USA Table Tennis
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
- Chapter 29
- Chapter 30
- Chapter 31
- Chapter 32
- Chapter 33
- Chapter 34
- Bibliography & Acknowledgements
Chapter XIII. 1936: Schiff Wins American Zone Qualifier for Prague World’s, is Declared U.S. Closed Champion. 1935-36: President Zeisberg’s Outspokenness--His Vendetta Against Parker Brothers/His Continuing Attack on Non-cooperative USTTA Members. 1936: Zeisberg Suspends Schiff Just Before U.S. Team Sails for Prague.
As for the U.S. Men’s Team to Prague, there was still the all-important Jan. 30- Feb. 1, 1936 Washington, D.C. American Zone qualifier to consider. D.C. TTA President Morris B. Bassford’s tournament would not only automatically insure the Men’s Singles winner an all-expenses-paid trip to the World’s but would strongly influence the Ranking Committee in their selection of the remaining members of the Team. Play in the McKinley Technical High School Gymnasium, one of the largest and most modern in the country with a seating capacity of 4,000 (TTT, Jan., 1936, 1), would be on Detroiter tables and with Jaques-exported Tema balls (the players having refused to play with the Mercury ball put out by one of the most consistently supportive of Topics advertisers).*
The turnout was poor, only 67 men and 18 women were listed in the Singles-- though the numbers in the Program next to their names (and on their backs?) started with #1 and went deceptively to #127 for the men and to #31 for the women. Strangely, Abe Berenbaum, the 1935 National Champion, one of those who seemed most likely to make the Team, didn’t enter. Why not? Because he wanted both to continue his CCNY studies without interruption and to keep on managing the Essex County N.J. Club in Newark? Or because he knew he couldn’t expect much help in raising funds? Young Pagliaro wasn’t expecting much help either, but he played. Maybe he thought, as had been reported in Topics, that all American Zone players were going to get a tour, if not of the White House, the FBI by J. Edgar Hoover himself? (Jan., 1936, 8). Also absent were the St. Louis stars Bill Price and George Hendry who’d soon be trading off tournaments--George winning the Western Open from Bill, 18 in the 5th, but losing the Michigan Open to him, 19 in the 5th.
As expected then, considering none of the Chicago players made it past the eighth’s, those with the best Intercity records--McClure, Schiff, Tindall, and Blattner-- were also the semifinalists. Thus, even before this Zonal Qualifier was over, Ranking Chair Hammond could have declared, as he was soon about to, that there could be no other candidates for the U.S. Men’s Team. However, given the uncertain funding, and the fact that a team could have five players, the London-based American Gilbert Marshall, ranked anywhere from #6 to #14 in England ( More English than an Englishman, Schiff called him), was again invited to be a member of the Team. Like other Team members he’d be eligible for hospitality, but, as of early February, no traveling expenses could be guaranteed him.
In the one semi’s, Schiff beat Tindall in 5, but Dick could not be too upset, for earlier, realizing his dream trip to Prague was about to metamorphose into some very real nightmare at the hands of Long Island City’s Charlie Mintz, he’d -18, -19, 20 (from 19-16 down), 12, 14 awakened just in time. Nor could he rest easy, for afterwards he’d been pressured, woke up again in a sweat, to score a 19-in-the-5th win over New York’s Johnny Abrahams (later Abrams).
In the other semi’s, McClure, too, went 5--beat Blattner, -9, 16, -20, 20, 19. This and the equally exciting 19-in-the-3rd match Bud had lost to Schiff at the Intercities made him the #3 man on the Team.
The winner of this 1936 Zonal Qualifier--one didn’t have to be a U.S. citizen to play, just a U.S. resident (TTT, Nov., 1935, 5)--would be designated by the USTTA as this season’s U.S. [Closed] National Champion, while the winner of the National’s-- open supposedly for the first time in Melting Pot History to foreigners (though had any U.S. residency requirement ever been established or enforced in any Championship before?)--would be called the U.S. [Open] International National Champion (TTT, Feb., 1936, 5).
Sol’s 19, -20, 16, 16 win over Jimmy was a cleverly mixed attack, said one observer. Building to his kills by a masked forcing backhand, he [Schiff] seemed to gain confidence as the match progressed, and with drives that nicked the corners never gave McClure much chance to force the pace (TTT, Feb., 1936, 1).
Since Schiff also won the Doubles with Jacobson he couldn’t be feeling better. That is, until President Zeisberg, already rankled by Stanley Borak’s critical letters, found out, roughly only a week before Sol, the #1 player on the Team, was due to sail for Europe, that back on Dec. 19 this naive 18-year-old had signed a contract with Parker Brothers. What followed I’ll describe in detail. But first some important background information.... Zeisberg’s Attacks on Parker Brothers and Non-cooperative USTTA Members
Though General Zeisberg with barrage after barrage of heavy artillery, both as Topics Editor and President, had apparently won the USTTA-APPA war, he was still obsessed--pick any month, any year, he would always be obsessed--with putting down Parker Brothers and their proprietary p.p. (as he liked scornfully to refer to their trademark). Unfortunately, he said in the Feb., ‘35 Topics the matter cannot be ignored until the confusion caused by this practice [of promoting p.p. as the name of the sport] is abated (8).** And, as we’re about to see, confusion it certainly was.
Back in the May-June, ‘34 Topics, Zeisberg was saying his USTTA offers apologies to those who may have been offended by outspoken statements appearing in these columns and in letters. It has tried to be fair, but never hesitated to be frank when it believed the good of the game was at stake (2). Zeisberg’s repeated aim is to put table tennis up where it ought to be--a recognized and respected athletic sport (TTT, Mar., 1935, 2). No surprise then that for months he’d been urging the p.p. trade-mark owner to call a halt to his subordinates who are fighting the USTTA and harming the game (TTT, May-June, 1934, 2).
Nor is it just the unutterable Parker name Zeisberg and others influenced by him are railing against (by the spring of ‘36 the Oregon TTA will be fining members 10 cents for calling table tennis by another name ). Since in union there is strength and in cooperation there is progress, why tolerate--and this is another Zeisberg power-peeve-- dead-beats, moochers:
It is silly for an official in organized table tennis to fritter away his time playing with and operating leagues for players who will not join the USTTA. Insistence on 100% USTTA membership is the only way to insure 100% cooperation from the small group you work with. A small group of USTTA members (people who have the cooperative spirit) is vastly preferable to a large conglomeration of people with conflicting ideas. And the small 100% group will attract the right kind of people, so in the end you gain doubly--higher morale and larger membership (TTT, Apr., 1936, 6).
Get rid of the spongers is Zeisberg’s repeated advice:
Simply refuse to allow any of your members to engage in scheduled competition with parasites. Better still, refuse to play with them at all until they join [the USTTA] and do their bit (TTT, May, 1936, 2).
In fact, get rid of everyone who’s not being--well, cooperative. The organized game is in good hands, says Editor/President Zeisberg: irresponsibles are not wanted. And he quotes approvingly H. W. Fay, who’s about to be elected President of the NJTTA:
Dissension has no right in a good, clean, dignified sport of the character of table tennis, and those who do not cooperate should be expelled from the Association (TTT, May, 1935, 2).
Yes, says Zeisberg, there’s a crying need for discipline among about 1% of USTTA membership.
Although in his Nov., 1933 Topics Zeisberg could emphasize that the USTTA does not ‘outlaw’ any brand of equipment, and does not ‘outlaw’ any player who prefers some particular brand (4), in a mere 18 months, in a Mar., ‘35 Topics he could threaten members publicly that if you don’t use USTTA-seal equipment--that equipment of course of a certain acceptable standard which manufacturers pay the USTTA to grace with its approval-- you are working against the USTTA and you are harming the game and you are your own enemy. Worse, he says, you are a rotten sportsman, and fair play means nothing to you (2).
Strong words, fanatical words considering Submission of equipment for approval is entirely voluntary. The USTTA permits use of any brand of equipment... (TTT, Apr., 1935, 6). Words dictatorially suggestive of Parker Brothers? Maybe it’s best that in Nov., 1935, the sale of USTTA official-approval seals was discontinued, replaced as could be seen in Topics by an Approved Equipment list? Now Zeisberg had more freedom to exercise directives. In the new By-Law #7 on Patriotism the Association mandated that as far as possible, in all tournaments conducted by the USTTA and its affiliates, American made tables, nets and balls shall be used (TTT, Nov., 1935, 4). Who was likely to object to that? Barna with his Barna balls?
Of course at the same time that he surely doesn’t want Parker Brothers Ping- Pong ads Zeisberg criticizes outside firms who don’t advertise in Topics:
There is something wrong with the spirit of co-operation of a firm that eagerly sells you a bat, ball, net, trophy, light, or table, yet does not think enough of helping table tennis by advertising in your magazine (TTT, Apr., 1936, 8).*** And of course he keeps on insulting those who buy from these outside firms:
Every once in a while I run across a USTTA member who buys and praises a bat, ball, net or table made by some firm that does not advertise in Topics. None of these players would knowingly cut their own throats or rob themselves or play a dirty trick on a friend, yet they do the equivalent when they patronize people who, if one stops to think, are really chiselers and parasites-- enemies of the USTTA and of Topics advertisers and therefore their own enemies. I certainly would not trust any of these simple-minded souls with anything important involving good judgment, cooperation, ethics and loyalty... (TTT, Dec., 1935, 2).
If only the buyers and sellers of table tennis equipment would be helpful, progress could be made; if only USTTA members would cooperate, dream could become reality:
...[Topics] needs more ads to grow bigger and it will get the ads as soon as you start buying only equipment that is advertised in Topics. After they find out you will not buy equipment unless it is advertised in your publication, the big firms now holding aloof will advertise in your publication (TTT, Mar., 1936, 2).
Meanwhile, as we’re about to see, in the ‘34-35 season and on into the ‘35-36 season until the USTTA just stops them, Parker Brothers Ping-Pong ads are being accepted in USTTA tournament programs and even in Topics. Which forces Zeisberg to face an irritating conundrum. On the one hand, how, issue after issue, can he rail against p. p. and yet give Ping-Pong credibility by accepting Parker ads--and, on the other, how, if the USTTA permits use of any brand of equipment, can he not?
Oh, if only Parker Brothers would....Would do what? Be a jolly good friend? Zeisberg points out that John Jaques & Son, Ltd., the London firm that owns the p. p. trademark throughout the world, except in the U.S., gives 100% cooperation to the English TTA and assists in promotion of the game under its historic name, table tennis (TTT, Jan., 1936, 4).
But Parker Brothers has not been and is not being cooperative. Imagine them offering teenager Jimmy McClure a contract after he’d won their ‘34 APPA National’s! And not a flat figure for his name on their rubber racket but a royalty!...Naturally Jimmy accepted and naturally on later hearing about it after all the players had come into the USTTA fold Zeisberg is disturbed. He writes to Coleman Clark****:
...Did he [Jimmy] ever stop to think that in permitting Parker Brothers to use his name in this way, he is definitely working against the USTTA, which made possible his [Jan., ‘35] tour with the Hungarians and his [Feb., ‘35 World’s] trip to London, France and Hungary, neither of which Parker Brothers could have done? That if he isn’t with us in our efforts to get Parker Brothers to co-operate with us, then he is against us? That every McClure bat sold is money out of the USTTA treasury...[and] is a blow aimed against the firms that do co-operate with the USTTA? Will he cause Parker Brothers to stop selling bats bearing his name? Or does he have a contract with them that would make this impossible?
Zeisberg asks Clark to talk to Jimmy’s father about this racket situation. He says, I am willing, even eager, to go the limit in working for Jimmy’s interests, but I submit that some cooperation with the USTTA ought to be shown on his part. Then he closes with a typical threat: I am pretty sure my future attitude [toward Jimmy] would be guided largely by the answers to the questions [above].
And it would be--a point I’ll come back to shortly. In a Feb. 27, 1935 letter to his E.C., Zeisberg writes that Leo Schein has told him that the N.Y. Post was forced to print a big flub-dub story on ping-pong, with large photo of McClure, because of a derogatory statement about p. p. in their table tennis write-up.
Perhaps Parker Brothers had been emboldened, the Post influenced, by the Feb. 4 and/or Feb. 25, 1935 issues of Time? For in the Feb. 25th Letters column headlined Table Tennis (after Time’s Feb. 4th use of the word ping-pong in an article emphasizing Barna and mentioning McClure), there was a reply by then NJTTA President F. J. MacCoy Jr. to the effect that Parker Brothers ought not to be securing free advertising with their trademark ping-pong name. This was followed by Zeisberg’s reply (severely edited) that came out simply, Shame on you. Fie. Phooey!.... Both of which were then countered with the frustrating editorial response, Although it is a registered trade-mark, ping-pong is the historic name for the game. Time declines to be drawn into a purely commercial quarrel over the propriety of the name.
Ping-Pong is the historic name of the game? The non-commercial USTTA is involved in a commercial quarrel? You can imagine how such a statement from such an influential magazine hurt Zeisberg personally. Because Time printed only a five-word excerpt of the letter he sent, he called that very unfair and condemned their smart- aleck know-it-all attitude. Over a year ago he’d tried to clarify the Ping-Pong/Table Tennis difference in a highly detailed Friendly Warning explanation to Newspapers, Magazines, Public and Civic Organizations. Ever since then, though maintaining that the USTTA permits use of any brand of equipment he was moving (with the help of Philadelphia-area associates) toward the exclusion of all equipment that didn’t have the official U. S. Table Tennis seal. Repeatedly along the way he urged Parker Brothers to cooperate--in other words, capitulate. The nation-wide sport is table tennis not ping- pong--that was Zeisberg’s adamantine point of view. Moreover, he said, instead of helping the game in America, the APPA has actually retarded its development for several years (TTT, Feb., 1935, 2).
In addition to his dismay over McClure’s endorsement of a Parker Brothers racket, Zeisberg also shows his alarm on hearing of a venture of Barna’s. In that same Feb. 27 letter to his E.C. he writes:
...[I’ve heard] that Barna has made a deal with Parker whereby Parker will market a ‘Barna bat’ in the U.S. That Barna offered Sportcraft the choice of the Barna bat or the Barna ball and when Sportcraft took the ball, he turned the bat over to Parker. I don’t know whether to believe this.If it is true, it is very bad. Few people seem to realize what we are trying to do--namely, to get Parker to co- operate,--and that as long as our champions are going to go into partnership with them and help them boost their equipment sales without their doing a thing to help the USTTA, so long will Parker stay out and hamper us. I have some more thoughts on this subject which are hardly fit to print, and will not bore you with them now. But if this is true, it ought to be taken up with Barna and Ivor Montagu.
Presumably whenever Montagu was informed about this U.S. complaint, he turned it over to the Hungarian TTA who had disciplinary jurisdiction over Barna. That body later sent its regrets to the USTTA, but of course the World Champion was never disciplined.
Back in March of ‘34, the Philadelphia TTA, of which Zeisberg was a member, had asked the USTTA TTAs to vote on officially adopting only equipment bearing [ the] USTTA seal. But that was unacceptable and players could continue using any brand of equipment. On Jan. 3, 1935, the Pennsylvania TTA, of which Zeisberg was an officer,***** proposed, and on Feb. 22 the USTTA accepted, an Amendment to the USTTA’s Articles of Agreement that, slightly reworded, would become Article 10-C of the newly adopted (July 17, 1935) Constitution. It reads: Brand Names :The USTTA, its affiliates and members thereof shall not use or promote any proprietary or brand name of equipment as the name of the sport of table tennis and shall discourage such use or promotion by others. Also newly adopted would be Article 12-C: Royalties: (1) No USTTA affiliate or member shall receive royalties from firms without approval in writing from the Executive Committee. (2) The sole power to arrange for and receive royalties shall rest in the USTTA Executive Committee.
