During the 1929-30 season, the first New Jersey Men's Championship was won, not by 12-year-old Manny Moskowitz, but by one, Fred C. George, over another George, George Schissel. Since, seven decades later, the Sport has such winning veteran players as George Hendry and George Brathwaite, it might not come as much of a surprise that in 1930 this winning George was almost 60 years old. And--if such vibes matter, and they do to some--this George's home was in Garwood, N.J., within easy walking distance of where 70 years later Manny Moskowitz's Westfield Club would be.
The other George--the losing finalist, George Schissel--was from Summit, New Jersey, and he played with, of all things , a sponge racket, one that would be banned in a few years by his New Jersey Association. This racket was so makeshift crude that it may have weighed as much as five pounds, and if this George's matches included a couple of five gamers, that was a problem, for after a while his racket would become almost too heavy to hold.
In 1930, Manny, his brothers, Martin and Harold, and their friend Mel Silverman, formed the Rutherford, N.J. Table Tennis Club--and by 1933 this Moskowitz Team would win the N.J. League Championship.
During the 1931-32 season, the next time the N.J. Championships were held, young Manny managed to beat George, the aging Defending Champion. But then he lost in the semi's to his friend and Rutherford High schoolmate, the 6', 6"-inch basketball star, Mel Silverman --later the California psychiatarist Mel Sylvan.
In the final of this second N.J. Championship, Silverman was to play Willard "Bill" Rogers, Jr., one of the founding fathers of the USTTA, and the acknowledged first tutor of our only World Singles Champion, Ruth Aarons. Rogers was a great crowd pleaser--a very flamboyant character on court. He used a wooden racket, primarily because the click of the ball on the wood accentuated the swashbuckling strokes he acrobatically preferred. He rolled up the cuffs of his pants, or maybe on occasion the pants legs themselves, and, giving himself the run of the court, was known as "The Bounding Basque." "This was a guy," said his contemporary Joe Blatt, "who'd yell even before he hit the ball."
After beating Moskowitz, and before his next day's Championship match against Rogers, Silverman decided he'd go to the movies to take his mind off the coming match....Unbelievable. One of the shorts featured the famous sports announcer Ted Husing and clips of a Ping-Pong tournament that showed--guess who?--Rogers in a bravura performance.
Said Husing, or someone, Rogers "tears after a ball like a whippet after a fake rabbit, makes impossible gets and returns, and on occasion will favor you with a neat back flip as he dives from one side of the table to the other."
Poor Silverman--this he wanted to see; lines like these he wanted to remember? Young Moskowitz he could beat, but against Rogers the next day he was totally psyched.
The 1932-33 season was a good one for the 15-year-old Moskowitz--he was U.S. #16. But again he couldn't win the N.J. State Championship. He lost in the final to the burly penholder Ed Silverglade, a local young wrestling champion who would eventually become a USOC boxing official. This was far from an embarrassing loss, however, for just two years later Silverglade and 1935 U.S. Men's Singles Champ Abe Berenbaum would win the National Men's Doubles together.
That '32-33 season was the first year for the N.J. Doubles Championship, and Manny and his brother Harold, up two games to none, lost a very disappointing 18, 21, (ohh) -20, -15, -12 final to the ubiquitous Rogers and his formidable partner, the 1933 NYTTA Champion, Sydney Heitner.
Finally, in 1934, Manny scored big. In the first USTTA Open, George Schein, of New York City 92nd St. Y Table Tennis fame, arranged for the pick-up pairing of Manny and Sol Schiff--and they won the National Doubles Championship. During play Manny said that many times he'd have to quickly duck down while Sol would swat in balls above him, threatening again and again to decapitate him with every smooth but decidedly vicious stroke.
In these early formative times in N.J., where every year produced a new Champion, there was no permanent N.J. Club Championship Trophy. But a loose confederation of players began to gather weekly in various recreational premises. (There was the old Club above the Blue-Bird Dance Hall on Broad St. in downtown Newark--who could forget that?) And in 1936 the name Moskowitz--as Men's Singles Champion--was the first to be inscribed on the new N.J. Club Trophy.
On moving to Maryland, Manny, both as a player and an administrator, continued being very active. He was the #1-ranked Maryland player for the '37-38 season. Chairman of the '38 Middle Atlantic Open. Secretary of the Eastern Inter-City League. And the co-Chair of the '39 Eastern's.
No amount of competitive play and organizational skill would prepare Manny for the War in the Pacific though. But after he'd served, he ran a Club for a while in the Oakland, CA area, played in the 1950 Los Angeles Open, and a decade later as Player/Secretary of the San Lorenzo, CA Club, could be seen giving an exhibition or two at the University of California Student Union.
During this long interim Bill Cross became the best player in Manny's home state of N.J.--winning the N.J. Championship ten times. Then suddenly one day in 1979, Cross hears this at first unrecognizable voice over the telephone asking him if he'd like to play Senior Doubles in the Eastern's. After all these years it was Manny. He was about to return to the Sport in earnest--this time for an uninterrupted quarter of a century or more.
Yes, he was still playing with his 40-year-old Barna bat (re-covered now with new rubber). In fact, years later, when he would go on to win the U.S. Over 75's, no doubt it was this same bat he still used.
Primarily now, though, Manny's new career was in officiating. In 1972, when the Chinese were on their reciprocal "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" trip in the U.S., Manny officiated at their Long Island venue stop. And in Topics he began speaking out, urging that the USTTA had to train qualified umpires for their tournament matches. The '72 National's was an officiating disgrace, he said. Non-players and juniors were interested only in the available $1 umpire fee. They weren't knowledgeable and didn't care to be. Some of them hurried out to this table, that table, before this or that match, and--squatter's rights--insisted they were the assigned umpires. No wonder there were so many complaints among the harried players.
By decade's end, Manny was Chair of the USATT's Referee/Umpire Committee, and had been writing a regular column in Topics called "In the Umpire's Chair."
In 1983 he was not only the Chief Umpire at the U.S. Closed, but also the first U.S. umpire ever to serve at a World Championship--in faraway Tokyo.
At the '88 World Veterans Championship in Rimini, Italy, Manny, then 70, was given the ceremonial honor of being U.S. flag bearer.
Back home, both before and after these Championships abroad, he continued to officiate locally, regionally, and nationally. In 1987, for example, he was at the Pan-Am Games in Indianapolis. In '89 he was the Assistant Chief Umpire at the U.S. Open in Miami Beach. In '92 he umpired at the North American Olympic Qualifier.
On through the '90's he worked--and even continued to play. He was both umpire and player at the 14th Maccabiah Games in Israel.
So, by George, who says a person at 60, at 70, at 80 can't still be valuable to the Sport?
Not Manny, who died in 1998 of complications resulting from a weakened heart. Given to civilities, to fairness, to friendship--a person of principle, a gentleman--he would have celebrated his 82nd birthday by umpiring at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in Aug., 1999.