1946: Tournaments up to the Western’s. Price/ Leah Thall Win Western’s. 1946: Miles/McLean Take Eastern’s. 1946: Midwest Tournaments Prior to National’s. 1946: National’s go to Miles/Charney.
I don’t know what the Groundhog prediction was for 1946, but the Feb. 2-3 Boston Closed cast no shadow. For though it couldn’t have heralded "Pacific Olympics" Champ Lowry’s return, it did bear out Topics’ warm conviction that Servicemen were fast coming home. How else explain "Greater Boston’s first post-war tournament" and the accompanying line that, in the two events offered, "Returned vets dominated the play"?
Frank Dwelly, a "member of the famous 4th Marine Division," won the Singles—over Henry Steadman in the final. Dwelly, with Steadman, also took the Doubles in a 5-gamer from Bill Dwyer, "a former prisoner-of-war," and Bill Corcoran, "a Navy Medical Corpsman who saw much action at Iwo Jima" (TTT, Mar., 1946, 12). In the semi’s, these two had rallied to defeat Dwelly’s lifelong friend and later doubles partner Benny Hull, partnered here with Mae Clouther.
Down in sunny Miami Beach, in the Third Annual Greater Miami Open, held Feb. 10, Bill Litfin, formerly N.Y.C. Metro #13, won the Men’s. In the Doubles, Liftin teamed with Lou Glass, 1945 Singles quarterfinalist, to defeat, in the semi’s, Major Charles Shalloway/Sid Cohen (the Sid Cohen from Brooklyn who’ll be ranked U.S. #20 this year, who’s just down there relaxing?) and, in the final, Lou Freeman/Herb Paul.
I’m sure the weather was likely to be pretty awful in Minneapolis, so at the Twin City Closed you might say that Dave Krawetz, in winning the Men’s, threw a psychic snow-storm at Ed Litman, giving up on average only 14 points a game. At least the Women’s final was contested—Mabel Smith over Shirley Lund, 18 in the 4th. Soon there won’t be any more letters, Shirley—Harry himself (later a rural postman) will be in the mail, so to speak. Doubles? Litman/Krawetz in the Men’s—over ex-Philippine-stationed vet Ed Sirmai and Mayo Beske. Sirmai/Helen Grant in the Mixed—over Litman/Marilyn Jensen.
At the Ohio State Open, held in Cleveland Feb. 9-10, Max Hersh won the Men’s—over Lee Webb, conqueror of Dan Kreer in 5. Something of a surprise was John Varga/Gordon Barclay’s victory over Hersh/Webb that allowed them to pass freely through Sam Shannon/Arnold Brown to the Doubles title. ("Finals: Gordon and John Varga…" read the results—as if the two were father and son.).
The Feb. 16-17 Chicago Central States saw the return of 1943 U.S. Champion Billy Holzrichter. During his stay in the Pacific, Holzrichter had seen action in the Marianas—at Tinian and Saipan—and had experienced his B-24 being shot down in a belly flop, then being rescued and flown back to Manila. Having survived a –20, 14, -18, 16, 18 struggle here in the States with Bill Price, Billy went on to a comfortable win over "Andy" Anderson in the final. "I just had natural strokes," Billy, reminiscing, said decades later. "It didn’t take me long to come back." Indeed not. Price, however, had to show all his fabled tracking power to –26, 19, 19, -18, 18 bring down the Bengal tiger in Herb Aronson. Anderson, in his semi’s, downed another Champion returnee, Laci Bellak.
Mort Ladin added another Senior’s to his laurels—rallying to beat Wes Bishop in 5, then in the final finishing off former Indiana TTA President Ted Chapman (the man responsible for those ITTA pins, now surely a collector’s item). Chapman for the moment is the USTTA’s Expansion Chairman, and while he sees no shortage of equipment, he does see a big problem—one that will always plague the Sport—and that is, "High rentals still prevail and space to establish parlors is at a premium. While we hope that this condition will improve it will certainly not be in the near future."
