1946: Sense of USTTA Expansion, of Starting Anew—Varga Posits Tight Post-War Ranking Conditions. 1946: Spring Tournaments. 1946: USTTA Reorganizes with New President at June 22-23 Chicago Meeting. 1946: English Open/Reactivation of ITTF.
Ah, the thrill of seeing one’s name in the USTTA Rankings, of being acknowledged right up there with Miles and Reisman as one of the best competitors in the Sport. What does a player have to do to even be considered for such an honor? This:
MINIMUM CONDITIONS FOR RANKING ELIGIBILITY
1. Participation in at least three (3) USTTA sanctioned tournaments.
2. Of these three tournaments at least ONE (1) must be 4 star (****)—
Nationals (class A)—or 3 star (***)—Eastern, Central, Western Open
and National Intercities (class B).
3. A total sum of Participation Credits (‘P’) of at least twelve (12) points.
A 4 star (****) tournament (class A) carries eight (8) points.
3 star (***) tournaments (class B) carry four (4) points.
2 star (**) tournaments (class C) carry two (2 points).
1 star (*) tournaments (class D) carry one (1) point.
[Note.] These rules can be deviated from by the USTTA Ranking Committee at its discretion and by unanimous vote. In rare instances and only if a player has fulfilled conditions No. 1 and No. 2 but is a few points short for condition No. 3 the committee can consider him PROVIDED his personal record against other outstanding players warrants such a step.
The rules are set down mainly with an eye on rankings in the Singles events. Although the same principles hold true for Doubles play the committee will be entitled to take a more liberal viewpoint, due to the fact that there are usually changes in player pairings, very few combinations playing together in all the important tournaments” (TTT, Oct., 1946, 4).
Naturally a player’s record of victories and defeats will determine his (her) National Ranking. But when players seem to have identical or nearly identical claims to a seeding or ranking, John Varga, who’ll succeed Elmer Cinnater as Ranking Chair for the 1946-47 season, has come up with a way of choosing one player over another via a refinement called a player’s Tournament Rating. The calculation of this Rating is dependent—much like the Hammond and Wilkinson Cup competition begun in the 1930’s—on Participation Credit Points (P), as shown above, and also on Result Credit Points (R).
The Result Credit (R) is based on the star power of the tournament one enters, how far one advances in that tournament, and, unless one wins it, on even how many games one loses. Examples are as follows. First, if you don’t do so well: if you lose in the round of 8 in a 1-star, in the round of 16 in a 2-star, in the round of 32 in a 3-star, in the round of 64 in a 4-star, the Result Credit Points are the same: 1 point if you lost three straight, 1 ¼ points if you took a game, and 1 ½ points if you took two games. If, however, you do quite well: if you’re the runner-up in a 1-star you get, depending on what kind of fight you put up, 4, 5, or 6 points; in a 2-star, 8, 10, or 12 points; in a 3-star, 16, 20, or 24 points; and if you’re the runner-up in the National’s, you get 32, 40, or 48 points. Had you won a 1-star you would have gotten 8 points; had you won the National’s you would have gotten 64 points. Varga says that the winners of the National Championships “are not AUTOMATICALLY rated first,” but that’s certainly been the case heretofore, and, given the points these winners accumulate, they’ll likely continue to be #1.
At the Intercities, which of course doesn’t follow a Single Elimination format, you’d have to play at least five matches, and then you’d be positioned vis-a-vis the other eligible players according to the percentage of your wins and losses. If you finished 21st-24th, you’d get 1 point; if you were #1 at the Intercities, you’d get 32 points.
For any one tournament you add your Participation Credit (P) and your Result Credit (R) to get your Total Credit. You then divide your Total Credit (P & R) by your Participation Credit (P) to determine your Tournament Rating.
When players can’t be differentiated, or can only slightly be differentiated, on the basis of their wins or losses or on a USTTA ranking, “the higher Tournament Rating will be deciding.” And if the higher Tournament Rating is the same among players under consideration, “the Total Credit—P & R—will decide, since the player with the higher total of P & R has risked his standing in more tournaments” (TTT, Nov., 1946, 7). For example, a player has played in one tournament—a 3-star (worth 4 P points)—and has finished runner-up having been beaten 3-0 (worth 16 R points). He has a Total Credit of 20 points and a Tournament Rating (P & R divided by P) of 5. Another player has played in three 2-star tournaments (worth 6 P points) and has finished runner-up in all 3 having been beaten in all 3-0 (worth 24 R points). He has a Total Credit of 30 points but also a Tournament Rating of 5. In this case, the fellow with the Total Credit of 30 points gets the nod (say, the higher seeding) over the one with 20.
