USA Table Tennis
- Ruth Aarons
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Who better to tell us about Parker Brothers' 1932 American Ping-Pong Association Champion Coleman Clark than the expatriate Japanese penhold defensive star Yoshio Fushimi, APPA #8 for 1932, whose showmanship Clark so appreciated. In his 1933 book Modern Ping-Pong Clark pictures Fushimi "rushing towards the table like a mad bull to return a short shot just over the net," only to crash "headlong into a ladder on the top of which perched a referee"--whereupon as Yosh returned the ball and won the point, down came "the ladder, referee, ice water and all."
Fushimi, who 50 years later would still be involved in U.S. table tennis by helping Bill Hornyak run his annual Michigan City, Indiana tournaments, was one of "Cokey's" most valued exhibition partners. Since they played churches and schools, country clubs, Big Ten basketball games, and night clubs together, Yosh is well qualified to offer this background on Clark:
"Coleman Clark was born...[Mar. 13] 1896, later graduated from the University of Chicago where he starred on the football and basketball teams. He was captain of the tennis team and in 1916 won the Big Ten doubles championship.
He served overseas during the 1st World War as an ambulance driver in the French and American armies and was decorated with the French Legion of Honor [Croix de Guerre] for gallantry in action. After the war, he was a member of the Chicago Athletic Association track team and...[was] the 1922 Central A.A.U. shot- put champion.
He was employed by A.C. Allyn and Company, stock and bond brokerage firm, whose president once owned the Chicago White Sox Baseball Club."
Yosh also speaks of how he himself came to know the early Chicago Ping-Pong scene and thus meet and practice with Cokey (so nicknamed, it's said, because of his fondness for coca-cola):
"One day in [Jan.?], 1930, I saw an article in the Chicago Daily News that a major Ping-Pong tournament would be held in Highland Park, a suburban village north of Chicago. I hopped on a train to witness the matches as I used to play in my high school days in Shizuoka, Japan. [Yosh came to this country, to Chicago, to work for his uncle's import firm, the Fujii Trading Co., in the fall of 1925 at age 19].
Much to his surprise, says Yosh, he almost won this tournament, lost in the final to that year's Chicago District Open and Closed Champion Ray Leininger--a loss Yoshio, as runner-up to Coleman Clark, would avenge the next year in the 1931 Chicago District Closed Championship.
A few weeks after his introduction to the local ping-pong scene, Fushimi did win the Chicago North Shore tournament at Kenilworth, Illinois, downing in the final Robert Clark, Cokey's brother, who was the President of the 1930-formed arm of the APPA, the Western Ping-Pong Association. This victory, he says, led him "to be invited to [the homes of] some of the wealthy families...[in] the Chicago suburbs on Sunday afternoons where neighbors gathered to play ping-pong. It was their life style in those days, instead of [the] T.V. football parties enjoyed by them now [in the late 1980's]."
By this time, too, he'd been invited by Coleman Clark and Ray Leininger to practice with them every Saturday afternoon in downtown Chicago at the Interfraternity Club. This Club, Yosh, quoting from Clark's Modern Ping-Pong, tells us, consisted "of a thousand college fraternity men," and had the "finest ping-pong facilities in the country." There were four tables in a room that had been "scientifically lighted and decorated to afford ideal playing conditions."
Finest facilities in the country? Perhaps. But how seriously did these well-off frat men take the sport? You, Yosh, were runner-up in a Chicago-area tournament when you hadn't played for 4-5 years! Not a bad result, eh? Just how good were you when you were a high school tennis and table tennis coach back in Japan? Or, perhaps more to the point, just how good were the best of those Chicago contemporaries of yours?
In his (1930) Ping Pong: The Game, Its Tactics And Laws (a re-write of his 1928 Manual), Cornelius G. Schaad (as in SHAD-ow), of New York's Westchester Ping-Pong coterie--a lawyer by profession and in Ping-Pong a blatant propagandist for the Salem, Massachusetts-based, game-oriented Parker Brothers--speaks of a tournament "in the early part of 1930"--the first Chicago District Championship--played at the Highland Park Club:
"There were 84 entrants with seven tables, the entire tournament being played by the process of elimination in one night. Mr. Ray Leininger came off champion with Coleman Clark of the Interfraternity Club of Chicago, runner-up. Mr. Clark, however, won the Interfraternity Handicap Championship from scratch, defeating Mr. Leininger in the finals."
But just what this local dominance means the following '30-31 season relative to the best New York players can be seen from Clark and Leininger's appearance at Parker Brother's first official APPA National Ping-Pong Championship, held Mar. 25-28, 1931 at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City. Leininger was beaten early and Clark was knocked out in the 8th's (-19, 16, -14) by William C. "Chet" Wells, Jr., the Mt. Vernon, N.Y. City Champion. The only Chicagoan considered to be among the top 22 players in the country according to Schaad's unofficial Ranking for that year (the earliest National Ranking known to exist) was Clark at #9.
However, the best Chicago-area players would now form a Ping-Pong liaison, a fraternity of sorts, with the New York Westchester group to initiate the first two (1932 and 1933) Intercities (later known as the National Team Championships, then the U.S. Open Team Championships). New York would beat Chicago both years, with both teams fielding pretty much the same players. Initially they played in Chicago, then, reciprocally, and far less successfully, in New York City.
In the Jan., 1932 two teams only match-up in Chicago, which early table tennis historians Louis E. Laflin, Jr. and Peter W. Roberts say "attracted nine hundred paid admissions, while hundreds were turned away," New York (that is, Westchester: Jimmy Jacobson, W. C. "Chet Wells, Neil Schaad, and Don Conner) would defeat Chicago (Coleman Clark, J.R. Leininger, Dougall Kittermaster, and D.W. "Diggory" McEwan), 6-4, before a gallery that "was on its feet a good part of the time, cheering and shouting at the top of their voices." There'd apparently been no problem accomodating spectators in the afternoon when Clark had won the warm-up Singles Tournament, beating Jacobson in 5 in the semi's and Wells 3-0 in the final. But for the much anticipated East-West evening matches (this time Clark lost to Jacobson), "the circus seats erected in the ballroom of the Interfraternity Club adjoining the Palmer House" were "totally inadequate" to handle the crowd.
Clark of course was quite an athlete, and for him and his Interfraternity Club friends there was nothing sissy about playing ping-pong. But given the still prevailingly casual, parlor-game image of the sport, it wasn't surprising that a sportswriter announcing the APPA's Apr., 1932 National Ping-Pong Championships at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel could be condescendingly cute. Here's Paul Gallico:
"...unless some authorities step in and forbid this thing there will be some tragedies, tragedies that might have been prevented. The game [of ping-pong] as it stands today is entirely too rough. The men are going 'all out,' in their efforts to conquer....Only an athlete in the best of condition can hope to survive one of these gruelling matches. I say to the authorities who are running this forthcoming shambles at the Waldorf: 'What steps have you taken to protect the players and the public? Is there adequate medical supervision? Are the players examined before the matches? Is there a doctor in constant attendance? [Of course the irony reverses itself, convolutes, as the sport, more and more athletic (its world-class players subject to fatigue, drug testing, injury), approaches the 21st century. But Gallico, caught in the continuum of the 1930's, can only make the one point.]
Americans have always professed to be horrified at the German 'Mensur,' the duelling with razor-sharp, two-edged swords, in which the students fight one another until the floor is red with blood and one or the other or both are disfigured for life. Cockfighting and bulldogging are forbidden in this country (both sports are carried on privately in Jersey), the bullfight of old Spain is banned. Even boxing is carefully regulated and limited. But apparently no one is going to protest the brutal exhibition about to be staged in the guise of sport in one of America's greatest hotels...."
In contrast, John R. Tunis, taking Parker Brothers and these Championships seriously (but not too seriously), offered this description of the tournament:
"The 1932 championship in the Waldorf attracted several thousand spectators every night of the week, all space about the tables were jammed, and the boxes crowded with onlookers in evening clothes. On the floor were 14 tables in two parallel rows, a high net separating the two lines, and a number on the back of every contestant. As in the Davis Cup matches, every contestant was properly umpired, while the Parker Cup, perpetual symbol and so forth, was high on a raised platform at one end of the room."
And of course, since there were a respectable 256 entries in all, one slightly playful reporter could not fail to point out the donor of that Championship Cup: "Happily watching the matches from a lavish box was George Swinnerton Parker of Boston, decorated by a white goatee and a pique evening waistcoat." APPA President Sidney Lenz and APPA V.P. Frank Hunter were prominently there. Lenz had taken up the game "when the old Waldorf-Astoria discarded its billiard tables and replaced them with 40 [table] tennis tables. That was during the [turn of the century] craze for the game. But it was Parker, with over 50 Spalding Sports Stores across the country willing to help promote Ping-Pong clubs, leagues, and tournaments, who seemed to have a monopoly on everyone's attention. After all, didn't his firm manufacture not only Ping-Pong but "640 other indoor games of which Mr. Parker personally [had] invented more than 200?"
The Singles winner of these 1932 APPA Championships--and in the years to come he would make the most of it--was the by now mid-thirtyish Coleman Clark. Once having gotten by Joe Blatt in the 8th's in 5, he avenged his 1931 loss to #3-ranked "Chet" Wells, and then in the final he scored an easy win over Abe Krakauer.
Clark's win was not surprising, for after he and his brother Robert had learned the game on the family dining room table, he'd acquitted himself well in tournaments. Had, for example, won the APPA Western Championship two years running, twice scoring wins over penhold-topspinner Max Rushakoff who soon, for a short time (challenged by his successors Paul Pearson and Billy Condy), would become Chicago's best player.
But no win of Cokey's before or after could ever begin to match this big one at the Waldorf--the 1932 APPA National Championship. Here, in his own words, is what he felt on winning:
"I think I have had my share of thrills. One could scarcely drive a Ford ambulance up and down the battle front for fifteen months during the World War without feeling a chill or two along his spinal column. Be that as it may, I shall recall as long as I live the delicious buzzing in my ears on the night of April 16, 1932, as my Interfraternity Club team mates swarmed over the barricades in the magnificent grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, formed a circle about me, and sang as they never sang before that inspiring University of Illinois song which opens with the refrain, 'Hail to the Orange.' Nor shall I soon forget how proud I felt as George Swinnerton Parker, donor of the Parker Cup, perpetual symbol of ping-pong supremacy, presented it to me with a gracious speech. Sidney Lenz [President of the APPA] was there, too, clasping my hand in his friendly way. Then there was Conrad Nagel, Nancy Carroll, Johnny Weismuller [all film stars] and a sea of smiling faces. Flashlights boomed, little boys pushed ping-pong balls under my nose to autograph, and everything was pink. It was hard to believe that I had won ping-pong's highest award, the National Championship of the United States."
What fun, huh?
Meanwhile, the "outlaw" NYTTA had started its own National Championships--though not in the classy hotel venues of the Parker Brothers tournaments, but in department stores.
In March of 1933, Clark defended his APPA National Singles title in the beautiful grand ballroom of the Palmer House in Chicago. In fact, as Cokey's good friend Fushimi tells us, Clark did more than just play:
"...[It] was his great personal satisfaction to have staged such a successful event [as this '33 National's], in spite of the fact that the country was in a deep depression and that on the Monday before the scheduled tournament every bank in the United States was ordered closed.
He thus proved himself a great promoter of the game, besides being a splendid player. This tournament drew the biggest entry ever [sic: actually, it had only 170 entries, much less than the earlier N.Y. APPA ones], and every bleacher and box seat was sold out. At the finals at least 500 spectators crowded in for standing room only. Four major Chicago newspapers assigned their top sports writers...[to] the press box--and all final rounds of the tournament were officiated by umpires attired in tuxedos. The tournament committee that assisted Coleman Clark in preparing this tournament put in a solid year of hard work--these were business executives interested in table tennis, professional people like Dugal [read Dougall] Kittermaster, Reginald Hammond, George Little [read Littell], Ed Maltzer [read Meltzer], and Carlton Drake. They obtained maximum media support and publicity and detailed reports of tournament results."
"For the first time," says Fushimi, Black players entered an APPA National Championship:
"...The Palmer House in those days did not accept Black guests. Six members of the Savoy Ping-Pong Club from the south-side of Chicago were stopped at the main lobby by a security person. After negotiating with the hotel management, I [Fushimi] was assigned to escort them via freight elevator to the playing area, and each of them was matched against the six seeded players and eliminated in the first round.
As I was escorting them to the hotel exit via the freight elevator, they asked me to arrange exhibition matches to entertain and promote the sport of table tennis in the Black community. Most of the high-ranking players declined the invitation, but Max Rushakoff, Frank Work, and I accepted and we all had a wonderful time among the enthusiastic spectators and Black players."
There was also a Little Racket Club on Wabash Ave. in Chicago, whose President, Arnold Johns, was seeking in Jan., 1933 to organize "the American TTA for colored players." Fushimi gave an exhibition at this Club too.
Yosh, who sometimes played before his audience in a native Japanese costume, also speaks of playing '33 exhibition matches at the Casino de-Alex of Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair. And shortly thereafter, he tells us, he was invited along with other players "to take part in sports telecast experiments at the CBS studio located in the State-Lake Building in downtown Chicago":
"...Taking our turns, while some of us played table tennis before the TV camera, others of us watched a monitor in another room far from the playing area. As we were amazed by the experiment, an engineer told us that in the very near future people would be able to enjoy sports telecasts and movies in the comfort of their own homes.
I wondered then, How could it be possible!"
Coleman Clark did not raise the Parker Cup in victory at this 1933 National's, nor would he ever again. But his career, his fame, as a table tennis promoter and even more as an entertainer was just beginning. "I was a player, Clark was a comedian," the former APPA and NYTTA National Champion, Marcus Schussheim, would say later with a twinkle. Still, for the second year in a row, this time by downing Paul Pearson in 5 in the semi's, Cokey did get to the final of this prestigious National tournament. He lost to the much younger, New York University freshman Jimmy Jacobson, who'd also had a tough semi's match--against Billy Condy, whom Clark described as having "the most marvelous array of knuckle-ball serves I have ever seen."
For an introduction to fingerspins and knuckleballs--to see how, basically, they differ--we might look at Clark's Modern Ping-Pong. In using a fingerspin serve, says Cokey, the "[right-handed] Europeans hold the ball in the left hand between the index and middle finger and flick it onto the bat, imparting various spins depending on the action used."
And the knuckleball serve? Well, says Clark, he invented that. "The ball is shot like a marble from the fingers....To be effective the ball must be snapped by the thumb and with plenty of speed. If you can generate more speed with your left thumb [that of course for right-handers would be all the better], then let the ball contact the bat in your right hand [so you won't have to switch the racket in follow-up play]." Clark says that to "increase" the speed of the knuckleball serve you should use "a vigorous swing of the arm. The angle at which you set the racket and the direction in which you shoot the ball should give you a variety of weird, crazy, bouncing serves."
Clark also writes in Modern Ping-Pong that by 1933--when the APPA had for the first time a U.S. Women's Singles Champion as well as a Men's--he's "intensely proud of the progress...[women] have made in ping-pong the past few years." And in the mid-1930's he would donate a permanent trophy, inscribed on which would be the names of the yearly winners of the U.S. Women's Singles. But I'm sure Bill Stewart didn't forget that it was Cokey alone who'd barred Bill's wife Cecile from playing in that first Chicago District Closed, held at the Hotel LaSalle--after which Cecile went on to win the 1931 Western's.
Over the Feb. 3-4, 1934 weekend at the Hotel Morrison in Chicago, leading APPA Eastern players--Jacobson, Sam Silberman, Al Goldman, and Alan Lobel--would lose (Westchester) New York's twice-won Intercity title to an in-depth strong Chicago team of Coleman Clark, Billy Condy, Carlton Prouty, Jerry Lavan, and Robert Ratcliffe.
For the first time this tournament would be more like a real Intercities, more like the National Team Championship it would become, for, instead of just two cities being represented, now there were seven. The 3-men-to-a-team round robin (5 matches needed to win the tie) format established by Chicago Tournament Committee members Coleman and Bob Clark, Dougall Kittermaster, and Reginald Hammond was coincidentally the same as the Swaythling Cup format at the World Championships. The Chicagoans had arrived at this method of play independently after rejecting the Davis Cup lawn tennis format where just one "hot" player might be enough to win the tie.
Chicago won this Intercities--but they were hard-pressed by Indianapolis. Condy, Clark, and Prouty all fell in straight games to aggressive pick-hit defender Jimmy McClure who, like Sol Schiff and Ruth Aarons, was about to emerge as a superstar. But Condy and Prouty who, relying "almost entirely on his forehand," was perhaps "the hardest hitter" in the APPA, beat both Joel Inman and Jerry Jacobs, and Clark added to the successful team effort with a win over Jacobs, McClure's early mentor.
Two months later, at the Hotel Carter in Cleveland, Jimmy McClure would beat Billy Condy for the last APPA National Championship. Clark's relief at having won 8 in a row from 19-13 down in the 5th against Detroit's George Abbott was short-lived, for he was then (-18, -18, -22) surprised in the 8th's by 15-year-old Dick Tindall from St. Louis. But, no hard feelings, a year later Cokey and Dick would win the USTTA's Western Open Doubles together.
Notice I just said USTTA, not APPA. Clark and almost everyone else's shift in Associations had been relentlessly approaching.
The Acting Secretary of the APPA's rival USTTA (elected Oct. 10, 1933) and later the first President of the USTTA (elected Apr. 7, 1934) was William R. Stewart. A book publisher's rep, he was the author of (also credit ITTF head Ivor Montagu) Table Tennis Tactics (1933). "Big Bill," a native New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, after making his home in Chicago had become Secretary of the Western PPA. However, it was he who--with Willard Rogers, Jr. of New York, and Tom Bradley and Carl Zeisberg of Philadelphia--helped to establish the fledgling USTTA by urging New York and Philadelphia players to commit to the new Association. Then, as he said, through his travels in the middle west he met the "boys in St. Louis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and so on," and his further efforts (with help from Yoshio Fushimi) were rewarded. "On June 23, 1934, officers of the Cleveland, Omaha, Detroit, Missouri, and Indiana Ping-Pong Associations, representing about 1,000 players, met with Stewart...in Chicago and voted to merge with the U.S.T.T.A."
Coleman Clark resigned as Vice-President of the APPA and for most of the next season would become the USTTA Executive Secretary ("I am firmly convinced that when the hatchet is buried & we all start pulling together, table tennis will reach heights heretofore undreamed of"), and his brother, Robert, resigned as President of the Western PPA and stopped publishing the APPA magazine in order to represent Illinois as one of the 16 USTTA Vice-Presidents; Elmer Cinnater, former Missouri PPA head, became the USTTA Treasurer, and Stewart was reaffirmed the USTTA's first President--though, since he couldn't take the increasingly influential Carl Zeisberg's demands, his tenure wouldn't last long.
Before Jimmy McClure and Sol Schiff would represent the U.S. at the Feb., 1935 Wembley World Championships, the famous Coleman Clark "Circus"--a Dec. 28, 1934 through Jan. 24, 1935 barnstorming Tour of 20 U.S. cities got underway. The catalyst for this Tour was Clark, ever the promoter. For months he'd been looking to bring top European players, particularly 4-time World Champion Victor Barna, to tour the U.S. But because Cokey had been associated with the APPA and Parker Brothers, the ITTF, under Ivor Montagu who insisted on player control as opposed to any one manufacturer's control, had refused to even consider the matter. Now, however, since Clark had resigned as Vice-President of the APPA, a crowd-pleasing Barna Tour could happen.
During this month-long U.S. "Circus" Tour--in which 23-year-old Barna, his former World Champion Doubles partner Sandor Glancz, McClure, and Clark were the principal players, and the worthiest local opponents more or less their foils, it's clear that, regardless of who won, everybody wanted to put on a good show, have Table Tennis recognized as the great, crowd-pleasing Sport that it was.
Of course no matter how wonderful the players, there was always the usual exaggeration in advertising them. Barna was said to have won (and who could deny it?) precisely "73 titles and 524 cups"; he was also said to have "never lost a title except by not defending it"--which conveniently overlooks his first World Men's Singles defense in 1931 at Budapest where in the final he lost 3 straight to his fellow countryman Miklos "Mike" Szabados. As for Glancz, he was identified not as both the 1928 and 1934 (actually Dec., 1933) World quarterfinalist that he was, but far more prestigiously and yet quite safely as the "No. 1 World's ranking player in 1927" (since the World Championships were held in 1926 and 1928 but not in 1927, who was going to argue otherwise?).
Clark, introducing Barna's game to readers of Topics who might or might not get to see The Master play, had this to say:
"...[Barna has a] backhand of indescribable variety, rhythm and brilliance. Nine shots out of 10 are played from his port side, and when it becomes necessary for him to bring his graceful forehand into use, he leaps into the air, making a half turn, which brings the crowd to its feet. His change of pace, the variety of his game, the grace and ease with which he quietly and confidently places himself behind the table causes amazement."
Clark also had high praise for Sandor Glancz:
Topics reported that the "accuracy, speed, footwork and acrobatics of the Hungarians were a revelation to their first-stop audience at the swank Penn Athletic Club in Philadelphia. That the "Exhibition" nature of the Tour was well understood by the participants--though McClure assured me that he always played for "real"--can be deduced not only from the fact that Promoter Clark led World Champion Barna 19-16 one game, but also from a brief description of their play in the 36 x 50-foot court: "Each in turn drove the other back to the barricade, made hairbreadth returns of drop shots and net-cord shots, drove back drives, and chopped back chops."
"...[Glancz is] a far greater player than he appears to be. He uses his head every minute of the time; his tactics are flawless; his forehand drive has terrific speed and he can place it on a nickel; his drop shot comes suddenly and simply worries the life out of his opponents. He has a swell defense, too, and an assortment of strokes the like of which I have never seen."
Clark describes Barna as always having "a pleasant smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye; he is unusually handsome with an expressive eye, a fine head of black hair, a sensitive mouth and an ingrained gentlemanliness, which makes him one of the greatest showmen I have ever seen."
Cokey, who must have known of Barna's sports background (swimming, boxing, tennis, golf, soccer), points out a little trick of Victor's that amused the gallery:
"...Barna rarely picks up the ball with his hand; being an excellent soccer player, he taps the ball with his foot into his hand. Often for exercise, he will toss the ball into the air where it lands on the opposite knee, goes into the air and lands on the opposite knee; keeping his legs going up and down he can often keep the ball alternating from one leg to the other."
The public also got some laughs along the way from Clark himself. "The humor...came from seeing Clark, a middle-aged, bald-headed and bulky man, running up to and back from the table in frantic efforts to keep up with the varied shots of Glancz." Cokey was slightly ridiculous? Perhaps. But in the 1930's and '40's, because of his painstaking professionalism, his enduring ability to entertain and be paid handsomely for it, no one, not even World Champion Ruth Aarons paired with Barna or Glancz, was more successful as an Exhibition player.
In Chicago, for the first session on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6, in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel, the Tour players were welcomed by a crowd of almost 2,500. For the evening matches there were another 1,750 or so ticketholders attending. Why, asked Topics Editor and soon-to-be USTTA President Zeisberg, was Chicago "so much more table tennis conscious" than other sections of the country? Because, he rightly answered, of Coleman Clark:
"Here's a real man, a one-time noted and popular college athlete, a decorated World War I veteran, who has accumulated a store of hard business sense and always had an engaging personality. When, several years ago, he seriously took up a sport that was generally regarded as a "sissy" pastime, nobody who knew him snickered. They followed his leadership.
'Cokey' [or 'Coco' as Barna and Glancz took to calling him]...is the greatest individual asset in table tennis today, for no one else in the game combines the manifold abilities that he possesses."
The Apr. 5-7, 1935 National's was also played in that same Stevens Hotel, and Clark, who'd been ranked APPA #10 last year, did respectably well in this year's enlarged USTTA Men's Singles field, losing to Bill Price, deuce in the 4th, in the 16th's. Perhaps touring with Barna and Glancz had improved Cokey's play, for in the Doubles he and a partner half his age, Dick Tindall, had a series of tenacious wins that brought them all the way to the final. Before losing to Singles Champ Abe Berenbaum and his partner Ed Silverglade, the Clark/Tindall duo had 5-game wins over the Ohio pair of Courtney Bock/George Sturgiss, Sid Heitner/Marcus Schussheim, and a climactic 23-21 in the 5th semi's win over Bud Blattner/Jack Nix.
The Jan. 4-5, 1936 Intercities, held at the Lake Shore Athletic Club in Chicago, was proclaimed by everyone present as the "greatest" so far. Thanks to Clark's huge, ever-changing scoreboard and his "deft manipulation of the loud speaker," the standings of the teams were always made perfectly clear to onlookers. And though he didn't play in this Intercity (and would never play in another again) he did team up with Sandor Glancz here to entertain the spectators with a professional Exhibition played on a P. Becker and Company burgundy-colored table, "said by experts to be more restful than green to the eyes." (Becker at one time reportedly also experimented, unsuccessfully, with "purple tables with yellow lines.") Though Clark's competitive career was over, he continued to be as serious about his show-biz exhibitions as any world-class player was about winning tournaments. Within a month of these Intercities, he'd finished a Pete Smith "Sports Parade" one-reeler with movie-industry California Champions Don Terry and Don Siegel--about which table tennis historians Laflin and Roberts had this to say:
"...A specially built plate-glass table permitted the play to be photographed from below, and marked balls made the spin and bounce easy to follow, especially in slow motion. At one point "Cokey" Clark was able to knock down three tiny tenpins in three successive shots, which he modestly disclaimed as normally impossible." At the Jan.,1937 Intercities, held again at the Lake Shore Athletic Club in Chicago, there was a 10-woman round robin Tryout to see who would make the U.S. Team to the Baden World's. When seventeen-year-old Mayo Rae Rolph arrived in Chicago all the way from Portland, Oregon, Clark brought her into his act at the Hotel Sherman's College Inn. Cokey, partnered by Fushimi, had just opened a long-term engagement at this well known loop night club--so well known that when Mayo arrived in slacks, the doorman didn't want to let her in.
In addition to Fushimi, some of Clark's tournament-experienced exhibition partners preceding the War were Mark Schlude (who changed his name to Mark Stevens), Bill Price, and George Hendry--all from St. Louis.
During and after the War, as a U.S.O. member, he entertained GI's, even traveled to the Far East. He also continued his Exhibition engagements--for instance, even at age 50, he was booked for an indefinite engagement in Ken Murry's famous "Blackouts of 1946" at the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, with Ham Canning as his partner. Marty Reisman remembers that when he was a teenager he, too, gave some exhibitions with Clark. How impeccably dressed he always was and how perfectionist a professional, even if playing with frying pans to the tune of "Mary had a little lamb," or catching four ping-pong balls in his mouth and spitting them back onto the table. Clark of course had many exhibition partners, and the story Marty heard, perhaps when he first came to be Clark's partner, was, "If you hit a ball to his backhand, you were fired." Eventually, around 1950, Clark gave up doing exhibitions and sold life insurance for the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. of Philadelphia. In 1972, he came with his grandson to watch the Mt. Prospect, Illinois U.S. World Team Tryouts (as did another Hall of Famer, Sally Green Prouty), and, as Editor of Topics I had a chance to meet "Cokey" and give him his due, a full page in the paper.
In 1975, he spent two months in an Evanston hospital, where he had his left leg amputated at the knee. On recuperating at home he contributed to a fund-raising campaign I I, as Captain of the U.S. Team to the Calcutta World's, had instituted, and naturally I thought that very kind of him.
Coleman Clark died Jan. 26, 1977. He and his wife Sally had been married 53 years. "It is so lonely without him" she wrote Fushimi--"I had known and loved him all my life."