Last month I went to the memorial service for Bill Wilson. Known to many of his old friends as Goose (he lived in a house of bachelors in his twenties; the other housemates were Spider, Grappler and the Whale), Bill was a fine squash player, a very fine athlete and a beloved friend to many in the squash world.
In the 1950s, after graduating from Amherst, he spent two years pitching in the Braves farm system (the parent club was first in Boston and then in Milwaukee): almost all of it in Hagerstown, MD on their single A team. A southpaw, he went 18-12 with a 3.90 ERA. He later played a lot of squash with Phillies outfielder and announcer Richie Ashburn.
At the service, I was struck by how many of Bill’s squash buddies were there: I saw Carter Fergusson, Ben Heckscher, Sam Howe, Darwin Kingsley, etc. But I was also struck what one of them, Charlie Baker, said in his lovely eulogy.
He spoke about a weekly game he had with Bill. For twenty years, Charlie and Bill played every Monday evening. They played at 5pm on courts #7 or #8 at Merion. Neighbors, they alternated on the driving. They played year-round. Bill won more of the matches than Charlie, but Charlie said that was just because he was five years younger. “Even in those fun games,” Charlie told me, “he hated to lose but then so did I.” They only stopped a couple of years ago, when Bill’s medical problems forced him to give up playing.
That is the essence of squash: the standing weekly game. Month in, month out, year in, year out, playing a friend. Fighting hard on court and best of friends off court.
Farewell, Goose. Forever in the bonds.