However, Parker Brothers, whom obviously this Amendment attacked, had already pushed their $1.50 Jimmy McClure racket (the Ping-Pong seal was easy to see) in an A. G. Spalding & Bros. ad in both the Program of the USTTA’s (NYTTA- sponsored) Hungary vs. U.S. Match at the Hotel New Yorker, Jan. 23-24, 1935 and the Program of the USTTA’s (South Jersey TTA-sponsored) Eastern Open, Feb. 22-23. And, even after the Philadelphia Amendment was accepted on Feb. 22 by a mail vote of the USTTA’s Board of Governors, Parker was advertising in the Apr. 5-7 National’s Program via a Spalding ad featuring their $2.50 Barna racket (again with the Ping-Pong seal easy to read). How confusing--what kind of contract or understanding did the USTTA have with Spalding, or wasn’t the Amendment forbidding such proprietory promotion being strictly enforced?
To make matters even more confusing, the first Ping-Pong ad to appear in Topics was in Apr., 1935--the Spalding McClure one; the second, in May, 1935, the Barna one. What was going on? The June, ‘35 Topics advertised Barna balls through Sportcraft, but Ping-Pong was not mentioned. However, in the Oct., ‘35 Topics, the very issue in which the July 17-adopted USTTA Constitution with its Article 10-C forbidding the promotion of proprietory equipment, was printed in its entirety, indeed on the page immediately following this Constitution, there was a new Spalding ad that showed a Barna racket selling for $2 and Barna’s picture on the accompanying Ping- Pong box!
Was the USTTA accepting or refusing such ads? Was a player at liberty to sign with Parker Brothers, or wasn’t he? Were McClure and Barna supposed to tell everyone concerned they wanted nothing more to do with Ping-Pong promotion? Was the teenage McClure expected to try to void the contract because of his age? It seemed like the USTTA itself didn’t have ready answers to these questions.
On Oct. 28, 1935 Sidney Biddell, who, with the Oct. issue, had taken over the Editorship of Topics from President Zeisberg, wrote a letter to USTTA Ranking Chair Reginald Hammond, with copies to Zeisberg and others, that showed his own uncertainty with regard to the USTTA’s equipment policy:
In the mail with your letter [that is, Hammond’s letter, to which Biddell is writing this reply] came a letter from Carl [Zeisberg] addressed to Kitt [USTTA First Vice-President and Tournament Chairman Dougall Kittermaster] about equipment for the  Nationals, and I certainly feel that despite my own preference for Parker tables unless they request an approval we should use some other make....
Biddell, who was formerly a Westchester County APPA man, has a link with and so is perhaps sympathetic to Parker Brothers, but I can’t understand how, given the USTTA Constitution, the tables of this proprietary firm could be accepted for our National’s. Would anyone expect Parker Brothers to renounce their assumed Ping-Pong authority to support the rival Table Tennis claim? Prompted by that Spalding ad he’s included in the Oct. Topics, Biddell goes on to say to Hammond:
I am at an impasse with Spaulding [sic] regarding Topics’ advertising due to their insistance [sic] that we take copy as given us and my statement that no publication exists which does not reserve the right to reject copy not in keeping with the publication’s general policy. Believe the executive committee should stand pat on their decision to accept no further Parker advertising without recognition of table tennis as the sport it covers.
Zeisberg and his E.C. do stand pat--and no Ping-Pong ad appears in Topics until Oct., 1937, when Zeisberg may taunt his new target, the ITTF’s Montagu, with it. In that Oct. 28, ‘35 letter to Hammond, copy to Zeisberg, Biddell also speaks of how, as NYTTA Secretary, he’s told New York League Captains that neither Barna nor the French-made Reina balls, both distributed by Sportcraft, will be used in the season’s competition beginning Nov. 4. After which he soon addresses Carl directly, says:
...I think it would be a good policy for you personally to write a letter to Barna, if it were not dangerous as regards suit, stating clearly Sportcraft’s general attitude toward the game and the injury that is being done to it by their handling Barna balls; also something about the continuation of his contract with Parker for his bat....
As I’ve said, Barna was not (and certainly didn’t expect to be) disciplined by the Hungarian TTA. The USTTA let the matter drop--and in 1936, with the Association’s blessing, Barna made another Tour of the U.S.
