Davey Bledsoe 3/7/51 – 12/29/19

Hall of Famer Bledsoe was 68. Photo via USRA Hall of Fame

The Racquetball world got sad news over the holiday weekend; former Men’s pro champ and Hall of Famer Davey Bledsoe has passed away.

Bledsoe was born in 1951 in Kingsport, TN. He was one of the earliest racquetball pros in the sport, playing half the events in the first pro season on record (1974-5), then was a full time touring pro until the 1980-1 season.

Here’s a link to Bledsoe’s Player Profile at ProracquetballStats.com, summarizing his pro singles career:
http://rball.pro/7E09C5

Bledsoe’s best pro season was the 1976-77 season, where he made the semis or better in 6 of the season’s 12 sanctioned events and finished the season ranked #2 on tour. More importantly, he won the 1977 DP/Leach National Championships over #1 Marty Hogan​, giving Hogan his sole loss on the season in a 21-20, 21-19 match. Pundits from the era called the match either the greatest match in history, the biggest upset in history … or both. See https://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/greatest_upsets.html for a fun list of some of the biggest upsets in pro tour history. This win gave Bledsoe the year-end Pro title and he is in a rather exclusive club; only 15 men have ever won a pro title in the sport’s history and he’s one of them.

The PRS match report for this 1977 Nationals tourney is here http://rball.pro/9EC830 . And, If you want to see a fun recap of that 1977 Nationals event … surf to this youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaI-NgBK5Q4&t=4s . Feel free to mute the 70s disco music :-).

As you can see from the video, Bledsoe was tall and lanky, lots of court coverage and lots of emotion in his play. He survived a furious comeback in game two to take the National title over Hogan, who went on to win the next four National titles.

In his prime, Bledsoe also competed in the Outdoor Championships in California, taking the singles title in 1978 (also over Hogan in the final) and making the semis or finals in several other years in the 70s and early 80s.

Bledsoe was part of an interesting group in racquetball lore: the “Memphis Mafia,” a group of top players in the Memphis area who played with Elvis Presley at his Graceland home. In case you didn’t know … Presley was an avid racquetball enthusiast and had two courts constructed on the grounds of his home, where he played along with some of the top players in the game at the time. Bo Keeley wrote about the group well here: http://www.dailyspeculations.com/wordpress/?p=8674 . Its a fun side-note in American history.

Bledsoe retired from the pro tour after the 1980-81 season. He continued to play Amateur tournaments for years and claims 13 National amateur titles. He was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

After his playing career ended, he began a career in Network Operations, working for major Telecom firms and for some Defense contractors in the DC area before retiring in Atlanta.

Gregg Peck Career Retrospective

(Editor note: this was a post I published straight to the “Keep Racquetball Great” Facebook group on 9/25/19, in response to a groundswell of discussion related to his re-nomination to the USAR hall of fame. I’ll back-date it and copy/paste the content from that time).

I’m a bit late to the Gregg Peck for the Hall of Fame conversations from a couple weeks ago, but wanted to put up some stats to help spread awareness. Here’s a quick summary of Gregg’s rball career in support of his nomination:

Junior Career Accomplishments:

  • Multiple USRA State and Regional Championships
  • Multiple IRA state and Regional Championships
  • 1980 USRA Junior National champion (17U)
  • Won title as a 16yr old, defeating Brett Harnett in final

Professional Career Accomplishments:

  • 20th all-time in professional Tournament Wins
  • 18th all-time in career W/L Percentage, all rounds
  • Held career winning Head-to-Head records against Hall of Fame pro players Ed Andrews, Ruben Gonzalez, Brian Hawkes, Mike Ray and Davey Bledsoe.
  • Retired with multiple victories over 5-time pro tour champ Yellen and Hogan.
  • Youngest pro player ever to make a Semi-final (oct 1980 Coors Grand Prix I)
  • 1981 NRC Rookie of the year
  • 1983 International Racquetball Most Improved Player
  • 1985 DP Nationals Champion (defeated Mike Yellen in the final).
  • 1985 Pro Male Athlete Player of the Year
  • Finalist, 1985 Ektelon Nationals (losing to Cliff Swain in a nationally televised match)
  • Semifinalist, 1983 DP Leach Nationals
  • Semifinalist, 1983 Catalina Pro Nationals

Amateur/Age Career Accomplishments:

  • 1981 USRA National Singles Men’s Open finalist (losing to Ed Andrews)
  • 1996 USRA 30+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Brett Harnett)
  • 1997 USRA 30+ Men’s Singles champion
  • 1997 USRA 30+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Brett Harnett)
  • 2002 USRA 25+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Mike Guidry)
  • 2003 USRA 35+ Mixed Doubles champion (with ?)
  • 2004 USRA 25+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Mike Guidry)

Coaching and Mentoring Accomplishments:

  • Peck Racquetball Camp Instructor, 1978-1986
  • 14 Junior National titles won by participants in El Paso Junior program
  • Coached future pro tour champs Swain, Monchik and Huczek.
  • Head Coach, US Junior National Team, 1999-2000.
  • 2-time Gold winning Junior national team coach
  • USA won 24 junior world titles under his guidance

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Peck’s contributions to the sport span many facets; he was an accomplished player at the Junior, Professional and Adult/Age level. He was an accomplished coach/mentor who served the USRA national team. He’s well liked and well advocated for in the racquetball community. He is a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame.

