The twenty-eighth Copa Wadsworth just finished this morning at Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia. It is one of the most special traditions in North American squash.
And unheralded. I left the Copa party last night to head around the corner to the BestShotBall benefit for SquashSmarts at Philadelphia Cricket Club. Perhaps a dozen people, all well-connected, longtime players and coaches, asked me if as in previous years I had played in the games as a part of the SquashSmarts benefit and I said, no, I had played in the Copa Wadsworth at GCC and they said, what is the Copa?
The Copa was founded by and named after George Wadsworth, an American ex-pat who lived in Mexico City for decades. In 1990 in Atlantic City he launched the U.S. v. Mexico match. It is played in Mexico City every even year and in a U.S. city every odd year. (It was in St. Louis in 2015; it will be in San Francisco in 2019.)
Wadsworth was the ultimate global citizen. He was born in Constantinople; grew up in Bucharest, Cairo, Tehran, Beirut, and Jerusalem; went to Nicols School in Buffalo; was a Princeton ’44; and fought at Iwo Jima. In Mexico he owned a lightbulb factory. When he bought a house that had a squash court, he finally took up the game he had known about for decades.
A couple of stalwarts help oversee the U.S. side. One is Alan Fox, who despite having endured a stroke in January, came (accompanied by the ever-generous Terry Eagle) to Philadelphia. The Copa is similar to the Lapham-Grant, the annual U.S. v. Canada match, and three players—Eagle, Bob Mosier and Peter Susskind—did the North American Double™ and played in the Lapham last weekend in Calgary and the Copa this weekend in Philadelphia. (Susskind actually didn’t play in the Copa; he suffered a fractured elbow in the Lapham but, like so many, loves the Copa and so came anyway.)
The Mexican side, since Wadsworth death in June 2011 at the age of eighty-nine, has been led by Purdy Jordan. Another American ex-pat who grew up and lives in Mexico City, Jordan is a mere eighty-seven. He has a standing doubles game every Saturday morning.
I had a tremendously fun time playing singles and doubles with and against the Mexican side. They were a mix of Copa veterans, like Ricardo Solis who has played in more than half of the Copa’s, and rookies like me. I had a great couple of games with Mike, a twenty-three year-old who had just picked up squash after a dozen years of playing American football. The U.S. team won, in the end, but you wouldn’t have known from the smiles and high-fives after every match.
The Copa is a quiet, but revealing celebration of the long and deep ties the squash communities of our two nations have had over the generations.