1939: August-September Tournaments Herald the Coming ‘39-40 Season; Schiff a Double Winner in the Early Fall. 1939: Hazis, Fuller, Barna, and Bellak On Tour. 1939: Penn’s Bellis and Sarner Take Intercollegiate Team’s. 1939: New York Wins Their 8th Intercity Championship.
As we saw in the first (1928-1939) volume of this History, the USTTA considers its playing season as lasting from roughly mid-September through the early-Spring National’s. This means that, unless an unusual exception is made, not a single result of the many, often strikingly contested Spring and Summer tournaments count either for the National Rankings or for the Hammond (Men’s) and Wilkinson (Women’s) Cup races (in which points are awarded and graded according to the importance of the tournament and one’s performance in it). Since this 6-month hiatus seems ridiculous to me, I’d gone on, after covering the 1939 National’s, to report on a number of post-season April/May tournaments. Now, in this second (1939-1952) volume, I’ll begin by noting some significant summer tournaments that preceded the 1939-40 season proper.
Pinner, Magda Hazi Win at Provincetown
The 7th annual Provincetown, MA Summer Open, held Aug. 4-5 at the Town Hall, might be said, at least for the vacation-minded Easterners, to have unofficially opened the 1939-40 season—with "unseeded and unsung" Eddie Pinner, ranked #12 in N.Y., taking the unique Anton Van Derek-designed (fish-shaped) Silver Cod trophy. In the final played by the five advancees in this unusual Quiniela format (modified round robin—winner of each match stays at the one table in play until someone has accumulated five victories), the 15-year-old Pinner, after he’d been hard-pressed in the pre-lims by U.S. #22 Ham Canning, upset both U.S. #12 Charlie Schmidt and the visiting world-class Hungarian, Tibor Hazi, who’d been runner-up to Jimmy McClure in our March U.S. Open. Magda Gal Hazi, Tibor’s wife and the 1935 World Singles finalist, won the Women’s 28-entry, single elimination event, without dropping a game. She thus avenged her loss in last May’s Connecticut Open to Ruthe Brewer, U.S. #3, who in the semi’s here stopped two-time winner Mae Clouther’s bid to retire the Bronze Dolphin trophy (TTT, Oct., 1939, 13).
Cook, Brewer Take Canadian’s, But U.S. Suffers Its First Loss in Team’s to Canada
Four weeks later, at another vacation spot, the Canadian National Exhibition tournament in Toronto, Brewer successfully defended her Women’s title by downing Columbus, Ohio’s Mrs. Norma Hieronymus Studer, 19 in the 4th. New Yorker Harry Cook, about to be Stan Fields’ assistant at the Washington, D.C. Ice Palace Club—the exhibitions the two put on were "the best" said Topics columnist Reba Kirson—had an easy time in the Men’s, winning in straight games both in the semi’s over Montreal’s J. J. Desjardins, and in the final over Detroit’s unranked Charles Bernstein (who’ll soon change his name to Chuck Burns).
Bernstein, a relative unknown, had a sports background. As he later told a reporter, he’d "captained the Northeastern YMCA basketball team for two years," and he’d also "played one season in Class C of the Detroit Baseball Federation," where he had a .600 batting average. Sliding into base one day, he hurt his leg, and had to find another outlet for his gutsy go-get-‘em hustle.
In other CNE matches, Cook and Brewer won the Mixed in 5 over Montreal’s Pierre Chapdelaine and Ohio’s fast-improving Leah Thall (later 9-time U.S. Women’s Champion Leah Neuberger). And Chapdelaine and Desjardins beat 1937 CNE Singles and Doubles Champ V. Lee Webb and fellow Detroiter Max Hersh to take the Men’s Doubles.
In the supposedly climactic 5th International Team Championship, the U.S. fell for the first time to Canada—and in humiliating 6-0 fashion. Actually, this one-sided Match was really U.S. vs. Montreal, for no local Toronto player was deemed worthy enough to represent his country. At least not in that Small Judging Ring, the venue that for decades to come would be used, on those dignified days that table tennis wasn’t scheduled there, to award sight, sound, and smell prizes to the Fair-beribboned animals. Chapdelaine, who’d lost to Bernstein in the Singles, downed Detroit’s U.S. #24 Harvey Davis, then squeaked by the Ohio #1, Cal Fuhrman, deuce in the deciding 3rd. Desjardins hit through Cook (whom he’d lost to 3-zip in the Singles), then annihilated Davis. Leo Rosenzweig capped the Canadian attack with wins over Fuhrman and (an I don’t much care?) Cook.
After the matches, Fuhrman wrote this critique of the tournament:
"...The Canadians were wonderfully hospitable and we had a very enjoyable time. However playing conditions were far from good (very slow tables were the main flaw) and the rules, besides differing from ours, were very indefinite. The anti-pushing rule during one of the U.S.-Canada international matches was changed no less than four times while the match was in progress and was finally finished under protest from the U.S. player and team captain [Fuhrman himself?]. But I’m pleased to say that excellent sportsmanship was in evidence from both sides and in spite of differences of opinion, a spirit of goodwill prevailed. Our USTTA should be criticized, however, for not making proper arrangements for the Gimbel International Trophy team competition well in advance. For instance, mutually agreeable rules were not made before the match started; and the U.S. team did not have uniforms, in contrast with the nattily attired Canadians" (TTT, Oct., 1939, 20).
After Fuhrman’s swipe at USTTA officialdom, he goes on to note an "amusing" incident that occurred at this tournament:
Schiff Strong in Brooklyn and Providence Tournaments
"While Gar Gomon of Detroit was engaged in a hectic doubles duel...one of the spectators hurled vegetables at him! I am willing to testify that the aim was accurate, too. Such incidents are common at wrestling matches but I believe my friend Gar is the first American table tennis player to be so honored."
Last year’s CNE Singles winner, Sol Schiff, didn’t come to Toronto this year, but in late September, at the Metro Club on Flatbush Ave., Sol won the Brooklyn Closed. In the quarter’s, he eased by the "dangerous" Pinner, then "exhausted" Schmidt, 18 in the 5th, and in the 5-game final attacked the "panther-like" Bernie Grimes, driving him repeatedly "to the back-court and sidelines of the 50 x 80 foot arena." Grimes had beaten Abe Berenbaum, one of the best U.S. players of the last decade who was still playing competitively, and had then trailed Cy Sussman, 1936 U.S. Boys’ Champion, before -17, 21, -16, 19, 13 prevailing. Earlier, Sussman had upset Lou Pagliaro, 19 in the 5th—"one explanation" being that Paggy, who began the summer by winning both the New York Master’s Invitational and the Connecticut Open, "had not thawed out from a ride in a rumble seat" (TTT, Nov., 1939, 16). The left-handed Schiff, teaming with his exhibition partner, Doug Cartland—from time to time literally pushing him out of the way, for Doug was a lefty too—also won the Doubles from Pinner and Sussman, soon to be, in both pre and post-War years, the most recognized doubles pair in America.
Sol didn’t win the Oct. 19-20 Manhattan Open—lost in the semi’s to Cartland, who then went on, after being down 2-0, to take Grimes in the final. However, Sol did score a 1st in Director Hugo Merk’s Nov. 4-5 Southern New England Open at Providence. He again beat Pinner 3-0 in the quarter’s, again knocked out Schmidt in the semi’s, this time in straight games, and so reached the final, where he was again threatened.
Not, however, by the absent Grimes, who would be lauded by Topics’ "Sidelines" columnist George Koehnke (pronounced Konk-e) for the nice job he’d done in that vari-colored "Camel cigarette advertisement in the Sunday newspaper supplements in which he gave tips to beginners" (TTT, Jan., 1940, 11). In the last of nine panels, Bernie, relaxing with a cigarette after his two-panel workout, explains to a pretty girl that Camels are "milder"—presumably because, as the ad emphasizes, under "the searching tests of impartial laboratory scientists," slow-burning Camels were found "to contain MORE TOBACCO BY WEIGHT" and thus "give smokers the equivalent of 5 EXTRA SMOKES PER PACK!" Bernie must be smoking a lot, for he was said to be having "sleepless nights because of his mother’s illness," and was so "off form" as to not make this year’s N.Y. Intercity Team (TTT, Dec., 1939, 12).
Here at Providence it was not Grimes but U.S. #13 Les Lowry, runner-up in May’s first–ever Connecticut Open to Pagliaro, who extended Sol—25-23 in the 4th. Surprisingly, in the Doubles, the Schiff duo, especially since this time Sol was partnered by unranked Dick Geiger, again got the better of Pinner and Sussman (TTT, Dec., 1939, 17).
Hazis on September-October Tour
The Hazis didn’t play in Toronto, New York, or Providence. Faced with an uncertain future after their March arrival from Hungary on visas of limited duration, they started Touring. First—with the legendary Hungarian Victor Barna and U.S. Women’s Champ Emily Fuller—in the Northeast, beginning at Hartford, Sept. 26. Then, continuing on, playing against good local competition—Rhode Island State Champ Tony Fionte, for example, at Providence, and the promising 16-year-old Frank Dwelly at Cambridge. And ending (where back in late July Hungarian churches and societies had arranged a "Hungarian Day" of exhibitions by the Hazis and Gene and Vi Smolens) at Philadelphia on Oct. 13. Topics (Nov., 1939, 16) reported some unusual dramatics at this final "City of Brotherly Love" engagement:
"BARNA BEATEN, BELLIS BOOED
The first defeat met by 5-times World Champion Victor Barna in America, in 5 years of playing here, was administered to him in Philadelphia by Izzy Bellis, U.S. No. 3 player, on Friday, Oct. 13, in what was supposed to be an exhibition. After the first game it developed into a dog-eat-dog battle, in which the famed Barna flick finally succumbed to the poisonous Bellis chop, 2-1. Barna’s Hungarian compatriot, Tibor Hazi, thereupon challenged the Philadelphia star, and his attack likewise was muted, 2-1, after he had held impressive leads. However, Bellis’ double victory was Pyrrhic, as his own hometown fans applauded the sensational hard-hitting game of Hazi and booed Bellis for his monotonous defensive play. They even hurled a shower of programs into the arena—just like baseball fans—to indicate their disgust with ‘chiseling’ tactics. The finale, a marvelous exhibition by Barna and Hazi, was what the cash customers wanted."
Bellis, who, with his brother Leon, had just opened the 10-table Arcade Club on Chestnut St. in Philly, later defended his "defensive tactics," said he didn’t know the matches were supposed to be exhibitions, and therefore he played to win. But this defense was greeted with much scepticism (TTT, Dec., 1939, 12). As we saw in Vol. I, Bellis apparently always was one to work angularly. Schiff thought that Izzy was a very sharp kid, that he’d been older in his age-group competitive play than he’d professed to be, and later was not surprised that he’d become a lawyer.
Hazis’ Midwest Fall Exhibition/Education Tour
By late October the Hazis had taken out their first U.S. citizenship papers and had struck out on their own. Kansas City foils included U.S. #30 Dr. Herman Mercer and Women’s City Champion Mrs. Dorothy Joseph Benson, both of whom would win the following month’s Greater K.C. Fall Closed, and Frank "Bud" Miller, K.C.’s #3. A Hazi exhibition here so impressed S.R. Hukle, a gym instructor at Wyandotte High School, that he promptly organized some boys’ tournaments and an inter-school match.* Perhaps Hazi, who always took care to look his best on court, was himself impressed that Kansas City league play required players to wear "gray flannel trousers" with a special "sewed-in crease" (TTT, Oct., 1939, 21).
At Omaha, where the venues varied from a hotel ballroom to a high school gym, local lights Virginia Perkins and Joe Camero (who come Feb. would retain his Kansas Open title against Mercer) took their best shot...or tried to. Although Minneapolis would see Tibor and Magda playing in such diverse places as the Federal Reserve Bank and the Marigold Bar, no venue on their Tour could match the one at this Omaha stop where they played at the halftime of a football game between Creighton and St. Louis Universities. "A strong wind prevented...table tennis at its best, but the [12,000] fans appreciated the innovation, which was broadcast by radio" (TTT, Dec., 1939, 10).
For their week’s stay in Milwaukee, the Hazis might be seen offering instruction at Dayton’s sporting goods store, or, through the efforts of the Department of Municipal Recreation, coaching and giving exhibitions at the Wisconsin Ave. Social Center (regular admission 25 cents, but the Senior Optimist Club planned to "treat" the Junior Optimists by cutting 10 cents off, so the kids would only have to pay 15 cents admission).
Milwaukee Journal sports editor R. G. Lynch wrote that, during the Hazis’ Nov. 13 exhibition, Wisconsin State Champ Don MacCrossen, Tibor’s "long, lean opponent, was as hot as an old-fashioned stove lid on washday"—at least for one game. Earlier, Tibor had teamed with Milwaukee’s #2, Bud Carson, to defeat the Western Open Doubles Champs, MacCrossen (who would later beat Hazi in 5 in a return exhibition match) and Duane Maule. Of course Magda came through—bested Women’s State Champ Shirley Carson with ease. Afterwards, the Hazis were guests at a dinner given in their honor by the Milwaukee Hungarian Athletic Club (T/MHS, 25-26).
At Toledo, with the help of Larry Minneker, soon to be the Ohio TTA Governor (that is, President), upscale venues were the University of Toledo and the Heather Downs Country Club. This Country Club was where the 72-member Toledo TTC regularly played—on 7 Detroiter tables, with "750 watts of illumination above each table," and with access to the "dining room and cocktail room, operated by the [ t.t.] club as part of its social program." Topics reported (Dec., 1939, 12) that "Tibor and Magda won the hearts of Northwestern Ohio players with the hard work and long hours they put in [in their coaching clinics]."
After his Northeast Tour with the Hazis, Barna later teamed up for a 6-weeks U.S. Tour—Rochester, N.Y....Chicago...Omaha...Denver...Houston...Portland, OR—and, after the Christmas/New Year holidays, an additional two weeks in Canada—Vancouver… Calgary…Edmonton—with Hungarian 3-time World finalist, Laszlo "Laci" Bellak, the ‘37 and ‘38 U.S. Open Singles Champ and with Hazi the current U.S. Open Doubles holder. Portland, I might add, is where for a year or two at this time Bellak, selling equipment out of the Mead Building, called home, and where (coincidentally?), on Sept. 30, according to Oregonians, the "BEST EQUIPPED T.T. Club in America" opened.
Originally, Bellak wanted to tour here with 1937 and 1939 World Singles Champion Richard Bergmann, but Bergmann—who’d learned the game as a boy in Vienna under the Austrian Coach, Paul Flussman—couldn’t leave London, where he’d immigrated to, because of the War. As you’d expect, tournament table tennis was seriously curtailed in England. According to Bill Pope, Honorary General Secretary of the English Association, the ETTA was maintaining "merely a skeletal organization," especially since in wartime the danger of air raids forbade any large gathering of players and officials (TTT, Jan., 1940, 14). This was a wise move, for, though during the blitz diehards might be playing table tennis with friends in the cellars of homes in and around London, the High Holborn St. Headquarters of the ETTA was hit with a bomb blast and demolished and all Association records lost (TTT, Dec., 1940, 6).
Though Laci didn’t have the benefit, or the handicap, of sharing this Tour with the inveterate womanizer Bergmann, I’m reminded of a story he told me about the time he and Barna, after putting on a very successful exhibition, were guests at a private dinner party with the hostess sitting between them. Though of course both these very experienced internationalists spoke English with this woman, it no doubt added to their continental charm that they occasionally addressed one another in their native Hungarian. Such was the occasion when Laci, smiling, said to Victor, "You know this lady has a hand on my knee." To which Victor, also smiling, replied, "You know she has two hands."
In late Jan. Barna set sail for his adopted home, England, where he planned to put on exhibitions for British soldiers. He and Bellak’s strongest competition on their U.S. Tour had been at Chicago’s Towers Club (formerly the Medinah Club) on Dec. 3, before Illinois TTA President James. J. Leahy and 1200 spectators. Earlier, in pre-season warm-up play at the 4-team Midwest Intercities, the formidable Chicago team of U.S. #10 Billy Holzrichter, U.S. #14 Bob Anderson, U.S. #19 Al Nordhem, and U.S. #23 Paul Popple had swept Detroit, South Bend, and Toledo players, winning 26 out of 27 matches.
Now, at this Chicago Tour stop, U.S. #11, Illinois Open Champ Ralph Muchow and veteran Herbert "Chubby" Aronson were part of the Exhibition (and, in place of Popple, would complete Chicago’s 5-man team in the upcoming mid-Dec. National Intercities). The ambidextrous Aronson, who sometimes stood at the ready gripping the racket with both hands, reportedly had a firm make him one with two handles. If he really played matches with this, it must have been damn disconcerting to an opponent to see him hit the ball with one of the racket-handles jutting out. Also joining the Barna/Bellak Program here were Chicago’s #1 woman player, Mildred Wilkinson (who in those Aug. Intercities had lost only to South Bend’s undefeated Betty Henry), and the retired but momentarily resurrected Jay Purves, a mainstay of the U.S. Women’s Team that in 1937 had won the Corbillon Cup.
University of Pennsylvania’s Bellis and Sarner Intercollegiate Champs
The same weekend that 17-year-old Billy Holzrichter and his Chicago team were playing host to the traveling Hungarians, collegians from 14 schools, including for the first time, Navy, Pitt, Virginia, and Dartmouth, were playing for the prestigious Thomas C. Bradley Trophy in the 3rd National Intercollegiate Championships at Princeton. U.S. #3 Izzy Bellis and U.S. #31 Len Sarner, winners in ‘37-38, but losers in ‘38-39, regained the title. In the final four-team round robin that followed the format of four singles and one doubles, they beat George and Don Hendry, representing Culver-Stockton Military Academy, in a taut 3-2 match-up. Don lost his two singles as expected, but teamed with brother George, who’d won his two, to force the doubles to a 19-in-the-3rd climax.
Defending Champion Princeton again fielded U.S. #15 Dan Kreer, but their #2 man, Abbott Nelson, who’d upset Kreer to win the Nov. Greater Newark Closed, "had been declared ineligible by the University authorities two weeks previously." As a result, Princeton could not even come second, falling to the runner-up Hendry brothers. George, who’d lost that memorable 28-26 in the 5th match against Barna at the ‘38 Wembley World’s, had recovered from his July appendectomy and, with a 19, 19 win over Bellis, was undefeated and so earned the Outstanding Player Award (TTT, Jan., 1940, 9, 15). Two weeks later though, in a friendly touch-football scrimmage, George broke two bones in his racket-holding hand—and until they mended could only be an Outstanding Spectator.
New York Wins Intercities for the 8th Time
New York is the Intercity winner again, yes--but, wow, what a difference from that disappointing Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 1939 5-team (Eastern teams only) Intercities in Philadelphia. This time, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Boston, and Detroit, all absent last winter when the customary hotel-and-meal hospitality wasn’t offered, brought renewed vigor to the tournament. And what a start! Midway up Philadelphia’s City Hall building, a large electric sign blazoned, "WELCOME NATIONAL TABLE TENNIS STARS"—and welcomed they were by the Mayor himself.
Too bad that the customary limited number of tables made for limited playing time, and that only 7 teams could be accommodated (all selected by the Ranking Committee this year, without the usual opportunity for Regional Play-offs). So, anyone uninvited had to play where he could. Milwaukee’s MacCrossen spent this Dec. 16-17 weekend at Louisville, winning the Southern Open—both Singles and (with Maule) Doubles. One of his victims was Bernie Hock, who’d been a 5-game runner-up to Owsley Harper at the Falls Cities there in early Nov., and who’ll become legendary as a New Albany, IN bat-maker. Mac had also played well in the Dec. 2-3 Missouri Open, extending U.S. #7 Bill Price to 5. Earlier, Price had won the St. Louis Membership Tournament over Herman Brodski, who’d eliminated the 1935 National finalist, Mark Schlude, making a surprise appearance after a long absence. Mark, a.k.a. Mark Stevens when recently on Tour with Coleman Clark, had opened a dancing school (see the first, Nov., 1939 issue of the Illinois TTA "Table Tennis News," 2).
Uninvited teams with players who’d participated in the past—Ohio, for instance, with their U.S. #20 Fuhrman, their U.S. #28 Sam Shannon (who in the spring would be surprised in the Cleveland Closed by Dick Stone), or New Jersey with Kreer, Nelson, and Bill Cross, the Essex County Closed Champ—might have provided some interesting competition.
Washington could have fielded a team with or without CNE winner Cook, perhaps still incapacitated from a minor nose operation, but one that would have included the present D.C. #1 Stan Fields and the former #1 Eli Schuman—but that team, which back in early Oct. had come 2nd to Philadelphia in a 6-team Eastern Intercities, wasn’t invited. Nor was (too-far-away?) Minnesota represented. Hard to tell what the Twin Cities men would do against tougher competition, but they had reason to be proud. Dave Krawetz had triumphed in the late Oct. 10,000 Lakes Open over Harry Lund, after Dave had taken out Ed Litman, and Harry had upset Ed Sirmai, who’d go on to win the Dec. Nebraska Open over Camero (humpbacked the more because of his job setting pins in a bowling alley?). Seattle’s Closed Champion, U.S. #25 Ray Pearson, who’d made the long trip to the ‘38 National’s, might already have gotten his student "wings," completed his first solo as a beginning pilot, but of course one could hardly expect him to fly in his buddies for the weekend.
Certainly, though, there were teams that traveled to these National Intercities that didn’t have a chance to win, or even come second. Weakest, with 1-5 records, were Detroit (Hersh, 6-6; Webb, 3-10; Gomon, 2-4; Bernstein, 1-6) and Boston (Lowry, 8-5; Dwelly 6-8; and—well, they needed a third, didn’t they?—Frank Connor, 0-14). Also weak, in the unexpected absence of U.S. Champion Jimmy McClure, was the Indianapolis team (Earl Coulson, 8-6; Charles Tichenor, 3-4; Jimmy Shrout, 2-3; Ned Steele, 2-4, and Roger Downs, 1-8).
Question: Where was McClure, the advertised feature player of the weekend? It was said that no U.S. #1 had ever absented himself from the Intercities before. Answer: Out on a Tour with Sandor Glancz, adding insult to injury, playing exhibitions elsewhere in Pennsylvania—at Oil City on Friday and Uniontown on Saturday. An offense which prompted the PTTA to ask the USTTA to discipline McClure and Glancz "for violation of By-Law 8 in playing exhibitions in the state sans PTTA permission." A request that was pursued on paper by the newly appointed USTTA Executive Secretary Vic Rupp. As one can see from Rupp’s Jan. 3, 1940 letter to the USTTA Executive Committee and Board of Regents, Rupp himself feels that Jimmy is quite out of line and wants to stop other top exhibition players from following suit. Here’s a pertinent excerpt from his three-page, single-spaced letter, which not surprisingly illustrates his Official vs. Player point of view:
"...While it is true, as Jerry Woodruff [USTTA Recording Secretary and Exhibition Chair] points out, that the No. 1 ranking player has his best chance to make money the year he holds the title, nevertheless the selfishness of the players to gain financially at the expense of the association should certainly not be condoned. After all, as Carl [Zeisberg, former USTTA President and now one of the USTTA Regents] explains, the officials work hard to arrange events for the benefit of the players, and the players should certainly be sufficiently appreciative of the work done for them to take an active part in tournaments where the association will be apt to benefit. McClure says he is all for the game. I do not doubt this in the least. It is one thing to be for the game and another for the association. We all know that exhibitions help popularize the game but have little effect on increasing the number of USTTA members. In fact the players in exhibitions are the ones who benefit most; the local affiliate or sponsor next, and the USTTA gains only by the small Exhibition fee charged. The players must be taught that the association which helps make possible their opportunities to make money should receive consideration, and their selfish desire for profit should not be permitted to outweigh the loyalty they owe.
At the [Intercity] matches George Schein [USTTA Ranking Committeeman] informed me that he had received absolutely nothing up to that time for McClure’s ranking record for the current season. Jimmy himself wrote that he would not participate in the East-West matches if selected. This can indicate only one thing: that Jimmy feels absolutely no responsibility to the association or its progress. In the past it has been necessary to clamp down on various top-notch players because of their failure to cooperate. If McClure is permitted to run rife, increasing difficulty will be encountered in controlling players in the future. While the player deserves every consideration, he in turn must have some consideration for the association and its officials...."
Rupp suggests four changes in Exhibition By-Law 8. One, restrain tournament-enhancing players from arranging exhibitions that would prevent them from playing in major tournaments. This would also prevent an "unscrupulous exhibition team" from performing nearby while a major tournament was going on. Two, insure that the Exhibition team notify the USTTA Exhibition Chair of their itinerary (which McClure/Glancz did not do), so that he could refuse sanction of a conflicting tournament. Three, provide a "severe penalty for failure to apply for permission of the local affiliate to hold exhibitions in its territory" (Rupp says Pennsylvania TTA President Robert Metcalf had good cause to resent McClure/Glancz’s lack of consideration). And fourth, insist that, unless excused for good reason, top-ranked players must participate in major tournaments or forfeit their title. (What, though, does that mean? If someone doesn’t defend, the tournament will have a new winner, and the previous winner will obviously no longer hold the title, right? Is the previous winner’s win then to be purged from the record books—never again to be affixed to his name?)
Rupp also recommended that the USTTA take definite action against McClure for failure to cooperate.
So was McClure made a bad-boy example of? No. And why not? Perhaps because E.C. members were in awe when they’d heard that a Battle Creek, Michigan reporter had written that Jimmy and Sandor had "amused the crowd by hitting and returning the ball with the butt end of their pencils [sic: for paddles]"?
As it happened, the weak teams at these Intercities, including of course Indianapolis without McClure, provided much of the drama. Detroit beat Boston, 5-1, when both Gomon and Miami Valley Champ Webb upset Lowry, and Gomon swung a 27-25-in-the-3rd match his way against Dwelly.
But though Boston had the handicap of the hapless Connor, their 5-4 edge over Indianapolis could be sharp-penciled-in because Lowry scored twice (losing only to Central Indiana Open Champ Downs), and Lowry’s teenage teammate Dwelly downed Downs, Coulson, and Shrout.
The Indianapolis 5-4 win over Detroit came despite the fact that Steele—whom Topics (Apr., 1940, 20), quoting Red Smith of the Philadelphia Record, said, "makes his living winning jitterbug contests"—was perhaps a little too jumpy here, for he lost all three, to Hersh, Webb, and Bernstein. But Coulson countered by winning all three, and U. S. Boys’ Under 15 titleholder Tichenor, winner of the fall Dayton Open, added the necessary two, losing only to Hersh, MI #7 last year but just this past Nov. Indianapolis Open Champ over Shrout.
We’ll see later how Indianapolis (2-4) avoided a 3-way tie for last place with Boston and Detroit (both 1-5). But right now a brief word about Bernstein.
This same Dec. weekend as the Intercities, the Detroit News finished up its 4th annual Novice tournament, having attracted 16,000 players. Both Bernstein and current Detroit Closed Champ Hersh had been previous winners of this tournament (TTT, Jan., 1940, 12). Bernstein, as columnist Betty Stoll Angelo tells us in her Dec. 24, 1981 interview with him, had learned his table tennis at a Detroit Y, had graduated from Eastern High School, then, after attending Wayne State University for a couple of semesters, had just this year opened "Campus Table Tennis Courts" with the $400 he had saved from his "sales work of notions to Detroit businesses." Though Bernstein was having a tough time at these Intercities, within two years, as Chuck Burns, he’ll be a very steady and very fierce competitor.
Lester Perlmutter scored his only win of the weekend—against Bernstein—in St. Louis’s easy victory over Detroit. And though Bill Diller (1-10) would be badly battered, his 19, 19 win over Connor allowed St. Louis to sneak by Boston 5-4. That left it up to Garrett Nash (9-2) and Bill Price (9-6) to 5-4 do in Indianapolis—which they did, though Garrett lost to Coulson.
Last spring, at the March Missouri Valley Open, won by Nash over Price, Garrett, after defeating Downs in the semi’s, flopped himself down on a convenient couch to await the outcome of the other, strongly contested Price-Hendry semi’s. As Topics Associate Editor Wes Bishop tells it, Nash, "staring at the ceiling, began to amuse himself—and drive us nuts—by calling the type of shot, who was doing the hitting, the score, and the position of the player by the sound of the ball!" (Oct., 1939, 5). That Nash could drive others nuts would be apparent at these Intercities.
I’ll speak of New York and Chicago players in a moment, but the only close tie remaining was in fact a tie—between St. Louis and Philadelphia. A tie, that is, until with the score 2-2 and Nash and Bellis fighting it out—"bickering and arguing" as to what constituted chiseling and fingerspin—USTTA Referee & Umpires Chair Frank Yetter, as he details in his Feb. 1, 1940 letter to USTTA Disciplinary Chair Jack Hartigan, came into the court. First, to explain the chiseling rule, then, later, to officiate after umpire Richard Geiger "was forced to ask to be relieved" because of the players’ "ungentlemanly conduct." Or, as Topics put it, "after scenes reminiscent of a wrestling match that were called ‘sour’ by the Philadelphia ‘Inquirer’" (Jan., 1940, 8).
Since what followed will have significant repercussions, here (as Yetter explains in his letter to Hartigan, copies to 15 others), is apparently what happened:
"...When the score had reached ten all, in the first game, Nash was continually heckling the umpire and his opponent by asking how he could make this a chiseling match. Of course, as is his custom, he was continually asking advice from the gallery which in his vicinity was decidedly partisan and that vociferously so. After defining Expedite rule ‘A’ to the players and the umpire, I left the floor at which time Nash deliberately forced the chiseling rule...[by matching] Bellis’ defensive game....[Now] the Philadelphia faction in the gallery began to add its bit to...the actions of both players who were attempting to make a farce of the whole match...."
[Yetter takes over for Geiger, insists that "a player’s fingers or thumb may not touch the ball while being served," and says he manages to "quiet the most offensive players in the gallery by threatening to have them removed from the room." Then, after Nash wins the first game, Yetter says he "threatened to disqualify either player if his gallery continued to be noisy."
After Yetter had called the score 20-16 for Nash in the second game, "Nash made the sarcastic remark ‘That’s right for a change.’" Now, Bellis, serving, stopped his service motion "because he realized that his fingers were touching the ball," then quickly completed a legal serve, mumbling aloud "a half apology, half prayer."]
...As he [Bellis] tossed the ball into the air, Nash selected this moment for one of his caustic remarks...which could well have upset his opponent’s service. I decided at this moment...that both players had exceeded the warnings that had been given them and I called a let with the intention of defaulting both players for un-sportsmanlike conduct. While my throat was articulating the one word ‘let,’ Bellis’s serve had been returned by Nash [the local Inquirer said it had been ‘deliberately set up’ by Nash] and driven for an excellent placement by Bellis. This would, of course, have made the score 20-17 had I not called ‘let’....The ball, after being struck by Bellis, bounced high in the gallery among Nash’s friends and after Nash had had the ball returned to him, he stood leaning across the rail for a period of approximately 15 to 20 seconds conversing with the gallery.
Naturally, without a microphone, I did not care to announce the double default when Nash’s back was turned and while he was not listening. While I was awaiting Nash’s return, Bellis, without knowledge of my intention and because of Nash’s last remark and his present action with the gallery, picked up his sweater from under the table and announced to me his intention to default, giving me his reason that it was impossible to play under such conditions....[On Nash’s return to the table Yetter then "announced a double default."]
Yetter, noting that the "disgust of the paying spectators" was apparent, recommended to Hartigan "that disciplinary action be taken" against both men. After the players had left the court, Nash’s team (under, I believe, NPC Claude Camuzzi, himself a highly respected umpire) then defaulted the tie to Philadelphia. And though it was announced that St. Louis would also default to Indianapolis, records show they played and won that tie, and so—on losing to both New York and Chicago—finished 4th with a 3-3 record.
Indianapolis avoided a last-place tie with Boston and Detroit by beating Philadelphia with 5-1 ease—clearly because Bellis (10-1) didn’t play.
Against favored Chicago though, Izzy did play and with three big, bad wolfish breaths blew away the whole Windy City team, including a pay-back match with Holzrichter who’d had little regard for Bellis’s #1 seeding at the March National’s. As someone said, Izzy didn’t have a stiff chop, but he was fast and could run all day. It was U.S. #22 Ham Canning, manager of the Philadelphia TTC, even more though who came through for Philly by knocking off both U.S. #10 Holzrichter and U.S. #14 Anderson.
In the final tie, Chicago, the only team to compete in "a complete identical uniform," was no match for undefeated New York who turned up with a combination of the old and the new. Not only did Grimes, the Topics-advertised Instructor at the 16-table Duncan’s Club (2555 Broadway),** not make the N.Y. team, but Cartland, Oct. Manhattan Champ over Bernie and Schiff, had been absent from the N.Y. Tryouts, incapacitated with a bad back. As for Pagliaro, he’d married a neighbor friend, Josephine Modica (they’d lived in the same apartment building), and had moved to Washington, D.C. to manage the new B. R. English-owned Columbia Club, which, like his rival Fields’ Ice Palace, charged "probably the highest playing rates in the country" (80 cents an hour). Ranking Committee head Elmer Cinnater, re-elected St. Louis TTA President, said in a Dec. 5, 1939 letter to new USTTA Executive Secretary Vic Rupp, Chair of this Intercity event, that if he’d have known Pagliaro had moved to D.C. he would have considered a team from there before one from Boston.
