PFA Paddleball Hall of Fame Players
Howard Hammer was inducted into the PFA Paddleball Hall of Fame on January 14, 2017.
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.
By John Bruschi
John Bruschi was inducted into the PFA Paddleball Hall of Fame on February 25, 2018
The consummate professional and the ultimate team player. Those are the words that come to mind when describing John Bruschi. In the 1960s and 1970s, I had the pleasure and great fortune of having John as my doubles partner, and I could not have asked for a better partner on the court. The success we were fortunate enough to enjoy was due to how well we worked together, and that success would never have been possible without John. Our partnership continued into the 1980s, as we and Marv Rosenberg and Howie Solomon put on exhibitions throughout the tri-state area and beyond, spreading our love of the game.
John was always recognizable on the court, with his familiar eye protection and helmet. Although not the fastest player or the hardest hitter, his amazing success came from the neck up: John was one of the smartest and best defensive players in the game. He was often a step or two ahead of his opponents, setting up shots and never giving in. His trademark lob shot would leave our harder hitting opponents bewildered. Perhaps the best thing that one partner can say about another is that “he made me look good.” John always made me look good. I can still remember like yesterday his defensive play. John was never out of position, and he never “hung me out to dry.” Victory after victory, and championship after championship was his paddleball legacy.
People that remembered John playing can recall the greatness and effortlessness with which he played. I was lucky enough to be witness to it day after day, and tournament after tournament. John also never rested on his laurels. I can recall John calling me in the middle of winter to practice, and I’d tell him I’m not sure we should because it’s 30 degrees out! But that was John, whose dedication to the craft, and always striving to get better, is another one of his qualities.
So too was his class, and the always respectful way he conducted himself on the court. As our competitive days were winding down, the next great doubles team of Andy Krosnick and Bobby Schwartz had the good fortune to compete against John and witness his play, and they continued to uphold the mantle of John’s skill and class.
I’ve known John for a half century, and I am honored to have played with him and learned from him. Most importantly, I’m proud to call him a friend. I’m glad he is remembered as one of the greatest paddleball players of all time.
Written By Howard Hammer