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In Memoriam:
Hall of Fame Champion Stanley W. Pearson, Jr.

1917-2004, National Singles
and Doubles Champion


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March 12, 2004, By Rob Dinerman © 2004

Stanley W Pearson, Jr., 1917-2004
Squash Champion, Racquets Champion, all-around athlete.

Stanley W. Pearson,
the three-sport Princeton star who won USSRA National Singles And Doubles
championships in the late 1940’s and was the second half of the only father-son
pairing ever to win the National Singles championship, passed away at
age 86 in a nursing home in Bedford, MA this past February 7th. A lifelong
resident of the Philadelphia area, Pearson, who suffered from
Parkinson’s disease during his final years, moved to Massachusetts two
years ago to be near his daughter.

Described as
"the best all-around amateur athlete I have ever seen" by his
Princeton classmate/teammate, four-time Nationals winner and recent USSRA
Squash Hall Of Fame Inductee Charlie Brinton, Pearson was a starting safety
in the Tiger secondary and a hard-hitting shortstop on their baseball
team. He actually hit .500 one year and during his sophomore season, just
a few months after winning the Intercollegiate Individual squash championship
(a decided rarity for an underclassman back then), he drove in the winning
run in a game between Princeton and Columbia on May 17, 1939 that is famous
for being the first baseball game ever to be televised. One of his favorite
mementos was a letter he received in his last few years from Ted Williams,
major league baseball’s last (in 1941) player to hit .400, who signed
off with the salutation " Best
wishes from a .400 hitter to a .500 hitter."


Pearson’s Princeton squash teams, which also featured Brinton, John Humes
(later the U. S. ambassador to Austria) and many-times New York State
champion Calvin MacCracken, had a winning percentage far above .500 and
would have been unbeatable had they possessed greater depth in the bottom
half of the line-up: one year they swept the top four slots against Yale
only to lose 5-4 when the Elis ran the table from No. 5-9. Though forced
to play in his fellow
Princetonian Brinton’s shadow throughout the half-dozen years after his
graduation in 1941, while the latter was winning the Nationals that year
and in 1942, 1946 (after a three-year hiatus caused by World War II) and
1947, Pearson got his opportunity in Boston in 1948 when Brinton was upset
in the first round, and he took full advantage, defeating Andy Ingraham
in the final.

In so doing,
Pearson was able to add his name to a prestigious list that already included
his father and namesake, who had won this crown six times (from 1915-17
and from 1921-23), a record that still stands. The senior Pearson, who
was also outstanding at court tennis and hard racquets, taught his son
to play squash on the Germantown Racquet Club courts in suburban Philadelphia,
where the youngster starred at Chestnut Hill Academy and where as a teenager
he won the Philadelphia Junior Boys title three times, the last of which
was at the final-round expense of Brinton in the first of many meetings
between this pair in what evolved into a lifelong friendship.

Though during
most of their overlapping squash careers they were often rivals, Brinton
and Pearson did team up to win the 1948 U. S. National Doubles championship
in Baltimore, and they accomplished this feat in most distinctive fashion.
Both players, understandably in view of the manner in which each excelled
on the backhand flank, greatly preferred the left wall; indeed, each had
manned that slot while winning this title during the prior two years,
Brinton in ’46 with Donnie Strachan and Pearson in ’47 with Dave McMullin.


Rather than having to make a difficult decision as to who would get to
play which wall, the two hit upon the ingenious compromise of having each
player stay throughout the point on whatever wall he served from! If Brinton
began a point by serving from the right service box, he remained there
throughout the point, and if they won that point Brinton would then serve
from the left box
and play that wall during the ensuing rally. When they were receiving
serve, Brinton played the left wall, but when they were serving they employed
the foregoing approach, which had the additional benefit of confusing
their opponents, the last of which, Strachan and Johnny Smith, had no
answers in what became a fairly decisive final. It is a tribute to the
versatility of the two Princeton men both that each was able to win two
National Doubles in the three-year period from 1946-48 with two different
partners and that each was able to alternate so successfully from one
point to the next between the left and right walls in the execution of
a game plan that would be unthinkable in today’s
specialist-oriented era where often a player acts downright insulted when
asked to switch away, even temporarily, from "his" wall.

Later that year
Pearson and Brinton were among the first set of inductees into the prestigious
Jesters Club when the legendary Ned Bigelow established an American branch
of that formerly England-only organization. Pearson also became a lifetime
member of the Philadelphia Racquet Club and Philadelphia Cricket Club,
though his active squash career ended shortly after his great
singles-doubles "double" 1948 season. The proud and indeed history-making
Pearson family tradition has now extended yet another generation to Stanley’s
grand-nephews and -nieces: Marshal and Duncan Pearson both played at Trinity
in the late 1990’s; Eric was one of four stand-out members of the Princeton
class of 2003, deemed the best in school history by current Tiger coach
Bob Callahan and three-time Ivy League champions (two of them due to Eric’s
winning the deciding matches in 5-4 Princeton victories over chief rivals
Harvard and Yale) during their varsity careers; and Ali, class of ’07,
cracked the top six of the surprisingly successful Princeton women’s line-up
as a freshman this past season and, like her older brother a few years
back, is a prominent part of a multi-member incoming crop of whom great
achievements are expected in the years to come.

In addition
to his squash exploits, Pearson also won the US Hard Racquets singles
title in 1952 and the US Hard Racquets Doubles title in 1956 and 57 with
his brother Babe, thus becoming the only person in history to win US titles
in Squash singles and doubles and Racquets singles and doubles. He was
inducted into the College Squash, Chestnut Hill Academy and Lawrenceville
School Halls of Fame.

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