THE HARD WAY
I've just read your article on Jimmy Jacobs (Really the Greatest, March 7). Good luck to the Boy Wonder in his fight against Mr. Emotion. May his control system ever triumph over the likes of Mr. Right and Mr. Left. His stock of old comic books should provide much amusement in his old age—that is, if he ever grows up.
JOHN R. O'ROURKE
I thought I had been carefully schooled in the rules for handball greatness:
1) Be a braggart—especially off court.
2) Be a debater—particularly on hinders and shadow balls.
3) Hit the ball—incidental to playing.
Your article on Jim Jacobs added another: Read Batman.
E. H. STIER
The title, Really the Greatest, prompted this letter, because Jimmy has to reign supreme for a good many more years before he comes close to the record set by my father, Charlie Baker.
From the age of 28 until he was 48 my father was never defeated. What is more, he played the original game with a ball the size of a golf ball and made like a baseball—leather covered, hand stitched and hard!
Oldtime handball players disdained the use of gloves as detracting from the proper "feel" and finesse for a properly played shot. It was always necessary to put the hands in very hot water before playing, in order to get swelling and blood circulation—otherwise, a bone bruise would be a certainty.
Nor are the speeds of the two games comparable. If you drop a hard handball and a rubber handball on the floor, the rubber ball bounces higher. But if they are both propelled against a cement wall with great speed, the rebound of the rubber ball is limited by the degree of its compressibility, whereas the rebound speed of the hard ball depends almost entirely on the speed with which it is hit into the wall. Champion players could make it come off the front wall like a bullet. In the four-wall hard-ball game, placements, the "kill" and "English" on the ball were more important, and skillful serves aimed at the back corner produced aces not possible in the rubber-ball game.
To finish up about my father, he also won the Illinois State tennis title at age 17 and a year later met Bill Larned in the quarterfinals of the Nationals. Dad beat Larned one set and was leading in the second when he suffered a sunstroke and had to default.
Dad was also national checkers champion.
CHARLES J. BAKER