The Name Game…The Best and Worst of Racquet Names
Have you ever heard of the Xenon? What about the Aris? I didn’t think so. Well, these are racquet names. Bad racquet names. Some people might say that a racquet’s name is as important as the strings or the grip. While that’s debatable, it’s safe to say that a good racquet name contributes significantly to a racquet’s success.
Give a stick a bad name and chances are it was a dud of a racquet. The Air Hammer. That was a Wilson racquet. One of the first ultra light racquets, it was given a great name and became a big seller. The Strobe. An Ektelon racquet and one that everyone remembers. The Polaris? A snowmobile right? Yes, and a racquet…..that nobody used.
Since the game of racquetball was invented in 1949, hundreds of racquets have been produced by dozens of manufacturers. The names attached to these racquets run the gamut from the bland and laughable to the inspired and ingenious. Keep in mind while reading – this isn’t about identifying the greatest, best looking or most influential racquets of all time. This is about beautiful names and names that make you go “doh”.
One of the earliest racquets was called Paddle Racquets. Honest – that’s what was affixed to this hunk of wood. And a hunk of wood it was; the earliest wooden racquets weighed around 400 grams. Their grips were made for the likes of Dr. J. Other racquets from the early days went by simple names like Match Play, Varsity, Ace, Falcon, Charger, Champ and one of my favorites, The Killer. Another wooden beauty was the Autograph Model. Whose autograph you ask? Who knows. It went only by Autograph Model. In any event, these names should be classified as “Classics”…..simple and elegant.
Speaking of autograph models, signature sticks have been in play since the beginning. In fact, one of the earliest autograph models belongs to the inventor of racquetball, Joe Sobek. No racquet collection is complete without one. Bud Muhlheisen had his own model as did another of the early greats, Bill Schmidtke. The XL Schmidtke was an all-black billy topped by a white bumper. This club was probably one of the best sellers ever. I can also blame the Bill for my bad backhand. As a 13-year-old, I needed two hands to swing this sledge hammer and never developed the proper form from the weak side.
Over the years, many great players have been honored with signature sticks, though they were certainly more popular in the 70s and 80s. Serot and Wagner had their own and so did Bledsoe, Hilecher, Brumfield and Marty Hogan of course. Shute, Marty had a whole fleet of racquets bearing his name when he teamed up with Pro Kennex years and years ago. Girls got game too. Peggy Steding, Shannon Wright and Jennifer Harding all their own autograph models. From the more recent era – Swain, Inoue, and Obremski all had their own signature racquets.
Weather-related names have been used up over the years. We’ve had a Thunder and a Lightning, a Tornado, Cyclone and a Tsunami. NASA helped name a few racquets. Just kidding. But we did have a Launch Pad, a Big Bang and various forms of Blast, Ignite and Fire.
Weaponry and police terminology have been worn out. Spaulding offered the Assault and Felon in the 90s. We’ve had the Pistol, the Nightstick, the .357, the Bullet, the Machete and the Saber. And Dirty Harry would have been especially proud of the Enforcer and Magnum. Both of those were popular many years ago.
With racquet names, one thing is for certain; there have been a lot of bad racquet names over the years. Try these on: Boomer, Spoiler, Zinger 500, Wrangler, Baron, Lexis, Aris, Phycon, Dynax and Futura. I could go on and on but you get the picture.
While we’ve noted that hitting on a successful name is every company’s goal and doing so may lead to increased sales, successful racquets and good names don’t always go hand-in-hand. The Magnum, Master, 250-G and CBK were huge sellers. The names, while not bad, were not Hall of Famers. What about the Toron? A gasoline or maybe a motorcycle or lawnmower, right? No, it was a racquet from the late 70s. A pretty successful racquet, as I recall. Apparently, sometimes we don’t care what they’re called.
In the 90s E-Force took the name game to a new level with “in your face” monikers like the Terminator, Real Deal, Chaos, Anarchy, and Bedlam. At times, the game does have a certain chaotic feel to it, especially if its B doubles.
Perhaps the funniest racquet name ever was Cliff Swain’s Bad Influence by Transition in the early 90s. OK, maybe it wasn’t the name necessarily, but the marketing piece behind it. Who could forget the picture of Cliff straddling a motorcycle, sporting shorts and a jean jacket with cut off sleeves. Pure cheese wiz. Cliff also beat the drum for a fledgling company called Burt in the late 80s. They may have had the longest name ever given a racquet – the Comp III Power Handle Dri Grip “Cliff Swain” Signature. Did I mention they went out of business after just a few years?
Let’s toss out the Top 10 and Bottom 10 Racquet Names of All Time.
BEST RACQUET NAMES OF ALL TIME:
Honorable Mention: Goliath (Spaulding); Deliverance (Ektelon); Mean Streak (Spaulding); Trinity (Ektelon); Ripstick (Ektelon); Sharp Shooter (Wilson); Graphite Boss (Wilson); Scorpion (Seamco); Vendetta (Ajay); The Answer (E-Force); Big Bang (Head).
10. Colossus (Head)
9. Zorro (Trenway)
8. Sidewinder (Aldila)
7. Eminence (Ektelon)
6. Untouchable (Point West)
5. Borealis (DP)
4. Beaumark (Ektelon)
3. Spitfire (Vittert)
2. Bandido (Leach)
1. Rogue (Ektelon)
It’s back to the drawing board with this group:
WORST RACQUET NAMES OF ALL TIME:
Dishonorable Mention: Innerbeam (Pro-Kennex); Elantra (Ektelon); Strion (Ektelon); Rollers 195 (Wilson); Radial (Head); Micro-Ceramic (Pro-Kennex); Nightstalker III (Sentra); Ice (Transition); System 10 (Richcraft); Jazz (Head); Genius (Fin).
10. Whisper Damp (Ektelon)
9. Thrust (E-Force)
8. Mad Raq (Omega)
7. Phycon (Ektelon)
6. Swinger (Leach)
5. Espirit (Omega)
4. Xiter (Ektelon)
3. Explo (Sportscraft)
2. Digger (Ajay)
1. Xenon (Spaulding)
This article is an excerpt from the writing of Tim Deighan. The entire article can be viewed at www.RacquetballMuseum.com. This new site developed by Randy Stafford will cover the sport of racquetball from the very beginning of our sport to every facet of equipment, the players, great pictures from the early pro’s and the history from it’s very beginning to where we are now. Please visit the site often and become a part of helping build this new website on the history of racquetball. It can also be viewed directly from the website or the new Racquetball foundation, www.unitedstatesracquetballfoundation.org.
Steve Keeley is the author of the best-selling book, The Complete book of Racquetball and a 70’s top pro. Randy Stafford is a past president of USA racquetball and founder of the Court Company and www.RacquetballMuseum.com. Brett Elkins is the Chairman of the World Outdoor Racquetball Hall of Fame (WORHOF) , founder of SportsChampionship.com and co-author of the newly released book “Teach Your Teen to Drive… and stay alive. “
submitted by Tim Deighan