Chapter XXXII. 1939: New York Wins a Disappointing "Intercities." 1938-39:Proliferation of Topics-reported Tournaments--from Provincetown (East) to Portland (West). 1939: Bellis and Fuller Take Eastern’s, Nash and Helen Baldwin the Western’s. 1939: First Annual East Vs. West Men’s Matches.
Philadelphia was also the site of the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 Inter-cities. First planned for Feb., then switched to Jan., then as late as the Jan. issue of Topics listed under "Sanctioned Tournaments" as "tentative," this heretofore very important tournament appeared from the beginning to be a "struggle" for USTTA General Secretary Joe Berna to organize. Why? Because as no ‘39 U.S. Team to the World’s was being selected, the tournament had lost much of its stature, and as a result neither the Pennsylvania nor Philadelphia TTA was willing to provide the traditional hospitality for the visiting teams. It seemed that every single team that competed for the William R. Stewart Trophy last year wouldn’t come this year (though later Indianapolis said it had selected a team, but, since it hadn’t known far enough ahead of time whether the tournament was really going to be held, it couldn’t make last-minute plans to attend). With time running out, it did finally seem worthwhile for Victor Rupp to Chair the event--though not with the usual seven geographically-representative teams, but with just five closely bunched Eastern ones, including Defending Champ N.Y.
Naturally Kauderer’s MTTA didn’t appreciate having maybe only 10 days to prepare. But the Broadway courts agreed to accept the financial risk of holding the usual eight-man Tryouts, and luckily there were proceeds enough to help send a powerhouse team to Philadelphia--Schiff, Grimes, Pagliaro, Berenbaum, and Cartland, with Fred D. Thompson as non-playing captain and, as Zeisberg in his Topics write-up put it, "Ruthe Brewer as mascot" (Feb., 1939, 7).
N.Y., with reserves to spare, might just as convincingly have fielded Charlie Schmidt, who’d been playing well. In the Dec. 19-21 Brooklyn Open, he’d lost to Pagliaro in the final in 4, after Lou, apparently recovering nicely from his appendectomy (TTT, Nov., 1938, 19), had disposed of ‘36 U.S. Boys’ Champ Cy Sussman in the semi’s. And in the Jan. 23-24 Metro Open, Schmidt again had reached the final--lost to Grimes, after Bernie had escaped Paggy 19 in the 5th, and Charlie had shown his usual determination in coming from 2-0 down to outlast Schiff in the quarter’s and then, in what surely must have been a relentless succession of long rallies, had withstood Cartland’s unyielding topspin to beat him in 4 in the semi’s.
Kauderer, as he’d say later in his ‘38-’39 season-ending MTTA Report, was pleased that the N.Y. team "not only won the title but [that] they aided the [Metro] Association by participating in an exhibition in Jersey City," so that the total expense of the trip, including train fare, hotel, food, and incidentals, cost the MTTA only about $24--$24, that is, if someone could find and return the Stewart Traveling Trophy N.Y. had won.
Of course, with the Newark, Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and Baltimore opposition, N.Y. really had no competition--lost only 2 matches out of 22. Schiff, undefeated, won the Outstanding Player Award, but had to work for it. In the "tensest match of the event," after losing the first, he was able to break through "Bellis’ miraculous defense." "Biggest upset," said Zeisberg, was "Bellis’ Thermopylae stand against burly Bernie Grimes’ cannon-ball drives." N.Y. suffered its other loss when Princeton’s Dan Kreer, playing for Newark, defeated Berenbaum in 3. Abe would only temporarily be in charge of tournaments at the Broadway courts (TTT, Apr., 1939, 18), for the place would be run now by Herwald Lawrence, a "charming personality," who’d taken it over from Joel.* Perhaps Reba Kirson wasn’t exaggerating when she said Abe "was losing enthusiasm." What could possibly be more interesting to him than table tennis? "Music," he said, and confided he’d been taking piano lessons (TTT, Nov., 1938, 11).
Although Baltimore (0-20) was embarrassingly outclassed, the Newark, Philadelphia, Camden ties, all 5-4, had to be very entertaining.
When Philadelphia wouldn’t let 34-year-old Joe LeBow tryout for their team, he’d organized a Camden one with Ham Canning (who’d 15-0 led the first half of the Eastern Inter-city League), Al Butowsky, and Bill Palacio (who in ‘37 had been the U.S. Boys’ runner-up and in ‘38 the 5th man on the Chicago Inter-city team). Against Newark, Palacio couldn’t win a match, and though Canning and Butowsky, each with wins over 15-year-old ‘38 U.S. Boys’ Champ Scott Stickle and current New Jersey Champ Bill Cross, tried hard, the favored Kreer beat them both in the 3rd.
