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Luis Mari Altuna
Born in Mutriku (6/16/34), still lives in Mutriku
Wife (Arrate), and one daughter
Altuna made his professional debut in Mallorca (Fronton Balear) in 1953. He also played in Italy (Naples). In the US, he started in Tampa during the 1953 season and finished his career in 1968, after 10 years at Dania and Daytona. He has always played under the name Altuna. Recognizing him as a strong front court player, the Dania program described him thus:
"He has a blazing forearm delivery with the knack of knowing just where to place the ball. A consistent performer."
His nephew, Jose Luis Altuna, played in Dania during the late 80's and 90's. He, too, played under the name Altuna.
DYR: Tell us about your first steps as a young amateur.
"I started playing with a bunch of friends, among them were Txurruka, Piston, Egurbi, Ondarrés, etc. In those years everybody played jai-alai. We didn't have a coach ... we just learned watching each other play. My idols were Txutxo Larrañaga, Orbea and Piston.
We played partidos and practiced almost every day. Most frontons were in bad shape ... if it was raining, I couldn't practice in Mutriku because the fronton didn't have a roof. Markina was our option if it rained. I paid 50 cents for my first basquet."
DYR: How about your US experiences, especially your first signing?
"Woo! I was so excited that I couldn't breathe ... to play in the US, it was all we dreamed about.
The competition in the US frontons was much tougher than anywhere else. Each roster possessed great players. What I didn't like was to play quinielas ... I loved to play partidos. Personally speaking, jai-alai should be partidos not quinielas, but that's only my opinion."
Laca hooks a 'big one'
(a/k/a "Tuna Fish")
in the whirlpool.
Dania trainer Tom Murphy looks on.
DYR: Do you see any solutions to the problems jai-alai has today?
"I just don't find solutions ... people are not interested in the game. In my opinion we will never see (I hope I am wrong) what jai-alai used to be. It's sad, but true!"
Durango Ezkurdi tribute to Altuna (1983)
l to r, Marcoida,
Txikito de Bolivar
DYR: When you retired from the professional arena, you were hired to manage Danok Bat, Mutriku's Amateur School. Tell us your experiences there.
"We had a lot of kids ... a lot of them! I think at one point we had more than 100 kids in our school. During the 80's a lot of people played jai-alai ... there were more cestas on the streets than cars, ha, ha, ha. The kids practiced 4 or 5 times a week and also they played about 4 partidos a week. It was a special stage in my life ... very special!"
Ondarra: '61/62 Most wins
Kneeling: Altuna & Laca
(others - help w/missing)
Erdoza (Court Judge),
John Johansson (Butler-Host),
Bari (P.M.), Adolfo
DYR: Now that you're retired, what do you like to do to kill some time?
"Well, it's not easy to kill some time when you are retired, ha, ha, ha. I walk a lot and I like to swim. I wish I could practice, but I'm too old, ha, ha, ha."
DYR: Altuna, if you were a kid again, would you become a pelotari?
"Oh, yes! Without a doubt! What I experienced in my jai-alai career was great ... I can't explain."
Player Manager Enrique (Kiki) Valenzuela with the 1962 Daytona roster.
Altuna's in there, somewhere. How many can you name?
Altuna, at home today in Mutriku
Interview date: 10/25/05
© Copyright 2005, RSB Associates