Archive for August 31st, 2009

Rudy Kellerman’s New Lease On Life—Jai Alai

I find myself, yet again, sitting and waiting at the doctor’s office. It’s been nearly a year now of visiting doctors. I remember my parent’s routine, back in what they called their ‘golden years’. It consisted of going to the bank, attorneys and doctors. My wife, who is younger and in great shape no longer accompanies me on these medical visits. She tells me that I am a hypochondriac.

professional jai alai player

professional jai alai player


Three years ago we both began working out with trainers. After a year, I looked terrific. I could do 1000 jumping jacks broken up by sets of free weight lifting of over 100 lbs. I was looking and feeling great but always looked at training as a chore and a bore. You constantly get bombarded by society with the idea that exercising is the thing that one must do to maintain good health. Probably true enough but boring.

I started to notice I could no longer sleep on my right shoulder. I had terrible pain which was becoming increasingly worse, most likely stemming from old skiing injuries. The results of repeated falls skiing the black runs in Aspen during my youth had finally taken its toll. I stopped training and started with the cortisone shots that eventually led to a medical procedure to decompress the right shoulder. That was my first operation, save for the time that I had to have my finger reattached after a bad motorcycle accident. Not bad, I guess, for a 69 year old guy to have stayed out of hospitals for all these years. I had resigned myself to the fact that the extent of my active sporting life was going to be in rehab clinics. Soon I was off to the JCC pool to meet with an aqua therapist. Next I developed a painful new condition in my leg that eluded diagnosis for nearly a year. This led to appointments with a series of different medical specialists.

One day, having nothing to do while waiting to be seen by the latest Dr. of the month, I picked up a local newspaper. Leafing through it, I noticed an ad… “Free Jai Alai Lessons”. Wow! Jai Alai, a game that was so popular in South Florida back a half century ago. As teenagers back then, we would try to sneak into the ‘frontons’ where the pros played at night. These were the days when guys played football or baseball after school and rode bicycles as a form of transportation. Moms did not drive you to soccer games back then. There was no soccer and no SUV’s in those days. We did not stay home to play with electronic devices. We were lucky if our parents had a Hi FI or a Stereo. And we weren’t allowed to touch them. We were always outdoors playing sports or delivering the newspapers after school. It was a great life.

view of pro jai alai court

view of pro jai alai court


Some of us who had just gotten our license would borrow the family station wagon. We would all pile in and sneak into the ‘fronton’ to watch the professional Jai Alai players. Most of them were from the Basque country, a part of Spain. They played with their ‘cestas’, a wicker basket and hurled the ‘pelota’, a ball the size of a baseball and as hard as golf ball, against a granite wall at 180 miles an hour. It was played in an enormous indoor court 180 feet long. It was fun to watch not only for the exciting ‘partidos’ or games, but also for the chance to bet on the game and sneak a beer. Some of us went out and bought used cestas and played with a rubber ball on hand ball and racket ball courts. It was so much fun. It was an exotic and exciting game. The girls would come and watch us play after school against the wall of the local Catholic church.

Some of us got to be so good that we were invited to play amateur league in the regulation fronton where the pros played. Read the rest of this entry »

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Comments on Rudy’s Jai Alai Story

After I posted Rudy’s story on this site, Rudy also posted it on another web site for his high school class, and a number of comments resulted there. I wrote those classmates and asked permission to also post their comments here. Below are their original responses and sometimes their words of permission:

Floyd Stern Sep 2, 09:
I’ve got a $2 ticket on you to show. Excellent article. I enjoyed it. Tell your wife that hypochondriasis shows maturity and good judgment, at our age.

susie siegel schwartz Sep 4, 09:
Great… Love it. I can remember going to St Pats and watching you all play.
I loved your story. I agree with Phyllis, you should write a blog.
Since we retired I took up Tennis. Yes I have sports injuries all the time but so what.. I just figure you have to pay to play
Just keep being active and laugh as much as you can
Love Susie

What ever you want to do with my comments about Rudy. He is so funny, hasn’t changed at all since we were kids. It is great to see that you are friends.
I am starting to use weights for my (osteo) bones. Also I would like a little tiny bit of definition in my arms.
This is a very fitness oriented area.
I think most people at our age should be pro-active about their bodies.
Love the site…S

Linda Widrich Weitz Sep 2, 09:
You are so cute, Rudy! Your lust for life is delicious! I remember loving the game – it was always so exciting to watchl Today I can only recall one name, Orbea, and he wasn’t even my favorite . Thanks for the memory. It was a great bit on Rudy!
MWAH!…Linda.

Steve Katz Sep 4, 09:
Great piece Rudy.I tried playing in those years,too. Read the rest of this entry »