By Erin Jennings
Pickle-Ball—a sport played around the world—was invented on a rainy Bainbridge Island summer day in 1965. Despite the name, the game has nothing to do with dill or gherkins.
The Pritchard family was entertaining at their Pleasant Beach cabin. The kids were stuck inside, getting on the adults’ nerves. Joel Pritchard (who was serving in the Washington State House of Representatives at the time) found some Ping-Pong paddles and a Wiffle Ball and sent the kids out to play on the badminton court.
Once the adults saw how much fun the kids were having, they decided to join in. Neighbor Barney McCallum made larger paddles with a band saw. They fooled around with the height of the net, created some simple rules and with the “swoosh” of a racket, Pickle-ball was born. Word spread about this fun-forall-ages game.
A reporter from The National Enquirer interviewed McCallum and asked the price of a starter set. McCallum, who was in the envelope-manufacturing business, replied, “I don’t know. $30?” The reporter said, “How about $29.50?” Once the article was published, orders rolled in. McCallum didn’t quit the envelope business to become a Pickle-ball salesman because, “I like to eat, and I had four kids who needed braces!”
McCallum’s son still runs the Pickle-ball company out of Seattle. And from school gymnasiums to retirement communities, the game continues to be popular. As for the name, it was inspired by the Pritchard’s stray ball-chasing dog, Pickles. Pickle-ball, they decided, had a nice ring to it.