If two players from the same state are being considered for the same National Ranking, it may be that their positions in their State Ranking will prove the decider. So affiliates need to submit Singles rankings “for the first ten (10) men, five (5) women, three (3) juniors, three (3) seniors and two (2) boys.”
It’s hoped that, when the Tournament Schedule is formed for the upcoming season, players will be able to note the star-power of the respective tournaments and plan their participation accordingly. (However, as the months will go by, the Tournament Schedule in Topics will not show stars for the tournaments listed.) For the benefit of every USTTA player interested in trying to get a National Ranking, Varga has very carefully followed through—he’s provided in the Mar., ’46 Topics (8-9) both a highly detailed “Scorecard” and a “Table of Credit Points” for everyone’s use.
With the enforcement of these conditions for National Ranking, there will be a drop-off this season as opposed to last in the number of men and women ranked. In 1944-45 there were 42 men and 38 women ranked; in 1945-46 there will be 38 men and only 24 women ranked. However, this year more players will get their name in print, because last season there was no Insufficient Data listing and this season there will be: 24 men and 19 women will be ID’d.
Obviously the USTTA wants to highlight their major tournaments, but if you don’t have the time or money to go to a geographically distant National or Regional, you can’t be ranked. (The Eastern and Western Opens have a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the USTTA; it remains to be seen, however, if a comparably prestigious Central Open, which apparently the current Central States Open substitutes for, can be established.) Also, for the Association to be hard-pressed to rank even three boys in the country because there aren’t enough Boys’ events in the season “to make the 3-tournament rule stick” presents a serious problem—as does giving a National Ranking to a Doubles pair that played only a few matches in one tournament, albeit the National’s.
Moreover, what about other sections of the country? Are they to be ignored? Is anyone trying to figure out how their players (for they’re out there) might get a much hyped, much prized National Ranking? Of course the world of computers and quick-changing ratings is far in the future, and standards have to be applied now. But more tournaments have to be run everywhere—and, as Reba Monness says, Wouldn’t it be nice to have time-scheduled matches?
Since it’s been publicly stated that the Tournament Season has now been extended beyond the National’s through May 31st , and the Rankings won’t be published in Topics until the fall, I want now to pick up some remaining Spring tournaments.
Pennsylvania Comes Back/Spring Tournaments
When former USTTA Executive Secretary Thomas E. “Bob” Berna returned from Service to take up his old position, and Headquarters was temporarily moved back to its old building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania players began reappearing. As I’d indicated before, there were once hundreds of these USTTA member-players, then at my last count 9. A slate of PTTA officers was elected—among them, returning vet Bob Temple as their enthusiastic President (in the Philippines where he was stationed, he’d wanted the “Filipinos to give up their cock fighting and organize a table tennis club”); Mel Evans, Jr., a Plant Layout Engineer who’s Lancaster’s best darts player, as one of their V. P’s; and Henrietta Wright as their Corresponding Secretary.
Lancaster, under Tournament Chair Evans, had played host to the very successful 1939 Pennsylvania Open, and now it held the “first organized state play in this post war period”—a State Inter-City Championship which Philadelphia won over Lancaster and Reading.
Following this Intercities, the April 13 Pennsylvania Closed was held in Philadelphia—with Chester’s Paul Capelle downing Philly’s Al Butowsky in the final of the 60-entry Men’s, and ex-Champion Wright defeating the long retired, former U.S. #3 Ruth Wilson Millington in the final of the Women’s. Berna couldn’t have been prouder—for the resuscitation of his home state, yes: they already had 175 USTTA members; but also for winning his first State trophy, the Doubles with Capelle. Later, Bob would give a 20-minute exhibition with Izzy Bellis that was televised in the Pennsylvania region by Philadelphia’s Philco TV station. Likely the two weren’t paid anything and didn’t expect to be. But new USTTA rules next season will require anyone giving an exhibition, not just those receiving remuneration, to register (the fee is $2) with Exhibition Chair Phil Kenner.
