Recapping the 1964 Olympic Games

May 14, 2014, 7 a.m. (ET)

The 1964 Olympic Teams will be honored at the Boyce Banquet on May 21, at 5:30 p.m. in the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. USA Volleyball will recognize the 1964 U.S. Women’s and Men’s Olympic Teams as part of the 50th anniversary of volleyball’s introduction into the Olympic Games. The addition of women’s volleyball into the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games was even more special, as it marked the first women’s team competition of any sport contested in the Olympics.

Purchase tickets to the Boyce Banquete


The following excerpts are from 1965, recapping the ’64 Games in the United States Volleyball Association’s official guide.

Hollywood YMCA Stars, 1964 National Champions

 The Olympic Trials were held Saturday with round robin play fashioned as it is in the Olympics. The top five teams in the Open plus an all-star team of the “best of the rest” composed the field. The first round matches began with the same excitement which had left off the night before. Fourth place Stockton dumped the third place Comets. Hollywood went three games with the All Stars as did Long Beach and Honolulu. By the time the World’s Fair had closed for the night, the Comets had defeated Long Beach (again) to finish second as the Hollywood Stars sailed home unmolested in first place. The powerful All Star team led the second division followed by Stockton and the Central Y from Honolulu. The Olympic Committee had the awesome job of picking our representatives to the XVIII Olympiad.

U.S. Olympic Trials, Sept. 5, 1964 
Ahern Shamrocks of Southern California, 1964 

The top 3 teams from the U.S.V.B.A. Nationals were automatically in the Olympic Trials, with an all-star team selected to allow 4 teams to participate in a round-robin tournament.

The Long Beach Shamrocks had a rough match against the Southern California Renegades, 15-12, 10-15, 15-1, before nailing down the Women’s Title in the Trials with a 3-0 record.

Earlier in the day the U.S.V.B.A. Champs toppled the South Bay triumphs of California, 19-7, 15-13, and the All-Stars, 15-8, 15-8.

The All-Stars, skillfully coached by Bernie Holtzman of California, were second in the trials, followed by the Renegades and the Triumphs.

The U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball team was selected from these 4 teams 9 players from California, 1 from Illinois, and 2 from Texas.

1964 Olympic Volleyball Selections
For the first time, volleyball the YMCA invented game, was on the Olympic Games program in Tokyo, Japan during the period October 10-24, 1964. USA men’s and women’s team members were selected on September 5, the day following the National Championships. The top five teams (1. Hollywood Stars; 2. Long Beach Century Club; 3. Hollywood Comets; 4. Stockton, Calif. YMCA; 5. Honolulu, Hawaii YMCA) plus an all-star team from September 2, 3, 4, championships played a round robin series of matches to permit the Men’s Olympic Volleyball Committee, headed by David C. Stubbs, to select 12 players and six alternates. The alternates were to fill any vacancies that might occur in the first 12 positions.

A similar plan was used to select the women’s team. The top three (1. Long Beach, Calif. Ahern Shamrocks; 2. Southern California Renegades; 3. South Bay, Calif. Triumphs) plus an all-star fourth team played a round-robin series of matches.

Men  Team/Hometown     Women Team/Hometown
Ernest Swara  Hollywood Stars   Patti Bright Long Beach, Calif., Ahern Shamrocks
Barry Brown  Hollywood Stars   Linda Murphy Long Beach, Calif., Ahern Shamrocks
Michael O'Hara Hollywood Stars
  Nancy Owen Long Beach, Calif., Ahern Shamrocks
Wm. Griebenow Hollywood Stars
  Jane Ward Long Beach, Calif., Ahern Shamrocks
Charles Nelson Hollywood Comets   Jean Gaertner Southern Calif., Renegades
John Taylor Hollywood Comets   Mary Jo Peppler Southern Calif., Renegades
Richard Hammer Long Beach Century Club   Mary Perry Southern Calif., Renegades
Ronald Lang Long Beach Century Club   Sharon Peterson South Bay, Calif., Triumphs
Keith Ericson Long Beach Century Club
Gail O'Rourke South Bay, Calif., Triumphs
Michael Bright Long Beach Century Club   Lou Sara Galloway Dallas, Texas YMCA
Pedra Velasco Honolulu YMCA   Barbara Harwerth San Antonio, Texas St. Cecelia
Jake Highland All Service   Verneda Thomas Chicago, Ill., Rebels
Gene Selznick Long Beach Century Club   Mardi Rohe South Bay, Calif., Triumphs
Rudolph Swara  NYC, Westside YMCA   Diana Hoffman Long Beach, Calif., Ahern Shamrocks
Robert Hogan Honolulu Outriggers Club  
Jack Henn Hollywood YMCA Comets      
"Butch" May Hollywood YMCA Comets      
Rolf Engen  Hollywood Stars      
Coach: Harry E. Wilson Hollywood YMCA   Coach: Dr. William Burroughs Los Angeles, Calif.
Manager: Burt DeGroot Santa Monica, Calif. City College   Manager: Ida Litschauer California

