|The dean of New Mexico handball, Manny won nine consecutive New Mexico state championships (1958-66) and 11 consecutive Albuquerque city titles (1957-67). He was the first New Mexican to be nationally ranked in handball and coached countless others in the sport. Manny was born in East Harlem, N.Y., to non-English speaking immigrant parents (Russia/Latvia), and spent much of his childhood in Brooklyn.|
Manny attended Oswego State College in upper New York in the late 1940s, and was a two-year starter for the basketball team.
After graduating from Oswego State in three years, he joined the U.S. Army, where he worked as a medic while stationed in Germany during the Korean War. He later played for a U.S. Army touring team, and was named All-Army in the sport.
After the Korean War, Smith moved to Albuquerque and became a teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools in the early 1950s. At one time, NMHOF coaches Bill Gentry, Jim Hulsman and Manny all taught together at Zia Elementary. Gentry still talks about Manny’s athleticism as a handball player and “an unbelievable teatherball player.” Manny spent 35 years with APS and was a teacher, principal and master teacher (teaching techniques and overseeing younger teachers) during his career. APS honored him with a Distinguished Teacher Award. Manny retired from APS after learning he had colon cancer in 1993.
Despite the cancer, he won a N.M. State Senior Racquetball title in 1993, qualifying for the national championships in New Orleans. He was unable to attend because of his illness. Manny did continue to compete after two surgeries, and remained one of the state’s top senior racquetball players until dying of cancer in August 1995 at age 65. He played his last tournament less than a month before he died. A portrait of Manny hung over the entrance of the handball/racquetball courts at Tom Young’s Athletic Club. The late Albuquerque businessman George Maloof, a handball partner with Manny at the old YMCA, said “Manny was the best athlete I have ever met.”
Manny officiated softball, basketball and volleyball, and umpired baseball at the high school, junior high and youth levels.
He coached Little League baseball and youth basketball and, in 1986, was honored as Boys and Girls Club Coach of the Year.
In the early 1960s, Manny created a baseball league, funding it out of his own teacher’s salary, for underprivileged youth on the Albuquerque’s Southeast side.
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Outside of sports, Manny was known as one of the state’s top theater actors, starring in many plays at ACLOA, the Albuquerque Little Theater and other theater companies. He was also in a number of movies, including “Adios Amigo” with Richard Pryor, “Timerider” and “The City” with Anthony Quinn. He was co-founder of the New Mexico chapter of the Screen Actors Guild and a board member of three theater companies. Both Del Norte High School and Cleveland Middle School have presented scholarships in Manny’s name.