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Jay Capell

Olympic Club
Inducted as a Player in 2006

by Geoff Capell

Jay’s athletic career began the first day of kindergarten at Holy Names grammar school in the Sunset District of San Francisco when he kicked the nun in the shin as she welcomed him at the door. That almost ended his Catholic education. He had great foot eye coordination, and no fear. A couple of years later on our way home from the grocery store, we got jumped and he pounded two older guys into submission, while pulling one off me. He had good hand eye coordination, endurance, and no fear. The word got out in the neighborhood, and one of the older boys on the block made the mistake of testing him. The kid ended up running home crying with bite marks on his arm. It became crystal clear, don’t mess with the tough, crazy, guy who is also a little on the mean side. Our days in the city were over as the Capell family moved to Belvedere in Marin County. Jay took up baseball.  

In the Tiburon Little league, he was the first hitter to hit a home run off the leagues all star pitcher, and the only catcher in the league that could throw out runners steal second. I knew he had a lot of power and a real strong throwing arm. He hated to lose more than anyone and if that happened he wouldn’t talk for days. Baseball became a big part of his life as he became an all star in high school and college. 

He had good hand eye coordination, could fight, had a great throwing arm, and no fear. He had all the tools-- a computer couldn’t have made a better model. I always thought that the best handball players were former baseball players with bad attitudes, and Jay was no exception. Handball was going to be a good sport for Jay and that it became.  

When Jay’s college eligibility was up, he wanted to learn how to play handball. After talking to our Hall of Fame father, Jay decided to start at the South End Rowing Club where play was furious and unforgiving. He won his first novice tournament. Bob Hassing, the handball commissioner at The Olympic Club, asked Jay to join the club as an athletic member and he jumped at the opportunity. Mike De la Pena was his coach and under Mike he won his first Junior Championship club doubles tournament. 

His great play continued. He excelled in Bay Counties, and won the first open doubles Olympic Club Invitational, a prelude to the Hall of Fame Tournament. He won several Olympic Club open doubles and singles championships, dominated open doubles in the Bay Area in the 70s, was once runner up and twice reached the semi finals in the Nationals open doubles. He won several regionals, dominated the Boise and Kawai-Hawaii tournaments, and won the Hall of Fame Masters Doubles Tournament 14 times with various partners. But what he was most proud of was when in 2003, he was voted The Olympic Club player of the year.

His handball talents are on a par with the best, but in my opinion, one of his greatest accomplishments outside the handball arena, and which supports his toughness, endurance, and no fear, was when he entered a single handed sailboat race. Two years ago, after years of preparation and planning, he started by himself a sailboat race to Hawaii that took fourteen days of non-stop sailing to the finish line in Kawai. To me, that was mightier than climbing Mt. Everest, tougher than the Tour de France, and requiring more stamina than the Adenoid. What an amazing super human feat. 

As Jay and I looked out at the fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, as the evening sun poured into the day room at the South Ending Rowing Club, I asked Jay why he played handball, and what he liked most about it. “I loved playing, because for a long time it kept me close to my family. I love the competition and I never took it for granted. I still get butterflies before every tournament game. I always play hard, the only way I know how to play. I just love the rush it gives me, what an incredible incredible rush.”

In the last 2007 nationals in Los Angeles, Jay won the 55 doubles, the first nationals he has entered since playing in the open division over twenty years ago. He still has it.

Congratulations Jay on your induction into the NCHA Hall-of-Fame!