Pool & Penn—Making the List

What is official?

The College Squash Association keeps its past champions lists online:

Past Champions

For years, I have noticed two gaps there. For the men’s singles national individual champion (winner of the Pool Trophy), they have started their list in 1932, where in my history of squash book I started it in 1931. The confusion is over a March 1931 tournament at the University Club of New York. Players from five of the six active varsity collegiate teams (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and Trinity) sent their top players (Penn declined to send players).  After the semis, Eugene Pool hosted a luncheon at his house where a national association—what is now called the CSA—was formed.  In the finals later that afternoon, Eugene’s son Beek of Harvard topped Princeton’s Don Strachan.

We know it counted because at the time people counted it. Allison Danzig, the doyen of squash writers, penned a report on a squash tournament in Long Island in the New York Times in December 1931. The lede: “Beekman Pool of Harvard University, winner of the first intercollegiate squash racquets tournament last Winter, succeeded his brother, J. Lawrence Pool of the Harvard Club, the national champion, as the holder of the Gold Racquet today.” (Danzig went on to write of Pool as the “fair-haired, sturdily-built young Cantabrigian” who mixed “hard alley shots with baffling soft shots to both the front wall and the side wall.”)

The other gap was with the Howe Cup, the women’s team competition. A former US Squash colleague, Sara Kleppinger Fornaciari, told me five years ago that she played on the first women’s team champion in 1972, a year before the CSA’s list begins.

She dug up an article she wrote in the Daily Pennsylvanian the spring of 1972. Penn beat Princeton and a combined Radcliffe & Wellesley team. “I think I’m going to retire,” said Ann Wetzel, the Hall of Fame coach at Penn, after winning the title. It was a five-woman per team competition. Penn had five seniors on the team, including another future Hall of Famer, Barbara Maltby. Princeton, coached by Betty Constable, showed up “dressed to kill” as Fornaciari wrote: “The Tigresses with orange and black golf socks, hair ribbons to match and Princeton ‘P’s’ emblazoned on their warm-up jackets didn’t psych-out the less ostentatious Quakers. It worked in reverse.” Penn beat Princeton 4-1.

Each Penn player received a silver brandy snifter (not the usual trophy for a collegiate tournament). Each was engraved “Howe Cup 1972.” Fornaciari and others on the team still have their trophies.

Like Beek Pool in 1931, it was considered official at the time but because someone left it off the permanent trophy when that was  later created, they got lost in the slipstream of history.