Southern California -- this just in

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Handball players push their prowess to the walls

April 23, 2010 |  8:27 am

Handball has been a feature of urban life for generations, a pastime of laborers and lawyers, a fixture in parks, private clubs and prison yards, a passion that transcends class, religion and ethnicity.

In 1974, the poet Irving Feldman wrote of the "oiled and bronzing sons of immigrants, the handball players of the new world" at New York's Brighton Beach, "who yawp, who quarrel, who shove, who shout themselves hoarse, who don't get out of the way, grab for odds, hustle a handicap, all crust, all bluster, all con and gusto."

He could have been describing the scene today at handball courts across Southern California.

Ricky Ruiz, 21, is one of the stars of that realm, the king of the courts on L.A.'s Eastside.

Early mornings, he works for a traffic management contractor, laying orange cones and closing streets. In the afternoon, the three-walled concrete courts beckon. Handball is a job too, and one he loves. When he's on his game, he can earn a few hundred dollars from bettors in just a few hours.

Read Hector Becerra's full story on the handball subculture of the Eastside here.