I just got a copy of the program for the December 2006 Gold Racquets from tournament director Mark Hinckley. He and co-director Peter MacGuire are stepping into the famous shoes of Treddy Ketcham. They had a fantastic weekend: There was the Whiffenpoofs at the Sunday brunch, players from a dozen countries and still the old standbys like Mike Pierce who is trying to win the doubles in a fifth decade.
A few days ago I got a nice, informative email from Kerry Martin up in Canada who complimented me on my squash book and then said that there is an error on p. 269, that his brother Peter was nineteen when they won the Gold Racquets doubles in 1966. (The Martin brothers had a remarkable weekend: they beat Treddy & Jimmy Ethridge 15-13 in the fifth; then Pete Day & Bill Morris 17-15 in the fifth; then Claude Beer & Howard Davis 15-7 in the fifth—it was a Sunday morning, not the best time for that bibulous tandem; and then an easier four-game win in the finals over Gerry Emmit & John Davis.)
Mike Pierce, whom I claimed was the youngest to ever win the Gold Racquets, turned twenty on the day he won the tournament in 1969 (7 December). Peter Martin, on the other hand, turned twenty on 28 December in 1966, twenty-four days after he won the coveted trophy.
Pierce might not be the youngest, but he is the most consistent. He has won the tournament in four different decades. He told me this fall in San Francisco how he has only missed one tournament since 1969 and that was when a blizzard grounded his car on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Hinckley and MacGuire issued a program, the first in the history of the Gold Racquets. It was stuffed with photographs, lists and articles. They reproduced the well-known and affecting shot of a group in the front of the court. It was taken at the Gold Racquets in 1941, that awful Sunday, 7 December and everyone’s face—especially a scowling Germain Glidden—revealed the news from Hawaii. I loved the pic of Ray Chauncey, cigarette in hand, on the court (!) and Treddy, a Marine-straight back and his ever-present drawsheet stuffed in his blazer pocket. My only quibble is how this could be the 75th? The tournament was played (either singles or doubles or both) every year from 1928 to now, except for 1943 and 1944. So wasn’t 2005 the 75th time everyone gathered in Cedarhurst to partake of that unique Rackaway hospitality? I wasn’t a math major, though.
SEARS TROPHY A year ago an antique dealer named Jonathan Askins contacted me about a trophy he had obtained in New Hampshire. In 1928 Eleo Sears won the second annual Massachusetts SRA’s women’s singles tournament. It was hosted by the Harvard Club of Boston, which had just swung open its squash doors to women in off-peak hours.
They might have been grudging about court-time bu they did make a rather splendid trophy. It is solid sterling silver, eight inches high, with the Harvard Club crest and “Eleonora R. Sears” below the year 1928. I am guessing that this might be the oldest extant women’s squash trophy in the country.
MEDIA WATCH II
At the U.S. Open in Boston last November, I sat next to Clayton Collins, a Christian Science Monitor staff writer. He had played squash at Pomfret thirty-odd years ago and racquetball more recently. He now was interested in a piece for the CSM’s Friday lifestyles section, which came out on 15 December 2006. It had two Steve Line photos and a shot of play at the Tennis & Racquet Club. Collins peppered the piece with some nice quotations from the author of the “authoratative” Squash: A History of the Game and Jeanne Blasberg (nicely optimistic, she says USSRA membership “will jump an estimated 20% this year” and that she hopes the game will be in the Olympics by 2012, which has we know is impossible; 2016 maybe). It also showed the CSM’s continental reach (or ambition) by listing upcoming tournaments in Oregon, Virginia, Ohio and New York.
The January-February issue of Harvard Magazine had three pieces on Harvard squash. Carlin Wing, ’02, was profiled about her photography. The former pro reached sixty-five in the world three years ago. She is now in grad school in L.A. and has a project on portable squash courts. Then there was Tal Ben-Shahar who won the 1995 national intercollegiates. He is a psychologist who teaches a popular course at Harvard on positive psychology (“Happiness 101”). And then there was an article, by Craig Lambert, on the two top current Crimson, Siddharth Suchde and Kyla Grigg. The article was a good joint profile and came with a very determined sidebar on “How to Slice a Squash Ball.” It might not be the clearest lesson ever, but Lambert did salt it with a memorable (if untraceable?) line from Jack Barnaby: “Always try to hit the ball before it hits the wall or right after it comes off the wall, because hitting it while it is on the wall is impossible.”
Jeffrey Toobin discussed Arlen Specter’s squash game at the end of his New Yorker piece of 4 December 2006. He said the senior senator from Pennsylvania plays seven days a week (obviously hardball; Specter is seventy-six and no one half his age plays a match every day of the week without money involved) and that they played together recently at the Federal Reserve. There was no whites-only clothing rule (which is all-but-impossible to find in Washington away from the Metropolitan Club), as Snarlin’ Arlin sported a “ratty sweatshirt” from the 1984 Olympics. Specter dropped the first game 16-14 and then snagged three straight with “a deadly drop shot.” What kind?
Toobin mentioned that Bob Packwood, another gladatorial senator, once smacked Specter with his racquet, causing a wound that needed six stiches to close, but failed to add that the “swat” also broke Specter’s cheekbone. Mmmm. Makes you want to be a Democrat.