Against Philadelphia, Camden’s Canning won two key matches--came from behind to score over both Paul Capelle (-14, 22, 18) and Gus Wolov (-13, 19, 13). And when not only LeBow (13, 21) but Palacio (20, -20, 19) pulled out close matches with Wolov, and Palacio won the lst game from Bellis, Camden again threatened, but again lost.
Philly’s Capelle, who in the N.Y. tie took Pagliaro to 3 in the "wildest match," with "both hitting everything in sight amid almost continuous applause" (TTT, Feb., 1939, 7), didn’t play the Newark tie. With so few teams entered, round robin matches had to be shared among team members. Paul’s Philly teammate Gene Smolens beat Newark’s Cross in an 18 in the 3rd swing match, but Cross did more than give Bellis 19, -19, 9 competition, he came through with an important 19 in the 3rd win over Mo Glatt. And when Abbott Nelson and Kreer downed both Glatt and Smolens (Dan just did get by Gene, 19 in the 3rd), the Newark team finished the best they could--second.
All four members of this team were featured in semi’s matches in the Newark City Championships about this time--with Kreer predictably winning out over Short Hills’ Stickle. In the Women’s, Alice O’Connor established herself as "a comer" with a win over Molly Kareivis. The Jan. 15 Newark tournament saw John Balch, destined to be the Queens Champion in the Metro TTA Borough Plan, defeat Capelle 18 in the 5th, while N.Y.’s ubiquitous Ruthe Brewer took the Women’s over Philly’s Reba Kirson.
Proliferation of Topics-reported Tournaments Nationwide
For the Eastern players, the season had begun as usual with the Aug. 5-6, 6th annual Cape Cod tournament at Provincetown (and, presumably, the fun picnics, dune hikes, and/or beach parties that had been so enjoyable in the past). Schiff, continuing the tradition of a new Champion every year, won the Men’s Silver Cod Quiniela, defeating his fellow finalists without losing a game. When Mae Clouther became the first woman to win the Bronze Dolphin Award twice, local enthusiast Paul Smith spoke of her "remarkable metamorphosis from a charming woman to a merciless athlete at the table" (TTT, Oct., 1938, 10). In the final, Mae defeated former champion and this year’s tournament chair, Jane Stahl, the Rhode Island #1, who’d survived a 5-game semi’s with Brewer, Schiff’s winning Mixed Doubles partner.
In hurricane-hit Boston, at the early fall Massachusetts Open in which matches were played first at the Colonial Club in Somerville then in the ballroom of the Hotel Bradford, Schiff was beaten in 4 by Bernie Grimes, who was said to have an improved backhand. In the semi’s, Frank Filipek upset Jimmy Jacobson, and Arthur Sweeney, "the hardest-hitting and most aggressive player in New England" (TTT, Oct., 1938, 14) downed Manny Moskowitz. In the Women’s, first Clouther, then Baltimore’s Halliday, fell to Brewer. Ruthe, a lefthander who couldn’t be more than 18 if that, "will be the next national champion," said her father, but Topics columnist Kirson added only a maybe--and "not because of her talent, but because of her enthusiasm" (Nov., 1938, 11).
The Southern New England Open was held Oct. 22 at Providence. Johnny Abrahams, having gotten by Jacobson in 5, quieted some of the rumors that not Schiff but Grimes was really the U.S. #1 when he beat Bernie in the Men’s final in 5. In the Women’s semi’s, Brewer again got the better of Clouther, but she was clearly not yet #1, for she lost 9, 15, 17 badly in the final to current U.S. Champ Fuller. Lucia Farrington of Smith College took a game from Emily, then teamed with Abrahams to win the Mixed from Clouther and a new player on the New England scene, young Frank Dwelly. Grimes teamed with veteran Sam Silberman, whom he’d 4, 8, 11 annihilated in the singles, to win the Men’s Doubles from Jacobson and Les Lowry.
In the Greater Boston Closed, held Dec. 1-3 at the Colonial Club, there were 75 players entered in a "Class B," but, strangely, no reports of a Women’s event. Lowry beat Jacobson in 4, but Jimmy partnered Dwelly to a Doubles win.
Lowry also won the Jan. 20-21 Massachusetts Closed in straight games over Dwelly (apparently Jacobson didn’t play). Clouther, losing the first two games at 19, struggled with Worcester’s Priscilla Woodbury but recovered to take the state title in 5.
In the Midwest, home to 2/3 of the top 15 finishers in the Hammond and Wilkinson Cup races, Detroit players--V. Lee Webb, Harvey Davis, and Gar Gomon (with their Michigan Governor C. Bronson Allen as non-playing Captain)--began the season by representing the U.S. in a 7-3 win over the Canadians--Webster, Champaigne, and Moskovitz--in the annual U.S. vs. Canada matches at the Toronto Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).
In the Oct. 22-23 Miami Valley Open at Hamilton, Ohio, however, Detroit’s best had limited success. The mercurial Webb was upset in the quarter’s by Harry Sage of Columbus, and Gomon, after a 19 in the 5th win over Ohio #1 Cal Fuhrman, was knocked out by Roger Downs, unranked among the top 10 in Indiana despite last year’s win over Indiana #3 Ned Steele. Downs, still only in his mid-teens, his game showing, as someone said, the influence of McClure, then went on to cap his fine play by winning the tournament over Davis after the experienced Detroit star had thwarted Sage in the semi’s. Young Sally Green, last year’s Wilkinson winner, took the Women’s, 3-1, from Ohio TTA Secretary Norma Hieronymous.
Less than two months later, in the Southern Open at Louisville, Downs and Green, beginning to establish a very successful Mixed Doubles partnership, were multiple winners--Roger defeating Al Beals, 19 in the 4th, and Sally having no trouble at all with Peoria’s Marge Leary.
Up in Cleveland, in back-to-back fall’s-end tournaments, perennial rivals Beals and Courtney Bock traded wins with each other--Beals taking the final round-robin Cleveland Club title, and Bock, who could soon lay claim to being Cleveland’s best lawn tennis player as well, repeating his ‘36 victory in the Metro Open. There was no mention in Topics of any women in these tournaments. Clara Harrison and Anna Everling, did they still play--even at Mark Sawyer’s "semi-private" club?
In the final of the Ohio Open in Columbus, Fuhrman would avenge his earlier Miami Valley loss to Detroit’s Gomon. In the semi’s, the Chicagoans, Al Nordhem and Bob Anderson, who at the halfway mark would be the 1-2 leaders in the Hammond Cup race, lost valuable points when Nordhem went down to Fuhrman and Anderson to Gomon. In the Women’s, Hieronymous would again lose in the final--this time to Marge Koolery. Poor Norma, always a bridesmaid and never a bride? Not so, at least not literally, for she’d soon marry the Ohio veteran Don Studer. Ah, here’s Mrs. Harrison--winning the Mixed with Herman Lykins, standing strong now but who at the ‘37 Intercollegiates had to be carried off the floor with a sprained ankle and/or a badly injured knee.
Almost 60 years later, Lykins, who was playing in the 1997 Fort Lauderdale U.S. Open Over 80’s, told me how apprehensive he’d once been about putting on an exhibition in the ‘30’s with the aforementioned Fuhrman. They were about to play before a wrestling audience, in between matches, and were afraid they might be thought of as a "sissy" act by those who’d come to enjoy the spectacle of opponents grappling with one another and sometimes getting hurt. As it turned out, however, it wasn’t the table tennis but the wrestling that became dull--and soon the spectators were shouting, "Bring back the ping-pong!"
Chicago, though not sponsoring this year’s Inter-cities, continued to hold monthly tournaments. At the Illinois Membership Open in Nov., Anderson defeated Ralph Muchow, and Wilkinson, starting early to build up her halfway lead for the Cup named after her, won the Women’s over Willis Gant.
At the Dec. 10-12 Chicago District, Nordhem 14, 17, 10 easily beat Paul Popple in the final (and yet only a month later at the St. Joe Valley Paul would upset Al). LaVera Weber won the Women’s over Mrs. Al Scranton. And Frank Tharaldson, just learning the game though perhaps now he’s already 30 years old (but with decades of tournament play remaining) took the Novice.
In the first Chicago Metro Open, held at the Washington Park Fieldhouse, Billy Holzrichter defeated Anderson, -16, 10, 10, 18, in what Topics described as "one of the most bitterly fought matches ever witnessed in Illinois tournaments" (TTT, Feb, 1939, 17). But, given the -16, 10, 10, 18 scores that certainly don’t appear to highlight a mutually shared relentless determination, perhaps we’re to understand the players, at least for this moment in Time, had a mutual animosity for one another? Or was the writer without a clue, merely mouthing an hyperbole? This was one of two back-to-back Chicago tournaments where the Muchow brothers, Ralph and Gordon, were eliminated in the Singles semi’s. In the Metro, though, they won the Men’s Doubles--over Holzrichter and Anderson. This was a match, played before the "bitterly fought" Singles final, that provoked some ill feeling between the two losers? But in that case why wouldn’t the writer elaborate with a detail or two? Because the divisiveness wasn’t nice to mention? Or couldn’t be justly mentioned in a mere paragraph report on the tournament? Such speculations allow one to conclude nothing more than what is already known--how easy it is to read too much "History" into a relatively idle line.
