1941: Emergence of Dick Miles. 1941: Herwald Lawrence—"Lawrence’s." 1941: Summer/Fall Tournaments. 1941: N.Y. Again Wins Intercities (the Last Until ‘46).
Balloons, blown-out candles—birthday wishes, presents. And so it was that Dick Miles, perhaps our greatest U.S. Champion, was introduced to the Sport. "For my 11th birthday," says Dick, "a woman friend of my mother’s gave me a miniature ‘Tea-Table Tennis set, and my uncle and I used to play with it in the evenings over our dining room table."
At this time, Dick, a lifelong New Yorker, born there on June 12, 1925, was living in an apartment on 84th St. between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves. with his mother, her parents, and her brother (Dick’s father had left the family when Dick was only 2). "When I came home from lunch," he says, "I’d eat in a hurry, then with my ‘Tea-Table’ racket, which was probably sandpaper, I’d hit hundreds of balls on the fly against my bedroom wall, trying of course not to miss a single one."
As a boy Dick always loved games and sports that stressed hand-eye coordination. He was good with marbles and yo-yos and enjoyed that paddle-walloping pastime of trying to control-hit out, again and again, that little rubber ball rubber-banded to a racket (more ping-pong in miniature?). He played stickball in the streets and had a good arm; he was a pretty fair second baseman in Saturday games at Van Cortland Park; and he played golf with cut-down clubs his mother had given him—learned, as he was later to do in table tennis, to hit the ball "square to the line of flight," occasionally sneaking onto such a famous course as Winged Foot in Mamaroneck. He was a semifinalist in a PAL Paddle Tennis Championship, and says he owes his singular table tennis chop defense to hours and hours of Chinese Handball where you had to learn to slice the ball into the correct pavement-block.
At PS 166 on 89th St. between Columbus and Amsterdam, where one of his classmates was Ty Neuberger (later to become Leah Thall’s husband), Dick began playing something more than "Tea-Table Tennis." From there he made the transition into the Manhattan clubs—at first playing with a MacCrossen, then a Hock bat. "In the late ‘30’s, early ‘40’s" says Dick, "it was possible to find as many as four table tennis clubs located up and down Broadway from 54th to 96th streets."
The first club Dick played at was Mitch Karelitz’s (basement, ground floor, and upstairs) at 76th and Broadway. (After Karelitz lost his lease here he would open another place at 80th and Broadway, and then would move again to 79th and Broadway.) "After school," says Dick, "I’d bring in my pennies—maybe 15-20 cents worth—and would play anybody until a light would flash indicating my time was up."* Mitch himself, Dick said, "had the fastest backhand serve I ever saw—came right out of his hand." The best junior at this club was Billy Levinson and it’s to this 16-year-old that Dick owes an historic debt.
"Dick," said Billy, "you’re smothering your forehand. You’re hitting on top of the ball—that’s why it’s going into the net so much."
"Ordinarily," says Dick, "I wouldn’t have listened to him—wouldn’t have listened to anybody. But I could see he was saying this in a nice way, was trying to help me. So I changed my forehand, learned to hit underhand, and this helped my game a lot."
Harry Piser’s 12-table club was on Broadway, between 91st and 92nd Streets. It was here that Dick first saw the world-class Hungarians Bellak, Glancz, and Hazi. "I remember seeing the Hungarians out there at the table hitting balls, warming up, enjoying themselves, talking and laughing in a very intimate, in-group way about their strokes and styles. It impressed me very much that they had a private table tennis language I didn’t understand—that table tennis itself had such a language—and I wanted to know more."
Two other Clubs were Duncan’s and "Mac’s." ** Mac’s, says Dick, was largely a "residential" club. "I don’t want good players here," Mac told Dick. "I thought he was kidding," says Dick. "The idea was ridiculous to me. But he was serious. He said, ‘All my customers stop playing to watch them. Then sometimes they get discouraged with their own games, and don’t come back.’"
When Miles first began going to Lawrence’s, he thought the good players there were "outta my class." Who did Dick play that first time at 25 cents a game (the price of five subway rides)? Freddie Borges—quite a decent player himself, and six decades later still a tournament-goer and one of Dick’s closest friends.
Of course Dick began to improve. When there wasn’t anyone around for him to play, Lawrence was helpful. He’d set up half a table with the other half as a backboard, and Dick would spot coins on the table surface and spend hours developing his stroke, trying to put the ball exactly where he wanted it. Miles still thinks the play’s the thing, thinks physical training—lifting weights, jumping rope, sprinting, cross-country running—is overvalued. To Dick, getting the right "touch" has always been far more important than even superb physical conditioning.
Miles certainly did play a lot. At one point in his teens, he quit DeWitt Clinton High School, would sleep till about two in the afternoon, and would then get up to put in his 11-hour day, or, if it were a Friday, 15-hour day. Lawrence generally opened around 1:00 p.m. and closed around 3:00 a.m., or later if money matches were still being played. Dick says in those days it was generally safe to come home in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes, however, there was a problem.
"My grandmother," he says, "was a very strict and strong-willed person. Because she so strenuously objected to my obsession with table tennis, she’d periodically lock me out of our Riverside Drive apartment, bolt the door so my key wouldn’t do me any good, and muffle the sound of the doorbell. It’s a terrible thing for a teenager to go back home and find his grandmother has packed his bag and put it out in the hallway in front of a locked door. Some nights I’d be sitting out in the hall crying until finally someone would open the door and I’d hear my grandmother yell at me, "You’re a bum! We don’t want a bum in the family!"
Even Miles’s family doctor had a few mocking words to say. "He came one day," says Dick, "to take out a blister on my big toe the size of a golf ball. He injected a hypodermic needle into the blister and I watched as the needle filled with fluid. ‘Now, Dickie,’ he said calmly, ‘why do you do this? Why do you play this’—and here he went into an exaggerated sing-song—‘Pinnnggg-Ponnnggg?’"
Why indeed? To become very, very good, of course.
Dick’s apprenticeship started to move toward its inevitable conclusion when in 1941 Pagliaro wanted to be ready to defend his National Men’s title but didn’t want to practice day-in, day-out at Lawrence’s against his chief N.Y. competitors—Pinner, Schmidt, Hazi, Schiff, Bellak, Grimes, Sussman, and Cartland. When Paggy saw his chance to run Mitch Karelitz’s club and import Dick as a sparring partner he did so...with the result that the initial spot soon started coming down, down, down.
To a number of players’ surprise, Miles did not enter the Apr., 1941 National’s, even though it was held at the Manhattan Center in New York. "I just didn’t have the $5 entry fee to waste," Dick says. "I never did get much table tennis allowance money. I’d never won a tournament, not even a local junior tournament—I’d always lose to the perennial Champ Roy Weissman. What possible reason did I, at 15, have for thinking I could win the U.S. Championship? My feeling was that if you went into some big tournament you’d certainly want to win it. You’d want to be the best. The idea of beating Pagliaro was ridiculous to me. He was a great player. I also think that McClure and Schiff were great players. McClure had one of the best forehands in the world and could go on incredible streaks. Schiff was an explosive player. There were nights when nobody could beat Schiff. It was very embarrassing to play him when he was hot. He could go through you like you were a beginner."
However, after Miles saw Somael almost beat Pearson in the National’s, he felt differently about entering tournaments. Dick knew Johnny as a peer, and decided that, even if he couldn’t beat Pagliaro, he, like Johnny, could surely beat a number of other good players, and perhaps that would be satisfying after all. That summer, Topics shows Miles playing in two N.Y. tournaments.
At the first of these, at the Aug. 8 Broadway Courts, Edna Sheinhart won the Women’s—in the final over Bernice Charney, in the semi’s over Peggy McLean, who, like Hawthorn, was coached by Lawrence. Pinner was the Men’s winner after Sussman had upset Pagliaro in the semi’s, and Eddie had beaten Bill Cross. Miles didn’t make the quarter’s, but with Cross he was runner-up in the Doubles to National Champions Pinner and Sussman. In their semi, Eddie and Cy had downed two German immigrants—round-shouldered, aggressive-minded Eddie Arie, and the usually crouch-positioned Jacques Tartakower (who later, on entering the Army, took his mother’s maiden name—"to simplify matters"—and was known as Jack Cherry). Partnered with Ben Dattel in the other semi was Mitchell Silbert, an Intercollegiate Champion first at Vanderbilt and then at Columbia, where he’d been presented with a medal by the famous football coach Lou Little. Silbert would have an optometry practice on Long Island and in the 1960’s and ‘70’s would become very involved in running and/or playing in LITTA tournaments, including the 1979 U.S. Open at the Nassau Coliseum.
Two weeks later, this time at the Brooklyn Courts, Charney won the round-robin Women’s. And Pinner again took the Men’s—over retriever Schmidt in the final and Miles in the semi’s, after Dick had downed Dattel in the quarter’s. Arie, before losing to Schmidt, had a proud victory over Sussman, who might then have been working at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
No rankings had been possible yet for Miles, Charney, and McLean; and this past season Davida Hawthorn had been ranked #29, dead last among the Women. But all four of these players were being primed at Lawrence’s for Hall of Fame greatness.
In the Apr., 1975 Topics (4B), Reba Monness gives us a portrait of Lawrence, a man usually reluctant to talk about himself. Everyone always called him by his last name, Lawrence—everyone, that is, but Reba, who called him Herwald. He was born in Barbados on Oct. 26, 1902—reportedly his mother being native to the island and his father a white minister.
"Herwald Lawrence [Reba wrote] was a gorgeous hunk of man, even when he was in his forties and fifties. He was six foot, three inches tall, lean of build, with a beautifully-shaped head. He wore his curly hair closely cut, he had hazel- light eyes, perfectly chiseled features, and a light complexion. His cultured voice was deep, cultivated, and resonant. He elicited perfect diction, was very graceful in his movements, and was gracious and charming whenever-he-wanted-to-be."
On coming to Lawrence’s from Portland, OR, Jack McLarty found Lawrence’s "beautiful voice" and "perfect and precise pronunciation" intimidating. "It quite embarrassed me…and made my enunciation very sloppy. I already had (though I didn’t know it) a western drawl that New Yorkers considered a cowboy accent. When they would notice this they would ask me where I was from. I would say, ‘The West.’ And they would say, ‘Oh, Chicago.’"
Reba said Lawrence had "infinite patience" and was "very explicit" in his teaching. Miles and Reisman recall his favorite device for teaching the beginner. This was to take the horizontal line of a coat hanger, stick it through a ball, and then, as he held it out, a la a marshmellow over a fire, with his racket he’d rub the ball, sending it into topspin or backspin rotation. His number one protege was Davida Hawthorn, whom he called "Champ"—quite possibly before she was one. During the summer of ‘41, Davida was featured, playing table tennis Friday evenings at Lawrence’s, on early CBS television.
It may be that on coming to the States Herwald at one time "served in the U.S. Army" and had "once studied to be an engineer." But History meets him at "Lawrence’s"—1721 Broadway (between 54th and 55th Streets).
Supposedly the place was first famous as a "Legs" Diamond-frequented gangster speakeasy—with bullet holes to prove it. It was taken over as a table tennis establishment by Bernard Joel, who’d been the General Secretary of the 1931-formed New York Table Tennis Association. When later Joel ran into financial difficulties, it was owned by John Morgan, Director of the 1934 USTTA N.Y. Astor Hotel National’s, as well as the President of the Metro TTA before John Kauderer. Morgan, a man at this time in his mid-60’s, was a well-known commercial artist whose "Coming Attraction" posters at movie theaters the country over seduced many a patron into returning week after week. He was an avid player, but, as he didn’t want to run the Broadway Courts, he worked out an arrangement. Lawrence the player would become Lawrence the manager, and Lawrence’s prize pupil, Davida Hawthorn, or, more precisely, her father, Norman, would be involved in a sponsorship (TTT, May, ‘42, 15) until Lawrence himself became the proprietor, with or without an extended lease. Reba said that Lawrence "became the first black man to own a business establishment in the Times Square area on Broadway," and that "it was AFTER the landlord met him and was so favorably impressed with him that Lawrence was allowed to own the place."
Lawrence’s was located above an automobile showroom, and had at least 7 tables on the second floor and 5 more upstairs on the third. He had his control desk "downstairs," and into the wee hours of the morning the famous Table #7 would sport gambling matches played by some of the most illustrious names in table tennis. On Tuesday nights Lawrence held Handicap tournaments, and, said Reba, he had "an extraordinary ability to judge strangers’ handicaps. "Care for a game, old top?" he might say to someone who’d wandered in off the street. Then, after hitting a few with the newcomer, he’d assign him a fair spot relative to any habitue he might pair him with. The Friday night single elimination tournament, though—in which Lawrence would split the entry fees between himself and the two finalists—was what everyone wanted to play in and stay to see, many of course making round by round bets on the matches. There were often so many people crowding in that if you weren’t on court it was hard to move.
Here’s an excerpt from Robert Lewis Taylor’s Jan. 31, 1942 New Yorker Profile that will illustrate how Lawrence gave class and dignity to our Sport, and how, as he says, his tournaments "keep a steady finger on the pulse of table tennis," for "the best practitioners have favored me with their custom":
"...To get the tournament underway, Mr. Lawrence sits down at a card table on the sidelines and picks up the microphone of an amplifying system. In grave tones he announces the pairings for the night’s play. Then a cluster of bright lights go on over the tournament table. Suddenly Lou Pagliaro steps onto the floor, looking solemn. As befits his station, he is to play the first match. Mr. Lawrence’s voice booms out over the loudspeaker: ‘The national champion, ladies and gentlemen. Shall we give him a hand?’ It is when Pagliaro hears the applause which follows that he thinks life and ping pong have been very good to him" (26).
Ping-pong also seems to be very good for Lawrence’s, and Lawrence himself. Topics reports on the public’s reaction after this issue of The New Yorker hit the New York newstands:
"...It is said that in a twenty-four [hour] period, from Saturday night to Sunday night, about one thousand people, new faces not known to the management, came up to look the place over and to play. Many were agreeably surprised. Since the appearance of the article, Mr. Lawrence, the proprietor, has become famous with people greeting him openly on the street, in hotels, restaurants, etc. (TTT, Feb., 1942, 12).
Ping-Pong—er, Table Tennis—is, as usual, being hyped in Topics as being very good for everyone—the players, the Association. The Nov., 1941 issue declares that "From the numerous tournaments already held this season, it is seen that present world conditions have in no way interfered with the number of entrants or attendance. In fact, interest seems to be greater than in previous years" (4).
Meanwhile, as USTTA members read this, there’s (1) confirmation that world conditions aren’t too good, for Germany has just taken Kiev and is besieging Moscow and Leningrad, and (2) that in this same Nov. issue, in an article called "Uncle Sam’s Table Tennisers, " there’s strong evidence that, though it’s not yet Dec. 7, quite a few table tennis players have already had their lives disrupted. "In case you miss some of the old familiar faces at tournaments this season," the Uncle Sam article begins, "there is a good chance the fellow is serving in the army or has been drafted" (14). Among players I haven’t already mentioned as being in the Service are George Hendry’s brother Don; Al Beals, formerly Ohio #2 who’d kept open the now closed Cleveland Club; one of the pioneering Moskowitz brothers, Harold, of N.J.; Philly’s Ted Bourne who was in the Anti-Tank Corps; Herb "Chubby" Aronson, a Chicago team member at six Intercities; and Jimmy Verta, Secretary of the D.C. Association.
Of course table tennis is an addictive game; and players continue to have their haunts, attend their tournaments, wherever they live.
In the East, the 9th annual Provincetown Silver Cod Quiniela was won by Defending Champion Pinner who dropped only one game—to Miles, whom he beat twice. Dick recalls Eddie as a hard forehand hitter, particularly cross-court (though perhaps he smothered that forehand a little?), and a doggedly athletic rather than a graceful player. His opposite, complementing their successful Doubles partnership, was the bespectacled Sussman, who had a typically tall man’s long, sweeping strokes and a wristy backhand flick, his best shot. Surprisingly, Miles and Cross took the Doubles title from the National Champions here, so all the more was Miles being touted as a "very talented newcomer." Mae Clouther again won the Bronze Dolphin Trophy—proving too steady for her now most accomplished New England challenger, Millie Shahian.
