Don Mills/John O'Brien Exhibition Match

24 Nov
Report on Don Mills/John O’Brien 2008 Indian Summer Exhibition Match!
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On Sunday morning, November 16, 2008, at 11am, a curious crowd gathered above chilly court four, to watch Don Mills of Cincinnati take on Tournament Chair John O’Brien in an Hardball Singles Exhibition Match.  The match was to be played with forty year old wooden Bancroft racquets. The maple court was “perfect”, according to Mr. Mills.  Yes, I thought to myself, perfect for hardball squash, and butchering squash legends. After all, I had a twenty two year age advantage.  How hard could this be?img_0133
“Rough or smooth?” cried out WDSA Tour Pro Amy Milanek, as the racquet was spun.
Feeling very good, having won the right to serve, I launched a spider serve that dropped beautifully high off the side wall, and died inches from the back wall.  Best serve for which I could have ever hoped.
“Nice serve,” commented Don, the gentleman.  Soon he was serving.  Dispensing with the gentile lob serve, he went straight to the smashing hard serve. Fortunately the ball missed me,  then nicked sweetly off the back wall.  Grinning warmly, I moved to the forehand side, suffering a repeat  experience.img_0145
“You have to volley that ball!” suggested Amy, who, of course, was correct.  I knew that, and knew a lot of things, but found myself in a very bad situation over and over again.  Perhaps Amy would like to come and play?  But no, the crowd (thinning a bit as the game wore on) was there to see me, in my glory.  I just had to figure a way to turn the match around.  Maybe if I went short?img_0141
Incredibly, game two was swinging my way. Don was either easing up, or my short strategy was working. The crowd loved my three wall boasts, “look away” reverse corners, thundering rails…there was even some applause. Still, I had a very uneasy feeling Don was trying to make me look good.img_0147
“How come I have a feeling I am being set up?” I asked after winning game two.  Don smiled.  He smiled a lot. The rallies were becoming longer, and my racquet was feeling, well, a lot heavier. I started thinking about beer… He had chances to put the ball away, but instead floated easy ones just past my head.  I recalled playing Hashim on the same court years ago, and  how I never saw him actually swing the racquet.  Don, like Hashim, was nowhere near me that third game. The points spilled out of me like a cut artery.  It was getting ugly.  No matter what shot I hit, I was in worse trouble than before I hit it.
Then it occurred to me.  The only way I was going to win the match was if I could somehow clock Mr. Mills with my old wooden Bancroft racquet. Knock him out.   I tried, but he was too fast for me. Final score, 2-1 for Mr. Mills.
Thanks Don,
John O’Brien
P.S.  Don Mills stepped in to help with this tournament knowing that my father, Tomy O’Brien Sr. had passed away last December.  I needed a “Go To” guy, and Don was a dream come true.  I could not have possibly chosen better.  His professionalism, coaching, and refereeing were indispensible, setting  the tone for the entire tournament.
Original Post
Don Mills, from Cincinnati, one of America’s legendary coaches, a member of the College Squash Associations Hall of Fame, will be on hand during the Indian Summer 2008 to play and help with the refereeing.  I asked Don recently to send me a blurb on himself, and this is what he shot back!
“John,
I have just finished competing for the US team in the first Can/Am Cup in Boston. The US won the cup. I competed in the 70+ division. Previously I won the 65+ World Championships with Sam Howe and John Amos. Many years prior I won the Worlds in Softball and Hardball singles.
I had the pleasure of coaching many juniors for 25+ years both in Cincinnati and as US Junior coach. I retired in 2000.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Look forward to seeing you,
Don”

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2 Responses to “Don Mills/John O'Brien Exhibition Match”

  1. Don Mills December 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    When John suggested that an exhibition of the old hardball game as we know it, I thought he meant Mark Talbott and Janhingir Khan were going play. Little did I realize that I would play “the octopus” (wing spand and/or tentical of 18 feet) of the hardball court.

    After the first warm up game I casually mentioned the thought of a good beverage afterwards to John in hopes that he would be distracted. But no it only made him put the pressure on. After he won the second game I again mentioned the after match refreshment but told him that the keg was low. This idea sent him into a headspin of concern both for his consumption and the rest of the tournament participants. He is the master of conern for all attendees.

    It was a treat and pleasure to revisit the game we grew up with and I look forward to our next match.

    John, thanks for making the weekend so perfect for one and all.

    Don

  2. Amy Milanek December 28, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    Hi John,
    Christmas has come and gone, and now we all look forward to a great New Years! I loved the tournament and enjoyed watching you guys play hardball! The hardball match you played definitely brought me back in time! Thank you all so much for your wonderful hospitality. The tournament, housing and members were all so accomodating and gracious! We all felt very welcome and part of a bigger family.
    Thanks again for all you did to make this tournament so successful!
    Amy Milanek

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