Holzrichter/Bellak, the ’44 National Men’s Doubles Champions, were the Champions here at the Central States too. Finalists Abelew/Varga got –15, -18 knocked askew before righting themselves to beat Abbott Nelson/Paul Popple. Price/Barclay suffered a surprising loss to Billy Condy and his revivified partner Carlton Prouty. Both, bless them, were members of the one and only team—the historic 1934 Chicago team—that kept New York from winning every single Intercity that’s so far been held. In the Women’s, Mary Specht made a sensational semi’s comeback from down 2-0 and at 22-all in the 3rd against Mayo Barrett, but couldn’t pull out the 5th in her final with Carrol Blank.
That anonymous "Oldtimer" whom I’d mentioned in the last chapter as saying that women should play just as well as men also claimed that "A man weighing more than 160 pounds, or [who’s] more than 5’8" in height, is decidedly handicapped. The game is too fast and the strokes too delicate for the big boys" (TTT, Nov., 1945, 3). At this very moment, of course, England’s Johnny Leach and Hungary’s Ferenc Sido are preparing to prove him wrong, but we needn’t wait for the ’47 World’s. At the Feb. 23-24 Missouri Valley Open in the Des Moines YMCA, "Ed Sirmai, a towering, dark-haired lad…with shoulders similar to Minnesota fullbacks of yore, took honors in the Men’s Singles." And what a show he and his Twin City traveling mates put on. Take unheralded Cal Corbin: in the 8th’s, down 2-0, he survived a deuce 3rd game to break Omaha’s Bill Carr; in the quarter’s, he ousted Omaha’s Warren Hotz in 5; and in the semi’s, down 2-0, he almost came back against Litman, succumbing only in the 5th. As for the Sirmai-Litman final—that was 23, -19, 21, -16, 21 gladitorial.
Also on Feb. 23-24, at the Milwaukee Closed, Duane Maule took the Men’s by upsetting Russ Sorensen who "was doped to win the tournament." (From the perspective of half a century later not the most felicitous of phrases.) Much more surprising was Wisconsin #5 Lois Carlson’s win in the Women’s, for she beat in succession Carrol Blank (#1), Judy Fieber (#4), and Carlyn Blank (#2).
Price/Thall Win Western’s
The March 2-3, 1946 Columbus, Ohio Western’s—the first major organized by Bob Green—was held at the Knights of Columbus Gym with all players being assured "full use of locker rooms and showers." Men’s winner was Bill Price ("tends to be over-cautious" someone said)—22, 11, 25 over a stubborn Dan Kreer. Spectators had to have been following Kreer, for he was in the thick of the action. He’d survived a –26, -19, 19, 20, 13 uphill struggle that had sent Hersh a tumble in the quarter’s, then, up 2-0 against Aronson, he’d held on to gain the final. Condy, meanwhile, had advanced to Price with a precarious 19, -18, -17, 20, 17 8th’s win over Bob Green. Schiff and Somael, who had to have been Touring, showed up, but they didn’t play Singles. Possibly they weren’t prepared to risk a loss, apparently a distinct possibility, for, though they played in, and won, the Doubles—23-21 in the 5th over Kreer and Abbott Nelson—it might be argued they were at least somewhat off-form.
As anticipated, but understandably with no anticipatory enthusiasm, the spectators saw Leah Thall (12, 11, 11…9, 9, 13…10, 8, 11) dominate the Women’s field—present, as it were, an abatis of stiff impenetrable chops, a defense that was yet an offense, for it pointedly set up some aggressive forehand winners. Runner-up Tybie beat Mary Specht in 5. So, though this may have been one of those times Tybie snapped her bra-strap and, a bit frantic, had to go hunting for a safety pin, she did just fine.
Miles/McLean Take Eastern’s
At the Mar. 15-16th Eastern’s, Defending Champion Dick Miles was as dominant a winner this year as last—which suggests he’ll again outclass the field at the upcoming National’s? Two of the most watched matches were, as you might expect, Cartland’s. In both of these Doug showed his legendary tenacity—beating Cy Sussman, from down 2-0, 19 in the 5th, then losing to Lou Pagliaro in the semi’s but only after stubbornly insisting on carrying on with a 23-21 win in the 4th. It was Cartland Paggy gave credit to for improving his backhand defense. "How angry Doug used to get at Lawrence’s when he was unlucky and losing," said Louie. "He’d clutch in fury at his shirt, his pants, as if he wanted to rip them off. And yet he was always in control. He’d be forever driving to my backhand, and I really have him to thank for improving my game." Paggy did have an easy quarter’s win over Lowry who’d nevertheless been quick to reestablish himself as a threat by knocking out Junior Champ Marty Reisman in the 8th’s, 3-0. (A "marvelous game" Marty may well have, but here he was no "absolute lock" over teenagers Morris Chait or Irwin Miller.)
In Men’s Doubles, Pinner(forehand)/Sussman(backhand), together again, didn’t expect to score a quick knockout over any serious contender, but they got in enough one-two combinations to win a unanimous decision—over Schiff/Bellak and Miles/Cartland, both in 5. In the Mixed, Schiff and Peggy McLean defeated Bellak and Boston Wave Corrine Dellery (whom Reba Monness once called the "best t.t.-dressed gal hereabouts"), then Cartland/Mildred Shahian in the final. In the Senior’s, George Bacon, after coming from behind against Long Island City’s Howard Gorges, went on to beat Bill Gunn in 5.
McLean, a Long Islander by birth (and still playing out of her hometown, Hollis, N.Y.), won the Women’s—the final over Shahian, and the (19, 7, -19, 11) semi’s over a Bernice Charney whose generally placid demeanor belied the inner emotional swings that made her either want to charge (as in her quarter’s rally to down Clouther in 5) or wimpily give up (as in those –7, -11 losses to McLean). In the other semi’s, Shahian defeated U. S. Champion Davida Hawthorn who’d just returned from an 8-month USO Tour. Although while overseas Davida had sent Topics a cablegram from Antwerp saying that her Camp Shows sponsor had given her permission to play some competitive matches in England, it appears these were scheduled for March and that she’d opted to come home instead. So after "at least two table tennis shows six days a week," she really wasn’t prepared, other than to beat Henrietta Wright 18 in the 4th, for tournament play, and, as the National’s was only two weeks away, would not be expected to retain her title.
Midwest Tournaments Prior to National’s
For the 50 Midwesterners from Ohio to Iowa who would come to New York for the U.S. Open, there were still half a dozen or so March tournaments that could serve as a warm-up. At the Mar. 9-10 St. Louis County Open, you could say Nash and Price warmed to their play, for they put on a much appreciated final, won by Nash in 5. Garrett played Doubles with St. Louis’s former foremost Umpire, Claude Camuzzi, now returned from Service, and while they lost to Mel Nichols/Robert Brodski, runner-ups in 5 to Nash/ Fred McAvoy, the nation’s #1 Bad Boy may have scored points of another kind. In the Women’s, Betty Jane Schaefer ousted Nelson in a –14, 20, 21, -14, 15 well played final that Shirley might have swept three straight.
At the March 16-17th Milwaukee Open, Holzrichter in winning the Men’s didn’t drop a game. But runner-up Kreer was challenged by Sterling Mitchell, -19, 19, 9, 18, and Milwaukee’s Maule, 19, -18, 20, 19. Supported by a partisan crowd and bolstered by last month’s confidence-builder, Maule, the Wisconsin Closed Champ whom someone would call a "chiropractic roamin’ romeo," had earlier steadied to win in 5 from Chicago’s hard-hitting Carlton Prouty. Carlyn Blank’s win in the Women’s was as straight-game easy as Holzrichter’s in the Men’s.
Late-round Senior matches were all 5-game intense. In the semi’s, the eventual winner, Marlin "Tuck" Tucker, defeated Racine’s Clarence Gloede, while Paul Buell beat Rees Hoy. When, as USTTA Tournament Chair, Hoy was interviewed by Topics, he was asked a number of questions—two of which I’ll note here. The first: "Do you favor additional tournament attractions such as music, speeches, etc.?" Answer: "No—t.t. itself should be enough attraction to keep the spectators interested." And the second: "Are you in favor of free entry fees for the best players?" Answer: "Definitely not."
In the Mar. 23-24th Michigan Closed at Pontiac, "Max Hersh kept a firm grip on his state championship for the fourth consecutive year." In the roughly 50-entry Men’s, V. Lee Webb was the 5-game runner-up after earlier being down 2-1 to Arnold Brown. Hersh and Webb took the Men’s Doubles from Brown and Cliff Bishop who in the near future, like Pinner and Nash, will give up table tennis for duplicate bridge tournaments. Jimmy Reed won the Junior’s—beating another Pontiac local in the semi’s, Boys’ Champ Bobby Short, and then Royal Oak’s Ron Getoor in the final. The Senior’s was won, as expected, by Perc Secord over arch-rival Paul Collis, V.P., under President Ed Dickinson, of the Royal Oak TTA.
Michigan TTA Secretary Grace Wasum, seeded #4, became the new Women’s Champion—over Marie Nash in 5. In the semi’s, Marie, down 2-1, was able to come back against Ann Arbor’s Jean Smith who in the quarter’s had trailed Pontiac’s Mary Jacober, 2-0. At a Michigan TTA meeting at this tournament, Harold Jacober, who’d been the Pontiac TTA President the past two years, was named to succeed Bill Byrnes as the MTTA President, with Bishop as Vice-President. At season’s end, Michigan would continue to lead the affiliates in USTTA Membership. Now, however, the USTTA is not giving us membership numbers—is only indicating that Michigan leads because it has 10.8 % of the 100% Membership (to Ohio’s 10.5%).
Mar. 23-24th was also the date of the Missouri State Open. Allan Levy, "playing in his initial tourney since returning from service in the Merchant Marine, displayed his pre-war form and super tournament temperament" to defeat Price in 5. Marv Nichols was back from Service in Japan and attending Culver-Stockton College with brother Mel. Together they forced Men’s Doubles winners Levy/Price into the 5th. The Junior’s saw future U.S. World Team member Wally Gundlach surface—he lost in the semi’s to Don Schuessler, the 19-in- the-deciding-3rd-winner over Fletcher Abbey. Delores Kuenz, in defeating Schaefer, 19 in the 4th, and Nelson, deuce in the 4th, "annexed her eighth state singles title to establish a record that will probably never be topped." And all this achieved while she’s the "mother of three children and recent victim of an appendectomy operation" (TTT, May, 1946, 11).
National’s to Miles/Charney
The 16th U.S. Open, held Wed. through Fri., Mar. 27-29, 1946 at New York City’s 4500-seat St. Nicholas Arena (66th St., Off Broadway), was the first National’s to be played in the East since 1941. The Program—with an attractive multi-colored cover design by Abe Berenbaum—listed 185 entries received by Entry Chair Herwald Lawrence, half of them from New York. (What had happened to table tennis in New Jersey? Just as many players came from Colorado or Quebec as New Jersey—four, to be exact.)
Several members of the N.Y. National’s Committee, co-chaired by Henry Herrmann and Bronson H. Alexander, were lauded—Leo Schein for "keeping those [Detroiter] tables filled, Ed Wetzel for making sure enough Becker Wembley balls were available and for "hunting referees," and especially George Bacon who’d prepared the venue for play, "working all night putting up lights…[and] arranging tables." The lighting in those days when balls were seldom lobbed was often better than it is today, but only because accommodations were made over the courts. Because "the usual St. Nick fistic lights…aren’t shaded and might blind the players," Bacon rigged "200-watt string lights with shades, four to a table." For the 10 tables in play, two lights were "directly over each table" and two were "hung eight to 10 feet behind the players."
The110-entry Men’s draw was one of the strongest up to this time and in attendance put to shame the far fewer entries last year in Detroit (table tennis was coming back). Missing, however, were the Chicago players Anderson, Aronson, and Abelew, and the Detroiters Hersh and Webb. Also, when Nash and Hazi, scheduled to meet in the 8th’s didn’t show (perhaps Tibor couldn’t make his planned flight connections from India?), there was a felt vacancy in that section of the draw—though, ironically, that was where the best opening match occurred. Talk about sticky play: Mel Rose over Everett Gum, -18, 30, -27, 27, 18.
In the round of 64, local N.Y. player Warren Bondy did well to force Jackson Heights’ Arnold Fetbrod to 5. Fetbrod, thanks to Service returnee George Schein’s influence with his fellow ranking Committeemen Elmer Cinnater and John Varga, would be upgraded from a proposed U.S. #27 to a finalized U.S. #19 this season. He continued to be the best player on Long Island—#2 was his Doubles partner Frank Milano, former LITTA President, who’d been succeeded by Frank Davison. Brooklyn local, Frank Scott, hadn’t a chance yet to be intimidated by the N.Y. World-Telegram’s article, "Barclay, 14, Boy Wonder of Table Tennis Tourney," for the paper wouldn’t come off the press until after Scott had lost deuce in the 4th to him and Gordy had gone on to take a game from Pagliaro. It figured that the Sid Cohen-Harry Lund match would be close—and it was, with Cohen winning in 5. But I was surprised that Arthur "Buddy" Draper (formerly Drapkin), 1935 Atlantic Coast Champion and afterwards disqualified from the Middle Atlantic States Open that followed for "chiseling," was able, with apparently so little tournament play, to beat Bob Green, last season’s U.S. #10.
In the 16th’s, Stan Fields eliminated Varga deuce in the 4th. McClure, six months away yet from 30 and old age, had to go 5 with Borges. And Lowry was extended into the 5th by Nesenkar whom he’d beaten 19 in the 4th for that "Pacific Olympics" title. But give Les credit. Though he’d trial-by-combat experienced the horrible inward thrust of losing that ‘44 National’s final to Somael from 7 match-points up, he’d not given in to disgust or despair, but had continued competing.
I must now mention two 8th’s matches. First, there’s Holzrichter and his –17, -15, 12, -7 poor showing against McClure. "What a live wire Jimmy was," said Billy. "He could tell jokes all day long." But here McClure must have been electric on court too, and Holzrichter couldn’t have been smiling. Jimmy’s mustering out photo from the Navy appears on the front cover of the Jan., ’46 Topics, but, as there’s no report of him playing in any tournament, I don’t know how he kept up his game. Then there’s Reisman, whose 12, 15, -19, -19, -18 turnaround loss to Schiff was probably the most disappointing of his up-to-this-point career. In the quarter’s, only Cy Sussman, taking advantage of Nash and Hazi’s defaults, advanced in straight games—surprisingly over Cartland. (According to George Schein, it was Hazi who’d said that Cy would become National Champion if he could combine a bit of headwork with his strokes.)
In the one spectator-pleasing match that would remain as the Men’s came anticlimactically to a close, Schiff, again down 2-0, again rallied—to beat Pagliaro with "a blazing forehand." (In addition to this intense quarter’s match with Sol, Paggy, mindful of the newsreel shots the media wanted, had joined with Miles in "going through their antics for the benefit of the theatre crowds all over the nation"—and with Bellak clowning too. Afterwards, Sol was unchallenged by Sussman, Miles unchallenged by either the 21-year-old Pinner in the semi’s or Schiff in the final. James A. Burchard, the covering reporter for the World-Telegram, wrote that "Miles took the [28-year-old] old-timer rather easily, capitalizing [on] a blistering forehand and sound defensive tactics. ‘I knew I had him after the first game,’ said Miles. ‘He couldn’t stand up to a solid offensive attack.’"
