How it all started -
The game of Pickleball was conceived over the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, at the summer home of Joel Pritchard, a former Washington State Politician and US Congressman. One day Joel and neighbors Dick Brown and Bill Bell, were trying to relax after a round of golf, however they couldn’t escape the constant demands of their children to somehow entertain them. Not being able to find a shuttlecock anywhere, Joel grabbed a couple of ping pong paddles and a plastic baseball and sent the kids down to their badminton court, lowered the net and told them to figure out a way to play.
These original families created a game intended to keep the kids busy, however it quickly became an adult activity that would get very competitive and need a full set of rules. Joel, Dick, Bill, and another neighbor, Barney McCallum, set out to make some guidelines for this new game. They would borrow rules from tennis, ping pong and badminton, adding unique strategies like underhand serving, and the no volley zone to make it more competitive. It quickly became apparent they needed a better paddle. Barney headed to his shop in his basement. Using plywood he would make several different options of paddle size and shape, and the favorite became the paddle shape used by most players today.
The original court still stands today basically untouched. While Joel passed away in 1997 at age 72, however up until his passing late last year at the age of 93, Barney and his family still resided in the old neighborhood and organized tournaments for the locals and visitors. Barney was a pioneer of spreading the game to the public. He along with his son David started making starter sets in the basement that included four paddles, net, and a bag of balls. They sent them out to Seattle schools for use in Physical Education classes. Soon there was demand from all over the country for his $29 starter sets. His company Pickle-Ball Inc. was born and still to this day provides starter sets for a very affordable price.
Lastly the question many people ask, “Where did that crazy name come from?” It was the wives who laughed at the family dog, a small Cockapoo named "Pickles", who would stand at the ready while the families were playing, quickly dashing into the bushes to grab the ball and return it to the players. One evening as Dick and Joan Brown joined Joel and Joanne Pritchard for cocktails on the deck of their cabin watching the kids play, the wives joked, name it “Pickleball”, the name stuck, and is our unique name with a silly twist.
They never imagined the game they created would become a worldwide phenomenon with thousands of amateurs and professionals competing for prize money and prestige at all levels. They wanted to create an activity inclusive for all age groups, and skill levels. It is in that spirit that Eastern Oak Pickleball wants to make sure that all are welcome, and we continue to grow the game in the spirit that those original families created some fifty five years ago.
“I started my professional tennis career with Bill" - Steve B.