Pickleball Hall of Fame - And the Nominees Are...

by elizaled on Oct 13, 2017

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It is time to recognize the people who have made huge contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball. The new Pickleball Hall of Fame has been created to recognize the 'best of the best,' the best competitors, the best volunteers, the best creative minds in the international sport of pickleball. The Pickleball Hall of Fame has invited the pickleball community to nominate exceptional individuals who deserve recognition. You are invited to attend the Hall of Fame Dinner in Casa Grande, Arizona on Friday, November 10th at 8:00 pm, following the USAPA National Championships.  

The Pickleball Hall of Fame Nominating Committee has chosen ten individuals as finalists. The 2017 Nominees in alphabetical order are:

Bill Bell

Bill Bell Bill Bell

Bill Bell was a successful businessman. He obtained the nickel concession for International Nickel and spent a lot of time traveling in Indonesia. Bill and his family were regular guests of Joel Pritchard. During one of his two-week stays at the cottage in 1965, that's when the game of pickleball was invented. It was Bill and Joel who tried out different plastic balls that first day. He and Joel invented the game of pickleball, but right away they invited Barney McCallum to be a partner in Pickle-Ball, Inc.

Joel, Barney and Bill wrote the first set of official rules for the game that first two weeks. During his international travels, he would ask Barney McCallum to send a complimentary set to someone Bell met in his travels, helping the game of pickleball to grow internationally.


Mark 'Yoda' Friedenburg

Mark Friedenberg Mark 'Yoda' Friedenberg

Mark 'Yoda' Friedenberg has been competing for 40 years and is a USAPA National Gold Medal Champion. He was involved in the USAPA early on as a board member and became the first president of the new USAPA in 2005. He has continued to serve on the USAPA Ratings and Rankings Committee.  He owned and operated the  Pro-Lite Sports company continuing the legacy begun by Arlen Paranto of producing quality composite pickleball paddles.

Mark has been a mainstay in pickleball as a pickleball pro, a stellar tournament organizer, a premier pickleball instructor and author of 'The Official Pickleball Handbook'.  On the court he has always conducted himself with class and a great sense of humor.  He has showed great prowess as competitor in tournaments and has often medaled against some of the best competition in the nation. He has earned the name 'Yoda' for his skill in the game and in his work as an instructor. Our sport would not be what it is today without the impact of competitor Mark 'Yoda' Friedenberg.

Alice 'Jo' Hancock

Jo Hancock Jo Hancock at the 2016 USAPA Nationals

The heart of every pickleball event is found in the dedicated volunteers. Jo Hancock has taught pickleball at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise Arizona for many years. When Earl Hill started a USAPA membership drive, she was the first to sign up. She has consistently demonstrated great sportsmanship, and always had room for one more at her house. Jo is 'creme de la creme' in the world of pickleball tournaments!  When members of Arizona Traditions pickleball club decided it was time to organize the first Senior Olympics, Jo was there helping organized volunteers and finding homes for players to stay during the tournament. These kinds of big events couldn't happen without volunteer referees. Jo made herself available to referee or serve as linesman in every tournament she entered. Jo has been a terrific competitor as well. She won 149 medals in the 15 years of competing in pickleball tournaments. Some of her best wins were at The Huntsman National Senior Games and The USAPA Nationals.  Everybody knows Jo Hancock.

Billy Jacobsen

Billy Jacobsen Billy Jacobsen, 2009 USAPA Nationals

Billy Jacobsen's name is synonymous with 'Pickleball Pro'. Everybody knows Billy. He has played in at least one pickleball tournament a year for 35 years in a row. That is quite a rare distinction! This is what nominator Wes Gabrielsen has to say about Billy Jacobsen:  'Despite some physical challenges, including hearing loss and chronic Type 1 diabetes, Billy Jacobsen dominated in pickleball tournaments for many years. Billy was a successful high school and college tennis player, eventually playing for the University of Washington Tennis team. His stellar tennis skills transferred easily to pickleball and he began to find tremendous success on the court. Due to his impressive performances, medal finishes, the grit he shows by playing through some tough physical limitations exemplify why he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The history of pickleball cannot be written without including Billy's name and accomplishments with it.

Robert (Bob) Lanius

Bob Lanius Bob Lanius, photo credit: Pickleball Channel

Robert 'Bob' Lanius, owner and developer of the Pickleball Tournaments website started working on medical research systems development while still in college. He graduated with in the first Computer Science BA class from the University of Texas in Austin. Bob continued working in developing medical research and hospital information systems through the '80s.  He worked for Microsoft as a consultant in the '90s from the Dallas office and relocated to Redmond, Washington as a project manager for international clients. After Microsoft, Bob started his own consulting business.

Bob and  his wife Jettye were introduced to pickleball in 2000. Their RV travels took them all over the country, organizing events and spreading the word of pickleball.  They eventually settled in the Happy Trails community in Surprise, Arizona. Bob designed the Happy Trails Pickleball Club website in 2004, where he reported complete tournament results and events around the country.  He has served as commissioner for the Arizona Senior Olympics and Grand Canyon State Games. Bob's  PickleballTournaments system has been used to manage hundreds of pickleball tournaments in the USA and worldwide.

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum graduated from the University of Washington in 1950. He had $10, half a tank of gas and one job offer - selling envelopes. He was a top-notch salesman at the Griffin Envelope Company. He eventually ventured out on his own firm named McCallum Envelope Company & Printing Co. Barney's past accomplishments include several patents. He had a knack for determining a need and filling a niche. On Bainbridge Island, when Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell decided to go into business together to produce pickleball equipment, they knew they needed help and both agreed they needed Barney, so they walked right over to his house and enlisted him in their new project, Pickle-Ball Inc.