2019 WOR Outdoor Championships Preview

This coming weekend is the biggest event on the annual Outdoor Racquetball calendar; its the 2019 Huntington Beach WOR 3-wall championships, presented by ProKennex Racquetball

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30444

This year is the 46th annual version of this event, which crowns the “Outdoor Champion” for the year. For nearly all of those 46 years, it has been held at Marina Park in Huntington Beach, CA.

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Men’s Singles overview:

It is on these courts that Brian Hawkes became a legend, winning the first of his unbelievable 20 Outdoor titles in 1981. Towards the end of his career, he passed the mantle to Rocky Carson , who won the first of his 12 outdoor titles in 2002. This event has also seen other racquetball legends win titles, including the first pro champion Charlie Brumfield winning the first two iterations, Davey Bledsoe in 1978 and Marty Hogan in 1979. Californian Luis R Avila is the defending Men’s Singles champ.

click here for a history of the Men’s Singles titlists of this event: http://rball.pro/FBDCFB

Previewing this year’s event: there’s 9 men entered into the draw. I like #1 seed Avila from the top half, outdoor legend #7 seed Greg Solis to advance from the bottom, and for Avila to defend his title.

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On the Women’s Singles side, this event has been dominated by two players over the last decade; Rhonda Rajsich and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins. These two players have won 9 of the last 12 outdoor titles, and more often than not meet in the finals. But, don’t count out the dominant indoor players; #1 Paola Longoria won this event in 2009, and Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson won it in 2010. Neither Longoria or Rajsich is playing this weekend … surprising that Rhonda (a frequent outdoor competitor) didn’t make the event. She was nursing an injury towards the end of the pro season, so perhaps she’s saving up energy for Pan Ams later this summer.

There wasn’t a Women’s singles event in 2018, and there won’t be a Women’s Pro Singles division this year either, so the defending 2017 champ (Tisinger) still holds the title.

click here for a list of Women’s singles titlists since 2006: http://rball.pro/8EC038

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However, lets talk about Doubles. Outdoor racquetball is about doubles. Here’s links to past 3-wall WOR Doubles champs (history in DB only goes to 2006): 
– Men’s Pro Doubles: http://rball.pro/F47B68
– Women’s Pro doubles: http://rball.pro/6DD510
– Mixed Pro Doubles: http://rball.pro/E1A355

We head into this event with these teams as your defending champs:
– Men’s Doubles: Brandon Davis and Josh Tucker
– Women’s Doubles: Michelle De La Rosa and Carla Muñoz Montesinos
– Mixed Doubles: Greg Solis and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins

That’s a great collection of some of the legends of the outdoor game. Davis & Tucker won last year as the #6 seed, beating the #3, #2 and #1 seeded teams along the way, including Rocky Carson and Jesus Ustarroz in the final. Michelle De la Rosa & Munoz came out of a stacked round robin group last year as the #4 seed, topping the top two seeded teams along the way. In the 2018 Mixed event, Solis and Janel held serve as the #1 seed, holding off Emmett Coe and Jackie Paraiso-Larsson in the final.

This year, who is back to defend their title? Here’s some previews of the Doubles events:

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Men’s Pro Doubles Preview:

10 teams entered this year, led by defending champs Davis/Tucker as the #1 seed. They’re going to have their hands full, as the world’s top indoor doubles team of Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa are seeded 8th, making for one heck of a potential quarter final. If they can advance, they possibly face a doubles team in the semis that includes the #1 seed here Avila teamed with perhaps the finest outdoor singles player in the land, Robert Sostre.

On the bottom half, #2 seed Carson is teamed with Ustarroz, but will have to fight through teams that include Solis, Coe, Rick Koll and other top players teamed up in the bottom half.

I’m going to go with Beltran/DLR facing off against Coe/Koll in the final, with the indoor champs prevailing in outdoor as well.

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Women’s Pro Doubles Preview:

There’s just two pro Women’s doubles teams entered; your defending champs mDLR/Munoz and the younger team of Jazmín Treviño and Heather Mahoney (you current 14U junior national champ). These two teams are the top seeds in separate round robin groups containing a slew of Elite, A and B/C teams. I’d expect the two pro teams to come out of each RR bracket and meet in the final, where i’d expect the defending champions to repeat.

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Mixed Doubles Preview:

There’s 6 teams entered this year; last year’s defending champion team is ineligible due to Tisinger’s suspension. But the draw features last year’s losing finalists (Coe and Paraiso-Larsson as the #1 seed and the two-time champ before that in 2016-2017 husband-wife team of DLR/mDLR as the #2 seed. It should be a solid event.

I like the two top seeds to advance to the final, and I like the husband/wife De la Rosa pairing (who also took the Beach Bash one-wall mixed title earlier this year) to come out on top.

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BTW, In case you’re wondering why most of the historical links only show champs to 2006-2008 range (for all categories besides Men’s singles). that was the beginning of the use of r2sports.com for tourney tracking. If anyone has a source for 2005 and earlier results i’m all ears; DM me or email me.

And lastly, in a new wrinkle, both the Men’s and Mixed doubles entry are double elimination. This is a new one for Pro Racquetball Stats: I do not have a double elimination event in the database right now and frankly have no idea how i’m going to do the data entry. I very well may just put in the winner’s bracket matches and hope for a clean winners’ bracket-loser’s bracket final at the end so as not to complicate our logic. We’ll see how it goes; the only DE tourney I can think of was the Mexican Women’s nationals event in 2018 … which they basically abandoned once they realized that the loser’s bracket winner (Alexandra Herrera) would have had to play like 4 straight matches potentially on the final day of the event. I’ll capture the results, but may only show winner’s bracket data. We’ll see.

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WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball 
USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF