Women playing professional Jai-Alai? You better believe it. Many Jai-Alai fans probably don’t know this but there was an era in Tijuana where young women played at Fronton Palacio. A friend sent photos of this October 25, 1958 Jai-Alai Program from Fronton Palacio in Tijuana, Mexico where young women, “the gals,” played games 1-6 at 7 pm to start the evening performance and then the men followed with 11 more games starting at 8:30 pm, thus 17 total games of Jai-Alai in one night (pretty impressive)! That would’ve been something to see and would be neat to hear some of their stories.
Games 2,4,6 were singles games with 6 or 7 posts and games were single points to 5 or 6 points while games 1,3,5 were doubles games all with 6-posts and were to 5 singles points. There were (14) women on the roster for that night. Their playing names were Angelita, Arrate, Carmen, Cary, Conchi, Juanita, Loli, Mari, Maruchi, Mercedes, Mili, Monse, Rosario and Rosita. I wonder what some of them are doing today?
The inaugural Calder Jai-Alai 2019 season featured one female player named Becky Smith on the roster, player name La Primera. Sounds like Fronton Palacio in Tijuana was way ahead of the times back in the 1950’s. CLICK HERE for an interesting article on the first female American Professional Jai-Alai player named Becky Smith at Calder Jai-Alai (article from the Miami New Times). Below are photos Becky provided to SayHiLi.com. On the first row, the group photo from left to right shows MariFer Ballesteros, Doris Galindo, Becky Smith, and Tania Mayorga. The photo was not posed, it was taken at the Club Britania 42 meter court in Puebla, Mexico on November 30, 2019, when they were getting ready to play in a tournament. The three women are all Mexican, although MariFer and Tania are teenagers. Doris is an attorney in Mexico City and Becky is a college professor.
Below is a 1934 photo of Katherine Hines, a name which may be familiar to some of the older fans of Dania Jai-Alai. Underneath her photo is another photo showing information attached to the back side of this photo about her early love for the game of Jai-Alai and how she learned to play the game. Katherine’s name appeared under a sketch of some of the Jai-Alai shots that was featured in Dania programs as the contributor of that illustration. She worked as the Publicity Director at the Dania fronton.
The Famous Katherine Hines (SayHiLi memorabilia collection photo)
Below is a February 1950 photo of Coronado, California High School students learning to play Jai-Alai and even have their own women’s amateur league.
(SayHiLi owned memorabilia collection press photo)
This photo is from 2/15/1950. Their names are (left to right) Dolores Paden, Pat Parker, Alicia Weeks, Elena Olababal, Pat McGtynn and Peggy Barton.