Brooklyn Boro

Scholastic Roundup: Steve Sandler was the ‘One-Wall Kingpin’

June 11, 2021 Andy Furman

He was known as the “one-wall kingpin.”

Steve Sandler won the U.S. Handball Association Singles Championship in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973 and 1981, and was elected to the Handball Hall of Fame in 1985.

He is remembered as much for his domination of one-wall handball as for his entertaining challenge matches. At the top of his game, considered handball’s best volleyer, server and shooter, he was also known to play with such handicaps as one hand tied behind his back or using only his backhand.

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Sandler also won the AAU singles championship in 1961, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972 and 1974.

Until he was 16 Sandler had basketball, not handball, on his mind. Then someone pointed out that at 5-feet-7 his chances of making the New York Knicks were limited, so why not try handball? Four years later, the Lafayette High grad won the national one-wall championship.

The trouble with winning championships, as Sandler found out, is that nobody will play you over at the Avenue P courts unless you forgo the use of your right hand. So, he learned to play with his left. Eventually, of course, his left hand became devilishly effective, and his sense of anticipation, his quickness and his ability to play the game with guile became greater than ever. But when tournament time came, he had no right hand. At age 22 Steve Sandler retired.

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It was 25 years ago this month when Mark Levine, an 18-year-old Brooklyn College freshman majoring in political science, won the Amateur Athletic Union one-wall handball championship by upsetting Sandler of the 92nd Street, YMHA, 21-5, 21-11, at the Municipal Courts in Coney Island, according to a New York Times archive report.

Levine, representing Union Temple in Brooklyn, was the United States Handball Association champion in 1968 and 1969.

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Sandler, reported to have injured his right shoulder, according to the report, in a warmup game, was forced to play left-handed for about 75 per cent of the match. The match drew a large group of rooters, especially for Levine, it was reported, who starred in handball at nearby Abraham Lincoln High School.

Steve Sandler, whose 15 national one-wall singles championships are the most in history, died from septic shock – at 74 – ironically from an infection he developed in his right hand.

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Herb Turetzky has seen more Nets’ basketball games than anyone on the face of the earth. He’s been the team’s official scorer from the days when they played in Teaneck, N.J. and were the New Jersey Americans.

He says he’s excited about the second-round NBA Eastern Conference playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I’ll be increasing my Guinness Book of World Records total of 2,241 Professional Basketball Games worked as Official Scorer for the Brooklyn Nets – starting on October 23, 1967 with the N.J. Americans,” he says. “Not too bad for a kid who was introduced to this great game by former St. John’s and New York Knicks star Hy Gotkin at the Brownsville Boys Club in 1955 at ten years old.”

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A little mention from Phil Mushnick in the New York Post: Late in a recent Rockies-Mets telecast on SNY, Gary Cohen noted that San Diego Padres’ Al Ferrara in 1970 was the first and last victim in Tom Seaver’s streak of 10 consecutive strikeouts. Ferrara, aka Ki Ki and The Bull, was the last out of that game.

Cohen then mentioned that later in the 1970s he was watching TVs “The Match Game,” where Ferrara appeared as a contestant.

Ferrara was an all-city performer at Lafayette High and dabbed in acting and once appeared in an episode of “Gilligan’s Island. On “The Match Game”, The Bull gave his occupation as a “freelance piano dealer.”

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Rene LeRoux, Executive Director of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame reminds that former Brooklyn Dodger slugger and Miracle Mets manager, Gil Hodges will be inducted into the Hall, Sunday, August 15th. Tickets are $100 per-person and the induction is set for the Hilton Hotel in Troy, N.Y.

Hodges was generally considered to be the best defensive first baseman of the 1950s, and a National League All-Star for eight seasons as well as a three-time Gold Glove Award winner.

The year Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier – 1947 – was the year Hodges was called up to Brooklyn. Hodges batted .273 in his career with a .487 slugging percentage, 1,921 hits, 1,274 runs batted in, 1,105 runs, 370 home runs, 295 doubles and 63 stolen bases in 2,071 games.

In 1968 Hodges was brought back to manage the woeful Mets – the team posted a 73-89 record – its best mark in their seven years of existence up to that point.

In 1969 he led the Miracle Mets to the World Series championship defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, after losing Game 1, they came for four straight victories. His number 14 was retired by the New York Mets in 1973.

Hodges will be eligible for a National Baseball Hall of Fame vote in December, when candidates from the revamped “Golden Days” era (1950-1969) are considered. He passed in 1972 and his wake was held at Our Lady of Christians Church in Midwood.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR


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