Published on May 16th, 2012 @ 03:18:00 pm , using 1560 words
My brother Dick just sent me excerpts from Sands of Time, the history of beach volleyball. I picked out this piece about the guy I think was the greatest player of all time, Gene Selznick. Selz was a magician, and could do anything conceivable with a volleyball. The 1965 Manhattan Open which Selznick won with Ronnie Lang against Mike Bright and Mike O'Hara was one of the greatest matches I've ever seen. Cramping toward the end of the match, Selz was still able to set Lang from an almost supine position. Because of political difficulties with certain people in the USVBA, Selznick was not chosen for either the '64 Tokyo Olympics or the '68 Mexico Olympics. A terrible situation, but he lived with it. I was an All-American on UCLA's first national championship team in 1965, along with Olympians Ernie Suwara and Larry Rundle. Keith Erickson was also on the team. I had grown up with the game in Manhattan Beach and my dad Jack was a good beach player in those early days of the game. He used to hold court at 8th St. all day, every weekend for many years. My brother Dick played as well, and won some tournaments on the beach.
Beach volleyball is now an Olympic sport and Karch Kiraly became the dominant player in the 80s and 90s. It is a vigorous action-surge of a game, and I am glad to be part of its history.
"SANDS OF TIME"
THE HISTORY OF BEACH VOLLEYBALL
On sale now
Volume #1: 1895-1969
Volume #2: 1970-1989
Volume #3: 1990-2004
Click Here To Order
"SANDS OF TIME" is a complete history of Men's and Women’s beach volleyball, including its roots that began with the indoor game.
The following is a selection taken from the book: "THE SANDS OF TIME"
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
On and off the court, in 1956, Gene Selznick gave it his "All" In the above photo, Selznick (right) lets-loose with an impromptu dance session.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Gene Selznick first began to play volleyball on the beach in Hermosa Beach. After beating some of the better teams in Hermosa Beach, Selznick was looking to play in the "big games" at Santa Monica’s State Beach.
Selznick’s first State Beach experience was against the Shargo Brothers, Sam and Nat. Selznick played with his friend Jim McFarland and they were taught a lesson, as the Shargo’s defeated the young upstarts by a score of 8-0. (in those days if a team was behind by a score of 8-0, they had to get off the court). Selznick and McFarland went back to Hermosa Beach to practice some more.
The second time that Selznick went to State Beach, he and McFarland challenged Paul Siano and Glen Keller to a match. Keller and Siano , in a repeat performance of the Shargo brothers, defeated Selznick and McFarland 8-0. Keller said: "When we beat Selznick, on that day, his game was not quite so polished, but this victory could not be duplicated a few months later when Gene's skills were much improved." (In 1999, Glen was 81 years of age, and still playing an occasional game of doubles beach volleyball, in Newport Beach California).
The above photo shows Don McMahon spiking the ball while Gene Selznick is ready on defense. Action took place during the 1950’s.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Selznick and McFarland went back to Hermosa Beach and McFarland decided that he did not want to go back to Santa Monica. The next time Selznick went to Santa Monica, he went with Howard Walker, to play in the Sorrento "A" tournament, which they won. Most of the top Santa Monica, State Beach players were at the tournament, not playing, just to watch. After the tournament Manny Saenz invited Selznick to come back to State Beach and play.
Selznick went to State Beach and played some games on the "B" court and eventually challenged Saenz and his partner Bernie Holtzman on the "main court." Normally this was against the local court etiquette, it just was not supposed to be done! The normally tolerant Holtzman was unimpressed with this young skinny kid as he and the other State Beach locals did not take victories at another beach very seriously. But, since he was invited to State Beach by Saenz and the fact that on this day there were not a lot of players on the beach, they decided to teach this kid another lesson. They envisioned duplicating the two prior 8-0 shutouts. The locals sneered: "If you can get a partner, we’ll play you."
Selznick was able to coerce another to play with him, but the game went much differently than the locals planned. Selznick displayed quickness and agility that far surpassed anything that they had ever seen. The game was eventually won by Saenz and Holtzman by a score of 15-13, much different than the anticipated 8-0 shutout. Saenz and Holtzman were shocked, but still managed to display sportsmen like conduct as they congratulated Selznick for his performance. After this game, Selznick was invited back to play again and inevitably became the best player on the beach at State Beach, or any other beach that tendered the game of volleyball.
Selznick was not known for spending all of his time as a volleyball fanatic, he liked to dance and party. His ability to party was legendary. Gene was not a big drinker but he was known to stay-up until all hours of the night and he would not wait until Saturday nights to party, he partied almost every night. No matter how much he partied he could still play the next day.
On the beach, Selznick was truly innovative with his game of volleyball. He was always experimenting with different strategies. Selznick is credited with bringing the "Spike" to the beach game. Although other players used to spike the ball occasionally on the beach, Gene was the first to use it as his main weapon. He was also capable of receiving the serve and turning it into a set for his partner so that the second contact would be a hitter jumping at the net for a spike, or the player could elect to set the ball, if a block was up.
Selznick is considered the architect of today's game, he had ideas before anyone else even dreamed of them. As an example of how far ahead of his time that Gene Selznick was, long after his playing career was over, he was asked to coach the first U.S.A. team ever selected to play beach volleyball, in the Olympics. During their preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta Georgia, the all-time career open beach volleyball tournament winner, Sinjin Smith (139 career open beach volleyball tournament championships, in 1999 Karch Kiraly surpassed Sinjin with 141), and his Olympic teammate, Carl Henkel, both thought enough of Gene's experience and knowledge of beach volleyball, to ask him to coach them at this inaugural of beach volleyball in the Olympic Games. In 1999 and 2000 Gene and his son Dane, were both involved with players trying to qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sidney Australia. Gene managed to help the new women’s beach volleyball team of Misty May and Holly McPeak qualify for the 2000 Olympiad in Sydney Australia. It is felt by many that Gene Selznick never got the recognition that he deserved because of his political enemies in volleyball.
By the end of the summer in 1950, Ev Keller, one of the best beach and indoor players in the country, saw Selznick play. Ev asked Selznick to play with him in the next tournament. It was the last tournament of the 1950 season and the first ever "AAA" tournament. Selznick was at the top of the sport very quickly! He continued to play in tournaments with Ev Keller until 1952 when he went to Okinawa for a tour of duty in the military. When Selznick came back, in 1953, he paired-up with Don McMahon.
Selznick became a regular at State Beach, but he was anything but "regular" when it came to his status there. The other regulars would show-up early, to sign-up for games. Selznick did not have to go through this formality, when Selznick showed-up to play, it seems that someone would always offer to let him take their place on the court. Selznick would normally accept, as his entourage of friends escorted him to the court, as if he were a movie star!
Selznick had the ability to start playing without delay. He did not even need to warm-up for play. Selznick dominated both the court and the beach. His confidence and mastery of the sport were so far ahead of everybody else. He is a colorful and charismatic person that is not hesitant to share his opinions with others. If Gene said something, it was passed up and down the beach for all to hear.
from The Sands of Time: The History of Beach Volleyball
on this post. I will be returning to your site for more soon.