USA Table Tennis
1952: USTTA Preoccupations. 1952: Spring/ Summer Tournaments—East, Midwest, West. 1952: Background on Erwin Klein. 1952: Schiff/Neuberger Win the CNE.
The opening (Oct./Nov., Dec) issues of the new season’s Topics would of course have no word of the peregrinations of Reisman/Cartland. President Jimmy Shrout was dutifully intent on communicating more pressing conerns—first and foremost of which was his attempt to convince everyone reading the magazine that they should be USTTA members.
The strength of any Association, he’d argue, lay in its numbers. Thousands should join the USTTA to lend it “prestige and effectiveness.” Suppose, he says, the Association represented “a few hundred thousands of people,” what would be the results? (1) “newspapers would be sending reporters to cover our tournaments…even though we made no attempt to even cooperate with the newspapers.” (2) The “manufacturers of table tennis equipment would be working nights…[to] have the finest table tennis balls [hitherto hard to get in the U.S.] available [to us] in 48 hours.” And (3) the Association “could rent the largest stadiums in the center of our cities”—ala the English TTA at Wembley.
Shifting his rhetoric from the good of the Association to the What’s in it for me? point-of-view so dear to the individual, he argues: (1) members would “get a voice in the management of table tennis”; (2) they’d all receive, through Topics (but, if your subscription starts in mid-season, don’t expect back issues) the “local, state, national and international [table tennis] news,” including “articles written by the top stars of the game,” and “the latest rule changes”; (3) they’d be able to participate in “organized competition from novice tournaments…to international competition for our champions”; (4) they’d have access to lessons, “both written and personal”; and (5) they’d get assistance from those experienced in running leagues and tournaments. And all this at “a cost so low that absolutely no one is penalized by the cost [except, and Shrout will soon have to face this, the USTTA itself] (TTT, Dec., 1952, 3-4).
In summarizing how the Association did in his first (1951-52) year of office, Shrout points to a profit of $302.51. Last year, Topics cost the Association “$2,700.” However, this year, “it should be a valuable promotional medium for the USTTA, and, at the same time, …[it must be] self-supporting….Topics, run as a business, can and must be profitable. If we can’t make it profitable we will mimeograph Topics and sell it for its actual cost to subscribers” (TTT, Nov., 1952, 14-15). But, if that happens, how many will buy it? And, if Topics, the means of communication, goes, how goes the Association?
In an Oct. 17, 1952 letter to the Manufacturers and his Executive Committee, Shrout says the average cost per issue of a 16-page magazine, 2 color cover, is “approximately $750” [another 4-page section would cost another $100]. “Our present circulation,” he says, “runs about 1400 USTTA members, 200 sports writers, 50 libraries and approximately 125 copies of foreign circulation.” The average run is 2,000 copies, some of which are used for “promotion of new subscriptions.” Like those Presidents before him, he wants to think positively: “In the anticipation we will get support from some of you [the manufacturers] as early as November, we are increasing our print order 1,000 copies [costs roughly $75]. If the response from the manufacturers is more immediate, this will be increased an additional 1,000 if possible. This controlled circulation will be sent to recreation and athletic directors of all the schools, colleges, and industrial companies who have previously contacted the USTTA in any manner.” Obviously, he says, there are thousands and thousands more interested parties out there just waiting for our expansion to reach them. We need only take it upon ourselves to do it.
One change almost immediately coming up with Topics is Editor Bob Green’s resignation. He’d moved from Ohio to California—first to Santa Monica to work briefly as an engineer for Douglas Aircraft and then to Pasadena where for seven years he was with the Space Agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Around 1960 he’d begin his long tenure with the Hughes Aircraft Corporation that would have him traveling all around the country. Bob’s place will be taken by (she’ll get $100 an issue?) Margaret “Pat” Lucas, who, after graduating from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, worked in advertising and is now an associate editor of the magazine Industrial Marketing. She lives just outside Chicago, in Wilmette, with her husband Tom, and until now her hobbies had included “hunting, sailing, gardening, and travel.” But now, she says, “I’d better learn to play table tennis.” Good luck to her.
Shrout had told the manufacturers, who he was wooing, to please contract their Topics ads on a yearly not a monthly basis. He acknowledged that in the past they’d been “rightly critical of the activities of the USTTA,” and promised that the Association “will restrict its gain from the advertising dollar invested in Topics to an absolute maximum of 5% until such time as the circulation of the publication exceeds 10,000 copies per month and is being published on a 12 month per year basis.” Then, in a follow-up Dec. 8 letter to his Board and others, Shrout says, “We are now devoting 90% of our time and attention to the circulation building job.” We would like to break even with Topics this year, he says, “but we are willing to lose $2,000 to reach a guaranteed circulation of 10,000 copies by May, 1953.” Good luck to him.
In detailing information about the Association’s finances, Shrout does not publicly discuss anything about Accounts Receivable—$794.20, to be exact—and one might wonder how readily, if ever, available the money from these accounts are. For example, each USTTA affiliate had been “asked” [sic] to contribute $50 for each U.S. Team member to the 1951 World’s selected from said affiliate. Since Leah Neuberger, Reisman, Cartland, and Johnny Somael were from the 1950-51 New York City affiliate (under then President: Mal Russell), and Bill Gunn was from the Westchester, N.Y. affiliate (its President, in fact), does that explain the “$250—Fighting Fund, NYTTA” still owed? (I’d seen the Account Receivables sheets from Shrout’s Sept. 29-30, 1951 Board of Directors Meeting.)
Had there for the 1951-52 season even been a New York City affiliate to pay this Receivable? (I don’t think so.) So is that $250 wistfully still on the books? Or has the newly formed New York City TTA under President Herwald Lawrence decided to pay it? Also, did Miles and Reisman, reinstated before all their fine money was in USTTA hands, still owe the Association anything? Surely one reason Shrout hadn’t been anxious to start a “Fighting Fund” to the Bombay World’s was because he had good reason to believe New Yorkers wouldn’t support their own.
This season no “Fighting Fund” could be considered—because the World Championships are to be in Rumania, and the U.S. State Department, “unable to
extend to American citizens traveling in Rumania the degree of protection which it accords to citizens in most other countries,” is not issuing passports for travel there.
Other matters Shrout wants to be sure get a voice in Topics are Jimmy’s own continuing Rise of the Net and Paddle Club articles (which I’d summarized in Vol. II), as well as, later, his How to Start a Coaching Program; Frank Tharaldson’s How You Can Join the USTTA; Abbott Nelson’s How to Make a Tournament Draw, and the (revised) Laws of Table Tennis (the emphasis here being on a correct serve: flat hand, fingers together, thumb free; ball thrown up from palm; “racket and ball must both be behind the server’s end line and between an imaginary continuation of the side lines”). There are also of course the backed-up post-National’s spring and summer tournaments that need to surface, and I’ll pick those up in a moment. But, first, thanks to Nelson, I want to elaborate on the current 1952 USTTA regulations, not always observed and perhaps rightly so, regarding the Draw—regulations the USTTA has “copied verbatim from the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association Guide.”
Startling some readers, Nelson, using the example of a 64-entry single elimination tournament, begins by saying that the #1 and #4 seeded players are not necessarily drawn into the same semi’s, that the #1 and #8 seeded players are not necessarily drawn into the same quarter’s. Further, he says, and this was news to me, the seeded players do not have first priority on all available byes.”
The #1 seed does not automatically go to the top of the Draw, is flipped, goes either to line 1 or line 33 (which automatically positions the #2 seed). The #3 seed is flipped to see if he goes to line 17 or line 49 (which automatically positions the #4 seed). The next four seeds are flipped so that any one of them might go into lines 9, 25, 41, or 57. “Placing” of the next best eight players, randomly, in lines 5, 13, 21, 29, 37, 45, 53, and 61, is permissible, especially “when there are many players of almost equal caliber. The 10th best player, for example, would then be protected against meeting the best player in the first round.” If there are foreign seeds, the #1 foreign seed is automatically “placed on the bottom half of the draw occupied by the #2 seeded domestic player,” and the #2 foreign seed goes to the bottom half of the draw occupied by the #1 seeded domestic player. If there are #3 and #4 foreign seeds, they’re flipped to see who’s placed on the “bottom of the 1st and 3rd quarter’s.”
“Available byes start at the bottom and the top of the draw sheet and work towards the center, with the odd bye, if any, going to the bottom.” The 3rd bye goes two lines above the first (one, if a foreign seed’s on the very bottom of the draw), and the 4th bye two lines below the 2ndbye that had been put on the 2nd line from the top. The 5th bye then goes two lines above the 3rd, and the 6th two lines below the 4th, and so on. This procedure, however, might in future be changed because some were arguing that (1) the top players are more deserving of byes, and (2) were they to get them, the unseeded players would then have a better chance of a more satisfying 1st match—that is, the chance for a win over someone more their own speed.
As for out-of-town players, here the draw, otherwise determined by chance as the remainder of the participants’ names are inserted, has to be manipulated. First, the Tournament Committee has to be aware of people from the same locale. Then, if it happens that two of them are immediately drawn to play one another, the second name drawn has to be redrawn elsewhere; indeed, if it’s assumed that two players from the same locale will both easily win their 1st match, that, too, would be cause for a player to be redrawn (TTT, Oct., 1952, 8-11).
One doesn’t want to be arbitrary, but one also has to use common sense.
O.K., now to catch up with the pre-1952-53 season tournaments. Regarding the Massachusetts Open, I can see why it was held on only one day, for there was no Women’s event, and Men’s winner Frank Dwelly and runner-up Benny Hull dominated…as they would later in mid-season, in the blizzard-struck Massachusetts Closed.
At the Philadelphia Summer Open, held June 21-22 at Jack Shugardt and Frank Krupp’s Kensington Ave. Club, Leah Neuberger easily took the Women’s. Jean Gere, U.S. #14, though dropping games to several opponents, did well to come 2nd with an upset win over Pauline Robinson, U.S. #4. Johnny Somael was the Men’s winner—over U.S. #8 Hal Green, who’d eliminated Moniek Buki. Philadelphia’s top Junior, Gerald Grike, whose promising game they say is still a little wild, ended up a finalist in the Consolation to 1950 Intercollegiate Champ Nate Sussman. In the Senior’s, it was Al Butowsky over Jerry Campbell.
Mike Lieberman, 1940 Pennsylvania State Champion, won both doubles—the Men’s with Buki (over Somael/Green); the Mixed with Leah (over Somael/Robinson). The unranked Lieberman had to see 1952 as a watershed year, for, as Eugene Wilson will tell us in a later Topicsarticle, that’s when Mike changed careers—was no longer “traffic manager for United Steel Barrel Co.” but “went to work for Duro-Test Corporation as a lighting salesman.” He also “began teaching tennis as a sideline,” and, though he’d continue to play table tennis, would one day be “part owner, president, as well as the head tennis professional, of the prestigious Cheltenham Racquet Club [near Philadelphia]” (Apr., 1982, 28).
In the Junior’s, Dick Weissman, though a semifinalist in the Men’s, fell to Fred Ek of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Bethlehem’s Lowell Latshaw won the Boys’—over Philly’s 13-year-old Arnold Leibowitz who’d been playing only a year. There was a story being told about septugenarian Krupp—how, at a National’s in St. Louis, where he delighted in carrying racket in hand round the Sheraton (tournament) Hotel, he attended a USTTA Meeting. When Board members got to talking about the difficulty of getting boys and girls interested in the Sport, he jumped to his feet and said, “You must love them…and the rest will be easy.”
From the City of Brotherly Love, we go to the New York City Summer Open, held Aug. 23-24 at Lawrence’s Broadway Courts. Leah again won the Women’s—in straight games over Robinson. The 76-entry Men’s winner was Dick Miles over Bernie Bukiet in the semi’s and an unseeded Eddie Pinner in the final…after Eddie had taken out National Champ Pagliaro. The Chicago-based Bukiet, who like others was using the tournament as a warm-up for the prestigious CNE tournament in two weeks in Toronto, won the Men’s Doubles with Harry Hirschkowitz…receiving an assist from Paggy, for after he and Somael had split the first two 19 games, Louie got another of his cramps and couldn’t go on. Johnny, however, partnered by his steady, Pauline, won the Mixed from Schiff and Phyllis Oransky who’ll be this year’s Long Island Closed Champ.
Other winners: Senior’s: Mal Russell over Fran Delaney in 5; Junior’s: Bobby Gusikoff over Richard Weissman; Boys’: Arnold Leibowitz over the touted Barry Michelman, 19 in the 3rd; and Junior Doubles: Gusikoff/Weissman over Massachusetts Open Jr. Champ Ben Masterman/Mervin Berger.
Amazing—I have to go to the English Table Tennis Review to find out that the New York State Open was played at Lawrence’s on Aug. 29-30. In the Men’s, Somael registered “his first victory over Pagliaro in several years” after Louie had been forced into the 5th with Hirschkowitz. Harry, however, did win the Mixed with Pauline Robinson who I assume sent this short report to Topics as well as the Review. Men’s Doubles winners were Moniek Buki and Junior Champ Gusikoff. Senior’s went to Gus Rehberger over Maryland TTA President George Sempeles (Autumn, 1953, 12). And while I have Somael and Rehberger together this weekend, I might tell you that, according to Millie Shahian who was sometimes with them in New York, “John posed at times for Rehberger and would always advise when passing a big billboard showing a huge battle scene, ‘That’s my hand’” (Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct., 1983).
Other warm-up tournaments for the CNE were the summer Opens in Chicago and Columbus. At the Aug. 9-10 Western States in the Windy City, South Bend’s National Boys’ Champ, Dave Krizman, no longer a sucker for a drop shot, chopped down all opposition to take the Men’s, the Junior’s, and the Boys.’ In the Men’s, the 15-year-old’s hardest matches were, first, in the quarter’s when USTTA Membership Chair Frank Tharaldson pummeled away at him for 5 games, and then in the final with President Jimmy Shrout, whom he outlasted, 18 in the 5th, in the 90-degree heat. Upsets of seeded players included Harry Lund’s win over U.S. #15 Allan Levy, Shrout’s over U.S. #14 Dr. Bill Meszaros; and Dr. Richard Puls’s win in the 5th over U.S. #20 Keith Porter—Puls being the talk of the tournament with his “sponge-rubber Japanese sound-proof bat."
Peggy Ichkoff, Women’s winner, received a merchandise award from Illinois TTA President Ralph Bast for defeating Sharon Koehnke. Sherry this past spring had apparently outgrown her father’s All-American Championships and seemed content to let her sister Jackie carry off honors with a win in the Midgets. Ten-year-old Jackie, incidentally, reportedly played at this tournament too. The English Table Tennis Review said she didn’t plan to be a table tennis professional but rather a cowboy singer. “She now plays the piano and the uke and sings Western ballads. At a recent Square Dance festival, with an audience of 2,500, Jackie entertained them with some of her cowboy songs” (Winter issue, 9).
Peggy Ichkoff—whose position on the sponge racket was, “Who knows? Maybe it’s better than the bats now being used”—also won the Mixed with Allan Levy over Harry and Shirley Lund. Allan, with Shrout, took the Men’s Doubles from Porter and his partner Tharaldson, the Senior’s winner over John Varga. In both the Junior’s and the Boys,’ Krizman (he’d been down 2-0 in the Junior’s) beat South Bend’s Bobby Young, winner in May of the Chicago All-American Intermediate event for boys 15-17.
Two weeks later, in Columbus, Ralph Ramsey, managing to defend himself 19 in the 5th against Tharaldson’s onslaught, went on to quickly finish off Bill Early and win the Men’s. Frank had gone through Gordon Barclay in the quarter’s, and after Puls had eliminated Krizman, Early had gotten by the “Sponge-man” 24-22 in the 4th. “Puls and his sponge-rubber bat were sure death to the defensive players…it took a quick hitter like Early to subdue him.” In other upsets, South Bend’s Jack Foster knocked off Keith Porter; and former Ohio Junior star Dave Spence, now father to three sons, downed Shrout, who was also beaten by Tharaldson in the Senior’s. Ramsey and Guy Blair won the Men’s Doubles over Puls and Dick Jones.
Neuberger of course scored a comfortable win in the Women’s—over Joanne Kaylor Wilcox who’d eliminated South Bend’s seemingly imperturbable Carolee Liechty, Women’s winner at the May All-American. Leah also took the Women’s Doubles with Rose Bucci, and the Mixed with Bob Green. Dave Krizman played Cincinnati’s Harley Bradford twice—he beat him in the Boys,’ but then…”no one has seen the likes of anyone really pounding that ball [“a fast pace of forehand whip shots…placed from corner to corner”] since Schiff was in his heyday. Bradford murdered [any ball even slightly set-up,] ball after ball without a letup, against Krizman’s fine defense…to win the match 21-16, 21-19, 24-22” (TTT, Dec., 1952, 13-14).
Two earlier tournaments I want to pick up are the Apr. 19-20 Western States and the Kansas State Opens. In Des Moines, Minnesota TTA President Harry Lund came 1st in the Men’s—in the semi’s over Dean Norman in 4 and in the final in straight games over Iowa City’s Chuck Windle who’d upset Des Moines #1 seed Wayne Losh and Senior’s winner George Wicker. Eva Stoler, rallying from two games down, won the Women’s over Beverly Barnes. Junior winner was Joe Dragosh, “a mighty tough player with a blasting forehand drive” who was about to lose the May All-American Men’s to Chicago’s Marv Leff.
At the Kansas State Open, George Ghahramanian, an (Iranian?) student from Parkville, Mo.—beat Junior Champ Dragosh in 4 to win the Men’s. George also scored a 1st in Doubles with Don Smallwood. Nancy Will won the Women’s from “All-American Girl” Diane Livingstone. David Potts, the All American Junior Boys winner, took the Boys’ from Tom Culver.
