Rich Wagner was one of the early racquetball pioneers to make his way from Anywhere, USA by thumb and bus to the San Diego racquetball mecca. The only private club in the USA at the turn into the 1970s was Mel Gorham's Sports Center on Turquoise Street … a forehand with the small racquet from the Pacific beach. Wagner, and dozen of others, gathered at the club in the morning, ran the beach at low tide, partied late into the night, and slept in their vehicles or crammed into beach flats.

Handball legend Paul Haber was the club manager. There were no money tournaments but hospitality provided girls in bikinis and banquets. The draw sheets reached out the club lobby into the street with up to a thousand entrants. This is called the Golden Era of Racquetball spawned by its three originators: Bud Muehleisen, Carl Loveday and Charles Brumfield, all San Diego world champions of various racquet sports.

I started an anonymous sponsorship for arriving players like Wagner and hooked the superior ones up with the two budding racquet manufacturers Leach and Ektelon. Bud Leach and Bud Held, respectively, were cranking a handful of racquets per week out of a garage and shed. Wagner signed with the Leach stable and ran 4th-8th nationally through the Golden Era 70s. His style was dive and shoot.

(From the upcoming book 'Racquetball Stars of the Golden Era'. Photo by Art Shay with permission.)


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