Club Sport, Pleasanton
Inducted as a Player in 2003
by Tom Sove, edited by Geoff Capell
He won his first national title in 1968 – the USHA junior boys 15-under singles. In 1998 he won the USHA Veteran Masters doubles with Ron Cole. In between, there are countless other titles – singles and doubles – regional, national, world. The Slammer. Pretty much says it all.
Rick was born in 1953 in Los Angeles, CA. Raised in Van Nuys, he was the baby of the family, with an older brother and sister. His best friends were his parents. At age 12, his dad had him join the YMCA to help channel his wayward energies. Here he was introduced to handball. And to Ron Cole. Then the new associate executive director, Ron’s first experience with the precocious punk was to discipline him for abusing adult court time. The punishment lasted a whole week and a half before Rick was again playing with the adults during prime time, including his new doubles partner, Ron Cole. Rick’s first handball tournament was the San Jose Y Labor Day Open in 1967. He didn’t win that tournament, but an impressive handball career was launched.
In 1972, Rick was an established open player in L. A. But now his brother had returned home from the Army and Vietnam service and enrolled at the University of Oregon. Being a loyal brother, Rick followed him there.
1978 was a big year for Rick. He graduated from college, relocated to San Jose, got a job, got married, and got a haircut. It wasn’t long before he found there was no one in Northern California he couldn’t beat – singles or doubles – and he was established as the man to beat. And really, not much has changed over the years. When Rick decides he wants to play, he has to be dealt with – on any level. Even our local pros will still have their hands full.
Looking at him today, the common philosophy says all you need to do to win is wear him out. But that’s when he’s the most dangerous, because he starts shooting. And his serves suddenly get better. Oh, those serves. Ask Naty Alvarado and Vern Roberts, the two premier pro’s of Rick’s prime. The 1986 National doubles isn’t remembered for Jon Kendler and Poncho Monreal defeating Christian and Connors in the finals, but for Christian and Connors defeating the unbeatable Alvarado and Roberts in the semifinals. It’s been that way for seventeen years, and will always be so remembered.
That, unsurprisingly, is Rick’s most memorable handball moment and achievement, played with his most memorable right side doubles partner, Mike Connors. Together, Christian and Connors dominated doubles tournaments through the 80s and into the 90s. But, of course, Rick has won so many other tournaments, with so many other partners.
Power serves, power passes, power kills. Rick Christian rode this to the apex of our game, and stayed there. From the day he set foot in Northern California in 1978 to today, he is undisputedly a most remarkable handball player. His tournament record is the most prolific and long lasting of any of our great players.