Faces in the Crowd

This month Squash Magazine ran a massive story (our longest ever) on the history of squash in Sports Illustrated’s weekly feature, Faces in the Crowd.


The article tossed us all right into the past sixty-odd years of squash history. It reminded us of some of the great stories of our game—Joyce Davenport coming back after a four-year absence from the game, playing squash for two months and winning the National Singles—and the more obscure and slightly random players—what ever happened to the young Frank Ward?

There were many more squash Faces than anyone thought. We ran a contest to quantify people’s perception of squash in Faces—guess how many times a squash player has been in it? We got seventeen guesses. Most ranged around seventy or eighty players and the highest was one hundred and thirty, eleven less than the actual number.

The article struck a nerve. We received numerous emails. Many people sent in clippings of SI articles on squash—SI has done more than a couple of dozen feature-length articles on the players—but we did respond to say that we were only talking about Faces.

The best letter came from an old and favorite correspondent of ours, Rick Austin. He enclosed a clip from the 19th Hole of the 22 February 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated.

It was a brilliant letter to the editor of his. Austin focused on the perennial issue of media attention for squash. He calculated that in SI’s first year of existence it had published four pages out of 2,200 on the game of squash. This was about .18%, far less than the supposed 1% of SI’s readers who might know and be interested in squash.

“Unless the Yale squash coach, Johnny Skillman, perfects and builds his court of one-way glass, squash will remain a mystery to many people,” continued Austin. “For a sport to become popular, it must be both seen and played. There are not enough facilities to take care of all the people who wish to play squash, for high court construction costs limit the number of available courts. However, I feel that SI’s few pages devoted to squash has helped to make the sport more widely known and appreciated.”

More than sixty-three years later, all you can say is: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.