in 1975. In the 1920s frontons were built in Chicago and New Orleans, but later closed when betting was not legalized in Illinois or Louisiana. In some countries, the courts are called canchas, especially the outdoor courts. The winner of each point stays on the court to meet the next team in rotation with losers going to the end of the line to await their next turn. In the Spectacular Seven, round-robin style of play, players or teams with the lowest post numbers usually have the advantage as the
higher numbers see less court time.
In the United States, initially most of the jai alai players were from Cuba; then Basques from Spain were brought in for the sport. There are several theories concerning the origins of the sport of jai alai:
It originated in ancient Greece and Egypt. It originated in pre-Columbian Central America and was brought to Spain by the Conquistadors. It originated as a game that grew from the ball and court games of France which evolved into tennis. Various versions of the game were popular in 18th century Spain, but eventually the enthusiasm for the sport blew out; that is, except in the Basque regions where the sport continued to be quite popular. A red area around the front wall surface indicates out of bounds and on the right side of the court, a 10-15 feet wooden floor area is out of bounds. Points are awarded if the opposing player:
Does not serve the ball so it bounces between lines four and seven Does not catch the ball in the air or after the first bounce Juggles or holds the ball (no fluid motion) Throws the ball out of bounds Interferes with a players attempt to catch and hurl the ball
Most games are played until a player or team reaches seven (Spectacular Seven) in a round-robin rotation with eight teams or single players; though some go to nine points (Superfecta). Mir was born in Cuba and had a Basque grandfather who ran a fronton there. In the Basque language jai alai means merry festival and the name was used for the game because it was often played at festive events; usually against the sides of churches. Players then alternate catching and throwing the ball. Once the first round is completed, points double. In addition, perfecta and quiniela bets are allowed. The first team to the seven score, wins. In a quinela bet, two players or teams must finish first or second in any order.
Professionals usually start young, between ages eight to ten, and train for years before becoming good enough to be a professional player. The cesta cannot be longer than 60 cm when measured straight or 110 cm when measured around the curve. The cesta was invented by French Basque player, Gantchiqui Diturbide, in the 19th century.
The fronton is used to describe the court of jai alai. The game starts with one player serving the ball. The court is divided by 14 parallel lines numbered from front to back. It is about three quarters the size of a baseball and considered the hardest ball of any sport. The core is made of virgin rubber from Brazil. It wasnt until 1924 when the first court (called fronton) was opened in Miami. This was largely due to one manPedro Mir. Toward the end of the 19th century playing jai alai spread to other countries, predominately the Philippines, Latin America and Indonesia. Likewise, the fronton in Newport, Rhode Island (where betting on the sport was legalized in 1976) sees much competition from other gambling venues and while the fronton is still open, much of its revenue comes from slot machines on site. In Florida five frontons are open as of this date. The court can be varied in length, but is usually about 40 feet wide and 176 feet long.The Game of Jai Alai
The object of the game is to score points by throwing the ball against one of the walls in such a manner the opponent is unable to catch the ball before it bounces more than once. In a perfecta bet, the first two players or teams must finish in the chosen order. Mir became a professional player as a young teenager and when he arrived in Florida at the age of 23; he heavily promoted the sport. It must done in one fluid motion; juggling or holding the ball is called by the referee. When it made its first public appearance in St. Layers of nylon are added and then it is covered with two layers of goat skin covers. It is widely popular in Florida; especially among gamblers. The players are paired for round-robin competition. This centuries old game is fast-pace; billed as the fastest game in the world. The program entailed a four-five year training regime before the students were capable of entering the professional realm.
Jai alai (pronounced Hi-Lie) is a little known sport among the mainstream sports fans. In particular, the sport was extremely popular in Cuba and when immigrants made their way to Florida in the United States, they introduced the sport to that region. It was included in several Olympics as display sports; in 1924, again in 1968 and the most recent in the 1992 Barcelona games. Spectators are protected by a screen over the open section. The pelotas hit the walls of the court with such force, (up to 180 miles per hour ) their play life is only about 15-20 minutes before the cover splits and needs replacing.
The catching glove, or cesta, is made from woven reeds and a frame work of chestnut wood.
Top players usually have custom made cestas. When the number of frontons increased (after WWII), a training facility was built in Miami to accommodate the increased need for top players. Once the players have been eliminated down to three finalists, those three play until one player or team reaches seven points.
Betting on jai alai increased the popularity of the sport. In 1900 it was an official sport in the Olympic Games with Spain taking the gold medal.
History of the Sport
The American version of the sport of jai alai comes from the Basque region in the Pyrenees Mountains of Northern Spain. Connecticut opened three frontons and betting was legalized in 1971; however, competition from other gambling venues forced them out of business. The server is required to bounce the ball behind the serving line and hurl the ball using the cesta directly to the front wall in such a manner it rebounds and bounces between lines Number four and seven. However, the youngest recorded professional player in the history of the sport was Piston I who began his professional career in Spain at the age of nine in 1922.
The copyright of the article Dont Blink: Super Sonic Sport of Jai Alai is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
Spectators of jai alai will not want to blink lest they miss the speeding ball bouncing wickedly into a players cesta only to smoothly be launched out within a nano-second.
Betting for win, place or show has the singles players and doubles teams assigned post positions, 1 through 8 as in horse racing. It is between 30-70 centimeters (about 11-27.3 inches) long and is held by a leather glove and strapped onto the forearm. This is where the modern version was developed and thus where many cite it originated.. In doubles (teams) there is a front-court and a back-court player. Louis in 1904, there was little fanfare for the game. Analyze the players well before making bets; money may disappear as fast as the pelota. In tie situations, there is a play-off to determine the winner. He is credited with developing the rules for the game in the United States.
Gambling on Jai Alai
In 1934 Florida legalized parimutuel betting (bets pooled together before an event and then distributed amongst those who bet correctly once the outcome has been determined) on jai alai. It is patterned after horse race betting; win, place or show. In some places, a building with several courts
is called the fronton and the individual courts inside are called canchas. The court is three-walled with walls on the front, back and left side, leaving the right side open; thus all players play right-handed. If the ball bounces elsewhere, it is considered an under or over serve and the opponent is awarded the point. Three pieces of equipment are needed for the game:
The ball (called the pelota) The wicker basket glove (called the cesta-punta in Spainish and xistera in Basque) The court (called the fronton) The ball, or pelota, used for this sport is similar to the ball used for hand-ball or racquet ball. (At one time there were ten frontons open in Florida.)Equipment for Jai Alai
Players of jai alai wear uniforms consisting of a tee shirt with their post number on the front and their unique number on the back; white pants with a red sash (belt); tennis shoes; elbow pads and since 1968 a helmet