Inducted as a Player in 2007
by Geoff Capell
“My father got me started playing handball when I was eleven years old and taught me the basic swing,” said recent Northern California Handball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Triplett. “He could always see the big picture. We started playing at the old Pamona YMCA three times a week. You couldn’t hit ceiling balls, because it was screen and the ball did crazy things. We started out the first few times with a tennis ball and then played with the old, black Ace Handball. My dad always encouraged me, but told me I wouldn’t beat him for a long time. Dad was a real good athlete, but I figured I could beat him anyway, but it came later than sooner. I finally beat him when I was seventeen and he never beat me again.”
Jim was very small in high school and got a real thrill when two local football stars came down to the “Y” to take on the handball players. Jim and his dad took on the boys and pounded them game after game. The football stars left the courts with their tails between their legs and a much better appreciation of handball and the young Jim Triplett. “After that I felt real special,” Jim said.
Following graduation from high school, Jim joined the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor, but was most of the time at sea on the USS Fletcher a destroyer, and could not play much handball. After being discharged, he went immediately back to the “Y,” where they had completely renovated the old Pamona courts.
Jim played a lot of singles, but liked doubles much better. He was one of those rare individuals who was equally as good in singles as doubles. He always worked out with singles USHA open national champion and USHA Hall of Famer Stuffy Singer and would take games off him. About that same time, his dad set him up with a young, strong-armed handball player Dennis Perryman, and they became a dominant open doubles team. Jim was a big, strong player that always hit the ball low and hard. He had an unorthodox left stiff-armed, over-head kill shot in both corners that would devastate unsuspecting opponents. It looked like a big old flipper. Stuffy Singer once told him that was the worst shot he had ever seen in handball and he should get rid of it, but ironically that same shot beat Stuffy in a national tournament.
The highlight and break through of his handball career came in 1966 when he was twenty-five years old and he and his partner Dennis Perryman won the Pacific Coast Tournament (then the show case tournament for both Northern and Southern California handball) by defeating NCHA Hall of Famers Mike Kelly and Bob McGuire in the finals. Jim moved to Sacramento in 1974 and then to Fremont in 1976 and joined the San Mateo Elks Club. Mike Dunne and Jim won many open tournaments together. Jim also won many singles tournaments.
He said he was always lucky to have good partners and refused to pick a favorite. “I liked them all,” he said. He thought Paul Haber was the best player he ever saw, but wished he could have gotten on the court with Jimmy Jacobs, because he thought he was something special. He says he liked the South End Rowing Club Courts, but the Olympic Club Courts owned him, and he hated to play there, because he always lost. Ironically, The Olympic Club is where he is getting inducted into the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame. He is now a big winner here. I told him the old courts at The Olympic Club got torn down and he looked at me and said, “WHAT?!!!”
Jim was a Lieutenant in the Hayward office of the California Highway Patrol for over twenty-five years, served a term in the United States Secret Service and State Department in Indio, planning President Reagan’s motorcade trips, and recently retired from a five year stint as Chief of Police at Ohlone Community College. Mike Dunne said, “Jim was a real tough guy and the department always sent him out when the situations and criminals were the roughest to deal with.”
Because of his position as a highway patrolman, Jim played for over twenty years in the Police and Fire Olympics. They hated him, because he never lost. When Jim entered, they might as well have called in the results before he showed saving him a trip. The year he missed, because of injury, they didn’t know what to do, but must have thrown a party in his “no show” honor.
Jim Triplett, the gentle giant of our sport, is one of the nicest guys to have ever played the game of handball. He hit the ball hard and low, he played hard, he gave nothing and took nothing, and you would never hear an unkind word leave his lips. When his opponents left the court they knew they had been in a war, win or lose. He is the best handball has to offer.
Congratulations Jim Triplett, you are truly a deserving member of the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame!