The Olympic Club
Inducted as a Player in 2011
by Geoff Capell
Henry Chaparro was one of the greatest doubles and singles handball player of his era. In the 70’s he, with various partners, dominated Northern California for over five years. His strength in doubles was controlling the game from the left side. He had a great power serve and total command of the game. His demeanor on the court was that of an easy going riverboat gambler who seldom lost. Henry had outstanding knowledge of the game, command of his shots, and most importantly, a great temperament; nothing ever bothered him. He never complained to the referee, a rarity in those days.
In the 70’s and 80’s, handball at The Olympic Club was legendary. A game at the club was better than most games at the nationals. It was a handball hot spot. Non- members would travel for miles just to get games. Hall of Fame handball coach Mike De La Pena would spend a majority of his early morning setting up games. Brady, Kelly, Fleming, Chaparro, Capell, Colichidas, Singer, Christian, Dunne, McDonald, Wyrsch, Kendler, Connors, Moser, and many others were always available to play. With that tremendously strong club competition, winning The Olympic Club open singles and doubles championships was extremely difficult. The tournament and courts were historical with former great Olympic Club champions like Lane McMillian, Joe “Red Murder Ball” Murray, Bob Brady, Al Banuet, Jack Clements, Jeff Capell Sr. and Bill Keays played and won there in the past. What old time memories, what tradition, what pressure.
Henry, with fellow hall of fame inductee brother Al, broke into that higher echelon, winning the club open doubles three times getting their name on the ancient cup. Henry also won the singles championships twice. He, along with outstanding playing partner Bob Brady Jr., went on to win the open doubles in the West Coast Regionals and also the open doubles in the Canadian Nationals, finishing off every match by winning a 11-10 tie breaker. He, along with Brady, also placed second twice at the nationals in the open doubles. This was when there was no pro tour and all the pros played in the open competition. Henry also won the National Masters Doubles 40 division with his brother Dr. Al. One of Henry’s greatest singles victories was at the South End Rowing Club Memorial Day Tournament when he beat Paul Haber, reigning five time national singles champion. And the crowd went wild.
Like many Olympic Club city boys, Henry grew up as a junior member of The Olympic Club. Every day after school he would go to the club and at 5:00 PM waited on the fog-shrouded, granite stoop outside the club to be picked up. The junior program included boxing, fencing, wrestling, weights, basketball, softball, and at the end of the day down to the swimming pool where the salt water was pumped in from Ocean Beach. What Henry did in those days was skip the swimming and sneak up to the fourth floor handball courts. Kids were not allowed on the courts, but handball coach Mike De La Pena always turned his head when he came up, and if there were any grouchy adults complaining, he would always smooth the waters.
Henry’s big influences playing handball were his older brother Lou and middle brother Al. “They got me started playing and showed me how to hit the proper shots,” said Henry. Being the little brother made him tough and that started his young handball athletic career.
Congratulations Henry on your induction to the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame!