Pickleball Founder Barney McCallum Remembered

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Image: Barney McCallum, with current USAPA President, Jack Thomas, at Indian Wells (2018).

The sport of pickleball recently lost its last living founder. Barney McCallum, one of the sport’s inventors and pioneers passed away at his home in Seattle, Washington on Monday, November 18. Barney was 93 years old and left behind a legacy of passion and devotion to a sport that has begun to gain considerable momentum in the sports world.

The game of pickleball evolved on a summer day in 1965 in the backyard of Barney’s good friend, Joel Pritchard. It was there with another friend, Bill Bell that the trio built a makeshift court that combined the playing elements of ping pong, badminton and tennis. It was rudimentary at best but caught on with people originally in the Pacific Northwest. At the time, Barney was married with four children and owned and operated the McCallum Envelope Company. Little did he know that pickleball was soon to become a driving force in his life.

Barney was inducted into the inaugural class of the Pickleball Hall of Fame in 2017. Two of his closest friends in the sport were Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore, herself a member of the Pickleball Hall of Fame. They spoke of their close relationship with pickleball’s originator. “In addition to being one of the founders, Barney was the doer. Through his work making paddles, balls and creating Pickle-Ball Inc. he was instrumental in keeping the sport alive. For decades he was the only one manufacturing and marketing products for the sport. Barney was all the good things in life — smart, funny, kind, interesting, thoughtful, creative, humble, authentic, and more. He brought joy to both our lives.” The pair would often visit Barney and his family during the summers at his home in Kent, Washington and would often ask him of the sport’s unique name. “Barney always said, “pickleball was named after the dog Pickles, end of story.”  He should know, he was there!”

A Navy veteran, Barney served in World War II right out of high school at the tender age of 17 and for two years, served his country admirably. His last wartime service was during the final battle in Okinawa. His ship picked up @1,000 Japanese POW’s for their trek to the United States. When they had reached Hawaii, the war was over and for the next few months, Barney and his shipmates would make the round trip from Japan to the US, bringing soldiers back to their homes.

But it was pickleball that held his heart and captivated so many that came in contact with him. He most recently attended the 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships, held at the world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The magnitude and level of professionalism he witnessed that day brought tears to his eyes and he was overjoyed to witness firsthand how far this simple sport, built on imagination and love had come.

Barney McCallum, an original patriot, an original creator of one of the fastest growing sports in America and the sport we also hold dearly to our hearts. Thank you!

Watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=oXhhcfqaNZ0&feature=emb_logo

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