1968 National Doubles

Late last month I was out in St. Louis for a squash weekend. Two people in attendance, Sam Howe and Ted Simmons, had been in St. Louis a half century earlier for one of the most unusual National Doubles tournaments in history.

It was the Vic & Vic show at the 1968 National Doubles. An  unseeded, unheralded and unlikely duo of a greenhorn twenty-something Victor Niederhoffer and a forty-nine year-old Victor Elmaleh somehow won four straight five-game matches.

Howe told me about as defending champions, he & Bill Danforth tumbled in the quarters in a barnburner with Kit Spahr and my father: 16-14, 12-15, 18-17, 8-15, 15-11.

Simmons told me about his opening-round match at the Racquet Club of St. Louis. He and fellow member Charlie Cella thought they had a winnable match against Vic & Vic. Instead, they lost the first two games 15-11 and 17-16. In the third, the Vics had a match point. Cella hit a lob that bounded out of the court under into the bleachers. The players shook hands. A spectator retrieved the ball and announced that it was broken. (Holy home-court advantage.)

They replayed the point, Simmons & Cella won it and survived the game 17-15. The Vics took the fourth game off, 15-14. But in the fifth, they got leads of 4-0, 6-2 and 10-5. Simmons & Cella crept back to 13-9 and 14-10, but got no further. Niederhoffer hit a front-wall side-wall drop shot for a winner and they moved on.

It took fifty years before another forty-nine year-old man won the National Doubles, this year’s Ed Garno.