What’s On My Mind: Squash Memories Never Forgotten

by Georgetta Lordi Morque

February 6, 2014

As a child back in the day, I followed the rules of proper ladies’ attire at the all-male New York Athletic Club and typically wore a dress with a sweater, since the squash courts were always cold, and watched sweaty men in white shorts and shirts hit a little black ball with long thin racquets in a small white room. The viewing area, which one reached by a “secret” narrow staircase, was filled with mostly men and a couple of them who shouted out numbers and words. Afterwards, everyone went down to the squash lounge for cold cuts, beer and ginger ale for me.

I was there for the annual Joseph J. Lordi Memorial Tournament, named after my father, who died suddenly in the night on February 5, 1963. The tournament was a prestigious invitational event held from the mid ’60s to around the late ’80s, usually in January or February. It attracted some of sport’s most respected players, including young Harvard student Peter Briggs, recent U.S. Squash Hall Fame inductee Tom Poor and the renowned Henri Salaun and Frank Satterthwaite.

Often I presented the trophies after the squash committee chairman gave a speech about my father, a two-term club president, an excellent squash player and a national squash tennis champion. Squash tennis, which originated in the 1880s in New England, is described in brief as “tennis in a squash court” in Squash, A History of the Game, by Jim Zug, who discusses at length the sport’s popularity and evolution in America from the turn of the century through the 1950s and its eventual yet gradual demise. Interestingly, squash tennis received prominent coverage in the sports pages of the New York Times, now fortunately available from the paper’s online archives. The late Allison Danzig, the prolific Times sports writer, described my father as “a squash tennis ace,” whose on-court demeanor was “cool, poised and calculating.”

Before taking up racquet sports, Joseph J. Lordi, son of an Italian immigrant family, earned an athletic scholarship to Notre Dame where he was an All-American in baseball. He served in the Navy in World War II, started a successful petroleum company in New York and took his athletic talents to the NYAC. Articles in The Winged Foot magazine referred to his personal magnetism, strength of character, truthfulness, impeccable athletic credentials, indomitable energy and desire to help others, as well as his love of his family, devotion to his country, affection for Notre Dame and his attachment to the NYAC. He accomplished a lot for the club, including getting the NYAC accepted into the MSRA, which was reportedly challenging at the time. Shortly after his death, the club dedicated the squash courts to his memory.

My father apparently spent hours on the courts, often with players less skilled to help and encourage them. This and club duties often kept him from getting home very early, according to my mother, who would keep me up so he could see me awake. He was much loved and greatly missed by members from all sports, but especially the squash players who were so enthusiastic about the tournament year-after-year and welcomed me like a family member. As I grew older, I could see that there was something special about squash.

Around the late ’70s, the tournament changed its format and became an equally as prestigious event for nationally ranked players in age groups over 40. The Winged Foot called the tournament “The Triple Crown of Squash” and described the matches in vivid detail, including two consecutive victories by another recent U.S. Squash Hall of Fame inductee, Jack Herrick. Unfortunately, all of this happened before the Internet, so there is no website with lists of champions or YouTube videos of match highlights.

Then sadly the tournament stopped and I don’t recall exactly when or why but my guess is that committees and boards moved on and a new group took over with different ideas. The Lordi Tournament had a great run and I’m forever grateful for the men who started it and introduced me to the world of squash and most importantly, made sure I got to know about and would never forget my extraordinary dad.

Georgetta L. Morque is a public relations consultant and freelance writer and the media relations director for the Pro Squash Tour. She is the founder of the Rye High School and Middle School squash programs in New York’s Westchester County, co-founder of the Fairwest Public School Squash League, and the mother of three athletes, including a son who plays on the squash team at Franklin & Marshall.

What's On My Mind is a column by rotating authors.

Contact: DailySquashReport@gmail.com


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