2014 WOR Hall of Fame Class Inductees: Barry Wallace/Bob Wetzel and Robert Sostre
Posted On: 04/07/2014
It is a special honor to announce the WOR Outdoor Hall of Fame, class of 2014, our third class featuring three of the most incredible inductees in outdoor racquetball history: Barry Wallace, Bob Wetzel and Robert Sostre. It’s an extraordinary class and an eclectic mix of 1-wall and 3-wall champions hailing from California to New York. Barry Wallace and Bob Wetzel are two of the founding fathers of our sport who started the first state tournament in California and the first nationals before winning several of the early singles and doubles national titles while Robert Sostre of New York is the most famous 1-wall player to ever play the game amassing 28 major titles. The honorees will be inducted “outdoor style” in their shorts Saturday July 12, 2014 at the 40th annual Wor Championships held at Marina Park Huntington Beach, CA where play stops to honor the inductees. The ceremony is free.
Hank Marcus, WOR Executive Director stated, "This could be the class to end all classes with our founding fathers Barry Wallace and Bob Wetzel as well as having the legend of 1-wall, Robert Sostre. Their induction shows the history and diversity of outdoor that we all celebrate”.
Brett Elkins, WOR Hall of Fame chairman-founder said, "Wallace/Wetzel are two legends of our sport who helped found outdoor racquetball, became its tireless promoters and whom made the outdoor nationals a designation event while being two of the top players of that era. We also wanted pay a special tribute to honor the most dominant 1-wall player in history Robert Sostre who makes winning look easy”.
Barry Wallace and Bob Wetzel-Founders of Outdoor Racquetball
Outdoor racquetball began in the early 1970's expanding rapidly nationwide and the reason why we are having the 40th annual outdoor National 3-wall Championships in Huntington Beach Ca in July 2014 is due to the founders of outdoor racquetball Barry Wallace and Bob Wetzel. These two pioneers became close friends as the only PE teachers at Orange Coast College (OCC) while competing daily in every sport and coaching the men's and women’s sport team such as basketball, baseball and soccer.
Wallace/Wetzel loved their daily battles in outdoor handball with R.O. Carson and Jim Carson (the father and uncle of pro world outdoor champ Rocky Carson). In 1971/1972 R.O. Carson showed up to OCC handball court with a fiberglass racquet in hand and proclaimed to Wallace and Wetzel..."Let's play ball." According to Barry Wallace… this was the very first game ever held for outdoor racquetball.
The sport would grow so fast in sunny California that eventually Wallace/Wetzel were running racquetball PE racquetball classes on the hour from 7am-7pm. In 1971/72, they created the first outdoor racquetball state championships which ran through 1973 with approximately 50 players annually.
The two founders wanted to hold a national event unlike any other- the best event ever held and one that would feature the outdoor players vs the indoor pro legends to see whom would dominate the domain of outdoor racquetball. On a sunny July 4th weekend in 1974, they held the first outdoor nationals in Southern California after a recruiting Mecca to San Diego to enlist the area’s top players particularly the legends of racquetball Mr. Charlie Brumfield and the famous good Dr. Bud Muehleisen.
Charlie Brumfield suggested they contact Robert Kendler, president of NRC indoor racquetball, and with Charlie and Dr. Bud's blessing, the first outdoor nationals at OCC featured four of the top five indoor pros and 8 of the top 12 proving from day one the event was the most significant in outdoor racquetball.
The stage was set in 1974 with 107 participants plus 1000’s of adoring fans paying $1 for bleacher seats. Charlie Brumfield stole the show winning the singles and later in doubles with Dr Bud over the founding fathers Wallace and Wetzel in the finals. One short year later, Wallace and Wetzel would pull out the biggest doubles upset in doubles history handing Brumfield and Muehleisen their first defeat in any racquetball competition while Wallace took 2nd in year two in the top singles division.
Wallace and Wetzel went on to win many singles and double national championships cementing their lore as not only the founding legends of outdoors but as two of the most dominate early players.
Without Wallace and Wetzel's determination to excel and to wear so many tournament hats as promoters/ players/ambassadors, racquetball would have remained a local California novelty. Instead, it grew to national prominence and a national treasure. We salute the founders of outdoor racquetball.
Robert Sostre-The “Ice Man”—A 1-Wall Legend
Fast forward about 25 years later and Robert Sostre, an athletic and youthful paddleball/handball legend plays 1-wall racquetball for the first time in a New York tournament at the suggestion of longtime partner Freddy Ramirez. According to Freddy, Robert didn't even own a racquet, but his athletic prowess and his ability to find some way to win would shortly make Robert the greatest outdoor 1-wall player in history. Robert Sostre was soon so dominate that he was named the "ice-man" for showing his "cool" under pressure and for not losing any New York tournament for 12 years until an injury occurred.
Robert won the first national 1-wall tournament in Florida, won 7 of the Florida Beach Bash Nationals and would win 28 major championships including several 3-wall national titles in Vegas and Los Angeles.
Twenty-four of those national titles were won with his close friend and partner Freddy Ramirez who said, "We have had some incredible matches together and he is a spectacular player." At 43, when most have long retired, Robert would go on to capture the top combined pro title in outdoor racquetball by winning the 2013 3-Wall Hemburg Ford Super Series Championships.
Robert often plays about 5 different events at Las Vegas such as handball, 3-wall racquetball, 1-wall racquetball in singles and doubles and despite being one of the oldest pro players, he excels with professionalism showing that even in 100 degree plus weather, the ice man is still as cold as ice. His contributions are so special that WOR wanted to honor him while he was still playing competitively.
WOR is honored to induct Barry Wallace, Bob Wetzel and Robert Sostre three members who have now joined “the walls of the outdoor hall of fame!" Come see them at the WOR Outdoor Championships on July 12, 2014 in the afternoon for a day for an event you will never forget. It is what legends are made of.