At the Apr. 6-7 Minneapolis 10,000 Lakes Open, Dave Krawetz won the Men’s—over Ed Sirmai in the final. But Sirmai/Lund, down 2-0 in the Men’s Doubles against Ed Litman/Krawetz, finished 19, 19, 20 for a spectacular win. The Veterans’ title went to Don Larson over Dick Maberry, 19 in the 4th, after Larson, down 2-0 and at 22-all in the 3rd had dodged disaster a deux with Clarence Smith. In the Women’s, Marilyn Jensen rallied from two games down to beat Shirley Lund, then took the final from Helen Grant.
The annual Cook County Open, held in Chicago, Apr. 27-28, saw Holzrichter lose the Men’s to Bill Price, 19 in the 4th—with the result that this season Price will be ranked U.S. #6 to Holzrichter’s U.S. #7. In the best late-round match, “Andy” Anderson, semi’s loser to Price, put down Billy Condy’s 14, 15, -20, -16, 17 gutsy try at survival. In the Men’s Doubles final, Anderson/Aronson’s red-in-tooth-and-claw struggle didn’t go for naught after all; they finally scored a retaliatory –21, -23 15, 18, 19 win over former Princeton tigers Dan Kreer and Abbott Nelson. H. J. Heinichen defeated Rees Hoy to take the Veterans’.
Chicago’s Peggy Widmier, probably a little embarrassed to have been the Illinois State Novice(!) winner the week before, won the Women’s—over Carlyn Blank, 18 in the 5th in the semi’s and Mary Specht in a deuce-in-the-5th final. Delores Kuenz enjoyed two scoops of Doubles Delight—teamed with Blank to win the Women’s, and Lasater to win the Mixed.
The Indiana TTA continued to publish its “Drop-Shots” newsletter, and one could see in the July, ’46 issue the results of various Closed events in this state that at season’s end had 332 USTTA members—146 regular and 186 group. At the May 5-6 Indiana State Closed, “Gordon Barclay, South Bend’s bundle of never-say-die spirit showed superman stamina in spite of his adolescent 14 years, and went on to establish an all-time record in Indiana tourney history by winning six events.” Sally Green, whose illness prevented her from playing in the National’s, was back in the hospital again—this time for an appendectomy.
After South Bend’s Maryhelen Perry became the Women’s State Champ by beating Helen Schosker, 25, 17, -22, 17, she received the Betty Henry Memorial Trophy presented to her by Betty’s father. The Jimmy Stout Memorial Trophy—in honor of Stout (Indiana Top 10 for ’39-40) “who gave his life in service to the country”—was presented by Jimmy McClure to young Barclay who then had to have help from his admirers to carry home his 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 trophies.
USTTA Reorganizes with New President at June 22-23, 1946 Chicago Meeting
With the retirement of Carl Nidy, Elmer (“Skipper”) Cinnater, Captain of the famous 1937 World Champion U.S. Men’s and Women’s Teams and a member of the (Advisory) Board of Regents, became the USTTA President for the ’46-47 season. Retiring with Nidy was his 1st V.P., Ed Kuhns, who was replaced by Chicago advertising executive and two-term Illinois TTA President Berne Abelew. Presumably those in line, 2nd V.P. Ted Chapman, and 3rd V.P. Graham Steenhoven, “a very sincere worker who never quits until success is assured in any job assigned to him,” didn’t want to move up (and such an in-line hierarchy was thereafter abandoned). For whatever reason, Abelew would only serve a few months, then Kuhns would come back in to replace him. Also, by mid-winter Steenhoven had resigned and was replaced by George Schein. The other officials remaining in office were: banker Bob Metcalf as Treasurer, John Kauderer as Recording Secretary, and Bob Berna as Executive Secretary (this officer elected by the Executive Committee and Board of Regents).
With the exception of Kauderer, all these officials attended the Summer Executive Conference, held June 22-23 at the Hotel Seneca in Chicago. Among other attendees were three Board of Regents members (ex-high level E.C.’ers): Vic Rupp (who’d been two years overseas with an Ordnance Company), Morris Bassford, and Carl Nidy (who in his May Presidential farewell had said, “I cannot imagine myself becoming totally inactive in table tennis matters. Once in your blood, the urge to do something for the game is ever present, so I can see that after a summer vacation, the temptation is going to be strong to get back into promoting the game”).
Also conveniently attending were Chicagoans Rees Hoy who’d replaced Abelew as Illinois TTA President, Mary Specht, the Conference Secretary, Jimmy Shrout, another Illinois TTA representative (like Sally Green he’d moved to Chicago from Indianapolis), and Morris Alexander, USTTA Law Committee Chair. Present, too, was Clyde Downing, the President of the recently formed Mississippi Valley TTA that included Rock Island and Moline, Illinois and also Davenport, Iowa (Abelew and Specht had been part of a Chicago exhibition team that had driven the 175 miles to jump-start this Affiliate at its Davenport Y Headquarters).
In addition, three USTTA Chairmen from Indiana attended: South Bend’s John Varga (Ranking) and Nelson Poole (Courts & Clubs), and Hammond’s Jim Michaels (Lighting).
The first order of business (after Nidy was presented with a watch for his past services) was USTTA V.P. Chapman’s Organization Chart that had appeared in the May, ‘46 Topics. Chapman’s aim (like anyone else’s), which he first outlined in the Mar., 1946 Topics, was to secure “at least 10,000 new members”; increase revenue so as to afford the Association with “sufficient capital to embark upon the many programs for expanding and improving the game,” especially with regard to “playing conditions, tournaments, leagues…rules”…uh, whatever; work with manufacturers “to improve and at the same time, if possible, keep down the cost of table tennis equipment”; support our affiliates “so that we may eventually reach the goal of 48 state associations”; put out “attractive pamphlets” that may help establish the game “as a recognized sport in the primary, elementary, and high schools, colleges, courts, YMCA’s and Civic Centers”; and gain publicity “through newspapers and magazines” (3). In order that the Association might better do all this, he proposed that the President “who sets the organization policy and program and co-ordinates the activity of all the other executive officers,” be relieved of “unnecessary detail work” (4). That meant delegating to each E.C. member (what hadn’t been delegated before) the responsibility of certain specific committees—for example, all of the following Chairs would report to the one V.P. in charge of them: Exhibitions, Leagues, Ranking, Courts & Clubs, Rules, Tournament, Referees, Trophies, and Lighting. Enough said—Chart adopted.
Since the Association is dependent on tournaments, this E.C. is right to want them to be scheduled in advance. In the past, many were spur-of-the-moment organized, and couldn’t be announced in Topics. Also, some affiliates were practicing false economy, making the mistake of “sending out entry blanks for tournaments by fourth class mail—1 and 1/2 cent postage”—with the result that, as there’s no date line on such mail, it may just sit in the post office until the entry deadline, or even the tournament itself, has passed. The “four major tournaments of the coming season” were decided upon here in Chicago. With regard to the U.S. Open there were three bids—New York, Columbus (a good ’46 Western’s had been run there), and Chicago. Since New York had just held the National’s (and since Kauderer wasn’t there to go through the motions of pushing for it again), Metcalf of Pennsylvania suggested that Chicago win the bid, and of course Chicago’s Abelew emphasized that, though no venue had been selected, no deposit had yet been made, this bid be accepted—and, with Des Moines’ Nidy speaking for it, it was. The Eastern’s was awarded to Pennsylvania (given all their “increased activity”) rather than New York or Long Island (where the ’46 Eastern’s had been run). The Western’s was given not to Milwaukee but to Des Moines (Nidy had earlier written in Topics that “in the past we have depended too much upon our larger cities for the handling of major tournaments,” and, as there wasn’t anyone at the meeting from Milwaukee to speak for the bid, Des Moines was selected as an appropriate geographical “zone.” Steenhoven’s Detroit rather than Milwaukee was awarded the Intercities.
How build up the Central States and the Middle Western States west of the Mississippi so they might have majors on a par with the Eastern’s and Western’s? That was a worthy question, but no one knew how it might be done.
Two tournament resolutions were passed unanimously. One was Steenhoven’s suggestion that $100 be advanced by the sponsor of the U.S. Open so that $50 could be awarded to both the Men’s and Women’s winner to help defray the expenses they’d incur in defending their title the following year. (Would Steenhoven like that $50 to be given retroactively to New Yorkers Charney and Miles?) The other was Tournament Chair Hoy’s suggestion that Affiliates planning on running tournaments put up a deposit—$100 for the 4-star National’s; $50 for the 3-star ones; and $25 for the 2-stars. This deposit would be refunded if the results were received at Headquarters within 10 days of the tournament. Hoy was planning on sending to each sponsor a “set of rules for running a tournament,” and, if they weren’t followed, “their deposit would be forfeited.” However, on moving to Iowa come winter for business reasons, Hoy would find it necessary to resign both as Illinois TTA President (Billy Condy would replace him) and as USTTA Tournament Chair (Rupp would replace him).