Almost every week in the Midwest there was a tournament--and Cup-chasers Nordhem and Anderson, and to a lesser extent Downs and Holzrichter (Nebraska Open Men’s winner Hyman Rosenfeld was a surprise top 10 finisher midway through the Hammond Cup race), and, among the women, Wilkinson and Helen Baldwin, a Des Moines stenographer at a publishing house (TTT, Apr., 1939, 15), and to a lesser extent Green and Henry, all had the time, energy, and money to go to them.
At the Oct. 8-9 Indiana Membership Open at Hammond (played at Ed Dugan’s new club there?), Nordhem beat Anderson, Wilkinson beat Henry, and Nordhem-Wilkinson opened the season as a strong Mixed Doubles team. Then, in both the Nov. 5-6 Middle States at Gary, and the Nov. 19-20 Northern Indiana Open at Hammond, it was all Nordhem and Wilkinson again.
The Dec. 3-4 Indiana Open was played at "Jimmy McClure’s TTC" in Indianapolis. Actually this Paddle Club had been Schuyler "Sky" Blue’s, managed by Bob Green, but Jimmy, while still keeping his own Club on Virginia Ave., bought into a partnership with Blue. Then, though this Club would soon move from the Test Building on the Circle to the Meridian-Life Building, Green would continue to manage it until season’s end, after which, when McClure’s Club on Virginia Ave. would become the "Official headquarters for [the] 1940 National Open," Bob would move to Columbus, Ohio to run a Club there that for years would be well-known.** Here in Indianapolis, Anderson reversed his loss to Nordhem two months earlier in the final of the Indiana Membership, and Green wiped out Wilkinson. Downs and Green won the Mixed--as they would later in the Central States over Varga and Henry. Obviously, if John were playing with Betty, he had to be coaching her.
On Jan. 7-8, 1939 in the St. Joe Valley Open at the South Bend Y, where reelected Indiana TTA President W. B. Hester was the Boys’ Secretary, and where apparently there was a "new place" to play downstairs,*** Anderson defeated Downs in 5, and Henry got the better of Green, 19 in the 4th. Downs and Sterling Mitchell won the Men’s Doubles, Downs and Green the Mixed.
There was talk in South Bend that Henry might win the April National’s, especially after she again beat Green in the Feb. 7th Huntington, Indiana Central States Open. But, as it would turn out, Betty would be the only player from South Bend competing in those nearby Toledo National’s! So was there anyone really close to her (Varga excepted, or not excepted?) to give her the friendship and support even a Champion needs?
No doubt there was also talk that McClure had a chance to win the National’s--though he hadn’t been playing much competitively. Here in Huntington, as expected, he went straight-game through Columbus semifinalist Sam Shannon (who’d had a nice win over Earl Coulson in the Indiana Open) and then hometown finalist Steele.
Over in Missouri Bill Price had returned to competitive play, apparently none the worse after months of setting up forehand putaways--he’d been on Tour with Coleman Clark. In the Nov. 26-27 St. Louis District, Price beat Nash in the semi’s and U.S. #27 Bill Diller in the final.
Two weeks later in the Missouri State, after a summer of tennis in which he’d successfully defended his St. Louis Municipal Junior Singles Championship and won the Missouri State High School Championship (TTT, Nov., 1938, 15), George Hendry was back. He warmed up by 7, 9, 6 destroying Nash, then rallied to defeat Price in the final, after Bill’s steady floating defense proved too strong for an out of practice Bud Blattner.
Ex-World Doubles Champion Blattner wasn’t dreaming dreams about table tennis, he’d already positioned himself as an infielder for the Columbus, Ohio team in the American Association and so was well on his way to making a living as a professional baseball player. By 1942, before his hitch in the Navy, he’d moved on to Sacramento, where he "batted in 95 runs for an average of .295, stole 25 bases, and smashed out 17 homers," and then had signed with Branch Ricky as a rookie second baseman for the Cardinals.****
Winning the Women’s at the Dec. Missouri State (she’d also won the St. Louis District title earlier from Mrs. Esther Guenther) was Marjorie Blattner, Bud’s sister. She’d been extended to 5 by Mrs. Lee McFadden who in the Feb. Kansas Open final at Topeka, would just 21, 23 get by Omaha’s best, Virginia Perkins, President Woodruff’s able helper in recruiting all those Nebraska USTTA members.
Earlier, while a student at the University of Omaha, Virginia had spent a great deal of time playing softball, basketball, swimming and golf. Then instead of playing "foolish games" of table tennis she’d started playing for "blood." She says she hopes through "consistent practice and deep concentration" on her strokes "to gain confidence. I’ve been swinging at balls all my life," she says, "and know that I will always go down swinging physically and fighting mentally" (TTT, June, 1935, 15). Alas, in Nov., 1939, Mrs. Virginia Perkins Merica finished last among the 10 trying out for the West Team in preparation for the Women’s East-West Matches (TTT, Dec., 1939, 14).
The enthusiasts in Topeka, headed by Leon F. Baeder, planned "to distribute copies of TOPICS to the local school board, radio commentators, and newspaper sports writers" (TTT, Mar., 1939, 29). Why not, could it hurt? In his Kansas Open final against Dr. Herman Mercer, perennial Omaha Champion Joe Camero, who’d been upset at the Dec. Nebraska Open by fellow Omahan Dick Anderson, didn’t give in to thoughts of what might have been on losing the first two games at deuce, but hunkered down and stubbornly insisted on the win. Mercer, at least, teamed with Oct. Heart of America winner, K.C.’s Frank "Bud" Miller, to take the Doubles.
Former K.C.er Paul Snively, who’d been a mere committee worker on the ‘35 Missouri State Championships, and who in local tournaments had been titleless except for a Mixed Doubles win with Mary Benson in the ‘36 City Championships, on moving to Texas opted for a larger, more impressive hat or two. In Jan., ‘39 he won the Houston City Championship, and by the Feb. Galveston Texas Open he’d learned the 10-gallon hat trick --won the Singles, the Men’s Doubles with Sam Kivlin, and the Mixed with Women’s Champ Mrs. Sylvion Kivlin. Then, for the ‘39-’40 season, under President Henry Guerra, Sr., he was elected lst V.P. and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Texas TTA. Earlier, at Fort Worth, Sylvion Kivlin had become, with Men’s Singles winner Jack Lee, the first Texas State Champion (TTT, Oct., 1938, 14). Sam Kivlin (Sylvion’s husband?) took the Men’s title at the San Antonio Y Open, where the winner of the Women’s was Marjory Willcox, who 40 years later would still be a recognizable name in Topics.
There were no Texans among the leaders at the halfway point in the Hammond Cup race, but the Northwest had two players among the top 10--teenage rivals Hal Philan and Ray Pearson. At the first Northwest "major" of the season, the Pacific Northwest Open at Vancouver, Philan rallied to upset Defending Champ Pearson in 5. But in the Feb. Western Canada Open at Vancouver, Ray beat Hal easily. Then at the Mar. 1-4 Pacific Coast Open in Portland, Ray defeated Hal in 5. Semifinalist Walter Judd lost to Philan in 4, as in Nov. he’d lost to Pearson in 4 in the final of the Seattle City Championships. Also at this PC Open, Portland’s Mayo Rolph was back on the scene with a 3-0 win over Barbara McKay. And George Couch, who’d won the first A. G. Spalding Co.-sponsored Portland City Championship over Don Vaughan in ‘32, returned as runner-up in the Veteran’s to Fred LaMear. Vaughan, despite his current USTTA E.C. and Education Chair duties, was still going strong as a player, split two tournament finals with Philan--beat him to win the Portland City Championship, lost to him in the Oregon Open.
Bellis and Fuller Take Eastern’s
For most of the country’s serious-minded competitors--many of the Californians, however, didn’t seem to be playing (even though Russ and Spark Magnus advertised in Topics, there was never a word from their Hollywood Courts on N. Vermont Ave.)--the two "majors" of the moment leading up to the March National’s were the Feb. 4-5 Eastern’s in Baltimore and the Western’s that followed two weeks later in Omaha.
