Pete Bostwick

Earlier this month, George H. Bostwick, Jr. died at the age of eighty-seven.

Arguably, Pete was, along with his younger brother Jimmy, the greatest American male amateur athlete of the twentieth century. He was an outstanding golfer and tennis player. He remains one of just three men to play in both sports’ U.S. national championship: in the 1959 U.S. Open at Winged Foot he missed the cut by just three strokes; in 1952 he lost in the first round at the U.S. tennis nationals at Forest Hills. He twice won the U.S. Open in racquets. In court tennis he twice captured the world championship and won six U.S. Open titles. In ice hockey he tried out for the 1960 Olympic team and from 1958 to 1983 captained the St. Nicholas squad.

Squash was a sidelight amidst all this competition (and scheduling—Pete was famous for driving or flying all over the East Coast to be able to squeeze in a St. Nick’s game during a tournament weekend). But he naturally was very good and worked hard at it. He first played at St. Paul’s, but it wasn’t until his late thirties that he picked up a racquet in the winters. Still he won the men’s national 40+in 1975, 45+ in 1980 and 70+ in 2005.

I’ve received dozens of emails about Pete in the days since he died. He was not just an outstanding player but a gentleman, gracious, thoughtful, a perceptive mentor to me and dozens of other younger players.

One correspondent mentioned an incident in the finals of the 40+ in 1976 at Penn’s Ringe courts in Philadelphia. As defending champion, Pete had just beaten Hall of Fame Diehl Mateer in a close, five-game semifinal and now was locked in a tough battle against Dick Radloff in the finals. Midway through, Bostwick got hit in the forehead from a Radloff swing. Blood everywhere. A doctor came down to the court and stitched up his forehead. Ever the tough hockey player, Bostwick resumed playing.

He lost 15-13 in the fifth, but he gained the admiration of the gallery, as he did throughout his unprecedented career.