Barney was the driver of equipment development - figuring out how to cut paddles, what wood to use, where to buy everything. He experimented with all kinds of materials for paddles. He worked diligently in helping to create the rules and was the major force, with Jim Weller, behind creating the double bounce and non-volley zone rules. Barney personally composed a one-page set of rules included in each $29.50 retail set that started the explosive growth of this new game of pickleball. He set up a business relationship with Cosom for the pickleballs and hired NW Center of Handicap in Seattle to make the wood paddles. He and his wife Carol attended trade shows to promote the game.

Barney said the great thing about pickleball is the good balance between offense and defense. Barney proudly shared, '...the biggest pleasure for me about the game, besides meeting a lot of wonderful people, is seeing people not involved in any athletics at all taking up the game.  I have people tell me how pickleball changed their lives, how they never did a thing with sports before but they can play pickleball. That's quite a reward.'

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto is a retired Boeing engineer. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota where he learned early the importance of being able to fix everything himself. Arlen went to work for Boeing in the early 50's. He worked his way up through the machine shops to supervising engineer without a college education. He was Supervisor of the Year in 1986. Arlen was always coming up with ways to fix things and make them better, which led to his being made head of  the Cost Savings Division at Boeing. Arlen got involved with pickleball in the early 80's. This was the time when Sid Williams was forming the United States 'Amateur' Pickleball Association.

Arlen loved the sport so much, and knew he could make the sport even more fun.  Soon, he was making prototype paddles using space age material that Boeing used as floor paneling in their jet aircraft. The honeycomb core made the paddles lighter than wood and gave them a bigger sweet spot. The first composite pickleball paddle made it easier for all skill levels to enjoy the sport at a all levels. This prototype paddle became the Pro-lite paddle company.  Arlen made the first composite paddles in his garage in Eatonville, Washington. He was also on the first committee to come up with the rule book for tournament play and helped design portable net systems. With his new composite paddle, he competed in the Washington State Senior games, and continued to play into his early 80's. He still enjoys keeping up with the sport and is truly amazed with the growth of the sport and the level of today's play.

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard was a delegate to the Republic National Convention in 1956 that nominated Dwight Eisenhower for President. That began his political career. He was a six-term U.S. Representative from Seattle from 1959-1967 and a two-term Washington Lt. Governor 1989-1997. Despite all his political accomplishments, the game with a funny name, pickleball, may carry his widest-reaching legacy.

Along with a few of his friends, Joel Pritchard invented the game of pickleball at his house in 1965. After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together (USAPA History of the Game).

Joel Pritchard and several friends filed articles of incorporation for Pickle-Ball, Inc. in 1968. Joel introduced pickleball to his fellow legislators, and organized social events like softball and pickleball for House members. He attended many of the tournaments in Seattle/Tacoma area when his scheduled allowed. According to Sid Williams,' Joel was always gracious and presented the awards to the players.' Sid presented him with a plaque, 'The Father of Pickleball,' to honor all his work promoting pickleball.

Martha Wassermann

Martha Wasserman Martha Wasserman

Martha was introduced to pickleball in 2002 and became a community pickleball organizer for seven years. She is known for both her competitive spirit and exemplary sportsmanship. She started playing in tournaments in 2003, and has proven to be a formidable opponent. Martha was one of the first two female players in Arizona that moved up to the 5.0 level of tournament play. She won Gold in USAPA National tournaments from 2006-2009. Martha volunteered to help the USAPA with entry of Tournament Results and has served on the USAPA Rating Committee.  She is currently working to grow pickleball where she lives in Michigan by hosting a clinic and pursuing the re-purposing of some High School tennis courts.

Martha has coordinated fund raisers to purchase pickleballs for her local club. She was instrumental in developing a schedule for ladder, round robin and drop-in play. Martha's organizational skills helped her club design and build their first dedicated courts. Membership exploded with the dedicated courts and over time 10 more courts were added.   Martha traveled to South Africa where she introduced the game of pickleball to children at the Open Arms Orphanage.

Sid Williams

Sid Williams Sid Williams

In 1980, Sid Williams was employed as a civilian at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. When Sid was introduced to pickleball, he thought it was a 'wimpy'' sport. 'I found out differently, once I got out on the court,'' Williams said. 'I was sore for two days. It's a good workout, a good aerobic exercise...''  (source The Seattle Times, 8/24/1990) Anyone who played pickleball in the Seattle/Tacoma area, especially in the early years, would have known Sid Williams and his passion for pickleball. Many feel Sid is one of the key people that brought the game of pickleball out from the family backyard and into national recognition.

In 1982 he started organizing tournaments and teaching pickleball. He had extensive experience doing the same in racquetball and remarked: 'Teaching racquetball and teaching pickleball is not that much different - just demonstrate what the sport is about.' His goal was to make pickleball a recognizable household word worldwide. He was the first Executive Director and President of US Amateur Pickleball Association and served from 1984 to 1998. The name was changed to the US America Pickleball Association (USAPA), which was organized to promote the growth and development of pickleball. During his tenure, the USAPA developed a ranking system, expanded the official rules, offered free instructional clinics and seminars, promoted pickleball at inter-collegiate and intramural levels of competition, published a quarterly newsletter and began establishing representatives to cover the sport at the national level. He continued his involvement in pickleball until 1995.

Many thanks to the pickleball community members who presented these candidates for consideration. We honor  and greatly appreciate all of these ten nominees for their contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball.