Check Out Our Sports Photo Galleries Contact Us
Squash Isn’t Just for Eating
by Harry Spencer
Mar 24, 2012 | 1151 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy Photo
Pictured are the 1960’s Reno and Olympic Club of San Francisco Squash Teams.  The Reno team (standing) is smiling because they defeated the Olympic Club 5 to 0.  Seated (left to right) is the scowling Olympic Club consisting of Park Dingwell, Jeff Thomas, Bill Kald, Dick Specht, and Don Marken.  Second row (left to right) are Harry Spencer, Dick Trachok, Bruce Roberts, Willie Elder, and Dick Kaiser.)
Courtesy Photo Pictured are the 1960’s Reno and Olympic Club of San Francisco Squash Teams. The Reno team (standing) is smiling because they defeated the Olympic Club 5 to 0. Seated (left to right) is the scowling Olympic Club consisting of Park Dingwell, Jeff Thomas, Bill Kald, Dick Specht, and Don Marken. Second row (left to right) are Harry Spencer, Dick Trachok, Bruce Roberts, Willie Elder, and Dick Kaiser.)
slideshow
Back in the late 1950’s a very important individual came to this area. His name was Newt Crumley, and he had just purchased the Holiday Hotel. As important as he was to the gaming industry, he also added another facet to the local sporting scene where he was an enthusiastic innovator. It was the introduction of Squash to local athletes.

Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players (or in doubles 4 players on court at a time) in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Squash is recognized by the IOC and remains in contention for incorporation in a future Olympic program.

The game was formerly called Squash Racquet, a reference to the “squashable” soft ball used in the game as compared with the fatter ball used in its parent game.

Crumley became active in the local YMCA and started the building of a Squash court at that facility. While he was waiting for the court to be completed, he began recruiting a couple dozen athletes. His first choice was an all-around athlete, the late Dick Munn. Crumley and Munn used to fly out in Crumley’s plane to Stead Air Base to play the sport in the base’s archaic Squash court.

Once the court was open, the “Y” marked over a decade of active Squash play. A Squash ladder was formed upon which players were listed with the best player at the top of the ladder. There were usually about 24 players on the ladder.

Prior to the “Y” court opening, Crumley had gotten in touch with Bill Kald, a member of the Olympic Club in San Francisco. The two had worked out a home and home squash match between a team from Reno, consisting of five players, and a similar team from the Olympic Club. Unfortunately Crumley perished in a fatal airplane crash before the first match could be played. The crash also took the life of Reno banker Eddie Questa.

The initial match took place in Reno and an ornate revolving trophy bearing Crumley’s name was awarded to the winning team. During the decade from 1960 to 1970 the very active squash schedule prevailed on the local “Y” court. In addition to daily play, there were a number of locally sponsored tournaments and the prestigious Crumley Cup.

Among the locals who made up the Reno team for the Crumley competition, I can recall Dick Munn, Roger Bissett, Dick Trachok, Willlie Elder, Bruce Roberts, Dick Kaiser and the writer.

Format for the Crumley Tournaments included Friday night matches, the home team hosting their competitors to dinner and the “hangover” matches on Saturday morning. Several of the Reno players also used to travel to the Bay Area for the many Squash tournaments that were held there.

Attesting to the international popularity of Squash in that era, this writer never traveled without his Squash racquet and outfit. This enabled him to participate in matches as far-flung as New York, Florida, Canada, Portland, Seattle, Berkeley and San Francisco.

The most memorable of these matches occurred at the Harvard Club in New York City. I was to call a New York attorney, who was a Harvard graduate, for a match. Unfortunately he was in court that day but said he would send over a fellow member in the law firm who had played a bit of squash. I was directed to go to the Harvard Club locker room at noon to meet my opponent. When he showed up he was a towering 6 feet 7 inches and ten years my junior. Since most squash balls only bounce about 8 inches off the floor, I figured his height would be a great disadvantage. How wrong I was. During the match at one point, I heard a smattering of applause whenever my opponent made a good shot. Looking up over my shoulder, I was surprised to see about a dozen men in the gallery watching the contest.

Following the match after our showers, I said to my opponent, “You played pretty well today,” since he had demolished me in the match. “Actually,” he replied, “I thought my game was a bit off.” Then I found out the reason for the gallery of spectators when he said, “Don’t you know who I am?” I said, “I know your name is Charlie Ufford, is there something else?” He said, “This year I lost in the finals to Hashim Khan so I guess that makes me the number two player in the world.” I said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t tell me that before the match – I wouldn’t have gotten a point!”

I guess, in retrospect, my attorney friend had taught me a lesson. Do not brag about my Squash ability.

Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Featured Businesses