In early round matches at the Alcazar Gym in the Knights of Columbus Building, Eastern Tournament Director Manny Moskowitz finally packed away his papers and portable to stagger through a 19 in the 5th 1st round win over Sanford Luftig of N.Y.; Ham Canning, down but not out, -21, -21, 19, 12, 15 finally got up and stayed up against New Yorker Julian Kremsdorf; and Elias Schuman -21, -21, 18, 17, 19 won by a heartbeat from Paul Capelle. But the match Violet Smolens writing in Topics made much of was D.C. unknown Bob Lee’s second round 4-game upset of Brooklyn’s Mel Rose. "Lee wearing walking shoes and a dark blue turtle-necked sweater with long sleeves, and using an unorthodox grip, battered his way through Rose without giving the latter a chance to play his own game, and furnished the comedy relief of the tournament" (Feb., 1939, 8, and 10). So unknown was this Lee that, though he’s listed in the Program as "Jack" Lee, Topics lists him merely as "R." (for Robert?) Lee. Nor can others decide what to make of him, for a local reporter has Newark’s "M" (for Bill) Cross a winner over B. Lee in 5, then advances the two of them until Lee is apparently really stopped 20, 17, 21 by Les Lowry. Moskowitz, who lost to Schiff in the 3rd round, beat "Bob Lee," 19, 22, -18, 24--but that was later, in the final of the Maryland Closed.
In the quarter’s, Lowry had -15, 20, 18, 21 trouble with Schuman, while on-the-move defender Izzy Bellis was--Danger, thin ice!--down -11, -19, 12, 14, 14 before sliding gracefully away from Stan Fields, now no longer managing the D.C. Earle Club but the (14-table, asphalt-tile floor) Ice Palace courts (TTT, Feb., 1939, 6, 12, and 23). In the semi’s, Bernie Grimes was straight-game too strong for Lowry; and Bellis, "with his newly acquired drive and perfect defense," outsteadied Schiff in 4. When then Izzy downed Bernie 19 in the 4th in the "grimly contested" final, he began to earn consideration for himself as the #1 seed in the upcoming National’s. All this--and a 1938 Junior Davis Cupper too! (TTT, Oct., 1938, 19).
The only early round match in the Women’s that surprised anyone was Molly Kareivis’s (down 2-0) spirited but losing 5-game fight with 2nd seed Halliday. Then in the quarter’s, Wilkinson fell 2-0 behind Brewer and, though she rallied, lost in 5. In the one semi’s, Clouther did well to take a deuce game from Fuller, and in the other Brewer did even better to defeat Halliday in a deuce in the 5th thriller. "Miss Halliday was obviously not on her game," said Topics (Feb., 1939, 10), but Brewer had also beaten Dot in the Massachusetts Open at the beginning of the season. In the final against Fuller, after Ruthe lost the first game at deuce, even her father had to admit she could no longer contest the match. For winning, Emily was awarded a nice cup and tray set--but without the four cups, for the committee person in charge forgot to bring them (TTT, Feb., 1939, 13). Someone also "forgot to leave an opening in the [court] barricades which were unusually high (bad for the gals)." Ardent archer Frank Yetter, Chair of the USTTA’s newly formed Referees and Umpires Committee (TTT, Nov., 1938, 12), and targeted by mellow Cupid to marry one of his early t.t. pupils in April, "escaped lynching when he rescinded his order to default Dorothy Halliday in the Mixed Doubles." The Topics write-up did say, "Spectator interest" here in Dorothy’s hometown "was intense" (Feb., 1939, 13).
Nash and Helen Baldwin Western Champs
A week before the Western’s, Omaha’s Brandeis Department Store had a "clever table tennis window display" with stylish mannikin players, cups, statuettes, a miniature table top, and varying circle motifs to spotlight the tournament (TTT, June, 1939, 19). Very classy. In Hendry’s absence, it was no surprise that Price and Nash battled it out in the Men’s final. "Nash was at the top of his form" and triumphed over "the ash blond boy with the classic profile" in 5 (TTT, Mar., 1939, 13). Milwaukee’s Don MacCrossen and Duane Maule won the Men’s Doubles over the Twin Cities’ two Eds--Litman and Sirmai. And Price and Wilkinson won the Mixed.
Quite unexpectedly, though, Mildred was upset, deuce in the 5th, in the Women’s final by former penholder Helen Baldwin, unranked nationally, but a winner in both the Dec. Nebraska Open at Omaha and the Jan. Burlington, Iowa Tri State Open. Anyway, Wilkinson looked good--dressed well. Reba Kirson said Mildred had "the greatest variety of playing costumes" of any of the women players. "To go with black-and-white checked slacks made by herself, she can select a shirt for almost any mood from her collection of 14, some knit, some silk jersey--blues, purples, pinks, yellows, greens, aquas, blacks, navys, reds" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 8). Here against Baldwin’s "cool, crafty game"--Helen, knowing Mildred was "unbeatable" if given the opportunity to take the offense at will, consistently kept the ball to her backhand (TTT, Mar., 1939, 13)--it was as if, though Wilkinson could find the right matching outfit, she couldn’t find the variety of shot selection she needed to unsteady her very persistent opponent.
