BYE BYE JAI ALAI

I was perusing the A.P. wires Wednesday when I came across this article on the death throes of jai alai.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago Connecticut jumped on the jai alai bandwagon, with shiny new frontons opened in Hartford, Bridgeport, and Milford, as well as Newport, Rhode Island.  In fact, it was 32 years ago, 1976, when we first heard the words cesta and pelota. 

The game itself was exotic, fascinating, fast, dangerous, and very difficult to play.  Believe me.  Hartford invited a bunch of media types to play in 1977, including Mr. Big-hair from WPOP radio, being tutored by two real players who were undoubtedly amused.

Of course, the big lure was legalized gambling, although I always thought it was a tad odd to bet legally on human beings.

The frontons, comfy and air conditioned with excellent sight lines, were also fine venues for concerts.  I remember seeing Steve Martin play the Hartford fronton when he was still doing banjo-playing, arrow-through-the-head stand up.

As with anything, the novelty passed.  There was a damaging strike by the players in Hartford, and then the hammer came down in 1992.  Foxwoods opened.  It was no coincidence that Hartford and Bridgeport closed 3 years later.  Somehow, Milford hung on until 2001 and Newport until 2003.

There was a time you’d dress for a night out at the fronton.  Maybe even buy admission tickets in advance. 

I guess all things must pass.

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About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
This entry was posted in Living in the Past, News, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to BYE BYE JAI ALAI

  1. jan says:

    wow gerry aka mr big hair how time flies.even though the stash and big hair are memories,it was a good thing you didn’t give up your day job!i think you look bettter today ( did i stoke your ego??) at our age we’ll take any compliment we can get.it’s good to able to laugh at yourself that way you’ll always have somone to talk to!!

  2. Gerry says:

    Jan, you summed it up perfectly. I’ll take anything I can get. Thanks.

  3. Michael says:

    Nice Story and I wish that it all didn’t have to come to an end. As far as Im concerned it hasn’t becuase there are a few of us that are still out here pushing Amateur Jai alai.

    I don’t think that the sport will every die as long as there are still a few of us old timers out here that fell in love with the sport.

    With a little luck the sport will survive, but the gambling aspects of it are going to have to survive in Florida for right now.

    Thanks for doing the story

    perryjaialai@yahoo.com

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