George Schein would take Matt Fairlie’s place as head of the Referees and Umpires Committee, while Fairlie would remain as Rules Chair. No one could quarrel with the following Committee suggestions (though implementing them might be another matter): “Chairs for the referees [read certified umpires?] to be at least 30 inches from the floor.” Referees provided for all 2-star and 3-star tournaments “from the quarterfinals on, starting with the Eastern’s and Western’s.” All matches at the National’s to be refereed. Method “of indicating the game scores to spectators” to be implemented. And “official uniforms for the referees and umpires” to be worn. (Referee and umpire seem to be interchangeable words here.)
Lighting Chair Jim Michaels suggested “setting up a grading system” for clubs and tournament venues “in regard to their lighting systems,” and said he’d “investigate fluorescent lighting and determine whether or not this can be used effectively.”
Steenhoven felt that the current $5 entry fee for inter-city teams was way too low, and it was agreed unanimously that teams “pay an entry fee of $25 per team to the host city and that 25% of the net profits be given to the USTTA. Sanction fee for the event shall be 25% of the net profit in addition to the standard sanction fee of $25.”
Women’s Chair Reba Monness sent in a report urging the resumption of Women’s East-West Matches to help determine the Women’s Team to the 1947 World’s. She also wants tournaments to have Women’s Doubles—it’s a colorful event—and, don’t forget, our women will play Doubles at the World’s.
Hoy said he’d received “many requests to raise the senior men’s age bracket to 40 or 45 years of age” whatever the star tournament. That could mean both an Over 35 and an Over 45 event. Abelew felt that “would be a detriment to the game.” Rupp thought that the state associations “would not have enough men to support the two groups.” So, go with just the Over 35, no second event at this time. It would be five years before the National’s had an Over 50 Esquire event.
As of June 1, Membership Chair Rupp’s report “showed a total of 27 affiliates, 2037 regular members, 198 group members, 10 state organizations, 7 district associations, and 10 provisional associations, with 48 members from miscellaneous, unorganized areas.” This is probably the most complete, up-to-date Membership summary the USTTA to date had ever put together. But it still suggests something of a hodge-podge Association. Perhaps a doubling of the dues would tighten things up? Though costs had increased, the dues were still what they’d been as of Dec. 1, 1938—$1, with affiliates remitting $.75 for each USTTA member. Better they be made $1.50 ($1 to Topics, $.50 to the USTTA General Fund) plus optional $.50 local affiliate dues. That’s a total of just $2 a year, for which members receive 8 issues of the magazine. But the E.C. would not vote for an increase—said that “the problem could be solved by expanding the game and increasing the membership.” A mistake of course.
(Later in a Dec., 1946 Topics poll, only 33% said they were downright opposed to dues being raised. So the following season, drastically short of funds, the USTTA went ahead and doubled the dues. Individual memberships went to $1.50—$2.00 in areas not governed by an affiliate—and Group memberships from $.25 to $.50….But then, unexplainably, this increase was put on hold—affiliates would continue to remit $.75 for each member, while new members could join the USTTA for $1.)
The E.C., however, did agree to institute a “Life Membership,” which would include a subscription to the USTTA magazine “for the term of its life.” The cost of this was $25—$15 went to Topics, $5 to the USTTA General Fund, and $5 to the member’s Affiliate. The E.C. then discussed the idea of a “Foundation Life Membership”—for $100. The “funds received would be invested in Government bonds or other suitable interest-bearing securities to provide a permanent fund for the continuation of the USTTA.” Although the USTTA member would get little more than what he’d get for a $30 Life Membership—just “a suitably engraved card” and “general admission” entry to any open tournament—he’d certainly be helping the USTTA, so this Membership, too, would eventually become part of a have-to-be revised Constitution.
Lynel Overton had suggested in a Jan., ’46 article in Topics that the USTTA could offer prizes “to USTTA members who secure one or a certain number of memberships”—one such prize being “instruction from a recognized player.” Though there’s nothing in these Chicago Conference Minutes about such a suggestion being adopted, I know that in one instance it was, and can’t resist including it here.
A Long Island player, Bob Bushell, recalled to me, with the coming of the new millennium, how when he was a kid he won his age division at a tournament played at the New York Armory and received as a prize…a lesson from U.S. Champion Dick Miles. As Bushell tells it, Miles comes out to the table, and says, “O.K., what am I supposed to do? Give you a lesson? Play a game with you?” Actually, says Bushell, Miles really doesn’t want to do anything, regrets having volunteered, and just wants to get the hell out of there. Being a wise-ass kid, Bob replies, “Both.” Dick, knowing he’s just supposed to give the kid a lesson, starts with a game and beats young Bob 21-0. Then, abruptly ending his obligation, Dick says to him, “Young man, you’ve just had a game—and a lesson.” Which, though an unforgettable experience for Bob, wasn’t quite the scenario the prize-maker had intended.
Although the USTTA had only 10 state associations, the E.C. voted to increase the needed membership for a state association “from 25 to 100 members” and said that “after one year [by Jan. 1, 1949] state associations must have a minimum of 150 or be in danger of having their charter revoked and reduced to a district or provisional status.” Likewise, though the Association had only 7 district associations, the E.C. voted to increase the needed membership for a district association “from 25 to 50” and said that “after one year [by Jan. 1, 1949] a total of 75 members would be required” (along with “a minimum of five members in each of the counties requested” in the district). Likewise, though the Association had only 10 provisional associations, the E.C. voted to increase the needed membership for a provisional association “from 5 members to 25 members, with a minimum of 40 members after the first year [by Jan. 1, 1949].” A later addition allowed small groups of players in unorganized states to form a temporary affiliate with a minimum of 5 members. All affiliates would be “required to submit a complete list of their members as of June 1st to USTTA Headquarters for checking purposes.”
Should an affiliate want to “incorporate as a non-profit organization within their state,” Law & Organization Chair Alexander said that, if provided with “the necessary legal papers,” he’d handle the incorporation “without legal charge.” (That is, if the affiliates acted quickly—several months into his term he’d resign “due to an overload of regular work.”)
All changes to the Constitution would be approved by the Board of Governors (combined state and district Presidents) and go into effect Jan. 1, 1948. Any affiliate—state, district, or provisional—that was formed after that Jan. 1st date would have to adhere immediately to the new requirements.
The E.C. continued with its post-War resolutions by terminating as of July 15th “all equipment approval agreements prior to March 1, 1946, and indicated that new agreements might require “the re-testing of equipment.” Berna’s resolution that “the USTTA approve rackets at the same scheduled rates for nets, namely 3 cents per racket,” was passed unanimously. Members are asked to buy only equipment that bears the USTTA seal of approval.
The USTTA didn’t seem to be too concerned about getting balls to play with—perhaps because they were willing to settle for something less than the “best” or even “good” balls? But the English (see the Feb./Mar., 1947 issue of the ETTA magazine Table Tennis) were lamenting the “more than double prices [for balls] ruling in 1939.” The British manufacturers—one of whom advertised the famed Halex ball, another the re-introduced Dunlop ball pushed by Barna—explained that the cost of manufacture had tripled since 1939 due to the doubling of the price of celluloid, the increased cost of labor, and increased overhead. Further, to meet Association ball-approval standards, “elaborate testing must be done largely by hand [to weed out the many rejects…that would then find their way to the U.S.?] (and is consequently expensive)” (12).
Chapman’s resolution (perhaps prompted by Overton’s earlier suggestion in Topics) to enlarge the magazine “to the size of 8 ½ by 11” (after eight years of 6 by 9 issues) was passed unanimously. Chapman also suggested “preparing a series of articles for TOPICS about the history of the game.” These articles—by Louis Laflin, Jr., a Yale Ph.D. specializing in theatrical history, and USTTA History Chair Peter W. Roberts—won’t begin until Nov., 1947 and will run intermittently for two years (to end rather abruptly with the coming of V-E and V-J Day and the close of World War II). Taken in toto, they represent the first and only comprehensive work of Table Tennis History attempted by anyone in the U.S. before this one. While I praise Laflin, “a Mayflower descendent” with a wife and three children, who attended Princeton and Yale and was said to be a “playwright and author,” I wonder how he got involved in this time-consuming project and suspect that he came to regret it. Too bad, though, that still another suggestion of Overton’s wasn’t taken seriously. “Other great sports,” he said, “have motion picture films of their outstanding players in action, which the public can rent or purchase at will….Why not table tennis?”
