Howard Hammer – PFA Paddleball Legend of the Game Profile

Howard Hammer Biography by John Bruschi

Howard Hammer is the first inductee into the PFA Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. He was not only one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but he also contributed more to the game than anyone I know. No one else is more associated with paddleball than Howie. Therefore, the title “Mr. Paddleball ” is really appropriate.

I met Howie in the 1960’s when we both participated in Chris Lecakus’s U S Paddleball Tournaments. Howie was outstanding, winning championships in both singles and doubles. He was a great offensive player, making killers from almost any angle. We teamed-up in 1969 and went on to win the American Paddleball Association championships from 1969 to 1972. We retired shortly thereafter in order to play in the touring exhibitions.

However, more importantly for the sport was Howie’s contributions off the court. He wrote the first book on paddleball strategy called “Paddleball: How to play the game.”  He designed a good looking paddle called “The Hammer”, which was very popular and had record sales. He promoted and sold single Paddleball wood walls to many clubs and parks. He eventually became president of the American Paddleball Association (APA) and for many years ran some of the best tournaments the game had seen. He helped popularize the sport with his tireless efforts to promote the game wherever he went, on and off the court.

But, it would be fair to say that the greatest accomplishment Howie made was to bring the sport to the people of the greater N Y region by promoting the touring exhibitions. From Pennsylvania to Connecticut, from Long Island to Staten Island, from the Catskills to the Jersey shore and a lot of places in between, people were able to see some of the finest players of the era, such as, Tom Terrific, Howard Solomon, Whitey Faber and Marvin Rosenberg. Of course, Howie was key to the group’s success. A fabulous entertainer and public speaker, he engaged and delighted the audiences wherever he went.

For me, it has been a tremendous experience and honor to be associated with Howie, a true professional, and I am happy to say that our friendship continues to this day.

Andy Krosnick – PFA Paddleball Legend of the Game Post #2

Andy Krosnick Legend of the Game By Bobby Schwarz

Andy Krosnick, legend (and remarkably still among the top players) of the game. Andy Krosnick is one of the most unique player to have ever competed in the game of One Wall Paddleball. In Andy’s case, I have to comment in the past; and strangely enough, I have to speak about the (hard to believe) skills that he possesses to this day.

Growing up in the Rockaways, Andy played all sports. I remember playing on a Police Athletic League Baseball team with Andy. We were probably twelve or thirteen years old. He was as fierce a competitor then as he is now. As Andy grew older he focused most of his athletic attention to Paddleball. At Beach 17th Street, in Far Rockaway, we had our home courts. Those courts were actually a training camp. We had unbelievable games there on a daily basis in the 1970’s, 1980’s and years after. It was like a tournament every day. Andy was that one guy that could drive you crazy. He returned anything and everything you could possibly hit at him. Andy had(and has) two great hands, deceiving power, clutch shot-making ability, a never give up attitude(even if you’re down 19 to 9 in a finals, a game we won) and the ability to make gets that only Andy(The Fly) can.

As most followers of Paddleball know, Andy and I teamed up to be (excuse me if I sound arrogant) the team that all other teams were measured against. Andy was the perfect partner, competitor and sportsman. He was always simply there to cover my sometimes overly aggressive play. He would make ridiculously difficult returns look easy; and he would crash into fences or dive across the pavement (Lenny Dykstra like) to return opponent’s best shots, and ultimately win the point.

Here is a flashback: In one particular tournament our opponent had hit a hard, head high shot up the middle. I decided to leave it for Andy, maybe a mistake. Andy, caught by surprise, in a move any contortionist would be proud of, manages to move his arm behind his back, get his paddle above his shoulders, leap up and forward, and return the ball that was actually past him. The return softly and barely hit the wall, but was a kill shot. I never saw anything like this. Nobody ever did. Probably never will. All in a day’s work for Andy.

Andy was the best paddleball doubles partner I ever played with. We won many, many titles together. His greatness undeniably contributed immensely to my paddleball career.  I can’t thank him enough for his commitment to our team, and our years of friendship. Andy gave and continues to give much of his time to every aspect of the game. He was a co-founder of the Paddleball Players Association. He promoted and directed various tournaments in New York and in Florida. Oh, by the way Andy continued to play and compete in open tournaments. I have been away from the scene for quite some time, but I know that Andy Krosnick and Robert Sostre have won several Open Paddleball Tournaments. Forget age; Andy is ageless! He is an absolute legend. I had the pleasure of competing alongside Andy for many years. Robert Sostre has benefited from teaming up with Andy in the current era of paddleball. The entire paddleball community should thank this great player and great man, Andy Krosnick, The Legend, for just being Andy. Andy, my partner, my friend, I thank you. Let the Legend Live On!

Lisa Michaelessi – PFA Player Profile for Week 10/22/17

 

Lisa Michaelessi Paddleball Profile by David Siegel

When Mike Melendez asked me to write a profile of Lisa Michaelessi, I said that I was not familiar with her. Mike replied, “What!! you don’t know Lisa? She was a top player in the ladies division back in the 80s and 90s….one of the best women players, bar none!” Well, though I have been involved in paddleball for over 50 years, for most of the last several decades, I’ve been insulated from the paddleball world outside of my home parks. So I needed to find out who is this Lisa Michaelessi, apparently a great player that I knew nothing about. A little Facebook search yielded a telling comment from Donnie Ciaffone: “Lisa Michaelessi, in my opinion, the best female southpaw in the Game.” I went on to find out that she is a champion, having won many women’s and mixed doubles tournaments, mostly with the likes of Kathy Guinan and Robert Sostre. Not bad! And, she’s still winning tournaments.

