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Charlie Garfinkel’s Racket Sports: Rappaport honored for his rapport with squash

A week and a half ago Craig Rappaport was inducted into the Buffalo Squash Racquets Association’s Hall of Fame at a dinner at the Saturn Club.

Rappaport’s selection was based on the fact that he had won the City Squash Championship a record seven years in a row. For good measure he also won three City Doubles Championships.

His singles reign is the second longest consecutive streak of any squash player in the long history of the Buffalo Squash Racquets Association. The only player who had a more consecutive skein was the legendary Rev. Bob Hetherington, also a Hall of Fame member (he of the “heavenly” touch) who compiled an amazing record of 13 straight city singles championships from 1969-1982.

In addition to Rappaport’s city singles titles run he was also a Second Team All American in the sport in 1995 while playing for the University of Pennsylvania, First Team All-Ivy League and First Team All American in 1996, and also won the College Squash Skillman Award for outstanding sportsmanship throughout his college career.

“Although I was fortunate to have won some prestigious awards in squash I valued the Skillman Award most of all,” Rappaport said. “The reason was because I was selected by the members of my squash team.”

Rappaport first got started in racket sports by playing racquetball at the Greenfield Court Club in Lancaster, Pa. Jim Cascio, who was a racquetball pro and owner of the club, noticed almost immediately that Rappaport had great skills in the game.

“I played many junior racquetball tournaments and reached the quarterfinals in a few national tournaments,”Rappaport said. “I even reached the finals of a World Junior Racquetball Championship which was held in Jacksonville, Florida.”

Unfortunately, almost every loss that he had in racquetball was against Sudsy Monchik, who won virtually every junior and amateur tournament that he entered. Monchik played professionally for many years and was the nation’s number one player five times, and is also a member of the National Racquetball Hall of Fame.

Rappaport was an excellent student who matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania. He had played a little squash at the Franklin & Marshall College courts in Pennsylvania in high school. However, he really started playing quite a bit when he got to Penn. Fortunately, he met Ned Edwards, the squash coach there, and Al Molloy, also a Buffalo Squash Hall of Famer, a former great Penn squash coach. They were instrumental in teaching Rappaport the game during his freshman year.

“Even though I made the team I rarely played,” said Rappaport. “However, I was just pleased to be on the squad.”

Within a short period of time after his freshman year it was evident that his prowess was increasing by leaps and bounds. “Racquetball really helped me get acclimated to squash,” Rappaport said. “My tenacity, conditioning, and shot selection I attribute a lot to the racquetball that I played.

“Coaches Edwards and Molloy were instrumental in teaching me how to position myself in front of my opponents to attain good court position and hit my shots with great length.”

Rappaport and his family moved to Orchard Park in 2003 to be near his wife’s family and loved the area. The squash players that he played against were just thrilled to be on the court against him. Even though they knew that they had no chance of winning, either in practice, or tournament play, every player was impressed by his all-around court skills, great physical shape and his uncanny sense of where the ball was going.

Scott Saperston, who was a close friend and competitor of Rappaport’s said, “Even though Craig had great squash skills his most outstanding traits were his impeccable sportsmanship and demeanor on and off the court.”

Rappaport and his family moved in 2010 to Simsbury, Conn. where he has been working with Nova Casualty Insurance. “it was a career opportunity that my family and I could not pass up..” Rappaport said. “However, I still miss the many wonderful people of the Western New York community that I had the good fortune to become friends with,” he said.