When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

03 August 2008

Sidearm-swingers from Brooklyn

Joe Mitchell would have loved this story:
“Vic was probably the best ever,” he said. “Just a towering, towering figure in New York City handball, which is the best handball in the world.”

Ruby Obert, 74 — who with his two older brothers, Carl, 76, and Oscar, 77, made up a renowned trio of sidearm-swingers from Brooklyn — said Mr. Hershkowitz was a New York City fireman and would sometimes show up at tournaments straight from work, wearing his heavy uniform and a mask of soot. Then he would light up the court. Mr. Hershkowitz’s secret weapon, Mr. Obert said, was his ambidexterity.

“He could play equally well with either hand,” Mr. Obert said, leaning against the chain-link fence and eyeing some of the younger players. “Guys would die to have Vic’s left hand, which was just as good as his right.”

Not everyone at this Coney Island landmark known as the Seaside Courts was aware of the legend of Mr. Hershkowitz or that he died on Monday in Plantation, Fla. But Mr. Obert had heard the news, and he could talk about Vic Hershkowitz all day, if it were not for his natural tendency to turn the spotlight on himself and his brothers and their 36 total combined world and national championships. Oh, and did he mention that each had been inducted into the United States Handball Association Hall of Fame?

“That’s because I’m a handball player,” Mr. Obert readily admitted. “None of us can talk about anyone but ourselves.” A small ego makes a small player, he said, and by that logic, there were very few small players around the Coney Island courts on Friday, where the boardwalk and sand and scrubby pines edge right up to the courts.
Want to Play Handball? Better Not Forget Your Ego (New York Times, 28 June 2008)

Hat tip: Carrie, who belatedly but thankfully called this to my attention.

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