Pickleball co-founder, promoter and innovator, Barney McCallum, died at his home on Nov. 18, 2019, at the age of 93. Inducted into the inaugural class of 2017 of The Pickleball Hall of Fame, he leaves behind a rapidly growing international pickleball community that is indebted to him. It is fun to recount his story about the seed of an idea that became a sport so loved by the millions who play it.
In a cabin on Bainbridge Island in 1965, three family men (Barney McCallum, Bill Bell, and Joel Pritchard-a former U.S. Representative and Lieutenant Governor) decided to tackle their children’s youthful boredom. Some of us might have taken out a deck of cards, but the three men created a game on a badminton court with ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. Little did they know that they were launching a game that would explode into a sport that, today, provides so much fun for a world-wide population.
With its simplicity in play and enough strategy to keep one interested, it attracts professional athletes and recreational players alike. McCallum said, “the greatest thing about pickleball is the balance between offense and defense”. And, when asked how the game got its name, he said, “Pickleball was named after the dog Pickles, end of story”. Though other recollections about how the game was named exist, it is certainly the most fun to believe the dog version as what dog does not want to be a part of a game that involves a ball? Imagining the dog rollicking about with the players adds even more charm to a game that already has plenty.
McCallum attended the 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships. One can only imagine the pride and emotion he must have felt seeing first-hand how far the game had come.
Serving in the United States Navy during World War II, McCallum finalized his service with the battle in Okinawa. Post-service, he owned his own envelope and printing business. Reportedly, he was an avid outdoorsman who, in addition to pickleball, also played tennis and skied.
We owe our thanks to Barney McCallum. His contribution will continue to be cherished by all who enjoy one of the fastest growing sports in America, pickleball!
Use this link to see an interview with Barney McCallum:
SPA Player Profile
Name: Ed Mandler
Nickname, if any: Eddie
How long have you been playing pickleball? 9.5 years. At almost 85 years old, I am the oldest player on the court every day I play.
Why did you decide to play? Exercise – it is similar to table tennis and very social.
Tournament player? No.
Favorite pro player or club player for tips and inspiration: All players inspire me!
The best tip anyone has ever given you? My late uncle regarding keeping healthy. He was assistant surgeon general of the U.S. under C. Everett Koop.
What food or drinks help you stay energized on the court? Pure water.
Dinker or Banger? Banger!
Your favorite shot: Backhand Slam.
Brent’s* Pickleball Tip:
“Keep your paddle up! Before and after each shot have your paddle in the ready position. The ready position is approximately chest to chin high, comfortably extended in front and away from your body (Note: not too close or too far from your body, bent elbow). After your shot, quickly return to ready position instead of allowing the paddle to drop to waist-knee height.
*Brent Carlson is Chair of the Player Development Committee for SPA.
See you on the courts!