Mel Evans, Jr., the 1940-41 Topics Editor, was named Editor for 1946-47, and a “new cover” (without the customary photo), designed by Abelew and Shrout, was adopted (however, the cover photo would soon be back). Toledo T.T. Courts Manager Mrs. Dana Young will be the Associate Editor (beginning with the Dec., 1946 issue, she’ll write a “Side-Lines” column), and Bill Price will be the Art Director. Berna will handle all advertising for the magazine. As Headquarters becomes more and more organized, Bob’s aim is to get Topics “in the mails at the end of each preceding month”—and, sure enough, by Nov. 27 he’ll get the Dec. issue to the Philadelphia post office. However, after the first six issues, budget problems will reduce the magazine from 16 pages to 12.
Here are USTTA member responses to some of the questions the Association will ask them in a fall poll that’s then published in the Dec., 1946 Topics. Half the members say they play 2-3 times a week. One in 10 has been a member for 10 years. Sixty percent say they’ve never attended a tournament as a spectator. Almost another 30% say they attend two tournaments a year as spectators. Hence t.t. does not seem to be much of a spectator sport for those who play seriously. Do you suppose it is for those who don’t play seriously? Thirty percent have never won a trophy. Only 8 % feel they’re in a dub class—which, in view of their answer to the remaining question I’ll include here, is highly suspect.
Who gets their votes for the greatest U.S. men’s player of all times? Thirty-eight percent say the two-time U.S. Champion crowned in the space of the last year and a half, Dick Miles. Twenty-nine percent say 3-time World Doubles Champion Jimmy McClure (a photo of him with some of his 1937 teammates—Sol Schiff is not included—appeared in the November Topics). And 12% say…Coleman Clark who, not to knock his importance to the Sport as a Promoter and Exhibitionist, could hardly be called a “great” player. Three-time U.S. Champion Lou Pagliaro and 1937 U.S. Swaythling Cup sensation Schiff, who’d again been teaching tennis at a Catskills resort this summer, are somewhere behind Clark, always of course a great self-promoter. Former USTTA President Carl Zeisberg who, as readers of Vol. I will know, suspended the teenage Schiff, takes pains in the following issue to remind readers what they never knew—that Sol won 21 out of 22 Swaythling Cup matches against the world’s greatest players. So many dub assessors, uninformed and unaware of excellence, equal so many dub players.
Since communication is all important to the USTTA’s plans, Expansion Chair Abelew (soon to be replaced by George Koehnke) was allotted $1,000 to proceed with “the printing [“at least 10,000 copies”] and distribution of a 16-page booklet [it’ll be 14 pages], giving a short history of the game and the fundamentals of how to play it.” This introductory booklet, “Table Tennis For You,” is to be “designed for people who know nothing about the game,” and will be distributed “through Headquarters and also the manufacturers. Individual copies will be distributed without charge and larger quantities at a nominal fee” (this will turn out to be $4 per hundred, $35 per thousand). It’s also decided that both the USTTA Manual and Nidy’s brochure on league organization will be revised and available.
English Open/Reactivation of ITTF
The last item of business at the USTTA re-organizational meeting in Chicago I want to take up is Bassford’s report on the Mar. 19-23, 1946 ITTF Conference held in London in conjunction with the resumption of the English Open (Bassford will be named the North-Central-South American liaison V.P. with the ITTF). But first I want, with the help of C. Corti Woodcock’s letter in the May, ’46 Topics (12), to familiarize you with the results of the most recent international play. As we’ve seen earlier, the French wasted no time in getting back to the courts, held their Closed Championships in ’45 shortly after the War had ended. Following his exhibition with Schiff, Amouretti had lost in the final to one-time winner Alex Agapoff.
