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
1949: Miles, McLean Win Eastern’s, 1949: Appearance of Bobby Gusikoff. 1949: Price/Gummels Best In Western’s. 1949: Abbott Nelson/Jean Rose Conquer Pacific Coast. 1949: Miles/Neuberger National Champions. 1949: USTTA Expansion? 1949: 3rd All-American Novice Championships. 1949: Miles, Reisman, Cartland Suspended.
No sooner had the S.S. America carrying the U.S. Team members home from Europe docked in New York than some of them were whisked off to the Springfield, Massachusetts Y for the Mar. 5-6 Eastern’s. In the Men’s, Cartland, on advancing to the semi’s, defaulted to Reisman—another action USTTA officials would deem "detrimental" to table tennis and hold him accountable for. Miles of course also advanced through the semi’s, with a straight-game win over Frank Dwelly who’d earlier almost been upset by Western Massachusetts Champ Charles Forant.
For the first three games of the final, Dick and Marty put on a spectacular match—with defending Champ Reisman (-17, 19, 20) taking a 2-1 lead. But then, strange, Marty was anything but "fire-red" (that is, "hot"), as he’d been at Wembley; he just (-6, -9) collapsed. So who was the wimp now?…I’m reminded of the question I believe Freddie Borges asked Dick, "What’s your definition of an extraordinarily talented player?" (Freddie was probably thinking of Marty.) Dick replied, "One who, when he gets out of position, can still always make the shot." "Can you do that?" Freddie asked. "I’m never out of position," said Dick.
Ironically, Marty played Doubles with his friend, the parodist Hartman, while Miles played—and won—with his friend Eugene Fately. Gene was someone who’d make such an impression on Miles that, beginning four decades later, Dick would spend 10 years building a novel around him.
In the Women’s, McLean, high after her Corbillon Cup and English Open successes, but perhaps more than a little fatigued by her sea-crossing home, found just enough will to win a 23-21-in-the-5th final from Neuberger. Leah, no doubt eager to prove her worth after not having made the U.S. World Team, knocked out Ruthe Crist (whom she’d lost that very damaging close match to in the East-Team Tryouts), then beat Clouther in the semi’s.
McLean also took the Mixed with Reisman—over Tybie, whom Peggy had eliminated in the Singles, and N.Y.’s Irwin Miller. In Women’s Doubles Leah and Tybie downed New Englanders Shahian and Clouther. Bill Gunn won the Senior Singles and Doubles (with Simeon Sabre). The Junior’s went to the Bronx’s Abbott Glasser who struggled by Dave Dreifus in 5 in the semi’s and Angelo Gutierrez in 4 in the final.
It was the Boys’ runner-up at this, his first, tournament, however, who among the young players of the day History would most remember. Bobby Gusikoff, born Mar. 28, 1936, was brought up in a very musical family. His mother’s father, Bohumil Kryl, had played the cornet for John Philip Sousa; his mother was a very accomplished pianist, and his father a noted violinist and symphony orchestra conductor. But there would be no performance-concerts in Bobby’s future—not after his father had taken him to Lawrence’s that fateful night; from then on you could trace his footsteps, here, there, to a different kind of playing hall. Not quite 13, Gusikoff lost to Springfield’s George LaPierre, U.S. #2 in the Boys’ this season. Bobby remembers coming home on a New York subway that evening, holding in his lap the little 4-inch trophy he’d received. Half a century later, on receiving the USATT Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, he told us from his wheelchair he still had it, though by then it didn’t look as it used to—the handle on one side was missing.
Price/Gummels Best In Western’s
In the absence of Chicago’s Holzrichter—he wouldn’t be attending the National’s either, probably because he and brother Gus were busy trying to make a success of their Pro Sport Shops—St. Louis players dominated the Mar. 5-6 Western Open at Des Moines. Bill Price won the Men’s with relative ease. He defeated, from the quarter’s on, Bill Early, Don Lasater, and Garrett Nash. Garrett advanced to the final by thumping Junior winner Wally Gundlach. and runner-up Gordon Barclay. Lasater had a convincing quarter’s win over Bob Ferguson—perhaps the only representative of Omaha t.t. entered, other than John Jones who gave Boy’s winner Al Holtman a 5-game hard time. Topics reported that Max Godden, Chair of the Directors of the Omaha Table Tennis Club, and at least 10 other Omaha players, including Jerry Kaufman, President of the Club, didn’t play in the tournament because they didn’t want to wear the mandatory white outfits:
"’We play table tennis for fun in Nebraska,’ declared Godden. ‘White uniforms would make the sport too expensive. We also feel that the sport should be conducted for participants and not spectators’" (Apr., 1949, 7).
John Varga, who won the Senior’s over Ed Litman, was one of those originally opposed to all white, but now others who also were opposed or uncertain—Carl Nidy speaking for his Des Moines Club, and Bill Guilfoil for his Kansas City Club—were in favor. Helene Cinnater thought white clothes "a big improvement"—but didn’t like white shorts on males or females.
Joan Gummels, whom Price coached at tennis as well as table tennis, won the Women’s—over #1 seed Peggy Ichkoff who’d been down 2-1 to L.A.’s Tiny Moss. Tiny, who I presume had come back to Minnesota to visit family and friends, probably was given a ride down from St. Paul by her mentor Litman who had a car dealership there. Gummels/Moss took the Women’s Doubles from Shipman/Helen Baldwin Spann. And in the Mixed Gummels/Nash, down 2-1 and at 22-all in the 4th, prevailed over Barclay/Ichkoff.
Abbott Nelson/ Jean Rose Conquer Pacific Coast
In Table Tennis Week’s remaining synchronized tournament, players came from considerable distances, Canada and Washington, to participate in the Pacific Coast Open, held in Long Beach. Abbott Nelson won the Men’s—upset Frank Nemes in 5 in the semi’s, then followed through, 15 in the 5th, to down Oakland’s Paul Capelle. In the Senior’s, San Francisco’s Lee Butler sent Hollywood’s Milt Forest, credited with initiating the 4-cent airmail postcard, on his way, then end-game snatched away the title from local star Bill Bower who’d survived a near semi’s scalping by Vancouver’s Jim Hair. Vancouver’s Jean Rose, the Women’s winner, found each late-round match a little harder: first, she beat Pat Crowley in 3; then Mary Reilly in 4 (earlier Mary had given t.t. a boost by appearing on Groucho Marx’s Elgin Program); and finally San Francisco’s Terry Allen in 5.
Miles/Neuberger National Champions
It was April Fools’ Day at the 1949 New York National’s—the more so for Omaha’s Corporal Bob Ferguson, coming all the way from Fort Crook, Nebraska, who thought the Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. tournament started on Friday and who, alas, was defaulted. Such a mix-up reminds me of a couple of lines in one of Helene Cinnater’s "This N’ That" Topics columns from which I’m always pilfering. "Y’know how names are listed in phone books, last names first. The Army supply dep’t had the following listed: ‘Pong balls, ping’" (Apr., 1949, 12). Better Ferguson had hooked up with Don Hassler who’d chartered a bus for 25 mid-westerners direct from Indianapolis to the N.Y. Arena and back ($21 round-trip)—no joke, some real savings there.
Focused at St. Nick’s, amid the 190 or so players, many of them come to socialize, was of course Miles, trying for an unprecedented 5th straight Singles title. Dick advanced to the final with ease—giving up only 40 points to #8 seed Somael in the quarter’s (Johnny having shakily gone 5 in his 1st match with Milwaukee’s Dick Peregrine), and only 32 to #4 seed Pinner in the semi’s (after Eddie "ran to the point of exhaustion" against Bellak in a 5-game quarter’s). Biggest upset in this half? N.Y.’s Bob Wilkenfeld over #9 seed Izzy Bellis.
On the other side of the draw, Reisman, perhaps playfully (rule was: only 1 minute warm-up prior to a match), dropped a game to "chiseler" Arnold Fetbrod in the 8th’s. It was for both Fetbrod and Ty Neuberger, even more than for Reisman or anyone else, that Topics prior to these National’s had not only implored, "PLEASE DO NOT GAMBLE," but had threatened,
"Gambling is prohibited by the laws of the City of New York and by the National ruling of the U.S. Table Tennis Association. Not only will you open yourselves to penalty by the Association, but also to arrest by any of the legal city authorities who will be represented at the Tournament" (Mar., 1949, 10).
Fetbrod and Neuberger were not impressed. At a June 11 E.C. Meeting, the USTTA would suspend both of them "indefinitely."
Of course St. Nick’s was not Lawrence’s where, despite Herwald’s sense of decorum, disruptions in the heat of a wager could occur. New York’s Mitch Silbert remembered seeing a fuming Cartland thrust his foot through the closest table-side barrier, while Pagliaro, not to be outdone, soon slashed out just as furiously with his racket—prompting from the proprietor an "I say old chaps, you must stop this nonsense." "Yeah, yeah," came the response mid continuous play, "we’ll pay for it." For more than an unusual show of rowdiness at Lawrence’s though, for real lowdown vulgarity, you’d have had to see Ty Neuberger in a nasty fit of pique overturn table after table until an astonished George Ferris collected himself and threatened Ty with bodily harm if he didn’t "Pick up that table!"
Neuberger, some said, was not a nice fellow. But, ah, Reisman—the St. Nicholas Arena Open Program described him as "a charming and likeable personality, with a keen sense of humor, that he gives rein to even in his tournament play." However, that view of him, as we’ll see in a moment, would be challenged. Reisman had eliminated McClure in straight games in the quarter’s. (Earlier, Jimmy—with the Expedite Rule coming in when he was down 16-14 in the 5th—had 26-24 squeaked by Ferris.) But Marty’s semi’s opponent, #3 seed Schiff, had been having his 5-game troubles—first with Barclay, then with #6 seed Nash.
According to former U.S. Team Captain Price, Miles, Reisman, Schiff, Nash all used rackets ranging from slow to very slow—to give them added control. Marty at this time used a 4 and ¼-ounce bat—"Nobody used a bat that light," he told me—and of course he had the reputation of having perhaps the hardest-hit forehand in the world. "The ball came off my racket with a tremendous explosion" was the way he put it, "but I found out too late that if I’d have used a 5 and ¼ ounce racket, which I later switched to, I’d have hit the ball even harder and the ball would have carried its speed a few more feet." Which, he reminisced, might have allowed him to beat Bergmann.
Since Nash’s ranking—he’d be #3 this season—would scarcely have changed from the #2 ranking the he’d held 10 years earlier, maybe Garrett’s play hadn’t been so wild after all, maybe it had been stronger and steadier than many thought? And maybe now Reisman had inherited Garrett’s "bad boy" image? For it seemed to some that Reisman, in his –8, 12, 16, 17 semi’s match with Schiff, was playing "a private little game all his own," and that one’s query to him should have been, "Who are you kidding, Marty?"
Here’s Topics Editor Price complaining about what he saw as Reisman’s "almost unbelievable bit of chicanery" against "one of the nicest guys to ever swing a paddle":
"… Schiff had a very hot first game and ran through Reisman very easily, 21-8. Now Reisman knows that a hot Schiff remains hot for only so long and that a half hour wait is almost sure to cool him off. So he made Schiff wait for a half hour. How did he get away with it?…We all know that a five minute rest period is permitted players between the third and fourth games but none is allowed at any other time. Reisman had an excuse of sorts, the rubber was allegedly peeling off his paddle and he had to have it repaired! Why he didn’t take care of this before the match is controversial, perhaps he was prepared for such an emergency as a Schiff playing his top game, or perhaps he planned to lose the first game and then stall for quite a while, while his ‘colleagues’ went about the crowd making more bets at better odds. One thing we do know, Marty has been playing with his racket in that shape ever since he left for Europe, for luck.
In any case, it was a beautiful sight watching the officials looking benignly down from their boxes at Reisman’s shenanigans and doing absolutely nothing about it. They also could not have helped watching the unusually heavy betting going on. Why this was permitted is another mystery, and made their ‘no betting’ rule pretty laughable. I don’t know, from where I sit it looks as though this game is controlled by a very few, very shady characters, and if something isn’t done about it some of us are going to take our leave…" (May, 1949, 7).
Consider this a ruse on Reisman’s part, or not. Applaud, or don’t, columnist Helene Cinnater’s line that those "who attended the National’s will be pleased to know that Sol Schiff beat Reisman in the Conn. Open!!!" As for me in regard to this incident, I find some of Price’s comments suspect—particularly his claim that the game is controlled not in good measure by his fellow St. Louis officials but by "a very few, very shady characters." That’s ridiculous.
I’m sure readers would have liked to know more about the extenuating circumstances. If, as Price says, Reisman had been playing ever since going off to Europe with a peeling-rubber racket, likely he hoped he could continue to play well with it? Until Schiff beat him badly that first game. Then he didn’t think he could play well enough with it, and, as Schiff was having a good day, he needed to play well, and so felt the need to glue down his rubber? And perhaps he did have the thought to cool Schiff off? But I don’t believe whatever bets there were had anything to do with what Price called Marty’s "shenanigans."
Reisman should have had a back-up racket, but didn’t? So what now were the New York officials to do? Tell Marty he had to play…with that peeling-rubber racket or a borrowed one if necessary? Otherwise he’d be defaulted…when obviously all New York was looking forward to him playing not only Schiff, but hopefully Miles in the final? Was New Yorker Schiff, Reisman’s Doubles partner, acquiescent to the delay, or did he protest? How long was the expected wait? How long the actual wait before Marty’s newly-glued racket was ready? Had Price just cause, from past experience, to assume that Marty (whom for whatever reason he didn’t like?) deliberately used what Price called a "ruse"?
One spectator, let’s keep him anonymous, call him X, obviously an uninitiate, wrote to Topics that he was soured on the tournament because "the top stars did not wear a number on their back like Joe Doaks did, and also because "a few of the top stars were allowed to practice while the tournament was in progress," so it was "even tougher to tell what was going on all the time." (Stars—this fellow makes the further distinction "top stars," those players X and everyone else have come to see—ought not to be distinguished (and therefore given any extra consideration) from Joe Doakes except by a number who tells X who these top stars are, or at least what their names are?) The fellow was even more put out, and justly so, when apparently the delay of the Schiff/Reisman afternoon match forced him to wait "almost an hour to get in to see the [separate session, evening] finals" (TTT, May, 1949, 6).
Talk to Marty more than half a century later about this racket controversy, and he’d tell you that such a supposed "ruse" was "bullshit," was beneath him—he’d never stall, always wanted to get to the table and prove himself. It was just too awkward trying to hold his forefinger over the peeling rubber, so he asked the blind umpire, Chuck Medick (Chuck said he could "now see shadows"), to allow him time to glue the racket. Reisman’s friend Hartman (he, but not Marty, was looking to bet on the match?), then went out to get rubber cement, but couldn’t find it at the nearby five-and-dime store, so the gluing took more time than expected. Schiff certainly objected to the delay, but Marty didn’t have a back-up racket, wouldn’t think of having one, for it would be like having mismatched gloves.
Miles felt the same way. "With the old hardbat rackets," he said, "you used your rubber for years. Then, occasionally, you took a big chance and changed it. By this time the center spot on your racket consisted of all black pips, and likely these pips had started to go. The worst thing, though, was to see ball marks around the perimeter of your racket. Then you’d say, ‘My god, look how I’m playing!’"
This supposed "ruse" incident reminds me of two earlier matches, both involving Schiff. In the first, Sol and McClure, down 15-10 in the 5th, in their 1938 World Doubles final against Barna and Bellak (see Vol. I, Chap. 27), deliberately stalled for time, feigned a possible ankle injury to Schiff…and turned the game, match, and historic title in their favor.
In the second, 1943 U.S. Open Champion Billy Holzrichter was leading Sol 17-13 in the 5th in the ’47 National’s when Billy, on catching the edge of the table with his racket, sheared the rubber loose from his blade, and had to stop the match. Here at St. Nick Arena Reisman sent out for glue, but in ’47 Holzrichter was helped by another player who had some glue conveniently at hand. Still, it’s as if Billy proved the truth of what esteemed bat-maker Bernie Hock in a June, 1985 letter to Houston’s Buddy Melamed would say—that players who claim they can change bats or even pick up more or less anything and play their best with it, without several months’ practice, "are 2 to 5 points off of their game without realizing it." Billy said that when he continued, it was as if he had a different paddle, and he lost his lead and the match. Surely it’s questionable that Reisman deliberately planned ahead of time to stall if necessary and play with a newly glued racket. Even Marty ought to be deemed innocent until proven guilty.
Clearly, in this Schiff-Reisman match, and in the two I’m reminded of as well, psychological factors were introduced. And maybe in the Miles-Reisman final too, for when Marty played and lost to Dick, 3-0, it appeared to most observers that Marty "erred in allowing…[Dick] to take the offense too often." At any event, Reisman, perhaps a little distracted by some of the bad vibes his "unwarranted delay" had generated, was not at his best when he needed to be, his altered racket now unable to retain its "luck" (for only in the 2nd game, from 12-18 down to 20-19 up, did he threaten to swing the match in his favor).
One of the most exciting matches of the tournament was the final of the Men’s Consolation, won by Irving "Whitey" Sheraga (a late entry—though supposedly late entries weren’t accepted—whose name doesn’t appear in the Program draw) over Marv Shaffer, 26-24 in the 5th.
In Men’s Doubles, Hazi, recovering from an operation, wasn’t back to defend with Somael. (By June, though, Tibor would win yet another D.C. Championship—this time after being down 2-1 to Hal Green.) Schiff/Reisman, one of the favored pairs, had to go 5 with Price/Nash in the quarter’s, but then weren’t pressed by Somael/McClure, who’d beaten Chait/Ferris in the 5th. Three-time Champions, Eddie Pinner and Cy Sussman, almost won again, for in the semi’s they stopped Miles/Bellak in the 5th before falling to Schiff/Reisman (obviously getting along together) in the final in 5—a final, incidentally, where one of the ball boys in the court was caught off guard, being more interested in "reading the funnies" than catching any bounding ball.
The Senior’s (Over 35), as I’ll make clear in a moment, was noteworthy. Varga emerged from the top half of the draw to win the title from Paul Buell. In 5-game quarter’s matches, N.Y.’s Larry Wexler knocked out Bernie Hock, while Milwaukee’s Paul Buell was upsetting Bill Gunn. Then Buell won out over Wexler to get to the final.
I’d mentioned the noted artist/illustrator Gus Rehberger a few times before, but now, because he was acknowledged in the ‘49 Open Program as having designed the striking cover, we learn a little bit more about him. Turns out he was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and that in 1944 his war paintings were exhibited in London’s National Gallery. His work, which he enjoys doing while addictively listening to Beethoven, had been featured in such prominent magazines as Collier’s, Coronet, and Esquire (the July, 1949 issue would call him the "Hemingway of Painters"). And just recently he’d won "the first prize for the Most Creative Painting" in the "national Audubon Artists Exhibit held in New York" (3).
This Senior’s was something of an historic event. Former USTTA President/Editor Carl Zeisberg showed up, rolling his own cigarettes, and regretting, as he watched the matches, what a mistake he’d made back in the ‘30’s urging that the net be lowered to 6 inches:
"…the low net forces players to remain close to the table and deprives spectators of seeing one player driving off both corners of the table…[and the other] ranging perhaps 20 feet back of the table to return the drives. Such deep defense, which makes spectators gasp and cheer, is to my mind the ONLY thing which table tennis can offer the spectator" (TTT, Dec., 1949, 8).
Also, this Senior’s brought together in both Singles and Doubles four famous pioneers of the Sport. The 1931 APPA U.S. Open and 1932 NYTTA U.S. Open Champion Marcus Schussheim, now Mark Matthews, listed in the Open Program as again playing out of New York, was paired in Doubles, as he had been when they were runner-ups in the 1933 and ’34 U.S. Opens, with 1933 NYTTA Singles Champion Sidney Heitner. And Ralph Langsam, winner of the first (1933) USTTA U.S. Open Doubles Championship (with Lloyd Waterson), had as his partner Seymour Solomon, 1933 U.S. Open Singles runner-up to Heitner.
In Singles, they all triumphed in their 1st round match, then were eliminated. Matthews beat Paul Jackson who in ’51 would win the first U.S. Open Esquire (Over 50) event, then lost to bat-maker Hock. Heitner, who came up-deuce-in-the-4th short in the Men’s to Rochester’s Ben Morgan, downed U.S. Intercollegiate Chair, Dr. B.B. Gummels, Joan’s father. Langsam stopped former Long Island TTA President Frank Davison, whose baby daughter, Grace Elizabeth, for no conceivable reason graced, er, make that disgraced, the cover of the April, ’49 Topics. And Solomon, after being down 2-0, persisted to a 23-21-in-the-5th win over Connecticut’s Newton Frost. In Doubles, the two pairs met in the quarter’s—with Langsam/Solomon winning deuce in the 4th, then being the only team to take a game from Bellak/Gunn, winners in the final over Varga/Lynel Overton (also coming to be known, by choice or accident, as "Lionel Ovelton") who’d survived Hock/Sabre in 5. Gunn, it was said, was the picture of sartorial splendor as he umpired one important match after another.
Wally Gundlach who, up 2-0, had been beaten in the Men’s by Fran Delaney, the last two games at deuce, went all the way in the Junior’s without losing a game. McClure describes Wally’s effective forehand: "He crowds the table from the backhand side and attempts to force the players out of position by hitting the ball farther and farther out on their backhand side and then coming through with a hard shot straight down the line to their forehand side" (TTT, Nov., 1949, 6). Runner-up Barclay scored a 5-game win over Harry Hirschkowitz who’d had to 22, 21, -23, -26, 11 work hard before outdistancing stubborn Al Holtman. Semifinalist Abbott Glasser of N.Y. had to go deuce in the 5th to get by Norman Barken of St. Louis who’d defeated young Bobby Gusikoff in 5. In the Boys’, against Detroit’s Jimmy Calcaterra, Bobby, down 12-1 in the 5th, made a remarkable comeback to win 23-21, then lost to Defending Boys’ Champion Morris Johnson. Morris again reached the final, but was beaten by Montreal’s Bernie Silcoff who’d had some uncomfortable 5-game moments earlier with George LaPierre.
Credit Pauline Robinson, who was attending New York City’s Professional Children’s School, with persuading Control Desk Director Herwald Lawrence to have the first U.S. Open Junior Miss (Under 18) event. This drew 4 round-robin entries and was won by Joan Gummels, said to be "very attractive in her CBS Television broadcast." Lona Flam was 2nd, Robinson 3rd, and Helen Marcus 4th. Lawrence was praised by many for his running of the tournament, but NYTTA President John Kauderer said Herwald "took a licking" because the NYC Fire Department insisted he contribute to the "O’Dwyer [the NYC Mayor’s] slush fund." If he didn’t pay there [at the Arena]," Lawrence told John, "they would get him at his place of business" (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1975, 4B).
Why Peggy McLean—what with her protective father Vincent advertised on the entry blank as a member of the Tournament Committee, her picture prominently in the Program, and her role as favorite established in pre-tournament publicity—didn’t defend her Championship, especially since just three weeks earlier she’d won the Eastern’s, didn’t seem important to anyone writing for Topics. But Peggy’s career—just when the ITTF was judging her to be the #2 seed for the next World’s—was abruptly stopped. She married a Swede, Elis Folke, whom she’d met at the ’49 World’s while he was covering the matches for the Christian Science Monitor, and players missing her here couldn’t be sure they’d ever see her at a tournament again.
Just six weeks earlier, USTTA Vice-President John Kauderer of N.Y. had been asked by USTTA Nominations Chair Carl Nidy if he couldn’t recommend someone from the East to be on the upcoming USTTA Executive Committee slate. Kauderer suggested among others Vincent McLean. He has "an unusual amount of common sense and business judgment which could be put to good use," said John. "Furthermore Vincent is able to get around a great deal. He frequently makes business trips [for the Western Electric Co.] that take him through the principal table tennis playing cities." Not surprisingly, Vincent had no further involvement in table tennis.
The best of the early-round matches in the Women’s were: Denver’s Rita Kerns’s 26-24 in the 4th win over N.Y.’s Eugenia Koukly, later runner-up in the Women’s Consolation to Mona Buell; Tiny Moss’s 4-game defeat of # 8 seed Ruth Millington (who’d easily disposed of D.C. Champ Jane Stauffer); and Joan Gummels’s –16, 17, 19, 21 struggle with Ruthe Crist.
In bottom-half quarter’s play, #7 Gummels’ steady defensive play upset #2 seed Shahian. And #3 seed Reba Monness beat #6 seed Tybie Thall who, like McLean, would marry (Norman Sommer from Scranton, Pennsylvania), but, unlike Peggy, would return in middle age to play competitively. In top-half quarter’s play, Neuberger was unchallenged by Moss, Chotras unchallenged by Clouther—Mae being of interest, though, to Helene Cinnater because of her leg make-up (nylon stockings hard to get, you know).
In the one semi’s, Monness and Gummels were put to the Expedite test and, in case you hadn’t heard Reba cuss like a man ("What a mouth" said one who’d overheard her), believe that she had a huge ego and was –19, 20, 20, 11 intensely proud and determined. In the other semi’s, Leah’s win in 4 over an equally aggressive Bernice was much like the one in their ’47 final, with Bernice again winning just the 27-25 game. In last year’s semi’s, Reba had rallied from 2-1 down to defeat Leah, but this year, Leah, again up 2-1, held on to win the title in 5.
For 7 straight years, Neuberger had gotten to the semi’s or beyond. By now, you could imagine her saying, "Table Tennis was not only a way of life but life itself for me." She’d had no trouble acclimating to New York. From the time she’d married Ty, and through several more decades, scarcely a day would go by that she didn’t play at a club that was as famous as she was.
"She’d play anybody," said Doug Cartland—but of course, in the N.Y. tradition, "always for money." Even to a junior who’d come looking for a game, she’d say, "Well, sonny, I’ll play you, but you know we have to gamble." The good-humored irony, not immediately apparent, was intentional. Since she obviously was a denizen of the place, of the often early-afternoon, still dark courts, some young innocent, accustomed to the USTTA’s uptightness about gambling, might momentarily be thrown into a panic. But with or without a spot, her stakes in this or that dreaded New York club of iniquity were always the same—a penny a point.
Reisman tells the story that, after she’d met and of course soon began playing Ty day after day, he owed her so much money that she figured the only way to collect would be to marry him. Both Reisman and Schiff emphasize Leah’s friendliness and upbeat personality. "She could hardly be accused of hustling," says Sol, "because player after player, regardless of ability, wanted to be on court with her." Marty makes the point, though, "that—8 cents here, 12 cents there—no penny ever got away from her, even if she had to change a $10 bill." For Leah, says Marty, the small wager provided "the necessary tension" for her to play well, and, he adds, he wouldn’t be surprised if all those pennies she won didn’t add up to help her finance her trips as first a player and then a spectator to all those World Championships.
Leah and Tybie, in a straight-game replay of the Eastern final, won the Women’s Doubles over Clouther/Shahian. But both teams were in danger of losing in the semi’s—the Thall sisters to Gummels/Moss; and the New Englanders in a –19, 9, 23, -21, 17 fight-to-the-death with Chotras/Monness.
In the Mixed, Somael/Neuberger were stopped in straight games in the quarter’s by Pinner/Moss. But there were some early-round audience-stimulators. In the companion quarter’s, Defending Champions Schiff and Prouty (Sally didn’t play Singles) defeated Ferris/Crist, deuce in the 4th. In the other half of the draw, Price/Tybie Thall beat Bill Cross/Mary Cornwall in 5, but then dropped their quarter’s match to Nash/Gummels—this while Reisman/Monness advanced. to meet them. In semi’s play, Schiff/Prouty, down 2-1, won from Pinner/Moss; Nash/Gummels, 19 in the 4th , eliminated Reisman/Monness. Again, though, Nash couldn’t win a National title—the Champs won, deuce in the 4th.
Spectator Zeisberg complained that matches on finals night continued "until long after midnight, too late for the morning newspapers to report the results." But, with Bill Gunn on the mike at whatever hour, trophies were handed out—by Emily Fuller. The former 1938/39 U.S. Open Women’s Champion was said to devote "several days a week" to "teaching paraplegics in NYC to play TT in wheelchairs." She brought some invalids to see the Open finals—"one young lady," Helene Cinnater tells us, "hadn’t been out of the hospital for 3 ½ years"; and an elderly gent "had never seen T.T.," didn’t know what it was.
Schiff made the most of his two new titles and continuing celebrity status by appearing daily for a while at Gimbel’s 6th floor Sporting Goods Dept., and by seeing his 1939 Table Tennis Comes of Age instructional book re-published in England and edited into five articles that appeared in the Table Tennis Review (Sept.-Oct., 1949 through June-July, 1950). Since Sol told me the copper plates for the book were destroyed—the copper needed for the War effort—the book was re-done? Jack Carrington, giving it a rather favorable review in the Dec., 1949 Table Tennis, says he was disappointed that Sol "dismisses in a few lines the meteoric rise of his young successors, Miles and Reisman." (Marty of course wasn’t playing when the book first came out.)
In the Open Program, President Cinnater had written this about table tennis:
"Everyone expected that because of its popularity in the service, its growth immediately following the war would be stupendous. We failed, however, to allow for the period of re-adjustment which always follows such conflagrations. In my opinion, that adjustment period is almost over, for present indications point to greater table tennis activity" (5).
Uh-huh. Well, anyway, this year the USTTA won’t have another $3,500 failure.
On April Fools’ Day, Cinnater called a Meeting of USTTA Affiliates at Lawrence’s. He begins by saying that it’s "embarrassing to all of us when somebody wants to know, How many members in the USTTA?, and we say, ‘Oh, about 3,000.’" Speaking for himself, Cinnater says that if the USTTA is "doomed" to such a select membership, "I’m no longer interested in sacrificing my time." So he and his E.C. propose to take their cue for expansion from the English TTA where membership is through local affiliates only. Effective June 1, 1949 (later extended to July 1, 1949), Cinnater says the USTTA Dues will not be $2.00 as they are at present, they’ll be $.25, but accepted "on a league, club, or association basis only." The "minimum amount that will be accepted from any new affiliate" is $6.25, for 25 members, but a Temporary Affiliate can be formed with just 5 members. "No individual memberships will be accepted at USTTA headquarters." If sent there, they’ll be forwarded to the nearest affiliate where the applicant resides, and he’ll join through that affiliate. Of course if you’re not a USTTA member you can’t play in a USTTA Affiliate event. The magazine (8 issues) will cost separately—$1.
Here’s Topics’ rhetoric on the new Membership proposal:
"…Don’t you think that these plans are a big improvement and will increase our membership many fold? This way, we can form a lot of new clubs and get the kids playing, for they like to join clubs and the $.25 membership won’t be too much of a problem. And then, too, you older folks can go ahead and form clubs and put the game on a little more social basis. You can form clubs at your churches for instance, or lodges, or VFW organizations, or almost anyplace that will hold a group of people, and a table. And you officers of present affiliates; it must be true that if your affiliate can enroll 500 members at $.25 instead of 100 members at $2.00 you will have more entrants at your tournaments and consequently the increased interest will mean more spectators too…" (May, 1949, 5).
Ping-pong players want to be joiners? Ergo, they’ll join the U. S. Table Tennis Association? As this Membership plan will be formally approved, a Directive will go out to all USTTA Governors and Officials: "Affiliates are requested to contact all Y.M.C.A.’s, Schools, Industrial Clubs, Recreational Directors, Churches, Playground Directors, Courts and Clubs in their territory and advise them of the new membership plan." Maybe hundreds, thousands will respond?
On April 2, Cinnater called the Annual General Meeting at the St. Nick Arena. As of this date the USTTA Treasury had swelled to $647.90—that’s $29.97 more than on June 1, 1948. However, the Fighting Fund was "still short several hundred dollars." Particularly at fault was the NYTTA whose officers had "promised to raise their quota" ($275), but "to date no money has been received." So much for U.S. World Team members Miles, Reisman, Cartland, and McLean. So much for NYTTA President/USTTA Vice-President Kauderer.
Due to "the lack of cooperation from the colleges" there would be no Intercollegiate’s this year. So much for Intercollegiate Chair Dr. B. B. Gummels.
Unless a Regent showed enough interest to accept a National Committee Chair, it was formally suggested (and later approved) that he/she be dropped. But all traces of Regents had long disappeared from the USTTA Directory.
Regarding Membership, had Stanley Borak been at this Meeting he would have made the following two points in person that he made in Topics:
"…Many older players, who would enjoy attending a tournament, have no knowledge of the tournament. [Presumably they no longer get Topics and, even if they do, many upcoming tournaments are not listed in the Schedule there.] If by diligent effort, lists of former active players can be compiled [with their current addresses], so that they will receive notice of tournaments, then attendance at tournaments will be increased, and the organization will be strengthened. One more suggestion—tournaments run at out-of-the-way places, while they may keep down the initial expense, will keep away the spectators. This is not an easy problem to solve today in the large cities where rentals of public places have skyrocketed; it is a problem which must be grappled with…" (Feb., 1949, 7).
And will still be a problem in the stretched-out decades to come.
3rd All-American Novice Championships
The USTTA’s only "major expansion program" had been the "All-American Novice Championships." This year, held May 7th at Chicago’s Uptown Bowl, it was called, more sensibly, just the "All-American Championships." Again the sponsor was the Chicago Sun-Times, and the lucky "Door Prize" winner would have his/her choice of a month’s vacation trip to Dublin (where it’d been assumed, erroneously, the 1950 World’s would be), or a $250 college scholarship.
Unbelievably to me, a guy writes in to Topics complaining that the previous "Novice" tournaments were great, but that, "Now it’s merely another tournament for good players to cut up among themselves." From my point of view, as I’ve tried to make clear, this "Novice" tournament for the most part has alwaysbeen a vehicle for players who are not novices. At least this time they have new age groups (which paradoxically the complainer doesn’t like either), beginning with Midgets (11 and under) who surely haven’t had the opportunity yet to do much in the way of winning or placing. Here are the results:
Girls 11 & Under: 1. Sandra Johnson, Chicago. 2. Diana Hobbett, Glen Ellyn.
Girls 12-13: 1. Josephine Brady, Chicago. 2. Betty Gross, Oak Park.
Girls 14-15: 1. Sharon Koehnke, Glen Ellyn. 2. Caryl Nydam, Oak Park.
Girls 16-17: 1. Marlene Mall, Chicago. 2. Carol Van De Houton, LaGrange.
All these winners and runner-ups are from the Chicago area (this is Mall’s third age-division Championship, and next year she’ll graduate into winning the Women’s), so the original hope of appealing to all-America just hasn’t worked out. Indeed, much to George Koehnke’s disgust, Topics didn’t hype the tournament at all this year. But the efforts of Koehnke and those encouraging playground competition round the Chicago area will continue to produce some serious USTTA players—and all involved deserve credit for that. Most satisfying to George of course is the progress of his daughter Sharon.
Boys 11 & Under: Steve Isaacson, Chicago. 2. Tom Meyer, St. Louis.
Boys 12-13: 1. Stanley Goldstein, St. Louis. 2. Stan Rubin, Chicago.
Boys 14-15: 1. Ron Liechty, South Bend. 2. Jim Calcaterra, Detroit.
Boys 16-17: Marshal Conrad, Goshen, Indiana. 2. Don Calcaterra, Detroit.
This is future Hall of Famer Isaacson’s first appearance in Topics—he’d been playing six months. Like the Girls’ Midget winner, Sandra Johnson, Steve was a product of the Swift Playground on Chicago’s North Side. The Coach there, whom Steve says "changed his life," and later 1955 U.S. Open Boys’ Champ Norbert Van de Walle’s too, was Lewis Krandel. As for Boys 14-15 winner Liechty, his game was formed at the South Bend Y under Coach Varga. For the season just ended, he was ranked #10 among (Under 18) U.S. Juniors. For the upcoming season he’d be #3.
Women’s: 1. Mildred Shipman, Glen Ellyn. 2. Ruth Salzman, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Ten years earlier, Mildred Wilkinson Shipman won her first two National titles.
Men’s: 1. Don Vandenberg, South Bend. 2. Eddie Hancock, Indianapolis.
Two years ago, Hancock was the U.S. Boys’ Champ.
The "Door Prize" winner was Jerry Cripe of Goshen, Indiana who reportedly didn’t win a game in the tournament, and was going to Franklin College to study Journalism.
Miles, Reisman, Cartland Suspended
From USTTA talk of "Novices" and Expansion, I end this Chapter with the latest on USTTA talk of "Professionals" and Contraction. Reisman, the sword over his head, played May Day at the Stratford, CT Legion Hall and defeated George Ferris in the Men’s final in 5. Local reporter Sy Knepler, who lost the Senior’s to trophy presenter Simeon Sabre, praised "U.S. Olympic Team" member, Marty:
"…During intermission, Reisman put on a show for the audience with many of his almost fantastic shots. He also gave many of the younger players a treat as he accepted all challenges and gave every boy a chance to test his wares. It is rare that a player of Reisman’s caliber will take so much time with the inexperienced players, and the Sterling House Table Tennis Club really appreciated the time and play of Reisman during his appearance in Stratford…."
With that final flourish, then, our beloved folk hero would be off the tournament courts for a while.
In a May 9th newspaper article out of St. Louis, President Cinnater was said to have made these charges against Miles, Reisman, and Cartland, all of whom were suspended "for one year":
"Cinnater said Miles and Reisman often failed to appear when called for matches during the recent world championships in Sweden. He said Cartland was suspended for alleged arguing with officials during the tournament at Stockholm and for failure to participate in the 1949 national table tennis championships at New York."
Can this really be what Cinnater thought, said? That Miles and Reisman would repeatedly risk default by not appearing when their World Championship matches were called….That Cartland didn’t have a right to argue his disagreements?…And that Doug was, as it were, contractually obligated to play in the National’s?
Reisman, years later, offered some clarification. It turns out that he and Doug (who the woman Team member with them was—it must be Tybie—he didn’t remember) had indeed gone on a separate exhibition tour from the others, into northern Sweden, before the Stockholm World’s, and Doug particularly wasn’t happy about two things: one, at meal after meal, he was being served reindeer meat until he was just sick of it (the Swedish word for this reindeer meat sounded to Doug’s ears like "shit"), and, two, repeatedly he and the others were being asked to take very early morning trains as they barnstormed about, usually playing in school gyms.
Eventually at a tournament Doug just lost control. The prize was a pair of ski poles that Marty wanted, so he and Doug were playing for real. When the umpire made a call that Doug thought a bad one, he became upset…and argued nastily. Then, oh, oh, when that same umpire made another bad call, Doug really lost it ("Goddamn bastard…"), went berserk, Marty said. The audience started to stamp their feet, and say in unison, "Nay, nay." Whereupon Doug raised his hand, waved at them as if to wipe them all away, and said loudly, "Go to hell!" Marty was embarrassed—the more so when almost all the spectators got up and left. Later, likely at another stop, the three U.S. players were guests at a dinner and were expected to say a few polite words. When it came time for Doug to speak, he said only, "I hate Sweden! I hate Swedes!" Some tried to see that as witty—as ironic American humor. But, said Marty, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, for Doug couldn’t have been more serious. Thus, I assume it was Cartland’s appallingly argumentative tone on tour before the World’s, as well as anything he did in Stockholm, that brought objections from the Swedish Association regarding him.
Prior to the USTTA’s Annual Summer Meeting, President Cinnater sent out a Special June 4, 1949 Bulletin to his E.C. and all other Officials, which stated simply:
"Richard Miles, Martin Reisman and Douglas Cartland of the N.Y.T.T.A. have been suspended from the U.S.T.T.A. for conduct detrimental to the game of table tennis and the U.S.T.T.A. These players are ineligible to play in any tournaments conducted by U.S.T.T.A. affiliates until they are reinstated by the Executive Committee of the U.S.T.T.A."
A somewhat humorous follow-up to this suspension would occur the week after when Cinnater’s E.C. would take up Cartland’s "claim":
"Resolved: that due to the fact Douglas Cartland did not fulfill his original contract with the USTTA, to play exhibitions in England or complete his Eastern ‘Open’ matches or participate in the 1949 Nationals, the U.S.T.T.A. is under no obligations to refund the money Mr. Cartland claims is due him for additional return expenses from England and his passport fee. (Mr. Cartland received $145.00 for return trip.)"
The Oct. Topics would feature photos of the three stars and add that their indefinite suspensions "were made on the recommendation of officials of the two countries [Sweden and England] visited by the team….The respected foreign officials based their protests on the fact that the suspended players allegedly failed to appear in exhibitions which were arranged to provide expenses for the players; that the suspended players had agreed to take part in said exhibitions; and that the players in question had violated the orders of their captain in refusing to play in the exhibitions" (5).
There—that would teach these "stars" that though they might shine in the wee small hours of the night at Lawrence’s, by daylight elsewhere they’d be unsung, or at least unseen.