The 1980’s brims with racquetball facts, however the most interesting one is rarely disclosed. I have no regret in revealing it here after witnessing all the shenanigans between the two racquet manufacture giants – Leach and Ektelon – through the Golden Era 70s. It is fitting that one really screw the other in the 80s.
Andy Hawthorne between the legs at a 2014 IRT Pro Stop. (IRT photo)
What was the dirtiest secret – the stunt that changed the game and you hold in your hand today? In 1984,
the AARA conspired in a back room deal with Ektelon to change the rules to allow a big head racquet for which Ektelon had already designed the manufacturing equipment. The new oversize took the country by storm. It took competitor Leach about a year to dye the tools to make the big head to get back the 5 point spot per game their players were giving up, while losing championships to the oversize. A big head racquet, the second you take off the cover, having experimented with cross-sports and with sawed off racquets, is worth at least 5 points in a game to 15.
The greatest match of the decade has been called the battle of the Titans between Marty Hogan and Mike Yellen in the 1986 Ektelon National Final. Actually, it was a battle of small vs. big head. Marty using the smaller Leach-Kennex stock took on Yellen with the oversize Ektelon. Yellen had gained a few pounds by that time and Marty’s conditioning carried him to an 11-2 win in the 5th of what had been a dead even match for the first four games. It was the last event of the 80s televised on ESPN.
That’s the dirtiest secret of the 1980’s among other advances in Racquetball: In 1980, the Women’s Professional Racquetball Association formed; in 1981, the World Games I and the first Racquetball World Championships was held in Santa Clara, California, and Penn introduced the ‘Ultra Blue’ racquetball; in 1982, AARA was accepted as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee; in 1984, the first National Elite Training Camp was held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the USA won the World Championships over 13 countries in Sacramento, CA, match rules changed from 21 points to 15 per game, with 11 point tiebreaker; and Ektelon introduced the oversize racquet frame…
That changed the face of the game.