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New York Today: One Ball and a Wall

Updated, 7:34 a.m.

Good Wednesday morning. It’s damp and gray outside.

Metro-North riders should expect scattered delays and some canceled trains after yesterday’s storm. Expect limited service between Southeast and North White Plains on the Harlem Line and service remains suspended between Wassaic and Southeast. Riders should expect normal commutes on the subway, Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

It’s just you and a friend, a ball and a wall.

One of our city’s most enduring warm-weather pastimes, handball, is also one of the simplest.

And as with so many of life’s great pleasures, New York City played a central role in its development.

While humans have been slapping balls against walls for thousands of years — in Egypt, the Roman baths and specially designed courts in the pre-Columbian Americas — the modern predecessor of handball was developed around a millennium ago in Ireland.

In the late 19th century, Irish immigrants brought the sport to New York City, where Irish priests taught it to students in the city’s parochial schools. An Irish immigrant handball star, Phil Casey, built the first walled handball court in Brooklyn in 1886.

New York’s outdoor version of the sport, which used one wall instead of three, gained popularity in the early 1900s, when it was played against wooden jetties in Coney Island and Brighton Beach. When the tide was low, players drew courts in the sand. During the Depression, hundreds of courts were constructed in…

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