Dick, as it happened, was once a copy boy for columnist Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror, but soon discovered this was not his calling. (I’ll never forget," Parker wrote, "the day two editions went to press while Dick was rushing my column to the composing room.") But boss and copy boy remained cordial, and after this ’46 U.S. Open they met, and the story Parker tells is that…
"Dick took a frayed clipping out of his wallet when I talked to him recently, and handed it to me. It was an item that appeared in my ‘Broadway Bugle’ column four years ago, reading: ‘Dick Miles, Mirror copy boy, is getting so good at table tennis, he sometimes beats Sol Schiff.’
‘I just thought you’d like to know,’ explained the national champ, ‘that Sol Schiff was the chap I beat three straight in the 1946 championship final.’
[Ah! What then would be better for Dan than an autographed ping-pong ball from Dick?…Done.]"
In a Topics of the time, Miles is described as "in a class by himself." But then the writer says in somewhat contradictory fashion that Dick is ‘classy,’ but…
"Miles lacks color and is not interesting to watch—his forehand drive is a clock-like motion, so well grooved it’s monotonous. Miles plays a smart game, never changes expression and seems to follow the policy of taking command of the situation—forcing the defensive player to hit and the offensive player into defense" (Apr., 1946, 5)
That same Topics clearly dismissed the 16-year-old Reisman. "Miles has reached a peak in his game that will not be surpassed by any present outstanding players. Someone new and fresh will have to come along to dethrone Dick…" (3). U.S. #18 Reisman was no longer in line…not unless you read Reba Monness’s "More Or Less" column, though even she expressed some reservations:
"…Dick Miles is playing very well. [Reba wishes she were in his shoes—wishes she were a National Champion? Further on, she says Dick just won the National’s in her shoes—literally, her borrowed sneakers.] Marty Reisman who is a definite threat to the National title at some future date [no longer the "near future" of two years ago] has grown five inches within five months [perhaps that’s slowed the growth of his game?]….Marty has an excellent offense, [and a ] beautiful retrieving game but he’s still weak on defense…"(TTT, Oct., 1946, 6).
And weaker still, on occasion (but we’ll not count him out completely just yet), Reisman might have appeared. Leon Ruderman, who half a century later would be the U.S. Over 70 Champion, tells of a match he watched in 1946 at City College that amused him. Here was Marty and another "anonymous" player out to outhustle one another, each trying in the beginning to lose the first game so as to increase the bet. Except, as they went into the end-game, Marty’s opponent got wise to the fact that Marty was better than he’d thought, and, wanting to grab the one-game money and run, smacked in a winner to take the lead. But of course in the process he’d "outed" himself and his intention, and so Marty quickly finished him off.
Come the new ’46-47 season, Reba will let us know that "Reisman, about whom you have heard and will hear more and more, defeated Miles in a Friday night tournament [at of course Lawrence’s, so no wonder, with a match like this, the place was always jammed on Friday nights]." And Dick will say years hence that when Marty as a whiz-bang kid first began appearing regularly at Lawrence’s, "I probably wouldn’t even play with him. Later [when Dick used Marty as a practice partner much as Pagliaro had used Dick?], I couldn’t give him 5….Couldn’t give him 4….Couldn’t give him 3….So we went to 2 (-1). He got good very, very fast." And so helped Dick to get even better?
In Men’s Doubles, Pinner and Sussman took up right where they’d left off in ’41 and ’42—won their 3rd National Championship. They beat Miles/Cartland, deuce in the 4th in the semi’s, and Schiff/Somael 18 in the 4th, in the final. This was Schiff’s tournament for winning the close ones, though—not only in Singles but Doubles. In the quarter’s he and Johnny were down 2-1 and at 23-all with Reisman and Bill Cross, and then in the semi’s against Pagliaro/McClure, after they were up 2-0 and at 22-all in the 3rd, they almost let the match slip away, but just hung on to win the 5th at deuce (Jimmy said that at match point Paggy had fly-swatted a putaway ball that floated out and away on him).
