Friday, August 10, 2007

August 10, 1874:

Herbert Hoover's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Herbert Clark Hoover, mining engineer, world traveler, great humanitarian, arguably the most important Secretary of Commerce the nation ever had, and fall-guy president. But perhaps he had the last laugh: he survived more than 31 years after leaving office, long enough for most people to realize that he had not, in fact, been to blame for the Great Depression. As yet, no man has survived the presidency longer. To beat Hoover, Jimmy Carter would have to live another five years, George H. W. Bush would have to live another 17 years, and Bill Clinton another 25 years.

Less well known is that Herbert Hoover had a namesake sport, Hoover-ball. According to the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum: "Hoover-ball is a combination of tennis, volleyball and medicine ball. White House physician Admiral Joel T. Boone invented the game to keep President Hoover physically fit.

" 'It required less skill than tennis, was faster and more vigorous, and therefore gave more exercise in a short time,' Hoover wrote in his Memoirs.

" 'It is more strenuous than either boxing, wrestling or football,' wrote Will Irwin, a friend of Hoover's, in a 1931 article 'The President Watches His Waistline' in Physical Culture magazine. 'It has the virtue of getting at nearly every muscle in the body.'

"The sport was without a name until New York Times Magazine reporter William Atherton DuPuy christened the game Hoover-ball for his 1931 article 'At the White House at 7 a.m.'

"Hoover-ball was played by teams of 2-4 players with a six-pound medicine ball over a net eight feet high on a court similar to one used for tennis. The game was scored exactly like tennis, and played in similar fashion. The server throws the ball. The opponent must catch it on the fly and immediately return it, attempting to put it where it cannot be reached and returned. The side that misses the ball or throws it out of bounds loses the point.

" 'Stopping a six-pound ball with steam back of it, returning it with similar steam, is not pink-tea stuff,' DuPuy wrote. 'Dr. Boone estimates that as much beneficial exercise is obtained from half an hour of it (Hoover-ball) as from three times as much tennis or six times as much golf.'

"The sport originated in 1928, when shortly after his election Hoover took a goodwill trip to South America. While aboard the battleship Utah on his return, he watched a game of bull-in-the-ring, a medicine-ball game that was popular on naval ships. A soft nine-pound medicine ball was thrown from one to another of the players standing in a circle as the 'bull' in the center tried to intercept it. During the trip, the president-elect played and enjoyed the game, which was the inspiration for Hoover-ball."

No comments: