USA Table Tennis
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
1948: USTTA E.C. Preoccupations. 1948: Bergmann/Miles U.S. Tour Aborted. 1948: Tournaments Preceding U.S. World Team Selection. 1948-49: Topics’ Editors’ Material Suspect. 1948: California Association Growing. 1948: Midwest Fall Tournaments. 1948: Intercities/East-West Matches. 1948-49: Winter Midwest Tournaments. 1948-49: Winter East Tournaments.
The USTTA’s annual Summer Meeting was held June 12-13, 1948 not at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis as last year but at President Cinnater’s home in the St. Louis suburb of Rock Hill Village. Treasurer Bob Metcalf reported that on June 1, 1948 the USTTA had a balance of $617.93. The Association’s Financial Statement "did not include the $3600 dollars earned through Exhibitions by the U.S. Team in Sweden. Due to the currency situation in Sweden this revenue was exchanged for transportation, lodging and other team expenses abroad."
Metcalf would continue as an E.C. member, but as a Vice-President. Bill Feldt would switch places with him—give up his Vice-Presidency to become the Treasurer. Since Metcalf lived in Pennsylvania and Feldt conveniently in St. Louis, Cinnater probably encouraged this switch, figuring it allowed for quicker, easier communication regarding finances (always an Association bugaboo); moreover, in real life, Bill was an Auditor for the St. Louis branch of the American Car & Foundry Co., and so was well-qualified for the position. Feldt retained his Tournament Chair, but relinquished his Membership Chair to Helene Cinnater.
Present at the Meeting in addition to these officials were Al Scott, President of the St. Louis District TTA (St. Louis wanted to hold, and would, the 1948 Team Championships and Women’s East/West Matches), and John Varga who, with Bob Berna’s resignation, was named USTTA Executive Secretary. John kept his Ranking Chair, but players eager to see the National Rankings for the ’47-48 season (they used to be rushed out right after the National’s) had to wait half a year before they appeared in the Jan., 1949 Topics. Those E.C. officers retaining their posts—Vice Presidents John Kauderer and George Koehnke, and Recording Secretary Rees Hoy—were not present for the Meeting.
The persistent topic of raising the USTTA dues was discussed—with the result that finally, after 10 years, come Jan. 1, 1949, a USTTA membership would cost not $1 but $2, $1 of which would go towards a Topics subscription. Non-members could get Topics for $1.50 a year (8 issues). Some manufacturers were complaining about a rise in ad rates, but Editor Bill Haid said that the magazine had "lost an average of $1,500 a year." Following Haid’s resignation after the Feb., 1949 issue, Bill Price would take over as Editor. At the start of the new season, the Topics circulation was 3,300—though it wasn’t clear how many of those copies actually went to paid members. Or, in fact, if they always received them. Membership Chair Helene Cinnater complained, "You people who do not receive your Topics [or, as in at least two cases, only the back cover of it], if you are a member, and you are sure that Hdq. has your correct address, I wish you’d squawk to your post office." Helene is praised "for her courtesy and efficiency in correspondence" by Stanley H. Borak, once out of favor with N.Y. table tennis officials, but now Acting Secretary of the NYTTA.*
Funds for the U.S. Team to the Stockholm World’s would be raised not only by the Team’s exhibitions in Europe, but, as in the past, by USTTA Affiliates assigned a Quota.
Another significant and somewhat controversial change this season would be the compulsory wearing of all white ("to be worn clean and in a dignified manner"—sport shirts, no dress shirts) at the "sanctioned Eastern, Central, Western and Pacific Coast and National Tournaments." Sites and dates for these tournaments, as well as the All-American Novice, were fixed where possible. Varga said he favored commercial advertising (a current no-no with the USTTA) so that "more commercial concerns would sponsor table tennis teams and players in leagues and tournaments." This thought, the E.C. concluded, needed more study.
Ed "Dick" Dickinson, President of the Royal Oak, Michigan TTA, in a letter to the E.C., said that the Michigan TTA, under President Max Hersh, elected "an outside representative to represent the Royal Oak Group on the Mich. Board of Governors," and that his protest to Hersh had gone unanswered for more than a month now. The E.C. requested that President Cinnater instruct President Hersh that "unless an immediate reply was received, steps would be taken to terminate the USTTA Charter granted to the Mich. TTA." (Apparently, Max’s tenure, for whatever reason, was so short-lived that he was never listed inTopics as Michigan TTA President. That office, according to the magazine’s Directory, was currently held by V. Lee Webb.)
Aborted Bergmann/Miles Tour
In closing my account of this E.C. Meeting, I’ll confirm that the USTTA sanctioned the upcoming Miles-Bergmann U.S. Tour, and I’ll go on now to "Dick" Dickinson’s write-up of what happened at the one Tour stop covered in Topics. It was quite sensational, said Dickinson, beginning with the fact that, at the "filled to capacity" Royal Oak High School gym, "Hundreds of disappointed fans stormed the entrance unable to gain admittance."
It wasn’t the superlative display of smashes and drops and 30-foot returns, the practiced ins and outs of the artfully traced steps of Exhibition management so entertainingly employed by both Champions, that would be detailed in this Oct., 1948 write-up. But there was enough in Dickinson’s rhetoric to brighten the reader’s eye:
"…The gym was beautifully decorated with ribbons and banners of two allied nations. It was the work of Post 1669, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Royal Oak, Mich., sponsors of this great event.
The drum and bugle corps made a complete circle around the playing area before Bergmann and Miles put in their appearance….[As they came in,] they were perched atop a ‘Detroiter’ table especially designed with wheels for the occasion by the Detroit Wood Products. Locomotion of the table was obtained by a bevy of local beauties harnessed to a silken rope and stepping out with military cadence as they proudly displayed the two champions. As they passed the speaker’s stand with the Stars and Stripes on one side and the Union Jack on the other the applause was tumultuous; the very foundations shook as if an earthquake had struck this little Michigan town" (6).
Miles had told reporter Martin Abramson that he thought this Tour with Bergmann would net the pair maybe $20,000. But Richard’s Irish wife, whom he’d married in March, would become critically ill, and he’d have to quickly return home.**
Later, preparatory to publishing his 1950 Twenty-One Up, Bergmann, on Dec. 15, 1948, writes to USTTA Historian Peter Roberts with a modest request. That he be sent whatever Roberts and Laflin have written for their History of Table Tennis currently being serialized in Topics. Roberts dutifully complies, and requests in return the new racket Bergmann’s come out with.
Tournaments Preceding U.S. World Team Selection/
Topics’ Editors’ Material Suspect
Also apparently returning "home" for a visit, and to play in the Sept. 4-5 Columbus, Ohio Open enroute to the Canadian CNE tournament, was Leah Thall Neuberger. Married this June to New Yorker Albert "Ty" Neuberger, she was ever at the ready to show off her unique diamond wedding ring, it’s two crossed-handle rackets asparkle to all her admirers at Lawrence’s and anywhere else in the world. In the Women’s final here in Columbus, Leah easily beat sister Tybie who’d been challenged in the semi’s by Chicago’s Mary Specht. Two local sisters battled it out in the Women’s Consolation—with Joanne Kaylor prevailing in 5 over Mary Landfair. Don Lasater won the Men’s over Garrett Nash who’d earlier had to go 5 with Harry Sage. (One up close to the action might have heard Garrett in mild irritation say, "Balls!" Or perhaps it was "Ball!"—as in Concentrate! Watch the damn ball!) Gordon Barclay downed Wally Gundlach in both the Men’s and the Junior’s, and won the Men’s Doubles with Dale McColley.
In Toronto a few days later, neither Leah nor Tybie could win the 16-entry Women’s—both were beaten in 4 by Defending Champion Peggy McLean. However, the sisters did have a no-contest win in the Women’s Doubles from McLean and the CTTA’s CNE Publicity Chair cum Tournament Hostess, Marge Walden. McLean/Sol Schiff took the Mixed—over Miles/Pauline Robinson, who, surprise, knocked out Reisman/Leah in the semi’s, deuce in the 4th. Boys’ winner, Montreal’s Bernie Silcoff, lost in the final of the Junior’s to Gundlach, but, while Wally was downing New York’s Harry Hirschkowitz, Bernie did well to defeat Long Island’s Angelo Gutierrez, 11, -19, -19, 24, 28, after Gutierrez had upset Barclay in the quarter’s. The winning Men’s Doubles team was Schiff/Reisman over Gundlach/Bob Harlow.
In the Men’s, Miles reached the final, dropping a game to Arnold Brown. Defending Champ Reisman got there too, but in the semi’s was 23-21 in the 4th hard-pressed by Schiff. English Coach Jack Carrington viewed Sol as a "world-class hitter" from "a late position" (smacks the ball just before it begins to drop), as opposed to Reisman who took the ball on the rise. Earlier, in the International Matches, Sol had Captained the U.S. Team to a 6-2 win over Canada led by Montreal’s J. J. Desjardins who would successfully defend his Canadian Closed Championship against Toronto’s Howard Birch. Marty beat Dick, but though it was obviously a very exciting –17, 16, 19, -24, 15 match, no one commented on it in print. In the February, 1949 issue (!), Editors Haid and Dickinson finally found space amid all the official "must" articles, as Bill called them, for Dick Dickinson’s "Impressions" of this Sept. 9-11 tournament. About Peggy McLean’s matches he had nothing to say; and with regard to the Miles-Reisman final, he commented only that it was a "dilly."
In an Editorial in the Jan., 1949 Topics, Haid says that he’s heard that "New Yorkers do not especially like to read TOPICS….I’m sorry to hear this" he says, "as I think that New York more or less dominates the magazine as is" [sic]. (Imagine, he says mindlessly, if "every city" [sic] got such coverage, Topicswould have to be not a 12-page but "a 24-page publication [sic].") In a Letter to the Editor in that same Topics, Dickinson will write that "quite a few of our top-ranking players are a selfish lot. A little more consideration for the novice and mediocre player—who are the gun fodder for the big boys—would encourage more people to participate in tournaments and create a more harmonious atmosphere" (7).
Consciously or unconsciously, the 58-year-old Dickinson, who as we’ll see in a moment has worthily fostered awareness of the Game in the little town of Royal Oak, Michigan, seems to be saying, "Why can’t Miles, Reisman, and Cartland be more like me?" Perhaps because the Michigan TTA is in the process of reorganizing—with Graham Steenhoven as President and Dickinson as Vice-President—I’m reminded of Steenhoven’s comment to Miles as he handed Dick his first U.S. Open trophy, "I hope you behave like a Champion; and Miles’s acid thought as expressed to me, "These guys in the Midwest were the real ‘Americans.’ We were the New Yorkers, the wise guys, the Jews."
On its Jan. cover, Topics would have 4-time World finalist Bo Vana (but no story on him); on its Feb. cover it would have Associate Topics Editor Ed "Dick" Dickinson (who would be the magazine’s "Personality of the Month"). Haid and Dickinson worked well together, mutually admired one another. But, though they tried to be inclusive, they just had no real rapport or "feeling" for the better players, didn’t make an effort to interview them, didn’t allow the Membership to understand where they were coming from. Issue after issue, in its selected material, so different from what the English magazines with a savvy writer like Jack Carrington so familiar with world-class play would offer, showed a gulf between the professional player and the amateur-minded official. Their different contributions reflected different values and made for different identities. These defined them, gave them some recognition, and allowed them a "place" in the Sport.
Haid’s last issue is this February, 1949 one. He cites "work and home duties" as reasons for resigning. But surely, because he’s done his best, he’s been discouraged ("I have been trying to find out just what is wrong with TOPICS"). For example, he’d initiated a contest: players were to write a 900-word essay, and the best one would get a free three-year USTTA membership. But the players ("very bad cooperation and enthusiasm") wouldn’t send in the expected essays. No wonder, then, we get from Bill himself, reflecting what he wishes were the traits of every Topics reader, but which are so obviously not, a "Personality" piece on the amiable, unselfish Dickinson he sees (who in turn will have nice things to say about Bill following his abrupt resignation):
"Why don’t we have more fellows like Ed Dickinson in Table Tennis? Just one guy like that in each town and I bet our membership would reach the million mark. Think of it, in a small community like Royal Oak, Michigan, this man has built up a membership of more than 100 people.
And how has he done it? Merely by sheer work, although it isn’t work to "Dick"…for he loves the game so….Dick started promoting the game in his basement having evening sessions with the neighborhood kids. Well, Dick’s enthusiasm was contagious and pretty soon there were so many addicts in the neighborhood…[that Dick] needed to find a larger center where several tables could be set up….Just two months ago [at this 6-table center] the V.F.W….started a teenage league….[Then Dick] managed to interest the Sports Editor of the ‘Tribune.’…
The Royal Oak table tennis club hasn’t produced any national champions as yet, but with such tremendous enthusiasm and so much play, we’re sure the time is not far off when we can look to Royal Oak for some of our best players. Not only that, but in every player out of Royal Oak, we’ll not only see a polished player, but a polished lady or gentlemen as well. For we know that any young person who comes in contact with Ed Dickinson is sure to acquire that same sense of sportsmanship and fair play, the same love of people, the same zest for life that Ed has. For Dick has that magic trick of giving everyone something of his own personality…" (3).
Come October, 1949, Editor Bill Price (another of those "Americans," as Miles calls them) will feature Associate Editor "Dick" and his kids in their V.F.W. shirts on the cover of Topics with the caption: "Aren’t they a swell looking group of kids? And isn’t Ed a swell guy?" ("Dick’s" teenagers are gonna be into VFW-sponsored baseball and bowling leagues too?) But if Haid really believes that Dickinson and his Royal Oak "family" will produce "some of our best players," I rest my case—he hasn’t a clue what it takes to be a professional.
Now back to New York for the Oct. 2nd, 1948 Bronx Championships. In the Men’s, it appeared that since Reisman had beaten Cartland in 5 in the semi’s, and was leading Miles 2-0 in the final, he would win. Thus Dick couldn’t possibly have any excuse as to why he’d lost to Marty in Toronto in that great final (Marty, who prided himself on having played spectacularly there, said that Dick said, "I never want to go through that again"). Of course there was that degrading judging-ring venue, the sights, sounds, and smells of the adjacent fairground animals, to which Miles would never return. But, just as Dick had dropped the first two games to Morris Chait in the semi’s and rallied, so he did here in the final against Marty, and so took the Bronx title in 5.
In the Men’s Doubles, Miles/Cartland advanced to the final, as did Reisman and the visiting German player Arnold Ring, a team that in the semi’s had 28-26-in-the-3rd barely escaped Ben Dattel/Cal Skinner. Ring, I heard, wore short shorts—and no underwear. Which prompted Lawrence to ring out, "Good God, man—get a jock!" Perhaps then it wasn’t so strange that the final was postponed, scheduled to be played a month later at the New York City Open. Leah Neuberger won the Women’s from fast-improving Lona Flam in 4. Simeon Sabre took the Senior’s as he’d done at the CNE; Sam Salzman finished runner-up. The Junior winner was Irwin Miller—over Charlie Post.
For the top Eastern players the Nov. 11-12 N.Y. City Open was the most important tournament of the fall, for its round-robins would determine who went not only to the Men’s Intercities and the Women’s East/West Team Matches but who might go to the Stockholm World’s, since very likely our U.S. Teams would be chosen from play there in St. Louis.
In the Men’s round robin, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Miles and Reisman would have the best records—and they 6-1 did. Dick beat Marty, but lost to Morris Chait who’d defeated him in the N.Y. Team Tryouts last year. Technically, 5 men were eligible for the N.Y. Team roster, but perhaps only 3 (whose way was paid?) would go to St. Louis. Next in line were Cartland and Schiff (4-3). Sol’s record could have been better, for he lost deuce in the 3rd to Laci Bellak, and after dropping the 1st to Reisman at deuce forced him into the 3rd. Cartland was handily beaten by Schiff, but went 3 with Miles and Reisman. Finishing in a tie for 5th-6th (3-4) were Chait and Cy Sussman who’d strongly challenged everyone he played. Bellak finished 7th (2-5) and Arnold Ring 8th (0-7). Apparently, though, given a deadline of a week, no one took the responsibility to convey the names of the players on the N.Y. Team to the organizers of the Intercities—which furthered the bad rep New Yorkers had in the Midwest. In defending this apparent lack of cooperation, however, I could point to an article in a N.Y. paper that said there’d be a delay due to a play-off for the Team—which meant that either Schiff or Cartland would go to St. Louis but not both. However, I have a copy of the Program-leaflet put out by the St. Louis organizers of the Championships that lists Miles, Reisman, Cartland and Schiff as representing the N.Y. Team.
In the Women’s round robin, National Champion Peggy McLean (7-0) had the best record, but she had only one easy match—with Bernice Chotras who was back playing this season. Mildred Shahian (5-2) was down 1-0 and at 24-all in the 2nd to Ruthe Brewer Crist before winning in 3. Chotras (4-3) split close matches with the New England contenders: she 22-20 in the 3rd survived Mae Clouther, but on losing the 1st 23-21 fell in the 3rd to Shahian. Clouther, Crist, Reba Monness, and Leah Neuberger (3-4) were all tied. Mae, down 1-0 and at 23-all in the 2nd, rallied to beat Shahian. Crist played -19, -20 games against McLean. Thus McLean, Shahian, and Chotras would represent the East.
Really disappointed with their showing had to be last year’s U.S. World Team members Monness and Neuberger, as well as ’47 U.S. World Team member Clouther, all of whom wouldn’t be going to St. Louis—the biggest shock here coming with Crist’s 19-in-the-3rd win over Leah. Had Leah won this match she’d have been 4-3 tied with Chotras whom she beat head to head. Had Clouther not lost deuce in the 3rd to Chotras, she, not Bernice, would have had the 4-3 record and the 3rd Team spot.
However, undaunted, Neuberger, Monness, and Clouther all played in the Nov. 20 New England Open at the Bridgeport Y. Reba, in advancing to the final, avenged her loss to Mae at the just-played Tryouts, and Leah, in winning the title, settled last-week accounts with Reba. In a quarter’s match with Leah, who should reappear—we’d last seen her at the 1942 St. Joe Valley—but Mary Baumbach, now Mary Cornwall, whose husband, Richard, had become President of the 40-member Montclair, N.J. affiliate. In another quarter’s, I note the first appearance of future U.S. World Team member Patty McLinn, loser here to Pauline Robinson who’d later be one of those females indirectly criticized for playing in the Junior’s, where, no, she didn’t beat the winner, Charlie Post.
In the Men’s, in his opening match, Reisman played…did it matter? Well, yes, because 36 years later, in a June 4, 1984 Sports Illustrated article called "Reminiscence," that opponent, one Parton Keese, a Dartmouth fraternity champ, wrote about his experience. The "starting time" of the match was "supposed to be 10:30 a.m." but Reisman hadn’t arrived yet and because of the snowstorm and delays it was announced that "first-round matches would be two of three games instead of three of five."
When Marty finally arrived some time after 11 o’clock, the two went out to play and of course Marty, playing to the gallery he always had, allowed Keese to win a game that sent the match into the end-game 3rd…where quite amazingly, says Keese, Marty "totally oblivious to how close he was to defeat…continued to make acrobatic returns, taking the ball between his legs, behind his back or switching his bat from right to left hand in midpoint." Then, at 19-all, Keese says, he, Keese, got an irretrievable net and was at match point. Alas, however, someone spoke up to tell Marty he was not playing the customary three out of five, but two out of three. Reisman’s protests were to no avail—he had to play…and his awe-struck opponent had to lose. Keese closes his "reminiscence" by saying that Reisman then went on to win the rest of his matches easily. In the final, yes, against Frank Dwelly who’d gotten by George Ferris in 5. In the semi’s, however, Marty could not have been so comfortable in the 5th with 1944 U.S. Open finalist Les Lowry, who’d earlier eliminated Izzy Bellis in straight games.
Indeed, Lowry/Dwelly won the Men’s Doubles from Reisman/Ferris, after both teams struggled in the semi’s—Lowry/Dwelly with Mal Russell/George Weinberg; Reisman/Ferris with Bellis/Hy Dolinsky. Les and Leah also took the Mixed from Marty and Reba.
California Association Growing
Over on the opposite side of the U.S., since there was no interaction between Pacific Coast players with those in other parts of our vast, then not easily traversable country, it was impossible to consider anyone for the U.S. Team, seemingly impossible even to rank anyone past Omaha (John Hanna and Don Terry were included in Insufficient Data). Consequently, though California was a USTTA affiliate, it could be no surprise that its players bonded together to have their own Association. Officers of the California TTA for the 1948-49 season were: John Hanna, President; Abbott Nelson, Vice-President; Chris Seil, Recording Secretary; Beryl Shapiro, Corresponding Secretary; Carl Bartlett, Executive Secretary; Paul Christensen, Treasurer. Other Executive Committee members were: Frank Nemes, Player Classification and Ranking Chairman; Bob Lupo, Tournament Sanction and Schedule Chairman; and Ed Barnes, Nominations Chairman. Talk was, following some successful tournaments, there might be a Southern California League.
The Greater Los Angeles Open, held June 12-13 at the Dorsey High School Gym with Hymen Rosenfeld as Official Referee, saw Tournament Chair and #2 seed Abbott Nelson win the 68-entry Men’s over Bernie Kleiner who’d upset #1 seed Lee Freeman and #3 seed John Hanna, both in 5. In the Women’s, Jane Little had little difficulty with Mary Reilly.
The L.A. Open had been run at a loss of roughly $25, but the Golden State Open at L.A.’s City College, Aug. 28-29, was, as Bob Lupo put it in a long write-up in Topics, "the most outstanding tournament ever held on the West Coast." It 311 entries, largely because of a month’s publicity campaign that included "several pictures, cartoons, features and complete coverage in all five of Los Angeles’ leading metropolitan newspapers, plus complete radio coverage along with interviews on six leading sports programs capped with a broadcast of Sunday evening’s final matches." Movie star Joan Leslie, who enjoyed the Game and graced the cover of the Oct., ’48 Topics, not only presented the prizes, donated "by various civic organizations, including Helms Athletic Foundation," but even refereed some matches. An honored guest was "Perry T. Jones, the ‘Mr. Tennis’ of Southern California" and reportedly a former California table tennis champion.
Lupo praised the eventual Men’s winner, Frank Nemes, as the "greatest of all California players." Still, as far back as the 8th’s, the ’47 California Champ was down 2-0 to Owsley Harper, though then going on to win easily. In the quarter’s, Nemes zipped through Ham Canning, who earlier, at 1-1 and 23-all in the 3rd with Lee Korf, had trouble advancing. Frank then reached the final unchallenged by Hanna. Coming out to lose to him was serial hero Don Terry. He’d prevailed deuce in the 4th over North American Aviation Research Engineer Lenny Abrams who, down 2-0, had rallied to upset Abbott Nelson. In the Women’s, Tiny Moss was, as she had been in May, head and shoulders above runner-up Jane Little, unable in the semi’s surely to have worked up a sweat against former Detroit star Margaret Koolery Wilson. Marge, U.S. Top 10 ten years ago, was apparently out of practice, for several months later, at the Greater L.A. Open, she 3-0 zipped Little.
Midwest Fall Tournaments
That same Oct. 2-3 weekend that Miles, Reisman, and Cartland were battling it out in the Bronx, Billy Holzrichter in the Illinois Membership Open was rallying from two games down to both Ralph Bast and in the final Don Lasater to win the Men’s. Women’s Champ was Tybie Thall—over Joan Gummels, good enough now to beat U.S. #8 Peggy Ichkoff. Gordon Barclay was the Junior winner over Don Koehnke and Sam Monica who’d eliminated Marty Prager in the semi’s. In the Boys’ Fred Ek was first, Stan Rubin 2nd.
Odd that the results of the Oct. 30-31 St. Louis District tournament, in the Editor’s back yard, never found print in Topics. We know it was held though because Helene Cinnater tells us in her column that Betty Jane Schaefer won the Women’s over Gummels. Helene also shared a Nash quip with us. During the 5-game semi’s between Bill Price and George Hendry, Bill, seeing sweat on the table, stopped play and hollered for a towel. Nash hollered back, "Why? Do you want to throw it in?" Bill might as well have if he was bent on winning the tournament, for Nash, using what some errantly call a backhand "flick" but is really, Price says, a backhand "drive," beat him in the final.
We also learn from Frank Wetzel’s piece on 12-year-old Alphonse Holtman (one of the two "Personality" essays Haid was able to print in Topics) that at this District Open —in between a month-long bout of strep throat that had hospitalized him for two weeks before the tournament and a tonsillectomy that would hospitalize him immediately afterwards—Al upset #2-ranked U.S. boy Willard Sher. How’d he do it? "On top of every ball," said Wetzel, "Alphonse never took a backward step, forcing always with backhand and forehand drives, and finally out-countering Willard in the closing points of the fifth game" (Dec., 1948, 3).
No results in Topics for the fall Des Moines Open, but the results were pretty predictable. Winners: Men’s: Wayne Losh over George Wicker in 5 (after Wicker had been down 2-0 and 20-18 in the 3rd to Des Moines TTA President Jock Wallace). Women’s: Helen Baldwin Spann, returning after her marriage two years ago, to be unchallenged by Eva Stoler.
Men’s Intercities/Women’s East-West Matches
It’s just amazing to me: the Intercities and the Women’s East-West Matches that will decide the U.S. Team to the Stockholm World’s, a Team that every Affiliate is asked to support monetarily, is played Nov. 27-28 at the DeSoto Hotel in Topics Editor Haid’s home town, and when the coverage of it finally comes in the Jan. issue, there is no indication of who played for the Men’s Teams or what their records were. Instead Haid—or did he leave the tournament "write-up" to Dickinson?—gives not equal space but twice that space to vague talk of "Our Gang" groups of Michigan kids who "want to learn to play table tennis," as well as a detailed listing of who beat who and by what score in a Royal Oak Membership tournament. Such an incredible lack of perspective, of what’s important and what’s not, makes it clear that he—or Dickinson—just has little "feel" for the Sport. And probably really doesn’t like New Yorkers.
His heading reads, "New York Defeats St. Louis in Five Thrilling Matches…" and below we see that New York’s game record for the entire tournament was a thrilling 30-0. Then he says, "according to this writer and his statistics" (the statistics unshared, but damn 30-0 easy to guess), "the New York representatives: Dick Miles [Outstanding Player], Martin Reisman and Sol Schiff" had earned the right to be on the Team. What about Cartland? Did he show? If so, he, too, had to be undefeated. The final positions of the remaining teams with snippets of information from Helene Cinnater’s column) were as follows: (2) St. Louis (with Al Holtman as "mascot"), 5-1; (3) Chicago, 4-2 (barely beating Detroit and crowd-pleasing exhibitionist Webb 5-4); (4) Detroit, 3-3; (5) Columbus, 2-4; (6) Indianapolis (without McClure—he’d torn ligaments in his shoulder? in his elbow?), 1-5; and (7) Bridgeport, 0-6. (The Milwaukee team listed in the leaflet didn’t show?)
The Women’s East-West Matches got 1 and 1/2 inches of space. There was never any coverage as to how the Westerners qualified, who they beat. But in the final, the East annihilated the West 10-1. Both Peggy McLean [Outstanding Player] and Bernice Chotras defeated all three Western women—Betty Schaefer, Tybie Thall, and Peggy Ichkoff (Ichkoff was leading McLean 18-14 in the 3rd, but couldn’t get another point). Mildred Shahian defeated Schaefer and Ichkoff, but lost to Thall. In the two doubles matches, McLean/Shahian defeated Schaefer/Ichkoff, and McLean/Chotras defeated Schaefer/Thall.
Before we pick up the ultimate composition of the U.S. Team, their Jan.-Feb. play abroad, and their return to the Mar. 6-12 National Table Tennis Week of the Eastern’s, Western’s, and Pacific Coast Championships, I want briefly to cover some winter tournaments—first in the Midwest, then in the East.
By mistake Topics sent the St. Joe Valley Open results to Los Angeles. I’ll not follow them there, but go instead to the Dec. 4-5 Chicago Lake States Open. In the Men’s, Holzrichter, who with his brother Gus had just opened, in addition to their store on Devon, a Pro Sports Shop on Grand, was down 2-1 to Barclay in the semi’s, but came back to win easily; then beat Nash in the final in 4. I don’t know if Billy was being considered for the U.S. Team to the Stockholm World’s, but Nash was. Apparently he’d made a big hit with the English, for he was on the Sept., ‘48 cover of Table Tennis. Said the identifying caption: "With shaggy-dog haircut and shaggy-dog voice, he sometimes succeeds in making people think he is not what he certainly is…a kindly, intelligent sportsman." Neither Holzrichter, paired with Ralph Bast, nor Nash with young Sam Monica, could win the Men’s Doubles—that event went to Juniors Wally Gundlach/John Stewart who’d pulled out a 5-gamer from "Andy" Anderson/Dan Kreer. Varga took the Senior’s ("When John served," someone said, "he’d curl up his lip and scowl"), but his aging protégé, Barclay, who in the Men’s had been precariously close to losing to Russ Niesen before downing Gundlach, dropped the Junior final to Wally. (Best match in the Junior’s? Monica’s deuce-in-the-5th win over Prager.) Junior Girls went to Joanne Kaylor.
In the Women’s, Ichkoff beat Shipman after Millie had upset the #2 seed Specht in 5 in the semi’s. But Mary did just fine in Doubles—took the Women’s with Ichkoff, and the Mixed with Nash, deuce in the 5th over Bast/Wilson, a disappointing ending that wasn’t gonna stop them from announcing their engagement come Christmas.
Ichkoff also won the Feb. 19-20 Illinois State Open. And Holzrichter too? Nope. Lost in the final to…Lou Pagliaro, far more interested in making a living for himself and family than being U.S. Champion or among the World’s Top 10. He was in the wintry Windy City not to collect a trophy but, as in the past, to blow them away at a Sportsman’s Show? At first he certainly appeared to be less than tournament tough—somehow managed to go 19 in the 5th with South Bend’s Harry Tafler. Which meant that Harry, for being a "fine loser" not only found his way into this book, but was given a Sportsmanship Award.
Perhaps the Jan. 29-30 Central Open in Milwaukee (though the Men’s winner received a 17-jewel gold watch) wasn’t considered important enough to be held during National Table Tennis Week with the other Zonal tournaments—the Eastern’s, Western’s, and Pacific Coast Opens. Holzrichter won the Men’s, beating Barclay in the final as badly as Gordy in the Junior’s beat Prager. Billy had been forewarned to take Barclay seriously, for in the Men’s Doubles he and Bast had a two-game lead over Gordy/Bill Early and lost. The promising Carl Dentice won the Boys (over Tommy Breunig in the semi’s, and Jim Davis in the final).
In the Women’s, Carolyn Wilson, upset both Specht and in the final Ichkoff who’d downed #3 seed Carlyn Zimmerman (a name you might still draw a Blank on?). In the Women’s Doubles, Ichkoff/Specht won, but not as expected, for Wilson and one of the Van De Houton twins (Topics couldn’t tell which) forced them to 28-26 in the 4th. The Mixed went to Holzrichter/Specht—over Bast/Wilson. (Best match in this event? Shrout/Ichkoff’s 24-22-in-the-5th snatch from Barclay/Carrol Jaeger (another name to draw a Blank on?).
In the Wisconsin Open at Milwaukee, Holzrichter, as was his habit, gained the final—but then played as if he didn’t need another watch. He lost in 4 to V. Lee Webb, who’d earlier crossed off MacCrossen from anyone’s possible winner’s list. Don’s dad, maker of the famous MacCrossen bats, still had a Circular he was passing out, and doubtless had acquired quite a following over the years. He said he’d been running his ad in Topics since 1937 (at a cost then of $12, at a cost now of $40; but that increase was alright, he added, because "my bats went up from $1.30 in 1937 to $6 and $7 today").
Ichkoff more or less blanked Jaeger (4, 8, 4!), then finished off Zimmerman 3-0 to win the Women’s.
The Feb. 5-6 Missouri State Open saw 15-year-old Jim Tancill, showing great "poise and confidence," upset #1 seed Nash in the Men’s in 5—really upset him, for in hushed tones it was passed round that Garrett "broke his bat." Price, down 18-14 in the 5th in the semi’s to Lasater, might have been tempted to do the same, but rallied to win—and then won the tournament from Gundlach. Wally, though surviving a two-games-down start to defeat Tancill, deuce in the 5th , in the semi’s of the Junior’s, finished by losing the final, from two games up, to John Stewart.
Iowa’s last tournament of the year distributed upsets that, to the winners at the Des Moines venue, must have seemed as satisfying as little presents at an office Christmas party. In the Men’s, in the 2nd round, veteran Harry Benson –24, 15, 18, 19 eliminated #2 seed Wayne Losh; Oliver Leighton eliminated #4 seed George Wicker (Senior winner over Carl Nidy and Cecil Woodworth); and Marland Cutler, though losing two deuce games, eliminated #1 seed Bob Ferguson. In the quarter’s, Leighton eliminated #5 seed Dick Polson. In the semi’s, Bill Guilfoil eliminated #3 seed Duane Maule, 19 in the 4th. However, in the final, #7 seed Guifoil prevailed over unseeded Cutler. Guilfoil, and partner Benson, also won the Men’s Doubles—in 5 from current National Intercollegiate Champions Leighton/Frank Bayless.
As expected, however, Helen Baldwin Spann, though playing sparingly now, was the hat-trick Champ. She won the Women’s over Eva Stoler; the Women’s Doubles with VirginiaYaggy over Stoler/Ethel Cross; and the Mixed with Losh over Wicker/Yaggy.