New Yorkers were also at the fore in the Men’s Consolation. Jack Sontag, after getting by Greater Boston TTA President Douglas Allred, 19 in the 5th in the quarter’s, beat Nick Grippi of the Bronx in 4 in the final. Reisman remembers Sontag as a "jocular, fun guy" who presented Marty with a set of fanciful (childhood to old age) caricatures he did on him which Marty still chuckles over to this day.*
The only major missing players from the 36-entry Women’s were: 5-time Champion Sally Green who reportedly "at the last minute, after practicing 10 hours a day…became ill and was forced to withdraw"; Mildred Shipman, Sally’s winning Women’s Doubles partner at last year’s U.S. Open (and in 1939 and ’40 as well); and Mayo Barrett, a member of that 1940 U.S. Team to Japan and Sally’s recent Doubles partner in Midwest tournaments.
All the seeded and placed players advanced to the round of 16, but three early matches (the only ones that weren’t straight-game decided) are worth noting. Mary Reilly almost pulled off a major upset—lost deuce in the 5th to Mary Specht. Ruthe Crist, formerly Ruthe Brewer, 1940 U.S. Open runner-up to Green and a team member of Barrett’s on that trip to Japan, defeated Margaret Koolery Wilson, 19 in the 4th. And Elayne Mohr, soon to be Ben Dattel’s wife (they’d met "at a public playground in the Bronx where they played t.t."), did well to take a game from Carroll Blank, U.S. #6 for the season.
Crist had been divorced for some time now, was back living in New York, and was returning to serious play. In the 8th‘s, Ruthe showed she was still very much a competitor in –15, -20, 18, 18, -19 just falling short against Helen Germaine, Women’s runner-up in both the 1934 and ’41 U.S. Opens. In the other most contested 8th’s, Carroll Blank 20, 19, -12, 20 stopped a stubborn Clouther. But then in the quarter’s against Hawthorn, Carroll couldn’t win the deuce 3rd game she needed and fell in 4. Charney, blocking if need be, but usually aggressive from either wing, joined Davida in the semi’s. Bernice had lost an opening 19 game to Henrietta Wright, but had then continued dominant…over Tybie Thall as well. Initially, Eastern Champ McLean had been a little 19, -17, 10, 15 shaky with Carlyn Blank, which might have caused her father Vincent (he was on the NYTTA St. Nick Organizing Committee) an anxious moment or two, but then neither Peggy nor he had a worrisome moment with Germaine. Leah Thall, however, had 5-game trouble with Shahian’s close-to-the-table play.
It wasn’t a good omen for the returning Hawthorn that in transit from Europe two of her bags vanished—especially as her rackets were in them. Now the Defending Champ wasn’t getting good vibes from covering World-Telegram reporter Burchard. Prior to her semi’s, the heading of his article read, "Seen Too Old to Repeat." This was in part, he said, because Davida was "purely a defensive player": "She concentrates on returning the ball until her opponent errs, only racing in for a kill if she receives a setup. This means she generally is hopping around some 10 to 15 feet behind the table, which calls for plenty of stamina when the going becomes rugged." And, well, she’s 28. So, sure enough, when, at 1-1 with Charney, Davida loses the 19 3rd game, she’s done for…though I for one am not so sure it’s because she’s exhausted.
Of course Leah Thall is 30—so, from Burchard’s point of view, it’s almost hopeless for her. And as if it’s now or never, Leah beats 19-year-old ("She’s a Queens College student? She looks 5 years younger") McLean, 3-0 to gain the final against Bernice. This is only Charney’s second National’s—in her first one, in 1941, she lost her opening match. She’s come a long way—the more so when (with Tybie Thall and Mary McIlwain as "ball girls") she 18, -17, 22, -23, 15 outlasts a determined Leah to win the Championship. "Nothing secret about that match," Burchard quoted the referee (most likely Bill Gunn, but possibly Mel Rose) as saying. "Miss Charney had the guts to gamble everything on an all-out offensive. It was make or break and she won."