First Annual East vs. West Men’s Matches
After these East/West "majors," but before the Mar. 17-19 National’s, USTTA officials were all too mindful that this year’s fiasco of an Inter-cities (a "lack of cooperation" was the Philly viewpoint) had prevented the best players from the Midwest from competing against the best players from the East, thus causing Ranking problems. So they decided to take to heart Sandor Glancz’s suggestion of a three-man round robin East vs. West Match to be played at New York City’s Hippodrome Mar. 9. Metro TTA President Kauderer, however, was quite put out by this decision. This event should never have been sanctioned by the USTTA, he argued in his Aug. 25, 1939 letter to Clouther, for, against USTTA assurances that the MTTA had jurisdiction in the New York City area, "the East West matches were moved up a day ahead of the [Mar. 10-12 scheduled] New York State ‘Open’ forcing the abandonment of this tournament and a financial loss to the sponsor who had planned for it."
Kauderer’s protest went unheeded, and USTTA Tournament Chair Urban R. Lamay selected the East Team (Schiff, Bellis, Grimes), and USTTA Ranking Chair Elmer Cinnater selected the West Team (McClure, Hendry, Nash). All players would be reimbursed for their travel expenses and given hospitality. Somebody should also have thought of outfitting Team members with matching shirts. Of course the NYTTA men in charge were not to Kauderer’s liking. The M.C.? Herbert W.Allen. The officials? R.D. Ackerman, Hartigan, Schein, and Bill Gunn.
But Kauderer’s objections to these matches were mild compared to the verbal venom that columnist Bob Considine would squirt forth:
"TABLE TENNIS...reaches a titanic peak of trivia tonight at the fly-blown Hippodrome, when the leading figures in this swishy business bare fangs at one another in what they call the annual East-West matches.
They used to call it ping-pong when I was a simple child, but in the past five years the table tennists have banded together--perhaps for protection--created an association that now has even a house organ; drafted a constitution; and had a nasty scandal or two.
Out of it has come a covey of players who, in their screwy business, are known around the world...." (RAS 106)
You think maybe I’ve misquoted, that no cosmopolitan New York sportswriter could assume he speaks for his readers when he does so in such a hateful way? Well, compare these anti-gay Considine lines with what this ‘38-39 season’s Colorado Closed Champion, L. Delford Fedderman, has to say: "When I went to Denver, table tennis was considered a game that sissies played in New York. Now there are a 1,000 tables in Denver....Sports writers had better sharpen up on the game" (TTT, Jan., 1939, 10, and May, 1939, 18).
While this 1st annual East/West Match was being properly hyped, the intervening Feb. 12 Pennsylvania Open at Reading and the week-long Feb. 27-Mar. 4 Philadelphia City Closed were held. Perhaps the most dramatic match of the entire tournament at Reading was the George and Leo Schein-mentored 92nd St. Y Boys’ final, as it were, where, as in the N.Y. State and Metro Championships, Roy Weissman, a very promising pupil at N.Y.’s select Townsend-Harris High, again lost to Eddie Pinner--here 19 in the 5th. In the Women’s, Halliday was spared another meeting with Brewer, for Ruthe was upset in the semi’s 3-0 by Reba Kirson who then lost in straight games to Dorothy. In the Men’s, Schiff redeemed himself for recent losses and so pronounced himself ready for the upcoming East/West Match. This time when he played Schmidt and won the first two, he didn’t let him out, beat him in straight games; while in the other semi’s Bellis 18, 19, -19, 20 held on against the lanky Sussman, whom Reba Kirson said reminded her of Blattner and had the "cleanest" strokes she’d ever seen (TTT, Feb., 1939, 8). In the final, Schiff avenged his Eastern’s loss, beat Bellis 18 in the 4th.
In the Philadelphia City Championships, Reba Kirson’s 3-0 victory over Matilda Plaskow in the final of the Women’s couldn’t be considered unexpected. But Mo Glatt the winner in the Men’s? Yes, indeed. He beat Dan Kreer in the final, Gus Wolov in the semi’s, and Abbott Nelson in the quarter’s. Izzy Bellis, everyone’s favorite--well, maybe not everyone’s--was -13, 19, 18 ousted early by Wolov.
