(Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoy this repost of a classic Retroland article)
Jai-Alai, in Basque, means “Merry Festival.” The game originated there over a century ago and has been billed as the “world’s fastest ball game.” Of course, a part of that excitement and intensity comes from its infamous reputation for crippling players permanently. Not the case with Whamo-s version, called Trac-Ball. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t a few dangers worth watching out for. Perhaps its no wonder that this game is so fondly remembered. Let’s take a look back at Trac-Ball.
Wham-O’s Trac-Ball came with two rackets and two balls. The idea was simple and easy enough for first-timers and seasoned professionals. Anyone could lob the ball and with enough practice, the speed and precision would come into play. When fair play was at hand, it was even pretty easy to catch the ball with the special racket. Of course, when it comes to Trac-Ball, fair play could be in rather short supply. Woe be unto those who underestimated the velocity that one of the rackets could generate. And should your playmate posess a proficiency for pinpoint accuracy, various regions of your body just might be on the receiving end of a well-aimed ball. And make no mistake, one of these balls, while relatively incapable of doing any serious damage, still could produce an audible yelp from those less proficient at intercepting the projectile with their racket.
With intense play like that, it’s no wonder that Wham-O’s Trac-Ball caught on with kids. It was better than catch and far superior to any kind of paddle ball game. Today’s Trac-Ball is the same as it ever was, still produced by Wham-O and still ever-popular. Have you logged in a few hours of playing Trac-Ball in your youth? Did you stick to the rules, or were your matches a bit more sadistic in nature? Share your memories of this infamous game of catch with all of us at Retroland.