Last month was out in Detroit for a couple of nights. I played hardball singles at the Detroit Racquet Club. My partner, Thomas Howe, and I used old wooden racquets for the first couple of games (they have stacks of them on the walls). The courts are good, but quirky: one slopes a little and back walls that end just at the line, so balls sometimes fly out into the gallery. Albert Kahn designed the club, and he made the courts so that the weight is born from above rather than from below.

With the Post clan, I later played doubles and softball single at the Birmingham Athletic Club, the home of the Motor City Open. More good fun. I overheard talk in the locker room about Hashim Khan. Hashim moved from Detroit thirty-nine years ago, but he is still a legend there.

And I went to the Detroit Athletic Club. Tonight, with Detroit hosting its first World Series game since 2006, many people are hanging out at the DAC. A few squash clubs have unique locations, but I don’t know of another that is literally adjacent to a major sports stadium. You can see the field from the club—there are partial views from the basketball court and many of the hotel rooms upstairs. Being so close to Comerica Park (and Ford Field next door) has been a boon for the DAC, with members parking at the club and stopping in for a drink before or after Tigers or Lions games.

We did both the parking and the pre and apres drinking. We also put in a half dozen innings at Comerica, Tigers v. the A’s, watching Justin Verlander pitch and Miguel Cabrera launch his 41st homer, a rocket that nearly hit the DAC. 

U.S. Open Media

Here are the choice cuts from the media frenzy surrounding this year’s Open:


Joyce Davenport:…

Bob Callahan

A personal take on his Hall of Fame night at the Open:

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s…


Tom Poor…

Len Bernheimer…



Drexel’s Athletic Director Eric Zillmer on squash and “its cosmic order of trajectory and velocity”:…

Business Wire on Kasey Brown:

Kristen Lange…

Maria Elena Ubina…

Philadelphia Business Journal…

Mayor Nutter…

Arlen Specter’s Squash Career

Today is Arlen Specter’s funeral. The former Pennsylvania senator died at age eighty-two on Sunday. He was perhaps the most famous of squash-playing lawmakers.

Beginning in October 1970, he played nearly every day. Almost every obit in the country has reported that fact, usually noting that Specter considered squash a key reason why he survived so many health battles (brain tumors, heart bypass, cancer).

He really played every day. In my history of squash book I mentioned that Senator Bob Packwood hit Specter so hard that he fractured his cheekbone (he was wearing eye goggles). A doctor in Bethesda gave Specter six stitches and told him to stay off the squash court for six to seven weeks. Specter went out and bought a hockey mask and played the next day.

In July 2003 he was at a ceremony at the National Constitution Center when a steel cross-beam fell and slammed onto his upper right arm, seriously bruising him. Later that afternoon, Specter played squash.

In Egypt in 1982 he more or less made a $100 million bet with Hosni Mubarak over a squash match, but Mubarak avoided playing the match. Not because Specter didn’t want to—he always played when he traveled. In Never Give In, his  2008 memoir, he described playing six times on a ten-day trip (once in Brussels, Riga, Amman and Frankfurt and twice in Tel Aviv). When he landed at home, he went straight to play squash.

After he and Senator John Chaffee argued over who had won more when they played regularly in the 1980s, he started keeping track of his daily squash matches—a practice that lasted more than twenty-five years.

When he first was diagnosed with cancer at age seventy-five, he continued to play squash, dragging himself the courts to play two games. He did get back to playing full matches and beat Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker 3-1 in a 2006 match. He played hardball, long after the switch to softball (maybe that is why Toobin lost), on hardball courts either at the Federal Reserve building in Washington or at the Sporting Club near the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

Here he is playing later in life:

He repeatedly said: “My definition of winning at squash is playing and surviving, and I’ve never lost a match.” Under that definition, especially on a day like today, Arlen Specter was a squash champion.

2012 U.S. Open

What a week it has been at Drexel. Big crowds, big matches. Chris Gordon beating a top-twenty player. Everyone is texting, voting on let calls and who is going to win. Tremendous.

Two formal Hall of Fame inductions. Joyce Davenport getting acolades for her half century of brilliance. There are many good things to note about Joyce’s career: her world title, her managing the country’s oldest commercial squash club, the fact that she played at Wimbledon, that she got to the quarters of the nationals in 1960 when she was just eighteen and had just started playing.

But what I love is this: a Hall of Famer for just four days, she is playing in the second-annual, $15,000 2012 Philadelphia Open, a women’s pro doubles tournament at Philadelphia Country Club. Today she has not one but two matches—one in the main draw, playing with Kasey Brown and one in the pro-am, playing with Molly Pierce. The combined age of her two opponents in the main draw is less than Joyce’s age. 

And then Bob Callahan’s induction. An enormous crowd—dozens and dozens of Princeton alums, the entire current team, childhood friends—standing ovations, constant hugging, many with tears in their eyes. It was the signature moment of the week. For once, we were able to honor in person one of our game’s greatest guys.

Diehl to Gordo

The past and present of U.S. Open squash floated past me this long weekend. First on Thursday I went to Diehl Mateer’s funeral in Wayne, Penna. It was a powerful experience, remembering the life of a great player who twice won the U.S. Open, and a great person, father, husband and friend. And worshipping together with so many past greats, all the national champions (and former doubles partners of Diehl’s) in attendance. A very incomplete list included: Charlie Baker, Carter Fergusson, Ned Edwards, Sam Howe, Bill Wilson, Dave McMullin, Palmer and David Page, Hobie Porter, Jamie Heldring, Rich Sheppard, John Hentz, Andy Nehrbas, Howard Coonley, Darwin Kingsley, Ben Heckscher, Morris Clothier, my father, and of course Gil and Drew Mateer.

On Saturday I spent thirteen hours at the first main day at the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open at Drexel: watching juniors play down in the basement; women in the qualies in the courts on the main floor; and the men on the show court in the basketball arena.

More of the past: I watched matches with Sam Howe. The first U.S. Open he played in was in 1961, in Indianapolis (Roshan Khan beat Azam Khan in three in the final). And with Tom Poor, who was one of the key people behind the first portable court squash event in the country, the 1984 Boston Open. Look how far we’ve come.

I talked, within two minutes, with all three Americans to win a world squash title: Jack Herrick (world 45s in 1983); Joyce Davenport (world 50s in 1992) and Amanda Sobhy (world juniors, 2010). That was cool.

The highlight of the night was Chris Gordon’s breathtaking, breakthrough win over Hisham Ashour. At age twenty-six, he won his first World Series main draw match, beating a guy ranked fifty-seven spots above him. Talk about unexpected.