With regard to McClure, however, whom Zeisberg and his USTTA had direct jurisdiction over, the matter of his endorsement of a Parker Brothers racket was delayed but not dropped. Delayed, I presume, because it was not clear he should be disciplined. After all, Jimmy had contracted with Parker before there was any USTTA law against it and because, even after the law had supposedly been put into effect, the USTTA itself had continued doing Ping-Pong business with Spalding. In late Oct., 1936 Zeisberg proposed to his E.C. (at least went through the motion of doing so, though he may already have known what the outcome was going to be) a resolution to suspend McClure for violation of Arts. 10C and 12C. He was supported in this by 3rd V.P. Frank Trolle and Edwin Berna, the new Recording Secretary. He was opposed by 1st V.P. Kittermaster, Treasurer Elmer Cinnater, and Executive Secretary Harry Wahle. Sidney Biddell, the 2nd V.P., for whatever reason didn’t vote. Since the vote was 3-3, no majority prevailed, the motion failed, and McClure was not suspended. Zeisberg then, after asking that that resolution be revoked, put forward another resolution--that McClure be authorized to have an autographed racket made by P. Becker & Co, a great supporter of the USTTA. Both passed 4-2.... (TTT, Jan. 1937, 6)******
Zeisberg and his E.C. Suspend Schiff
Having given this background, I now come back to what befell poor Sol, the #1 player on the ‘36 U.S. World Team, literally hours before he was supposed to leave for Prague. A letter of suspension was delivered unto him--despite, as he says, the earlier assurance of Biddell that he could sign a racket contract with Parker Brothers ( You don’t need approval. I’m giving you approval ).
Zeisberg’s Special Delivery Registered Letter of Feb. 24, 1936 to young Schiff reads as follows:
This will notify you the Executive Committee voted 6-0 to indefinitely suspend you from membership for signing a contract or agreement December 19, 1935, to receive royalties without obtaining the Committee’s permission, as provided in Article 12-C of the Constitution. This is an unpleasant duty and I trust the suspension will be short through efforts you said you would make and others that are contemplated [which are? by whom?]. Charges of violating Article 10-C, involving promotion of a trademark as the name of the sport of table tennis, are pending against you and another player [McClure], and it is my considered opinion that if and when these charges are pressed, expulsion will result. The USTTA will not interfere with any business arrangement existing between a player and a firm, but its members , to remain in good standing, must obey their Constitution. The USTTA will automatically give permission to receive royalties from firms that cooperate in enforcing Articles 10- C and 12-C. I was in New York yesterday and heard a lot of wild talk, including a threat to prevent the U.S. Team’s sailing unless you are included. Needless to say, any such selfish and unpatriotic attempt would make it difficult for those involved to retain membership. Charges of racial prejudice and discrimination are ridiculous to anyone who knows me. In and out of table tennis I have often expressed my friendship for and admiration of the Jewish race. It is true that there are certain individual Jews, as well as Irishmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, etc., whom I don’t admire. You will recall I started the national fund last season to send you to London.******* While I cannot hold you responsible for the violent talk of your friends, your attitude will largely determine their attitude. If you and your friends wish it, I will guarantee to get a Governor to introduce for you a resolution for national mail vote to lift the suspension, remove me from office, pay you the cost of a trip to Europe or anything else you wish, and I will pay the cost of the resolution if it does not exceed two pages of mimeographed material. Yours very truly
Poor Sol, he was going to make 6 cents a racket, maybe a $100 in all from this contract. He needs a good lawyer. A USTTA member for two years--during which time the Association, in issue after issue, has made a point of insisting that no USTTA player could be an outlaw for using (and so promoting) any brand of equipment...only to then clumsily, confusingly reverse itself, largely through the obsessive efforts of one man- -and now Sol’s to be expelled (after a short suspension--a suspension not given to McClure). It’s an unpleasant duty to chastise this teenager, is it? This player who’s already distinguished himself and country? What a bully Zeisberg can be. Unswervingly dedicated to table tennis as he is, he’s nevertheless exactly the kind of controlling, directing person you often want to disagree with. McClure was fortunate that months later half the voting E.C. thought better of Zeisberg’s earlier considered opinion that Jimmy should be expelled, and didn’t even suspend him. Of course had they taken action against him, I suspect they would have had a fight on their hands. Sol, though there’s no way he can go to the World’s, takes immediate conciliatory action. Here’s a penciled draft, pleading ignorance, showing he’s cooperative, that in tidied-up form he must have sent to Zeisberg:
Dear Carl; [sic]
As soon as I was told I ought to write for approval of my bat, I did so. When I was informed that I acted against the policy of the U.S.T.T.A., I tried to get Parker Bros to cancel the contract, but they refused. This left me with only one alternative, to void the contract because of my age, which brought the following letter from Parker Bros. [At this point Sol indicates that he wants his penciled draft interrupted so he can insert the following letter:] Dear Mr. Schiff: I have your notification of March 3 in which you disclaim the contract that you signed with this company. Although I doubt if this disclaimer is binding until we have used up the rackets bearing your name that we have manufactured or have in the process of manufacture, I do not want this company to have any connection with anyone who treats us in this manner. You can accordingly treat this letter as acceptance by us of your disclaimer of your contract as of this date. Very truly yours,
Robert B.M. Barlow********
[Sol’s penciled draft now continues.] I trust my actions before the contract was signed, and my actions since I was shown my error, will bring me consideration from the executive committee. [Sol’s draft, unsigned, ends here.]
