The Philadelphia Squash Racquets Association honored Frank Reidy with the PSRA Service Award tonight at the 2015 Delaware Investments U.S. Open. Nick LePore, the president of the PSRA, and Ken Jaffe, the past PSRA president, presented the annual award to Reidy.
The oldest squash association in the world, the PSRA was founded in 1903 and has been running leagues ever since. But its most unusual feature is the Czar League, a warm-weather squash doubles league.
In the mid-1990s, the PSRA’s summer doubles league went defunct due to lack of interest. Frank Reidy took up the reigns. As a teenager in 1955, Reidy joined the Racquet Club of Philadelphia’s famous apprentice program under Jimmy Dunn. He then worked as a court tennis pro for a year at Tuxedo before becoming an amateur again. Reidy later was a founder and first president of the Gwynedd Racquet Club, the so-called Church of the Holy Racquet.
In 1995 Reidy created the Czar League. “We were talking at Cynwyd Club one night, and everyone wanted to play beyond the normal fall/winter season,” said Reidy. “That conversation was the incubation of the Century League Summer Squash Confederation.” Each team was required to have a minimum combined-age of one hundred. The season ran from the first Tuesday of May to the last Tuesday of July. The first year had eight teams—just sixteen players—all playing at Cynwyd. At the time the courts at Cynwyd had no air-conditioning.
Today the league has expanded to twenty-four teams with more than a hundred players. They come every Tuesday to Cynwyd or Germantown Cricket Club. If they can’t make it, they get a substitute—there have been just three defaults in twenty-one years. The rule about getting to a century is flexible: players get five years added to their age for every hip or knee replacement. Many women are active players, starting with Molly Pierce who broke the gender barrier in the fifth season. Every team makes the playoffs. The player’s fee is just $135, which pays for weekly refreshments and for the end-of-the-season banquet.
It is one of the most celebrated and notorious parties in squash. Everyone gets in costume. There are numerous awards, including the Beefy Boys Award for a large player who blocks a lot. Live music and good food go together with imported entertainment: a circus came one year; an Elvis impersonator another.
“The overall objective of the league is to have fun,” Reidy said during the on-court ceremony. Not only has Reidy administered the Czar League, but he has penned a weekly newsletter, The Tin-Banger, and an advice column, Dear Abby Czar—both of which include a lot of good-natured ribbing, bestowals of nicknames and bad jokes.
“The game of squash has provided me with a lifetime of memories and friends,” said Reidy, concluding with a very powerful statement from a Philadelphian, “that I wouldn’t trade for a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl ring.”