Ernie Suwara Jr. 1964 Volleyball Player of the Year, of the Hollywood Stars, spikes a ball to the right of a block set up  by the Long Beach Century  Club's Gene Selznick, Alexis Smith and Keith Erickson John Taylor, 1964 Rookie of the year, Hollywood Comets drives a ball through the block set up by Ronnie Lang and James Montague of Long Beach BW  Linda Murphy of the National Champion Ahern Shamrocks drives the ball into a block by Mary Jo Peppler (2) and Ninja Jorgensen of the runner-up Renegades. 

The 1964 Olympics in Tokyo
Our United States Men’s and Women’s Olympic Volleyball teams left this country with high hopes and returned with mixed emotions. No one would deny that most of our players performed at their level best. (Unfortunately some seemingly lacked certain qualities including self-discipline and did not perform at their peak. This was a disappointment to may persons). It is no dishonor to be defeated by superior play by sportsmen of high standards who have trained hard and successfully. There are some regrets when the above does not hold and our teams might have done better!

Our volleyball programs in this country need careful analysis. The game was invented and nurtured in this country. It is now a worldwide sport pushing soccer for first place. Yet in many institutions of the United States, including the schools and colleges, the skills of the sport are not taught or taught as the game was played in the 1930’s.

Volleyball will be on the Olympic program at Mexico City in 1964. What United States does at that tie rests upon the teachers, coaches and top-flight players of this country! Other nations have learned volleyball from us. We should learn something from them!

Back: Jean Gaertner, Lou Sara Galloway, Jane Ward, Linda Murphy, Barbara Harwerth, Verneda Thomas, Nancy Owen, Mary Jo Pepper. Front: Coach Dr. W. P. Burroughs, Patty Bright, Sharon Peterson, Gail O'Rourke, Mary Perry, manager Ida Litschauer. 

Women’s Olympics
The public was thrilled to see the marvelous performance of the women on TV. The girls of Japan are true champions and have the admiration of all. They went through the round-robin play without losing a match.

The U.S. women’s team worked out at Compton City College and Glendale YMCA for two weeks before leaving for Japan September 30th. They worked out twice each day and gave two exhibition matches, one at Compton City College and another Telecast match at the Glendale YMCA.

After arriving in Japan practice sessions were held with the Japanese teams. This was a renewal of friendship because our girls had entertained the Japanese team when they came through United States last year.

It is difficult for one who has not gone abroad to compete what handicaps arise in attempting to adjust: difference in rules, difference in interpretation of rules, differences in equipment and balls, food and sleeping quarters, and the great differences in officiating.

U.S.A. won just one match and that with Korea. Russia lost only to Japan. The order of finish is as follows:

1st Japan 5-0
2nd Russia 4-1
3rd Poland 3-2
4th Romania 2-3
5th U.S.A. 1-4
6th Korea 0-5

U.S.A. lost to Japan 1-15, 5-15, 2-15; lost to Poland 3-15, 4-15, 10-15; lost to Romania 9-15, 1-15, 2-15; lost to USSR 1-15, 8-15, 7-15; won from Korea 15-7, 15-13, 15-13.

Coach Harry Wilson, Peter Velasco, Charles Nelson, Jake Highland, Richard Hammer, Michael Bright, Keith Erickson, Barry Brown, Bill Griebenow, Michael O'Hara, John Taylor, Ernie Suwara Jr., Ronald Lang, manager E. B. De Groot Jr. 

Men’s Olympics
Our men’s Olympic team failed to finish in the top bracket and thus failed to win any Olympic medals. The U.S.S.R. finished first with Czechoslavakia second and Japan third. Our team elected co-captains: Pete Velasco and Mike Bright. Followers at the Olympics agreed that Captain Velasco was the standout player of the American team throughout the championships.

The U.S. men’s team beat the Netherlands 15-10, 15-13, 15-6. We also defeated Korea 16-15, 4-15, 4-15, 15-10, 15-11. The USA lost to Hungary 12-15, 13-15, 8-15. To Czechoslavakia 7-15, 13-15, 14-16. This is the kind of match loss that is hard to digest!

Again came a tough loss to Japan 12-15, 10-15, 15-13, 11-15. The Bulgaria loss was also a real battle 9-15, 13-15, 7-15. The U.S.S.R. was keyed up to defeat the U.S.A. 6-15, 5-15, 4-15. The Brazil loss was a “nightmare” 15-5, 15-11, 9-15, 6-15, 9-15. Then came the tough loss to Bulgaria 15-11, 9-15, 11-15, 13-15.