PELOTA (Sp. " little ball," from Lat. pila), a ball game which, originating centuries ago in the Basque provinces, has developed into several forms of the sport. Epigrams of Martial show that there were at least three kinds of pelota played in his time. Blaid, practically hand fives against the back wall of a court, is still played on both sides of the Pyrenees. It is so popular that the authorities had to forbid its being played against the walls of the cathedral at Barcelona. In uncovered courts of large size there are two varieties of pelota. One, the favourite pastime of the Basque, is played against a front wall (fronton), either barehanded, with a leather or wooden long glove-like protector (cesla), or with a chistera strapped to the wrist, a sickle-shaped wicker-work implement three feet long, much like a hansom-wheel basket mud-guard, in the narrow groove of which the ball is caught and from which, thanks to the leverage afforded, it can be hurled with tremendous force. There are several players to a side, frequently an uneven number to allow a handicap. The score is announced by a cantara, whose melodious vocal efforts make him not the least appreciated participant in the game. In the other form of the game, played nearly exclusively by professionals (pelotaris), there are usually three players on each side, two forwards and a back, distinguished by a coloured sash or cap. The server (bulteur) slips off his chistera to serve, bouncing the ball on the but, a kind of stool, about 30 ft. from the wall, and striking it low against the wall. The side that wins the toss has the first service. The ball must be replayed by the opposing side at the wall, which it must hit over a line 3 ft. from the base of the wall and under the net fixed at the top of the wall. The game is counted 15, 30, 40, game, reckoned by the number of faults made by the opposing side. A fault is scored (a) when after the service the ball is not caught on the volley or first bounce, (6) when it does not on the return strike the wall within the prescribed limits, (c) when it goes out of the prescribed limits of the court, (d) when it strikes the net fixed at the top of the court. The side making the fault loses the service. A game like this has been played in England by Spanish professionals on a court 250 ft. long, against a wall 30 ft. high and 55 ft. wide. The ball used, a trifle smaller than a base-ball, is hard rubber wound with yarn and leather-covered, weighing 5 ounces. The server bounces the ball on the concrete floor quite near the fronton, and hits it with his chislera against the wall with a force to make it rebound beyond a line 80 ft. back. It usually goes treble that distance.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)