Lisa’s paddleball career started unconventionally. Because paddleball is a “city” game, not an elite club sport like tennis, I would venture to say most of us picked up the game on our own, usually not until adulthood. We were attracted to it because it is readily available, inexpensive and a cool way to exercise and hang out with our friends. We never had lessons! But Lisa started at age 5, encouraged and taught by her parents who were dedicated players at Marathon Park. However, it’s been my observation that terrific young paddleball players invariably fail to emerge as the stars we think they can be. A kid starts out playing the game, becomes a prodigy and looks like he or she will eventually become the greatest of all time, but then as a teenager, discovers boys or girls, tennis or other interests and paddleball goes down the tubes. Mike’s Kids Clinics is a heroic effort to reverse this trend and we all are hoping for its continued success. But getting back to Lisa, this, happily for our beloved sport, was not the case with her. She loved the game and stuck with it! Her late father, Charlie, became her mentor, teaching her the intricacies of the game, how to control the play from the right side and even had her study the top lefties of the day, like Steve Rothfeld. She became an expert at positioning and learned to play offensively, shooting for her opponent’s weakness, patiently waiting for her shot. Charlie not only taught Lisa the game, but attended all of her tournaments and most importantly, encouraged her to always do her best. Charlie certainly was the right person for the job. He was a paddleball lifer, a top B player back in the day who got turned on to paddleball at Orchard Beach.

By the time she was 13, Lisa’s skills had advanced to the point that she was competing in tournaments and she won her first Budweiser “B” in 1986 – the women’s singles. She continued to excel in paddleball over the years, winning many events. Except for a five year hiatus to raise her two children, she’s continued to play paddleball through to today, eventually switching to big ball, always calling Marathon Park home. She is still one of the top woman players, having won the W.E.p.A. tournament at Bay 8th St. and the Women’s Open Big Blue at Orchard Beach, both during the summer of 2016.

Lisa is an all-around athlete, combining paddleball with tennis, pickleball and softball. In the past, she was a baseball player (that’s baseball, as in hardball, not softball!), having played for 3 years and even tried out for the pros (“A League of their Own”?).

For these paddleball profiles, we ask the subject what is unique or interesting about their lives that the other players may not be aware of. Lisa has been steadfast in her response: “Nothing.” We doubt it, so perhaps others can share something we’d like to hear!

 

Bobby Schwarz – PFA Paddleball Legend of the Game Post #1

Bobby Schwarz Legend of the Game By Andy Krosnick

I’m writing this as a first hand witness, in my educated opinion, and someone who has played with the two greatest players the game has known! Baseball purists know that Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were the greatest baseball players without argument! In our sport of one wall paddleball, the names of Bobby Schwarz and Robert Sostre, are a cut above all others!!

WITH THAT SAID, I am writing this testimony about my longtime partner, Bobby Schwarz. Bobby first played in tournament competition with his brother Richie Schwarz, who was also a great player. As brothers sometimes do, their opinions and their on court strategies, didn’t always click. And after just one tournament, they parted ways as a team. Hence, I arrived onto the scene. I was lucky enough to have played with Bobby on a recreational level, and we did exceptionally well together. Bobby and I first played in the American Paddleball Association’s Fall Open Tournament, in October of 1972, at the Brighton Beach Bathes’ Club in Brooklyn. There were 254 teams competing!! No one knew who we were. We made it all the way to the finals!! We played the future Hall of Fame team of Howie Hammer and John Bruschi. We lost. And without going into the particulars, we learned a great deal from our first tournament together.

RATHER THEN take you on a sentimental journey through our history together, I will simply tell you, as Bobby’s partner, I observed a great deal about this man, as a great competitor, who was relentless in his pursuit to victory. Bobby was a Triple Threat. He was an outstanding offensive machine who had the arsenal to back him in the form of a powerful right hand, and a very consistent left hand. He would pound you to the point of getting a setup, and then without mercy, kill it, and end the rally. But his ability to be a defensive player was almost equaled to his offensive side. He had a remarkable anticipation sense that would give him an advantage over most opponents. The third thing he possessed, was his determination, and his ability to be a master strategist. That and along with the highest level of sportsmanship, all combined into one package!! One phenomenal athlete!!

BOBBY SCHWARZ accomplished a great many accolades in his paddleball career. Unfortunately I cannot list them, nor can Bobby. During Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012, Bobby’s entire trophy room was destroyed by floods. They were all destroyed!! It’s safe to say, Bobby had well over a hundred titles, from Singles, to Doubles, to Mixed Doubles. Bobby was the First player in the history of the game to win the Triple Crown of Paddleball Competition!! He did this at least THREE TIMES that I can remember!

AS I SAID, opening this tribute to Bobby, I was fortunate to have played and won with him. I am very lucky to have played with him. Had we never played together, I would never have accomplished any of the tournament victories I have!

IN EVERY ERA, there is always one standout player. Whether it’s Howie Hammer, Bobby Schwarz, or Robert Sostre, there’s always that one player who is heads and tails above the rest. During the Golden Years of Paddleball, Bobby Schwarz led the field!!

On a personal note, I was honored to have competed with; been friends with; shared life experiences with, this Legend, Bobby Schwarz!!