Inducted as a Player in 2007
by Alan Sherrill
His last name says it all! Derived from the word blacksmith, it totally describes his game and demeanor. Like the hard working blacksmiths of another century, Jim, or Smitty like we call him, has developed his game in a blue collar manner. Not all of us has that natural talent to become instant successful handball players. Smitty has gone the long road of training, cross training and practicing to bring his game to level it is today. When you look at him you would never believe he is pushing 65 years old except for his trademark silver hair.
If you take a look at his education history, you can see how the hard work he put into getting an education has transposed itself into also giving him the work ethic to become a successful handball player. The son of a navy handball father, Smitty found himself adapting to a different school almost every year. He attended four different high schools before finally graduating from Norfolk High in Virginia. His college life was even more hectic. William and Mary as a freshman, University of New Mexico as a sophmore, University of Santa Clara as a junior, and as a senior The Maryknoll Seminary in Chicago where he attained a degree in Philosophy. Then back to University of Santa Clara for a degree in biology. Most of us would be finished with college by then but Smitty was off to Detroit for dental school then into the navy with a 2 year stint at Camp Pendelton before returning to school at the University of Nebraska for continuing denistry. Another 3-4 years at Boston University for a degree in orthodontics and he was ready for the workforce.
Having finally moved to Watsonville, CA and establishing a family dentistry practice, Smitty finally began to take handball seriously. The Watsonville YMCA was a hotbed of handball in the 70’s and 80’s and Jim had many fine players to hone his skill against. Around 1993 Smitty began to take his play on the tournament road. His first national win came in 40 doubles dropping down 10 years to win the YMCA Nationals in Tulsa, OK. From there, he has gone on reach the finals of 14 USHA National tournaments, winning 5 more times. Four of these were 3-wall national titles and the other a USHA 4-wall doubles title. Smitty showed his handball diversity by winning or placing well in both 3-wall and 4-wall in both singles and doubles. In fact, 3 of his USHA doubles titles were won with pickup partners whom he had never played with before. Those 3 titles were even more amazing in the fact that he was beating players like Gary Roher, Rod Gaspar, Jim Barnett, Ron Cole, John Baily, Mike Hulbert and Tom Easterling. Even more exciting was the fact that in his Hall of Fame induction year, he beat Dick David and Mike Meltzer in September 2007 to win his last 3-wall national title in dramatic fashion, coming back from a 5-9 deficit in the tiebraker and getting 2 aces at 9-9 to win 11-9!! There are not many players more deserving to be inducted into The Norcal Hall of Fame than the humble and nonassuming JIM SMITH.