Reba Monness will interview the new Champion—112 pounds, wavy brown hair, a fetching dimple—who makes her living "as a filing clerk for a publishing firm." Here are some essential things to know about her:
"Her favorite dish is chow mein, her favorite beverage is milk and her favorite past-time (when not table tennising) is attending the movies. "B" is also very fond of ‘jazz,’ her main ambition being to become a top-flight drummer in a name band. Other than table tennis she does not play athletic games and admits she is a poor swimmer" (TTT, Nov., 1946, 3).
In Women’s Doubles, the #6 Singles seed, Shahian, teamed up with the #8 Singles seed, Clouther—and if ever a pair worked hard to earn a major Championship these two did. In the quarter’s they came from 2-1 down to beat the Blank twins; in the semi’s, against McLean/Hawthorn, they lost the first two yet won in 5; and in the final they triumphed over the Thall sisters 24-22 in the 5th.
In the Mixed, Schiff/ McLean pretty much cruised all the way—beating Holzrichter/Leah Thall in the final.
McLean wasn’t the only ranked Long Islander to win a National Championship here at St. Nick’s. Beechurst’s Howard Gorges, #1, who was about to succeed Frank Davison as President of the LITTA, and his partner, John Keinker, #2, took the Senior Doubles title—over Defending Champions Bacon/Gunn in the semi’s and Nidy/Chapman in the final.
In the Senior’s, in a replay of their 1942 U.S. Open final, Tucker defeated Gunn, again in 4 to win the Championship. Gunn, who with his "melodious bass voice" announced matches in various events, had a relatively easy time reaching the final, losing only one game en route to Paul Buell who’d earlier survived a 23-21 in the 5th match with John Kauderer. "Tuck," however, had a deuce in the 5th 8th’s scare from Lipschutz; a –7, 20, 19, 19 quarter’s tussle with ’39 U.S. Open Senior runner-up Nachsin; and then another 5-game semi’s with Simeon Sabre. What happened to Defending Champ George Bacon? George, Burchard says, "blew the duke" to Sabre—lost 19 in the 5th in the quarter’s. After going without sleep for two nights putting up those lights, he was "dead on his dogs." Runyanesque 1946 New York reporting, eh?
Reisman won the Junior’s without dropping a game—downing, as he had at the Eastern’s, Irwin Miller in the final. Richard Leviton, who lost to Marty in the semi’s, won a 21, -28, 16, -18, 14 marathon quarter’s match from Norm Schulman. Barclay, "102 pounds of concentrated dynamite who just turned 14 last February," took the Boys’—over Abbott Glasser. Reporter Burchard quotes Bill Price, who flew to New York with Barclay, as saying that Gordy plays "six hours a day" at the South Bend Y, surely an exaggeration. Price declares that "Nobody his age can touch him," which is true. And adds, "He’s also a darn good quarterback on a high school team, playing against 200-pounders, and he excels at baseball and basketball." Pagliaro, on losing a game to the young teenager, told Burchard that Gordy has a great "fighting spirit" and will be "unbeatable in two or three years"—he means of course in the Men’s. Do you really think so, Louie? Would you look 20-year-old Dick and 16-year-old Marty in the eye and say that?
*Sontag was one of those N.Y. players whose table tennis life slipped into obscurity…then was resurrected, hyped out of relation to reality. An article on him, and his photo, racket in hand, appear in the Mar. 23, 1970 Davenport, Iowa Times-Democrat. Here we read that whereas he now plays at the local Y, he once played at, coached at, even managed for three years the fabled N.Y. Lawrence’s club, that he coached Peggy McLean, and taught 12-year-old Reisman who would skip school to come play with him and learn from him, for then he was #15 in the country and his "snake" backhand was unique. Another quarter of a century passes, and a writer named Bill Wundram does a Jan. 15, 2001 piece on him for the Quad-City Times. And now we read that a month after his death Jack’s body still lies in a funeral home. But Jack had once been "at the top," the "Forest Gump of his time," had "reigned as National Men’s Singles Champion."