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Havana Jai Alai: 1904

Havana Jai Alai: 1904

Havana, Cuba, circa 1904. "Jai alai hall." Parimutuel pelotas in a smoke-filled fronton. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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One thing's

for sure. We don't have any Google Street Views for this location.

Las Vegas

When the MGM Grand opened in Las Vegas, December of 1973, there was a Jai Alai court on the North side of the hotel, beyond the movie theater. It looked much like this photo. All the players were from Cuba or South America. Top noctch entertainment, and I believe some of the games were televised. It did not last but a few years. Gamblers couldn't figure out how to bet (and beat the game) so they went back to the ponies, and other sports. I love this photo. I had a lot of fun going to those games.

You Bet

I lost a lot of money on Jai Alai when while I lived in Miami.


Growing up in Florida in the 1980's, I was aware of Jai Alai, but I think my conservative father discouraged any interest in it because it was 1) dangerous and 2) allowed gambling. I had no idea of the history of the sport until this post compelled me to read up on it.


Interesting, the language of the sign in the first comment...A US-owned factory in Mexico that I have visited has a sign asking workers (in Spanish) to "Demonstrate your education, and do not write on the bathroom walls."


Today there's always a screen or plexiglass shield between the players and the gallery.

Check out the "luxury suites," in the mezzanine!

Those who could afford more than a bleacher seat got to hang up his hat in spacious comfort with table service!


If there are any Route 66 fans out there (we're a declining number), the game of Jai Alai was featured in episode 88 (Third Season) of the show broadcast on April 12, 1963 and written by the great Stirling Silliphant: "In Tampa, Tod and Linc aid Jai-Lai players in a dangerous attemt to smuggle a little girl out of Cuba."

This was the first time I'd ever seen this sport and was mesmerized by its speed and the way balls were bounced off the walls of the fronton.

"Linc" was played by Glen Corbett, who replaced George Maharis in the series. Tried and true Martin Milner lasted to the greatly mourned ending of the show in 1964.

I beg your pardon?

Am I the only one who has had to look up virtually every word in the description above? (I was reasonably sure I knew what "Smoke-filled" meant!) Vocabulary building the Shorpy way.

Jai Alai!

One used to see Jai Alai frequently on "Wide World of Sports" and other television shows. I used to enjoy watching it but it just sort of disappeared from TV.

It was an exciting sport... better than tennis, to my mind.

Luxury boxes and Panama hats

How much for tickets to the luxury boxes at the mid-level, complete with hatstands and armchairs?

Notice also the number of women (and even a small child) in the lower grandstand level, and a shortage of them up in the upper level (I think I found one, at most two) up at the top.

Fans of men's headwear should be able to pick out a number of styles of braided straw Panama hats, with a variety of brims and crowns. The flat skimmer is "in," but other styles of summer hat are holding their own.

Sign of the times

Rough translation:


It is absolutely forbidden to throw anything on the court.
Just because you paid to get in doesn't mean that you are exempt from demonstrating that you have good manners. (Literally, "are well educated")

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