U.S. #2 Pinner, regardless of his determination and extremely decisive strokes, was far from invincible. In mid-Sept. at the Brooklyn Courts he lost in the "outstanding match of the evening" to Doug Cartland, whom Sandor Glancz in the Nov. issue of Topics said "plays the best game in the city." Apparently you’d have to compliment Edna Sheinhart that way, too, for she again beat both runner-up Charney and 3rd-place finisher McLean.
Nor did Pinner win the N.Y. Metro TTA Brooklyn Closed, played on Sunday and Monday evenings, Oct. 12-13. (Brooklyn Closed? Why then were so many of the players from Manhattan?) Eddie got by Miles, -16, 18, 20, 12 in the semi’s, but, after losing the key 2nd game, 20, -22, -11, -12 collapsed against Pagliaro. Though Bernie Grimes couldn’t power Paggy away from the table like Pinner, he could very nearly match Lou steady stroke for steady stroke. Down 2-0 in the semi’s, he didn’t give in to the two-time National Champion, but fought 22-20, 21-19 back, only to lose 18 in the 5th. Miles remembers how Bernie cupped his outstretched free hand, then, as if he were going to catch the ball coming at him, he dropped it back, and came through with the forehand all in a balancing, graceful motion, often rolling ball after ball. In Men’s Doubles, Pinner/Sussman, comfortable in their partnership, downed the let’s-try-it pairing of Pagliaro/Miles. The Women’s was won by Helen Germaine, something of an eccentric, who fashioned a wet plastic wrap around the handle of her racket so that, when it dried, it gave the imprint of her grip—which to Helen made all the difference.
Pinner and Miles, along with Schmidt, also represented New York in what was to have been the revived Eastern Intercity League (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Newark, and Camden). The first and—after War was declared—the only ties of this aborted League were held, Nov. 30, at Philadelphia. New York defeated both Washington and Baltimore (17-1, 17-1), and Newark did too (though by 11-7, 10-7 somewhat contested scores). Much was made of Baltimore’s 300-pound Gordon Barry’s ability to relentlessly take the attack away from and so defeat Pinner, as well as splatter about the whole Newark team—Grimes, Cross, and Morris Bernstein.
Washington’s #1 was Stan Fields, but, in his absence, the Men’s at the Sept. 27 D.C. tournament was won by former titleholder Eli Schuman over Lou Gorin, locally ranked #2, who in the semi’s had downed D.C. President Norm Dancy, 19 in the 5th. When District Champion Jane Stauffer didn’t enter, Carolyn Wilson was a walk-on winner. Young Miss Wilson, Gorin, and John Hanna, later very active in California table tennis, were among those who volunteered to entertain soldiers from Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir at the Service Center in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.
In the only other 1941 tournament in the East of note, the Dec. 6-7 Southern New England Open at Providence, Les Lowry struggled in the semi’s to beat Miles in 5, then zipped by Ham Canning who, on being forced to close the doors to his Arch Street Club, would leave those in Philly without a place to play. Miles thought Lowry—with his stylish strokes and balletic mobility—a "fluke" in the sense that he was so superior to anyone in his area: an exception to the "cluster" theory that good players develop because of their close proximity to the good players who’d come before them. Clouther didn’t drop a game in winning the Women’s—downed Hawthorn in the semi’s, Shahian in the final.
Out in the Midwest, in July at Dayton, Jimmy McClure won the Men’s over hometown defensive ace Mark Neff who’d taken out Harry Sage in 5 in the semi’s. Three weeks later in Columbus, however, Sage one-upped Neff, beat him in 4 in the semi’s, then went on to down Ralph Ramsey in the final. In the one other event, Sage and Shannon eked out the Doubles, 19 in the 5th, over Ramsey/Bob Green.
Sage, Shannon, Green, Violet Schoonover, and Leah Thall, who’d won in July at Dayton, all traveled to Toronto to attend the Sept. 5-7, 1941 Canadian National Exhibition. Because of the War, this would be the last of these annual Fairgrounds tournaments until 1947, after which they’d be held into the 1990’s. Canada had declared war on Germany back on Sept. 10, 1939, but it wasn’t until June of ‘41 that military service for men 21-24 was compulsory. The duration was two years—with the stipulation that service could only be in North America. French Canadians were opposed to changing this rule as the War progressed, but the RCAF increased to 50 times its pre-War size and included some American table tennis volunteers—George Sturgiss, for example, former Ohio TTA President.
Both the Men’s and Women’s draws were weak—but Sage had an excellent win over Defending Champ Max Hersh to take the Men’s. In Men’s Doubles, Sage and Shannon defeated the Cleveland team of Dick Stone and Sanford Gross. "Sandy," who in the 1950’s will run two very successful U.S. Opens, was said to have earlier—perhaps when he was living in Toledo—visited New York, where at Harry Piser’s Club he remembered playing Laci Bellak for $.25 a game. Must have been quite an experience.
Thall won the Women’s—an easy final over Marge Koolery. In the semi’s, however, against Schoonover, she had to come from two games down to survive.
At the Oct. Indianapolis Open, Leah, maybe keeping her fingers crossed, at least in that 5th game, prevailed over National Champ Sally Green. John Varga had coached Betty Henry and Mary Baumbach in their South Bend locale, but now that these women were approaching marriageable age, he had new pupils, one of whom, Dale McColley, was the Boys’ winner that fall at Indianapolis. Apparently John’s engineering career at Bendix Aviation was secure, so he had the time and inclination to become more involved in table tennis as Player, Coach, and Organizer. From now on he would be going regularly to out-of-town tournaments.
Up in Cleveland, Dr. Robert Mengle, Dick Stone, and Sam Shannon, among others, decided to resuscitate the local Association. Philadelphia "bad-boy" Isadore H. "Izzy" Bellis had packed his table tennis traveling bag (which, as Schiff noted, usually contained a number of little medicine bottles) and with his "childhood sweetheart" Helen Koenigsberg, now Mrs. Bellis, had moved to Cleveland. Here, on Dec. 7, in the Allerton Hotel ballroom he won what Topics called the "Cleveland Closed"—over George Haddad. Henrietta Wright (no longer living in Philly?) defeated local enthusiast Mrs. Hazel Stambaugh, 19 in the 4th. Hazel’s co-hostess for the "out-of-town players," 1938 U.S. World Team member Clara Harrison, though for some time rather inactive, still played well enough to take the Mixed.
There were several other tournaments prior to the year-end Intercities. All Souls’ Day at the Chicago District Open saw Holzrichter beat Anderson in the Men’s final. LaVera Weber was 6-0 in the Women’s round robin, with Verdyn Stapleton, 4-2, the runner-up. Verdyn and husband Wally seemed sooner or later to be in every big city. Topics speaks of them playing daily—back stage, in between theater shows, in Philadelphia, for example, with members of the Glenn Miller band, and in New York, where, no matter if Lawrence’s happens to be closed, Wally simply takes one of Verdyn’s hairpins and picks the lock. In the Men’s Doubles Bill Ablin/Eddie Ray successfully resisted Anderson/Dan Kreer in a match the losers almost won 3-0. In the Mixed it was Weber/Anderson over Holzrichter/Stapleton.
Minnesota’s Harry Lund will be in two back-to-back Men’s finals—and won’t win so much as a game in either. At the 10,000 Lakes Open in Minneapolis it’s Ed Litman who does him in, and at the following week’s Dec. 6-7 Nebraska Open in Omaha it’s former New York instructor Dan Klepak, stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, who, 23-21 in the 3rd won’t let him back in. Nor can Lund/Ed Sirmai win either Men’s Doubles final. Nor can Tiny Moss win either Singles final against Helen Baldwin. Question: Would the unique Husband/Wife event at the 10,000 Lakes Open catch on elsewhere?…
At the Missouri State Open in St. Louis, two weeks before the Chicago Intercities, George Hendry barely got by Bill Price, 19 in the 5th, and, in the Doubles, he and Lester Perlmutter had to go 5 to beat Price/Allan Levy. Mrs. Delores Kuenz defeated Mrs. Ruth Wallis, 18 in the 4th, to win the Women’s. Perlmutter/Jane Allison outlasted Hendry/Mrs. Margaret Weidner (George’s sister) in the Mixed.
Had Claude Camuzzi, renowned St. Louis official, not joined the Air Corps, he would doubtless have umpired some or all of these Missouri State finals. As it happened, he’d been stationed at Fort Logan and so turned up at a mid-Sept. Denver tournament as a player. In fact, in the Men’s Singles, he was runner-up to Del Fedderman. Perhaps he also officiated? At any event, he should certainly have received from somebody one of those Topics-advertised USTTA Membership Pins (recommended as nice "gifts for officials"). They’re in the form of a red, white, and blue shield, "surmounted by a golden eagle," with either a "pin back" or a "lapel button screw back" (Nov., 1941, 2). And, as they cost only $1, why not buy half a dozen?
N.Y. Again Wins Intercities
The 11th annual National Intercity Team Championship (NTC), the last such Championship for five seasons, was played in the Bal Tabarin room, on the 6th floor of Chicago’s Hotel Sherman, Dec. 27-28, 1941. Only 7 teams could be accommodated—and this year Boston replaced last year’s blitzed Columbus team. The 4-table venue offered a hardwood floor, high ceilings, a window-free background, and air-conditioning. As was customary, there would be no morning play—the afternoon session started at 2 o’clock, the evening one at 8 o’clock. Box seats were best, for they lined "both lengths of the playing area." General admission tickets ($.75) put you "in a bank of bleachers at the end of the room" (TTT, Dec., 1941, 5).
Harvard had been advertising its equipment ("made in America from American made materials") in pre-War Topics, and for almost a year now its new USTTA-approved "Rocket" and "Zenith" balls. But the Chicago-based P. Becker & Co., owned by long-time USTTA supporter Will Schnur, provided for this Intercity (as it had for Chicago Intercities in the past) the Coleman Clark balls, net posts, and tables. Becker, it was said, brought the famous English Leyland rubber to the U.S., and during the War, when there wouldn’t be much rubber for table tennis, Becker came out with a Wembley ball that was used in several National’s. But by 1946, when these Intercities resumed in Detroit (with the popular Detroiter A table), Schnur was almost 65 and P. Becker & Co. almost History.***
The N.Y. team—Pagliaro, Hazi, Miles—had only the necessary three players, so, though the rules allowed a substitute player to come into a tie (if the Referee ruled there was sufficient reason), any accident or illness befalling one of these New Yorkers would mean the other two would have to carry on, forfeiting any match the incapacitated player didn’t show for. Cy Sussman had been listed as playing for N.Y. in the Program—but perhaps he was working now at the Morris Plan Industrial Bank and couldn’t take time off.
N.Y. opened with a 5-0 whitewash of Philadelphia. The Ham Canning-led Philly team would win only one tie—when Indianapolis played Mitchell, Shrout, and Varga against them, not McClure.
Next up: N.Y. vs. Boston. Since Lowry won all 3, Chicago reporter William Fay, recalling that Les had moved out of the Windy City area to Boston six years ago, lamented that if he’d just stayed in Hyde Park, "Chicago couldn’t very well miss taking the intercity table tennis title away from New York." Maybe they will anyway? Sixteen-year-old Miles seemed shaky in losing first games to Sam Babener and Bill Dwyer, relatively weak players. Nope—Dick won, so N.Y. won.
N.Y. 5—Indianapolis 2. Topics said "McClure looked bad in losing earlier to Chicago’s Billy Holzrichter and Bob Anderson," but then he had "straight game wins over Pagliaro and Hazi."
Another loss for Pagliaro in N.Y.’s decisive victory over St. Louis: Price beat him 13, 14 handily.
And now N.Y. vs. Detroit, a team that in 1940 had finished 1-5. So could this be a tie to watch? Not likely. Except that in 1940 Charles Bernstein (5-6) was not Chuck Burns (10-4), and Garrett Nash (6-7) was not married to Marie Van Loon ("sweet, soft-spoken deb of the Motor City"), not living in Detroit, and not in the process of compiling a 9-3 record.
Pagliaro opened by losing 9, 19 to Burns (who in the Detroit-St. Louis tie had outsteadied Price, Hendry, and Levy), and, as Miles would lose all three (he fell in straight games to V. Lee Webb, Nash and Burns), Hazi would have to come through—and did. He beat Nash deuce in the 3rd, Burns 25-23 in the 2nd, and Webb without a struggle. Which brought the tie to 4-4. Paggy then 8, 15 dominated Nash to give N.Y. the win.
Shortly after Burns had beaten Pagliaro he was at the Chicago USO, where he was introduced as "The man who had just defeated the U.S. Champion." It was then that Chuck first began to think of giving exhibitions—for money of course. On approaching an agent he was booked on the spot. With Nash he worked Frank Barbaro’s Bowery (where comedian Benny Rubin also entertained). There were other Detroit engagements in the early ‘40’s—for example, at Carl Oglesbee’s Haymarket Club, and at the Michigan Sportsmen’s and Boat Show with Webb.
The final of these ‘41 Intercities pitted undefeated N.Y. against undefeated Chicago. Surely Pagliaro was long over that bout of spinach-induced food poisoning that back in New York had sent him to the hospital, so what was the matter with him? Granted Dan Kreer could play some—he’d 18, -20, 21 won a close one from Webb, and had scored over Hendry. Granted he off-court sold his teammate Holzrichter insurance, who—least of all the Tribune’s covering reporter William Fay (T/MHS, 46)—expected him to provide Chicago with the extra protection of an unexpected win against Paggy? Who could believe he’d run off the first 9 points against the National Champion, and, on winning that game at 11, that he’d be at deuce with him in the 2nd? Paggy 24-22 held Kreer off though, and afterwards was no longer threatened. But then against Anderson, Hazi lost the 2nd at 19, and the 3rd from 19-all when he missed two forehands. Advantage: Chicago.
Facing Miles, Holzrichter faltered, lost the 1st at deuce, but then with "hard-hit drives" took the next two. However, Hazi, on giving up the 21-19 1st to Kreer, again prevailed when he had to. After which, Pagliaro gave "a determined but helpless" Holzrichter his only loss of the tournament.
N.Y. was leading 3-2, and Paggy figured to down Anderson in the 9th match, but N.Y. had to get to the 9th match. Since Holzrichter would probably beat Hazi, that put pressure on Miles, who had 5 losses already. How, "people were wondering," with all that strong New York City competition, had he earned 3rd place on the team? Anyway, it was pretty clear Dick had to win at least one of his matches. When he had an easy time with Anderson, N.Y. was looking good—went up 4-2...then 4-3 when Holzrichter, as predicted, did beat Hazi. Now, though, the New Yorkers had a train to catch. Dick didn’t want to miss it. With the cockiness of youth, he told his teammates to go get changed, pack their bags and his too. Paggy wouldn’t have to play—Dick would take care of Kreer, finish the tie. This, some critics felt, smacked of unwanted arrogance. But he did beat Kreer, easily. Midwest observers were surprised. Up until this weekend Miles had been an unknown teenager to them.
*A short article in Topics mentions a "table" invention. Can it be what Dick remembers? It’s "an automatic light-control switch which works like a juke box. Put your money in and on go the lights. Time up and there is no squeezing in that last game for free" (Mar., 1942, 10).
** Reba Monness in one of her "More or Less" columns (TTT, Feb., 1945, 4) says that "Mac Lebow of the Riverside T.T. Courts at 9th Street and Broadway…[had] mostly a neighborhood clientele. Perhaps that’s the Mac’s that Dick remembered?
***In his old age, however, Will Schnur was remembered. In 1961, USTTA Executive Secretary Jimmy McClure presented an Honorary Life Membership to him, primarily for his many contributions to the fledgling Association—such as financing the First American Zone Qualifier for the 1933 World Championships, and underwriting the famous 1935 Barna/Glancz Tour of the U.S. Schnur died Feb. 18, 1966 at the age of 85.