#37 Joey Was The Best American to Ever Play The Game
Pictured to the left #37 Joey,Mr John Knox General manager & Mr Steve Snyder Owner of Dania Jai-Alai.The photo was taken at
the presentation of the only jersey number ever to be retired in Dania's 51 year old history.When you think of all the talent
that has played at Dania this is indeed quite an honor to be bestowed upon Joey.
When Joey played he was huge in jai-alai,to have an American player with his talent in a sport dominated by the Basque's was
really special.It did prove that Americans could play the game and play it well.Joey started his career his professional career
at the tender age of 16 at Miami,owned at the time by World Jai-Alai. He was well know around the Miami area and in his pro-debut
he was sent of the 8/5 favorite and did not let the fans down.Joey himself has said that the Miami court was very true and
his personal favorite.He won title after title in Miami and to this day I'm not sure how Mr Snyder of Dania lured Joey away
from Miami.What a coup.
There was a big void in jai-alai as in 1968 the first big strike had taken place and the owners wouldn't give him in the players
demand and most who were Basque at the time returned to their homeland and it would be years before some would return.In 1972
Joey came along and really popularized the sport.As time went on he traveled North American and made appearances with national
& local media.CNN,the Today Show etc."I think I did help some when it came to the popularity of the sport,but back then there
was just so much talent out there,so much good play.Everyone who stepped foot on the court was an excellent player of the
"I will say that I did get a lot of Americans involved with the sport,and that is an accomplishment I'm proud of.One of the
memorable times in my career was a large press tour I went on.We went and spread the word about the sport in Cleveland,Atlanta,Montreal,Toronto,all
over the place." Joey had the ability to relate and interact with the fans.
Joey played at Miami Jai-Alai for 14 years and during that time he won seven Frontcourt Doubles Championships,three Singles
Championships and four Most Wins Titles.He was also a five-time Tournament of Champions Winner.
On January 1,1986 he joined Dania Jai-Alai.In his first season at Dania he won the Frontcourt Doubles Championship and the
Most Win sTitle.He then went on to win 8 consecutive Frontcourt Doubles and mMost Wins Championships.It was Pedrouzo,of Miami
Jai-Alai that said "Joey was unbelievable,the only player who had eyes in the back of his head."
Hall Of Fame: "All I can say is it was a great honor to be elected to the Hall of Fame,as great or better than having my number
retired,"said Joey. It is fantastic to be considered among the elite group.I go back every year.I would love to make it to
the Florida Sports Hall of Fame one day."
Rivalry,Joey & Bolivar As Todd Sorensen of Dania Jai-Alai/Northern Star Said."Go to any fronton and find some long time fans
and ask them about Joey.I'm willing to bet if you talk to them for more than five minutes you'll hear the name Bolivar.Joey
versus Bolivar was the biggest rivalry the sport has seen.
"Joey said,I thought it was special.Every sport needs a rivalry.We had some partidos in Florida,at Milford and in Spain.I
thought it was great,especially the NAJF (National Association of Jai-Alai Frontons)Tournaments between Miami & Tampa."Joey
played for Miami Jai-Alai and Bolivar played for Tampa during these partidos.
I had a different kind of rivalry with Cachin,Uriarte.Bolivar and I only played each other a couple of times a year,but Cachin
and I played against each other everyday.We both broke in as rookies together,and helped drive me to become better." And just
for the record who was better,Joey or Bolivar?Joey said,"I don't think that is for me to decide.It was my job as an athlete
to go out there and perform the best I could.I think it's up to the fans to decide who they feel was better.I don't like to
toot my own horn."
Mr.Marty Fleischman who started at Tampa Jai-Alai in 1971 as Public relations Director and PR Director along with announcing
answers the big question.Who was Best Joey or Bolivar? Mr.Fleishman will admit he always touted Bolivar as being the best,that
he resented when they said Joey was better.Well fans he changed his mind after seeing Joey & Boilvar play several intercity
matches.He said,I gotta tell you Joey was better.He said this during a radio interview which I have.I have put this on before
but in case you missed it,here is the link,listen for yourself.Someday I hope to put more of the interview on.
audio track has been misplaced,when found it will be added to this page.
Article January 30th,1978
By TIME-in partership with CNN
Jai-alai's Jewish superstar devours all opponents Joey Cornblit is a nice Jewish boy from Miami, and his mother has a complaint.
Her son the jai-alai player is the hottest betting commodity in town. Not only is he the first American to equal the Basque
masters of the sport, he is, at 22, a reigning champion. Since around $350,000 is wagered each performance in the fronton
where Joey holds sway, Mrs. Cornblit, a metalworker's wife, has been besieged by telephone calls: "Did Joey eat his breakfast?"
"Did he sleep well?"
Her answers are reassuring, but the emphatic reply comes on court. Last year Cornblit was the overall winner at Miami's World
Jai-Alai, the premier palace of the game. In the second month of a season against 46 of the top professional players in the
world, Joey again leads in overall wins (32) and front-court doubles championships (8) and has a shot at the singles title
as well. No player has ever won the triple crown of jai-alai in Miami, but observers—and rabid bettors—believe
Joey has a chance. Says Betting Clerk Emilio Posada: "There's a fanaticism at the window when Joey's playing."
While jai-alai has been played for centuries in the mountains of Spain—where boys begin strapping on the huge, curved
wicker cesta as toddlers—the game is played mainly at the $2 window in the U.S. In Florida, minors are barred from frontons,
but as a youngster Cornblit got around the rules by climbing to the roof and staring through a vent at the leaping, whirling
players below. After three years of instruction, primarily from a Cuban coach, he won a bronze medal at the 1971 World Championships
at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. He was just 15, but his lightning reflexes and devastating "kill" shots—150-m.p.h. caroms
that whistle off two walls and the floor before bouncing beyond his opponents' reach —made him the first American winner
in international competition. His rebote is among the best in the game, a single fluid motion as he turns to scoop the ball
bouncing off the back wall into the lip of the cesta, twists and flings it toward the front wall. He turned professional as
a senior in high school, promptly picking up a rooting section of squealing groupies. (He is engaged to marry a former secretary
at World Jai-Alai Fronton in May.)
His skill soon won him the respect of the players as well—and an income of about $80,000 a year. Says fellow American
Armando Gonzalez: "His remate [backhand carom] is devastating, a knockout punch. There's no defense." An old Basque adversary,
Jose Solaun, agrees: "Make a mistake against him and you're dead." Acknowledgment has sometimes been grudging, however. Jai-alai,
long dominated by the Basques, is a clique-ridden world that does not suffer outsiders gladly. Solaun admits that his countrymen
distance themselves from the handsome young American: "There is a resentment and coolness, a feeling that nobody can play
the game like us." Another observer puts it more bluntly: "Every time he wins, they climb the walls. They feel this is their
game and it bothers the hell out of them." Some of the Basques make good-natured fun of his contact lenses and call him Ciego
It does not bother Joey. "Like it or not," he says, "I'm here." And here with a passion: "Out there, everyone is an enemy.
It's fierce competition and I'm out for blood. You've got to want to eat the ball. I'm out to kill every point. Everybody
wants to win, but I want it a little more."
Cornblit's playing style perfectly complements the short (7 points, v. 30-35 points in Spain) matches played for American
bettors. With the emphasis on the killing shot in these truncated contests, Joey's fierce approach to the game is now imitated
by younger players, Basque as well as American. He keeps in shape with a daily exercise regimen to relieve the strain of an
old back injury and settles down twice a day for soothing sessions of Transcendental Meditation.
The combination, he believes,
should keep him at the top for another decade. To the dismay of opponents, Joey maintains that the best is still to come.
"I haven't hit my stride yet." Besides, he sleeps well and always eats his breakfast.