Now the English Open was held, and with great success. Woodcock says Wembley was filled to capacity, 9,000 strong, and—I feel impelled to emphasize this— “at least 10,000 more could not get in.” All eleven nations entered were from Europe, except for the U.S. (though I don’t know who could have played for us—no stars certainly, perhaps Servicemen abroad). The 193 Men’s entries eventually played out to the late rounds as follows. Quarter’s: Vana (’38 Czech World Champion) over Ehrlich (’36, 37, and 39 Polish World runner-up); Barna (Hungary’s multi-time World Singles and Doubles Champion) over Belgium’s Evalenko; Andreadis (future 3-time Czech World Doubles Champion) over Haguenauer (former French Champion); and Bergmann (’37 and ’39 Austrian World Champion)—down triple-match point in the 5th, he says in his autobiography Twenty-One Up, over Slar (a Czech about-to-be World Doubles Champion). Semi’s: Vana over Barna, 18, 16, 18; Bergmann over Andreadis, -18, 17, 12, 14. I’ll come to the Vana-Bergmann final in a moment, but first other results. Men’s Doubles: Vana and his Czech teammate Slar over Barna and his stage partner Alec Brook, 3-1. Women’s Singles: Hungary’s Dora Beregi over former English Junior Champion Elizabeth Blackbourn (who’d upset Defending Champ Vera Dace), 3-1. Beregi also won the Women’s Doubles (with Dace) and the Mixed (with lawn tennis star Eric Filby). Now here’s Woodcock’s account of the Men’s final:
“…World Champion Bergmann started off full of confidence, only to realize almost at once that he had not a chance. Vana went for him like a panther, bombarded him with a stream of lightning on both wings, dropped him, wrong-footed him, outplayed, outstroked and outpaced him; and inside a quarter of an hour had nonchalantly recorded a smashing win in 3 straight games, 10, 11, 16. Bergmann played just as well as Vana allowed, that is—far below his best. He was made to look nearly a second-rater and seemed lucky to have got into double figures. On this form, Vana surely rates with the great Victor Barna himself at his greatest, and unless the U.S.A. can produce something very special out of the bag (and admittedly they have done it before) there can be no possible doubt who will be the favorite for the next World’s Crown.” (In an editorial note, Topics added: “Here’s hoping our own Dick Miles and Vana may have the opportunity of meeting….That would be a match worth rowing across the Atlantic to see….”)
The ITTF member-countries meeting in London, Bassford reported to those at the Chicago Conference, took no formal action because “the opinions of absent countries” must be considered, “particularly the viewpoints of the USTTA.” However, here, as Bassford outlines them, are ITTF recommendations made at that March meeting:
“…Suspension of ITTF membership rights of those associations opposed to the Allies during the war, and Austria, which is in a separate category. These associations, or individuals, would not be accepted into membership except by decision of an Annual General Meeting, unless the country concerned shall meanwhile have been accepted into the United Nations, at which time it would be entitled to resume full rights.*
…[Temporary suspension of] the rule banning play between members and non-members of the ITTF, with only World Championship events to be restricted to members.
…Emphasis [as in the USTTA Constitution] that no affiliate of the ITTF have any bars of color, race or religion.
…Nations be accorded voting rights on the basis of their strength and importance in table tennis.
…No association shall make as an honorary member a member of another association, without prior consent of that country’s association.” (The English TTA didn’t like it that the USTTA made Englishmen H.N. Smith and C. Corti Woodcock Honorary Vice Presidents of the USTTA. As a result of this recommendation, Topics in its Directory will no longer list anyone as having an Honorary position in the USTTA.)
Two other thoughts raised at this 1946 ITTF Meeting in London should be noted. One was whether table tennis should be included in the Olympics. ITTF President Ivor Montagu was against the inclusion, and many others felt the Games “would be a duplication due to the fact that most countries having organized play did engage in competition with most other countries.”
The other thought had to do with the World Championships being run by the U.S. It seems—according to an article in the May, 1946 Topics (13)—that the ITTF was getting the idea that the U.S. players were “the strongest challengers for the titles,” and that since “it was hardly practical to hold the contests in the U.S.A.,” maybe the World Championships should be eliminated (they weren’t), and Team Championships should be played in European “zones” (they were).
All this seems quite premature to me and an example of unduly negative thinking. The more so because the ITTF has already awarded the World Championships for 1947 to Paris and for 1948 to Wembley. Why not wait and see what happens—at least in ‘47? Is it that likely the U.S. will win titles the next two years and then try to insist that the World Championships be played in their home country? President Cinnater did talk of the possibility of a European Team coming to tour in the U.S., for, mindful of “Fighting Fund” Chair Nidy’s needs, he thought this tour might give the Association the opportunity to raise money for our Team to Paris. But certainly the Conference Elmer had called for in Chicago concluded without the USTTA even making a bid for the World’s. Who knew how long it’d be before they did?
*The wording on this matter is stated differently in the May, 1946 Topics:
“…It was agreed that Germany and Japan be suspended, and they be readmitted only by an Annual General Meeting. That the memberships of Hungary, Rumania and Austria be suspended. That these countries be readmitted whenever their applications be endorsed by the Czechoslovak, Polish, and Jugoslav T.T. Assn. Otherwise only by an Annual General meeting” (14).