But arriving in Philadelphia were other equally formidable N.Y. players. By bicycle—pedaling the 90 miles through the dark, wee hours of the morning—came Schiff. "Table tennis requires a great deal of running and to keep in shape for a tough match I try to build up my wind," Sol told local Evening Bulletin reporter Edward J. Magee. "Pedaling a bicycle strengthens the leg muscles and gives me that extra bit of stamina when the pressure is on" (GSS II, 88). And, sure enough, Sol had no trouble with Chicago’s best—posted a 7-1 record overall, losing only to Nash. Former U.S. Champion Abe Berenbaum (4-1) was 15, -24, -9 stubbornly beaten by Holzrichter’s two-winged attack, but contributed a win over Ralph Muchow. And, as Nov. Northern New England Open winner Charlie Schmidt (5-1, lost only to Bellis) and N. Y. Metro Champ Eddie Pinner (5-1, lost only to Lowry) watched from the sidelines, 17-year-old Cy Sussman (9-1, lost only to Nash) went on to take the Outstanding Player award by downing Muchow and Anderson. Bellis had a slightly better percentage record, 10-1, but, after falling to Sussman, and being, as usual, a problem to officials, he was certainly not going to win any award.
After the Nash/Bellis Intercity debacle, for which it appeared likely that the two players would be disciplined by the USTTA for their "un-sportsmanlike conduct," the Association instituted—what, in a Topics editorial, was called "one of the most important forward steps the organized game has taken"—a "Code of Fair Play," modeled on that of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. One of the many ideals suggested was that, in the absence of an umpire, "You yourself judge the ball that falls on your own side of the net, and your opponent makes the decisions when the ball falls on his side of the net. This is a trust which must not be abused under any circumstance." And if a miscall ("Wasn’t that a let serve?"...That ball hit, didn’t it?") cut a fellow to the quick, he was to apply the following antiseptic: "When you get a questionable decision, do not show your irritation. Accept all decisions in a sportsmanlike manner. This ability to ‘take it’ is a real test of your sportsmanship" (TTT, Feb., 1940, 2, 6).
Meanwhile, the Illinois TTA decided that after the Philadelphia fiasco they wouldn’t risk any similar disruption, and so cancelled the Jan. 7 Chicago Men’s East-West Matches. The reason? Because "un-sportsmanlike actions of high-ranking players, who do not appreciate officials’ efforts to promote the game, did not presage success for the event" (TTT, Jan., 1940).
Really, the thought was: officials and players must try for mutual respect. As the Code says, "If you are a sportsman you will treat your rival a little better than yourself."
*Topics (Oct., 1939, 6-7) points out that a number of high schools around the
country are running table tennis leagues, inter-scholastic matches, and tournaments. In Philadelphia, "Football Coach James Carter, of Southern High," is the President of the Public High School Table Tennis League. Their season divides into halves—for home-and-away play in the school gyms. "Each team consists of 9 players (3A, 3B, 3C), the A’s playing the opposing A’s a Swaythling Cup-like round robin, the B’s engaging the B’s so, the C’s opposing the C’s, and all the scores being lumped for the team total." In St. Louis, the William Cullen McBride High School has tournaments in class, then the class winners fight it out for the school title. In Kansas City, "the Ward and Wyandotte schools are friendly feudists"—with USTTA Education Chair Mrs. William Guilfoil’s son, Bill, playing and organizing matches.
Competitive play is also popular in Newark, N.J., New Albany, IN, Saginaw, MI, Galesburg, IL, and Minneapolis, MN—to name only those schools mentioned in the Topics article. Sometimes local stars emerge from such play. Last season, Jean Stuart Leighton not only won the Minneapolis High School Girls’ Championship, but also the Women’s Singles and (with Ed Sirmai) the Mixed Doubles at the Twin City Invitational. Most notable, though, in all this publicized teenage action is the fact that at York, PA’s Hannah Penn Junior High, "100 boys and girls compete in grade tournaments and all are USTTA members." But…members for how long?
**Club managers could list their Clubs in Topics under "Places to Play" at a cost of $3 for eight consecutive issues (said advertisement to be no more than five lines). Duncan’s Club was at the SW corner of Broadway and 96th—the almost identical site of Marty Reisman’s two later clubs. About forty blocks south, at 1721 Broadway, was the soon-to-become-legendary Broadway Courts known as "Lawrence’s" that would be managed by Herwald Lawrence. As the 1940’s began, Abe Berenbaum and Dan Klepak were listed as the Broadway Courts Instructors. At this time, too, the 12-table Fifth Ave. Courts (550 Fifth Ave.), managed by George Frank, was listed, as were three clubs in Brooklyn, one on Bedford, near the Eastern Parkway, the other two on Flatbush Ave. By March, New York MTTA President John Kauderer had seen to it that a club in the Bronx and two in Jamaica, Long Island were also included (see TTT, Jan., 1940, 20, and Mar., 1940, 19).