In the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum founded pickleball on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Within days, Joan Pritchard came up with the name "pickle balls." It's about the remaining startups that joined the "pickle boat" of the team competition. Years later, as the sport developed, controversy erupted when Joan named the game after the family dog, Pickles, when some neighbors said they were there. Joan and Pritchard's family has had dogs for decades, named after the game.
It is an indisputable fact that the pickle ball was invented by Joan Pritchard in the summer of 1965. If Pickles had been around then, the dog's story might have been true. If Pickles had not been born after 1965, the dog's story would have proved to be a newspaper interview, as Joel Pritchard later admitted.
Finding out when Pickles was born could help resolve the double-name dispute. We searched dog records, found pictures, and interviewed several people who were there from 1965 to 1970. It is true that the story of the Pritchard family is not about a pickleball named after a dog, but about a local pickleball boat race.
In the summer of 1965
Joel and Joan (aka "Jo-Ann") Pritchard lived in Seattle and spent the summer at their home on Bainbridge Island, WA. In the summer of 1965, the Pritchards invited Bill and Tina Bell to stay at their home in Bainbridge. One day after a round of golf, Joel and Bill return home to find Joel's 13-year-old son Frank depressed.
Frank, now 68, said, “I used to tell my dad there was nothing to do in Bainbridge. He said they used to dance when they were young." Frank said bitterly to his father, "Oh, really? And why don't you do sports?"
Joel (then 40 years old) loved a challenge, so he and Bill set up a 44 x 20 foot backyard badminton court. The legalization court was already laid on the asphalt by Joel's parents. Because of the rain in Seattle, their garden had to be mowed.
Joel and Bill went to the back shed and grabbed a wiffle ball from the plastic bats and balls that Frank had given him for his birthday earlier that year. They got a pair of paddle-pong balls, set up a badminton net, caught a ball, and played their first game.
Broken oars became a problem, so the men built a beautiful oar in Joel's father's garage. At that point the game began. Frank asked his father, "You know who we need? We need Barney." Barney McCallum lived six doors down the beach and was resourceful. He was able to build a more reliable and better pad. He quickly became an important part of the equipment, rules and style of the game.
One day in the summer of 1965, Bell and Pritchard were sitting next to each other and decided to come up with a name for the game. Joan stood up and said, "The balls have been picked." He then explained the local "cucumber boat" to the crew of leftover boats that ran for fun.
The Pritchards always claimed that only their houseguests (bells) came when they chose the name.
The name of the college team's game "Pickle Boat" was inspired
Marietta, Ohio is the place Joan grew up and he went to Marietta College. At the time, the school had one of the strongest team programs in the country. All the locals gathered to watch the race. Joan was never into running, but she was a die-hard Marietta fan.
Joan and Joel met in Marietta and moved to Seattle (Joel's hometown) in 1948. As luck would have it, the University of Washington also had a top rowing program. In the 1950s, the University of Washington held an annual regatta. As an enthusiastic alumna, Joan often came out to cheer on visiting Marietta groups.
Regattas are where the best teams from universities compete. Then, like most college sports, non-starters compete in different events. From at least 1938, the "spare" leftover from many universities was simply contested in the "pickle boat" race.
Frank recalled: "To hear my mother tell it, they threw leftover pickleball balls into the boat.