It was thought that not Schiff’s matches in the East vs. West event but Bellis’s would be key, because "the Western players show their best against a defensive player." And Izzy did come through, won all three in the deciding 3rd--the last against McClure with the tie 4-4 and the score 19-all in the 3rd! "The strain’s on the other guy when you attack at the end," Jimmy once told me. "Because the guy’s in a defensive mood, you don’t have to hit all out." But maybe at this moment in time Jimmy should have been as "tense" as the rest of the players were--or at least as Glancz, speaking critically, thought they were. Sandor, writing up the event for Topics (Apr., 1939, 7) singled out not Bellis but the 22-year-old ("oldtimer") McClure for praise--said, after he’d beaten Grimes then Schiff (19 in the 3rd), that he’s "been our most colorful player for years, but this year he seems to have a steadier and a better attacking game." Nash, too, had wins over Schiff and Grimes (Bernie was a "victim of his poor tournament temperament" said Glancz, as if, like his famous Rainbow Room partner Ruth Aarons, he, too, would take "a perfect temperament" to "a perfect all-round game"). But Hendry uncharacteristically just couldn’t help the West at all. Described earlier in Topics as "the steadiest and most reliable player in the country" (Mar., 1939, 4), he’d come to New York only a few days after losing a semi’s match in the Missouri Valley to Price, 24-22 in the 5th (stopping momentarily in the last game to repair his accidentally damaged bat). Here at the Hippodrome, a week before the National’s, he was beaten by all three East players, including Bellis in an expedited match.
*Reba Kirson quote--in TTT, Nov., 1938, 12. See TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1975, 4B (Lawrence obit by Reba Kirson Monness): "John Morgan bought the place [1721 Broadway Courts] from Bernie Joel....Morgan later was partners with Davida Hawthorn. Lawrence, initially, was another player there when Bernie Joel ran the club....[Later] Lawrence was allowed to own the place." So, when Reba speaks of "Lawrence’s Broadway TTC" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 18), he must run but not yet own the place. John Kauderer in his Aug. 25, 1939 letter to Jim Clouther, said that "Joel has not been around for 1 1/2 years. He attended the meeting of the MTTA in October 1938 but has not been seen since that date or for six months before that date. He got into trouble financially." So that would suggest Joel’s need to sell the Broadway Courts...and thereafter the need for someone to run the place. Enter Lawrence, for surely Morgan wasn’t going to spend all his time there. Reba said (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1975, 4B) that when she met Morgan at the Courts, "he was a nice elderly man, a successful, renowned commercial artist, whose illustrative painting of movie stars adorned all the billboards of famous motion-picture houses on Broadway. John was an avid player and seemingly a good friend of H. Lawrence."
**For "Jimmy McClure’s TTC," see TTT, Jan., 1939, 11; Mar., 1939, 17; and June, 1939, 24. See TTT, Feb., 1939, 21 for "Greene" as Manager before the Club’s move to the Meridian-Life Building (as Bob explained to me, he’d always "just let go" the usual misspelling of his name). For reference to the "Test" Building, see TTT, Oct., 1938, 21 (and the "Teat" misspelling), and for Green as Manager after the move to the Meridian-Life Building, TTT, Mar., 1939, 26. McClure told me that, though he had the Club on Virginia Ave., he wanted "to reduce the competition" and so bought into Schuyler Blue’s Club. For the last listing of Green as Manager of Meridian Life Paddle Club, see TTT, June, 1939, 25. Then note (TTT, Oct., 1939, 29) that the only Indianapolis club now advertised in "Places To Play" is the club on Virginia Ave. managed by McClure. Earl Coulson later became the Instructor there (TTT, Oct., 1940, 21). Green told me that Harry Sage’s uncle needed him to manage the club in Columbus, Ohio and that he went there and stayed 12 years. See TTT, Nov., 1941, 23 for first listing of Green as the Manager of the Columbus T.T. Center at 2815 North High.
***See Jan., 1939, 11 (for "the Y’s new place"), and the 1995 South Bend North American Program, 39. At the Y there was a main room--and then because of the increased play, a small additional room, "adjoining the main one," called "The Hatchery." This, I take it, is "the Y’s new place"? The Program shows the South Bend Club, about 1942, as being in the basement of the Y. Gordon Barclay (in a Jan. 14, 1981 South Bend Tribune article by Bill Moor) said that about this time there were "five tables...downstairs."
***See TTT, Oct., 1938, 12; Mar., 1942, 12; and Oct., 1946, 3.