In the April, ‘36 Topics, Zeisberg publicly takes up the question of Schiff’s suspension:
...Sol, who is a modest and popular boy, is the most blameless figure in the succession of errors caused entirely by officials, members and firms ignoring the Constitution. It was he who, seeking advice, made known existence of the contract, signed Dec. 19, 1935.
Permission probably would have been granted, after a slight penalty, if the firm in question cooperated with the USTTA. But it has been antagonistic toward table tennis for 8 years and disregards Article 10-C in promoting the p. p. brand of table tennis equipment as the name of a rival game, using, nevertheless, table tennis rules taken from the ITTF in 1928. The USTTA has repeatedly offered to discuss cooperation, pointing out that by promoting the p. p. brand of table tennis equipment the firm could remove the obstacle existing between it and the USTTA and ITTF.
The swift unanimity of the Committee’s [6-0] suspension vote by airmail, special delivery and telegram surprised even its members, who have strenuously debated many of the 87 resolutions thus far introduced for vote. It had made up its mind that discipline must be enforced or the amount of labor involved in operating a disorderly organization would become so enormous that no one could be found to undertake it. Too many persons, after joining the USTTA, think they can do as they please; and too many firms think the same. But the Constitution & By-Laws were not adopted and distributed in Topics and elsewhere just for fun. They will be enforced....
If any member does not like this plan, he may withdraw, thus possibly avoiding suspension or expulsion.
This frank language will not offend the majority, because they know it does not apply to them and they want the USTTA to be conducted efficiently. The few who will be insulted by being reminded the rules must be enforced would be better off outside the USTTA and the USTTA would be better off without them... (2).
The USTTA has really got it together now, huh? And dramatically punishing the most blameless figure, Schiff, will prove it. But, just in passing, those more to blame officials, members and firms making the succession of errors that ignored the July 17, 1935 -adopted USTTA Constitution--who, specifically, were they? It might be argued that one of them was Zeisberg? And how are those most to blame being punished? Or can’t they be? And so better to punish the most blameless figure than nobody? For Zeisberg & Co. Schiff really is a scapegoat, someone to be used. And Parker Brothers, if not the world, will sure know now that it’s futile to claim any historic authority for Ping-Pong or try to be a power rival to the well-disciplined might of Zeisberg’s USTTA.
But there were irresponsibles, dissenters in the Association. And Columbia University student Richard Geiger’s letter of protest, like Stanley Borak’s before him, was too long to publish in whole or in part in Topics. Such heartfelt sentiments should, in Zeisberg’s words, be crystallized into clear resolutions and , having been abstracted so, submitted to Carl’s E.C. or Board of Governors for a vote (TTT, Apr., 1936, 6).
The U.S. Team, then, with Schiff’s supposed intercessor Biddell as Captain/Delegate, went off to Prague...and the U.S.’s #1 men’s player Schiff stayed home, suspended through the April National’s until June. A sad lesson, Zeisberg would say--though permission probably would have been granted, after a slight penalty, (TTT, Apr., 1936, 2) if it hadn’t been Parker Brothers Sol was making the contract with. Parker Brothers was always so uncooperative.*********
NOTES. *Mercury began its roughly 1/4 page ad in TTT, Nov., 1934, 6--though Louis Sametz had advertised unnamed balls from the very first Oct., 1933 issue of the magazine. Sametz continued running Mercury ads through the pre-War 1940-41 season (the last of these appeared in TTT, Oct., 1941, 24).
**Zeisberg says he writes p.p. as a matter of principle, so as to avoid the unfair practice of giving a free ad to a trade-marked brand name. This, he says, is in accord with the best journalistic principles (TTT, Feb, 1935, 8).
***The Milton Bradley Co. that had taken out the back-cover ad in the NYTTA Handbook, 1932-33 also took out an ad in TTT but only for the 1933-34 season. After that it apparently didn’t see any reason to renew.
****Though the first page of this undated letter Zeisberg writes is missing and in the remainder he never mentions the recipient, I assume, for good reasons, it’s Coleman Clark he’s writing to.
*****Zeisberg lived in Glenside, PA just north of Philadelphia. His friend Tom Bradley was President of the Philadelphia TTA that then--with Bradley reelected President and Zeisberg as Corresponding Secretary--conveniently became the Pennsylvania TTA (see TTT, Nov., 1934, 4). Naturally Zeisberg had a strong voice in whatever changes the PTTA/PATTA wanted in the USTTA, and what Zeisberg and his associates wanted was not unlike what Parker Brothers wanted--the exclusion of a rival’s equipment. In the Nov, 1934 Topics, Zeisberg was still saying in an editorial that the USTTA is open to everyone...without equipment-brand restrictions (2), but in response to a player query he was also saying that USTTA-seal equipment is not compulsary but recommended. Then, in the very next issue of Topics he calls those who don’t follow his recommendation to use seal-equipment chiselers and parasites--enemies (2).
******Zeisberg broke with Trolle and Berna in the 4-2 vote approving a Becker McClure racket--why? To show that he wants to be fair-minded? That since McClure had been acquitted in a court of law, so to speak, he, Zeisberg, had no hard feelings, no grudge against McClure, no balance to be redressed? (Why didn’t Trolle and Berna react the same way?)
*******See Zeisberg’s own editorial (TTT, Apr., 1935, 2) in which he says the fund-raising idea for Schiff was conceived by Chas. Funk, Brooklyn. Funk was 2nd V.P. of the New York Metro TTA (successor to the old NYTTA and now an affiliate with the New York State TTA). Zeisberg, however, did send follow-up letters to his Board of Governors urging contributions to a Schiff Fund.
********The name of the Parker Brothers’ President is written only in script with just the initials RBMB typed--but it appears to be Robert B.M. Barlow.
*********After Sol’s suspension, he and Zeisberg seemed friendly enough. In a Mar. 25, 1937 letter to Sol, Carl says he’s mighty glad Schiff’s gone with TATCO (George Perryman’s Table Tennis Corporation of America), wants him to send articles to Topics even if they’re in the rough, for he’ll edit them, and kids him about his one loss to Poland’s Schiff in the 1937 Swaythling Cup matches. In a July 2, ‘37 letter, Carl responds to Sol’s cautious query--as to whether he can contract with F.H. Ayers, Ltd. of London for a racket endorsement--by very cooperatively saying that he thinks it’s O.K. but that he’ll check with the English TTA. Then he asks Sol to come down here again soon, play doubles with him, and spend the night at his house. And 10 years later, after he’s long been away from the Sport, Zeisberg will write in to the Jan. 1947 Topics editor, questioning the results of a readers’ poll as to who is the greatest U.S. player of all times? Not only did the poll (Dec., 1946, 9) have the relatively weak Coleman Clark third, behind (then National Champion) Dick Miles and McClure, it didn’t even mention Schiff. Zeisberg reminded readers of Sol’s great Swaythling Cup record in ‘37--21-1 against the best players in the world. So, would you say there existed between Schiff and Zeisberg no grudges on Sol’s part, no guilt feelings on Carl’s?