At this very moment, Roosevelt (Shake) Speers is in the midst of inventing his new handshake, which, he claims, will revolutionize the industry. You may remember Shake because his athletic career spans much of the last two decades, in which handshaking—Speers prefers the more plebeian "shakin' "—has become the foremost evidence of a baseball/basketball/football player's style and personality, not to mention the ultimate test of his character and manhood.
Speers, of course, perfected the jumble-thumb run, blister-wrist click as a mere urchin of a rightfielder on the baseball diamond at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion High School in the Bronx. Fats Waller may have started it, but Speers perfected it. Subsequently, as history would have it, Speers developed the amazing horizontal, interlocking, gimme-skin wringing, tingling, underhand digit drill after he was recruited to be a ball-handling guard on the hardwood at Valley of the Bear Paws Junior College in Small Sandy, Mont.
After arriving in the big time, Speers initiated some spectacular welcoming moves over the next few seasons. Do you recall the pumping knuckle-knocker? His. The overlapping, no-look, monster elbow squeeze? His. The 360-degree banana-roll butt pat? His, too. How about the Hi, Mom? While breaking all records as a scatback on the gridiron for Jackson C. Jackson University at Swine Jowl, S.C., Roosevelt (Shake) Speers became an absolute legend with the Hi, Mom.
In the pros Speers wasn't so fortunate. Soon after joining the Buffalo Bills and giving birth to the high five, the low 10, the high-low five 'n dime, the upside-down fist-pounding boogie salute and Speers' personal favorite, the vertical cuticle side-nails tap 'n slap, Cashmere Bouquet reverse facial get down, the Shakin' Man was cut from the taxi squad by Coach Chuck Knox, who said Speers didn't want to pay the price.
"You know the going rate for a Checker?" Speers asked.
Things have shaken out for the best, however. As soon as Speers has perfected his newest shake—he calls it the substation zebra, semicircle, pike 'n jive, behind-the-back relaxo twirl-out, and he says it may take upward of 47 minutes actual shakin' time—the brilliant innovator should be back in heavy demand. David Wolper already has called about producing The Shaker, a documentary film of Speers' life costarring Gary Coleman and Scatman Crothers. The Shake 'n Bake people are said to be interested in some commercials. And all the TV realism shows—Hand to Hand, Those Incredible Shakes, Network Battle of the High Fives and the Emmy Award-winning Now That's A Handshake!—are lining up for prime-time spots.
After all, greetings have become quite the rage. And Shake Speers was there at the creation.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Rare is the activity as eloquent as the handclasp in revealing mood and feeling. It originated in antiquity when the right hand normally held a weapon so that, if empty, the extended hand became a gesture of welcome, of peaceful intent. Despite many campaigns against it, the handclasp has survived.
In 1880 a report of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology by Carrick Mallery came out against "the senseless and inconvenient custom of shaking hands." Mallery said the handshake was by no means popular throughout the world and added, "The extent to which it prevails in the United States is the subject of ridicule."