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Gary Ryan

South End Rowing Club
Inducted as a Player in 2004

by Geoff Capell, Rudy Stadlberger, Manny Nossen

According to long time handball YMCA commissioner Manny Nossen, Gary started playing handball at the San Francisco YMCA in 1965. Gary was a great athlete, earning high school varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. The strong armed youngster began playing with the legendary Stan Clawson, along with Frank Elias, and Don Capen. He improved quickly, and by 1966 won the YMCA open singles championship. He then joined the South End Rowing Club where his legend began.

Within two years Gary was the South End Rowing Club singles champion, repeating that honor in 1968, 1969, and 1970. One of his mentors was handball Hall-of-Famer player and contributor Rudy Stadlberger. He became the best singles player and dominant force in Northern California for the next five years. His work ethic was unparalleled.

Gary played at least three times a week, but in between starts, he would practice for hours by himself in the court. He would serve and drive hundreds of balls with his powerful right side-armed stroke. His point of contact was about six inches above the ground. He hit his power serve about a foot off the floor on the front wall and rolled it out just over the short line on the left side. His serve was unreturnable. He did this over and over and over again. He used his tremendous side arm power and motion to hit straight kill shots and to drive the ball. He was extremely difficult to anticipate.

Like most offensive minded players, he hated the ceiling game and refused to use it. Once during a ceiling restoration fund raiser for the courts at the South Ending Rowing Club, he refused to donate, because he said that he never used the ceiling and good handball players should never use the ceiling. He didn’t have a defensive shot in his game. His game was simple, but impossible to penetrate. He loved singles and only played doubles as favors to friends.

He won every open singles tournament he entered over a three year period. Gary won Golden Gate Park, the State Tournament in Fresno, The South End Rowing Club Memorial Day Tournament, the Christmas Tournament in Bakersfield, and the Northern California Singles Tournament, just to mention a few. He was one of the strongest singles players to ever play handball in Northern California.

Congratulations on the honor of being inducted as a player into the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame!