Gilbert Shea Is Inducted into So Cal Tennis Hall of Fame

Pacific Palisades resident Gilbert Shea was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame last Sunday. Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer
Pacific Palisades resident Gilbert Shea was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame last Sunday. Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Gilbert Shea, a 46-year Pacific Palisades resident, was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame last Sunday at the Riviera Country Club. Other honorees included Vic Braden, Michael Chang, Lindsay Davenport, Rick Leach and Kathy Willette.
Born in Oregon, Shea moved with his family moved to California when he was three. He played tennis at USC and later joined the Army for two years before joining the international tennis spectrum, where he reached as high as No. 4 in the U.S. in 1957.
Though Shea, 84, no longer plays tennis, he reflected fondly on his playing days in a recent interview with the Palisadian-Post when discussing his induction.
“At one point in my life, tennis was very important to me,” Shea said. “I loved the competition. I traveled all over the world. I probably started playing the game around eight years old. At USC, we always had some great matches against UCLA.”
Asked about his top career moments, Shea said he twice defeated Vic Seixas, once in 1954 when Seixas was the top-seeded player at Wimbledon and Shea advanced to the quarterfinals. He also won the National Hardcourt Championships in 1957, the year he retired.
Today, Shea sticks to golf, which he plays at the Los Angeles Country Club, though he enjoys watching his wife, Claire, play at the Riviera Tennis Club, along with some of his friends.
The Palisades has been a staple of Shea’s life, for he and Claire raised their five children here. A friend of Shea’s, Jack (Jon) Douglas, who was a quarterback and tennis player at Stanford University before becoming a real estate agent, discovered Shea’s future home.
“Jack called me and said, ‘Gil, I’ve got your house for you,’” Shea recalled. “We [initially] had a nice little place with only three bedrooms in Brentwood. Prices were so cheap, I think I only paid $10,000 for my house, so I was very fortunate. We love the Palisades, and we’re very lucky to be here.”
Shea’s children – daughters Molly Dietsch, Jenny Swan and Besty Tripaldi and sons Michael Shea and Gilbert Shea Jr. – all attended Corpus Christi. His daughters went to Marymount High and his sons went to Loyola High.
Dietsch earned a scholarship to play tennis at UC Santa Barbara, where Michael Shea played for five years as a walk-on. Michael and Gil Jr. currently live in Charlotte, North Caroline, while Swan and Tripaldi reside in Northern California. Dietsch still lives in the Palisades. The Sheas have 16 grandchildren.
Shea, who earned an undergraduate business degree from USC, opened a Lehman Brothers office in the Los Angeles area after he retired from tennis, and after working there for a decade, he has since been self-employed in the securities business. When he played in the 1950’s, suffice it to say, the game was far different than it is today.
“We played with the old ‘woody,’ the Kramer wooden racquet,” Shea recalled. “The game has changed a lot. There was a lot of serve-and-volley when I played, but seldom do guys go to the net upon serve anymore.”