The second half of the season opened in the East with the Jan. 22, 1949 New England Closed at Newton Corner, Massachusetts. George Ferris won the Men’s over the Lowrys—Les in the semi’s in a down-to-the-wire 5th, and, in a 3-zip final, Dick, who’d rallied to beat Arthur Sweeney and then had upset Frank Dwelly after losing the 1st game at 4 and then being down 2-0. Dwelly and gimpy-legged Benny Hull took the Doubles from the Lowry brothers in the semi’s, and the Delaney brothers, Fran and Joe, in the final. Doug Allred saw only Green for Go to win the 11-entry Consolation from Lou Salami. Why, though, no Women’s or Junior events?
A week later at the Springfield, Massachusetts Y, 10 teams competed in the New England Intercities. The winner was Division II’s Bridgeport, led by Ferris (9-0). Newton’s Dwelly also posted a 9-0 record, which allowed his team to come 2nd in the Division I draw. More power to one of Frank’s teammates, Mae Clouther, for if she couldn’t play in Stockholm, or find some women to beat in Newton Corner, at least she could muster a 2-5 record among the men here. I might also mention Stratford’s Emil LaReau’s fine 10-1 record. Of course as he continues to play, that 10-1 will be forgotten, but not the fact that he’s 1 of 13 siblings.
For the first time in seven years, New Jersey held a State Closed. In the 59-entry Men’s, the host Montclair Y Club crowned John Kilpatrick the Champ for his down 2-1-and-at-deuce-in-the-4th comeback win over George Ebbe who’d upset #1 seed Bill Cross. Mary Cornwall won the Women’s over Jean Gere.
Some highly unusually sightings in Bethlehem at the Feb. 19 Pennsylvania Open. First off, as player after player goes out to his/her match-table, who’s there waiting for them but a "Number Girl." She’ll ask you for the player-number you’ve been given but don’t want to wear, and will "pin it on your back" and "give you a little pat…for encouragement." Later, "she’ll remove the number, congratulate you on your victory or spur you on to try again." Lucky you if you win a trophy, for reports are they’re unusual—from Zimpfer’s Ceramic Studio, Specialists in Pennsylvania Dutch Pottery. But even if you lose immediately, you’ll have something to take home—a consolation souvenir.
Such a strange "award"—do you suppose 1947 U.S. Champion Leah Neuberger could find a prominent place for it on her trophy shelves? For, yes, in the Women’s, Leah, the #1 seed, was a 1st-round loser to unseeded Mary Baumbach Cornwall. Though only recently returning to competitive play, Mary was well known to Leah, for it was with her that Leah won her first National Championship—the 1941 Women’s Doubles. That was it for Cornwall though—she lost in the next round to unseeded Pauline Robinson, who in turn lost in the semi’s to the unseeded winner, Ruth Millington, back in the mid-to-late ‘30’s the Pennsylvania State Champion. Runner-up to Ruth was the #3 seed, the young Harrisburg star, Patty McLinn, who’d ousted N.Y.’s hard hitter, the #2 seed, Lona Flam. As there was no Junior Girls event, Robinson and McLinn played against the Junior Boys, and both got to the semi’s—Robinson losing to the eventual winner, Angelo Gutierrez; McLinn to the runner-up, Dave Dreifus.
In the Men’s, there were upsets in the quarter’s: #8 seed Izzy Bellis, who back in 1939 had been seeded #1 in the U.S. Open, rallied from two games down to defeat the Defending Champion Morris Chait; and Bill Cross took the last two games from George Ferris to advance in 5. Bellis then beat Cross in the semi’s. In the other half, N.Y.’s unseeded Mal Russell eliminated both #6 seed Fran Delaney and #4 seed Jules Toff before falling to Cy Sussman, who then came runner-up to Bellis.
Bethlehem TTA President Lillian Caretta, after being reluctant to face again the pressure she felt at last year’s past-midnight-ending tournament that landed her in the hospital, has to be commended, along with her Treasurer and Playing Facilities Chair, Ernest Voros, and Pennsylvania TTA Vice-President Ed Harris, for persevering to again bring the players to this Christmas City.
*See Borak’s letters (particular favorites of mine) in my Vol. I, Chap. Eleven, 126-136.
**I’d heard that Bergmann’s wife died around this time, but a 1970 obituary of Richard said that he’d married in 1948 and "divorced just over two years later." Ivor Montagu in his 1970 "In Memoriam" to Bergmann said Richard’s "marriage was a mistake." It may well be that though his wife was "critically ill" she recovered. Or it may possibly be that the "Tour" hadn’t enough bookings to satisfy Richard and so, with this save-face excuse, he returned to England. In a July 15, 1948 letter to USTTA Exhibition Chair Phil Kenner, Carl Nidy said his Des Moines affiliate wouldn’t be interested in booking Miles/Bergmann. "Our people here," he explained, "are peculiar and it seems they are not appreciative of serious matches but go more for clowning such as Bellak and Coleman Clark would offer."