Joseph Sobek Papers
Scope and Content
The papers are arranged in four series detailing the international acceptance of racquetball. Documents include correspondence, newspaper clippings, articles, rulebooks, legal and financial records, and an official “Joe Sobek paddle racket” ball and the original Magnan Company paddle racquet.
- undated, 1951-1981
The collection is open and available for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.
Joseph George Sobek was born 5 April 1918, in Greenwich, Connecticut, and was raised there. He served in the Marines and later became a police detective. Until he retired in 1985, he had spent most of his life as a tennis and squash racquets professional at the Greenwich Country Club. He died of congenital heart disease 27 March 27 1998. Sobek was the first person inducted into the Racquetball Hall of Fame.
Joe Sobek had been a squash and tennis professional for seven years before he invented Racquetball at the Greenwich, Connecticut, YMCA in 1950.
The idea of inventing a paddle racquetball game struck him when he found it difficult to get a regular competitive squash partner and was not satisfied with handball, a game he considered too strenuous and resulted in sore palms. Working at the time as a rubber manufacturer, Sobek felt that his job did not provide adequate exercise. He began looking for a game that would provide an adequate workout and as fun as squash and handball. Paddleball was ideal for him, if only he could use a racket instead of a traditional paddle. So he fashioned his ideal racquet from a badminton racquet design and a matched ball from a tennis ball, without the fuzz. At the same time, Sobek began developing the rules for his new athletic activity.
Once he had developed a plan for rules, Sobek took his draft and design to Magnan Racket Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts. The firm attempted to follow his specifications and failed in the first few attempts before they successfully created the first racquet in 1951.
The game was accepted and played in the YMCA circles initially. By the 1970s, it had spread to other facilities and its growing popularity was enhanced due to the simplicity of the game and the strong workout provided in a short period of playing time. Today is has become an Olympic sport, with two major racquetball associations—International Racquetball Association (IRA) and American Racquetball Association (ARA)—as well as numerous clubs all over the world.
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Language of Materials
Joseph George Sobek was born 5 April 1918, in Greenwich, Connecticut and was raised there. He served in the Marines and later became a police detective. Until he retired in 1985, he had spent most of his life as a tennis and squash racquets professional at the Greenwich Country Club. He died of congenital heart disease March 27, 1998. Sobek was the first person inducted into the Racquetball Hall of Fame.
Series I: Subject Files (undated, 1959-1981) contains newspaper clippings and magazine articles relating to Sobek's role as the creator and developer of racquetball. The series also includes samples of original rule booklets, clippings from the first National Paddle Rackets Tournament, the patent application for the racket [9 March 1950], photographs and the blueprint for the first racquetball racket.
Series II: Correspondence (1951-1980) contains correspondence to and from municipal recreation departments, YMCAs, health clubs, school, the National Paddle Racquet Corporation, and the Magnan Company. The bulk of the correspondence is with various organizations and clubs, particularly YMCAs, interested in ordering equipment or acquiring information about the game's rules. The series is arranged chronologically.
Series III: Geographical Files (circa 1958-1967) consists of orders and invoices. The series is arranged alphabetically by the name of the city in which the order originated.
Series IV: Racquet and Ball (undated) contains an official “Joe Sobek Paddle Racket” ball and the original Magnan Company paddle racquet.
The collection was donated in 1980 by Mr. Sobek.
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- Joseph Sobek Papers
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