San Jose YMCA
Inducted as a Player in 2012
by Geoff Capell
Joe Lenhardt is going into the Hall of Fame as a player, but every time I talk to him, he seems more proud of what he did for the game than what he did in the game; I guess that’s the teacher in him.
During his teaching days at Hoover Jr. High in San Jose, he started a handball program in his PE classes even before it was a USHA sponsored activity. He completely divided up the small gym and put in four one-wall courts playing with the old “Pinky.” The sport became so popular with the kids that the state provided $20,000 for courts to be built outside. While on a big time roll, Joe and some of his handball playing friends from the San Jose YMCA approached the Santa Clara City Council and they approved $100,000 to build two three-wall courts at a Santa Clara park, and they named the courts after Joe. He also wrote a comprehensive guide on handball that was very well received.
Joe started playing handball at the old San Jose YMCA. He got lost looking for the weight room and stumbled upon the handball courts. After watching a few games, he decided to try it. With a strong baseball and basketball background, it didn’t take him long to become skilled in the game.
They tore down the old YMCA, and Joe moved to the new YMCA on the Alameda in San Jose where he hooked up with Sol Aber, Marty Goffstein, Art Decker, Mike Rudin, Mike Higgins and of course Roger and Sam Haber. A pretty rough crowd, but that’s how you got tough in the game.
He specifically admired Fred Lewis, Stuffy Singer, Jimmy Jacobs, Rudy Stadlberger and probably learned most from Pete Tyson at his camp in Steamboat Springs.
Joe’s best and favorite doubles partner, was Sol Aber who really taught him how to play and manage the game. Sol was always such a steadying influence on Joe, and made him a better player.
Joe is the consummate handball player. He plays, cross trains, lifts weights, runs, studies, analyzes, and films (that started way back even before super 8, back in the big reel days). He is always picking people’s brains about handball, how to hit this shot, how to hit that shot, whatever it takes to be the best he can be. Joe lives the game of handball, and it is a very very important part of his life. He is currently an active player, and at press time has won nine national masters championships, one away from being a USHA grand master, and several national runner up awards. He was an outstanding open player. You never wanted to meet him in a tournament, because if you were lucky enough to win, you never made it through the next round, because he would take everything out of you. He has won almost all the local tournaments and was outstanding in the Jack Tone tournaments.
He loves the state of Washington, Seattle specifically (Seattle Seafair Tournament) where he and Sol Aber won many masters championships.
Congratulations Joe on your induction to the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame!