Jai-Alai originated in the Basque Country of Northern Spain.
The game was played outdoors using the church walls as the first playing courts.
Jai-Alai means "Merry Festival" in the Basque language. Professional Jai-Alai in America originated at the Miami Fronton.
Over three centuries ago, in the Basque area of Spain's Pyrenees Mountains, Pelota Vasca (Basque Ball) developed. Some games were played at festivals and were called Jai-Alai (Merry Festival).
The most daring of these games (Cesta Punta) evolved into the game you see in America. It is the world's fastest ball game. Jai-Alai came to Cuba from Spain in 1898, and was successfully introduced as a professional game at the Miami Fronton in 1926.
Check our vintage Program Cover and Post Card which show part of our Jai-Alai history. While it is hard to imagine, helmets were not introduced until 1968 after a champion player named Orbea was hit in the head, ending his career.
While the round-robin form of play is common in the United States, overseas two teams play head to head in the Partido. In Spain, for example, a Partido runs 25 to 40 points and may last an hour or more. Each point is bet as well as the game itself.
Jai-Alai is a unique sport played in various places around the world. Though its birthplace is the Basque Country, there are more Jai-Alai frontons in Florida than any place in the world.
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