At the Texas Open, held May 17-18 in Houston, Defending Champion Walter Sher again won the Men’s—over Chicago’s Norm Schless who’d earlier defeated Californian Bob Ashley, 19 in the 5th. Norm and Bob took the Doubles from Sher/Fred Thompson.
The early spring Metro Open, held at Portland, OR’s Circle Theater Building found Bob Hage the Men’s winner over Ike Benveniste; Hage and Roland Jones the Doubles victors; and Enid Smith the Women’s Champ.
Former South Korean Champion Keun-Hang “Kenny” Choi, who reportedly while living in Japan coached both Fujii and Satoh, won the May 23-24 Pacific Coast Open in straight games from transplanted Nebraskan Bob Ferguson. Kenny and Beryl Shapiro, who worked in the Circulation Department of the L.A. Examiner, won the Doubles from Ferguson and Adolph Herscovic who’d beaten Bob deuce in the 4th in the semi’s of the April Thebaut tourney.
The Feb.-Mar., 1999 issue of the Yugoslav journal BeST gives us some background on the former Makabi star Herscovic, a lefty doubles specialist, born in Zagreb in 1916. In addition to playing for Yugoslavia before World War II, after the War he was in charge of organizing table tennis in Italy, and represented that country in three World Championships before emigrating to the U.S. On settling in California, the popular “Dolfi,” often a jokester to his European friends, changed his name to Allan Herskovich. Why’d he do that? It wasn’t only, as he said, that his name was “Adolph,” and that he was born on Apr. 20, the same date Hitler was born, but that, as others said, because his family and he (of Jewish origin) had had enough unpleasantness, having experienced during the War “detention in prisons and concentration camps” (20).
The Pacific Coast Women’s winner was 4-time State Champion Tiny Eller, in real life an elementary school teacher, over Diane Abrams. Tiny, partnered by 13-year-old Erwin “Chubby” Klein, also took the Mixed from Ferguson/Diane Helfer.
At the July 26-27 Oakland Centennial Open, “Choo-Choo” Choi (“his offensive game is as relentless and powerful as a locomotive”), after being threatened in the Men’s semi’s in 5 by Herskovich, beat Bob Ferguson 3-1 in the final. However, teamed with Southern California TTA President Si Wasserman, Kenny lost the Doubles to Bob and Erwin. Ferguson is described as having “catlike reflexes,” but is said to be hampered some by his “explosive temperament.”
Choi, Ferguson, and Klein, respectively, headed the California Men’s Ranking for the 1951-52 season, Eller, Helfer, and Mary Reilly the Women’s. Question: How are such Rankings established? Answer (according to the Aug., 1952 So. Cal. Table Tennis News):
“all tourneys except the Golden State and Pacific Coast are on a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7…basis. The ordinary tournament, with 33 to 64 players, contains 7 rounds. A player receives one point for being in the first round, two points for making the second round, three for the third, etc. Thus a player who won a tournament of this size would receive 1 plus 2 plus 3 plus 4 plus 5 plus 6 plus 7 points, or 28 points for the tournament. The Golden State and Pacific Coast, our major tourneys, are on a 2, 4, 6, 8…basis….Additional points in any tournament are awarded for taking games from a higher seeded player.”
Surprise at the Aug. 2-3 Hollywood Invitational—Choi finally, after his stranded-in-the-U.S. two years of residence, lost a match in California…7 in the 5th to Ferguson. However, because there was a round robin of the semifinalists, in which Choi battered Klein, 6, 8, 12, and Jim Hertwig, 9, 12, 11, he still kept his streak of being unbeaten in 18 West Coast tournaments intact. Ferguson lost to both Klein (in 5) and Hertwig (in 4), and Hertwig fell to Klein, 19 in the 4th.
Today’s rules would break the 2-way (2-1 in matches) tie by making Choi the winner because, head-to-head, he beat Klein. However, Hollywood rules called for a one-game play-off, which Choi won anyway at 14.
The Aug. 23-24 Santa Monica Open was notable for Choi’s presence at a CA tournament as a non-player. He was preparing to leave for his native Korea, via Japan, on Sept. 2. On Aug. 28 Beryl and Arlyn Shapiro would host at their home an open house farewell party for Kenny, and off he’d go with a gift of the Santa Monica Open entry fees, $148.50. Later, in a tribute to Choi, the Southern CA TTA would collect “used clothing,” and make “donations to the Meals for Millions Foundation,” in an “American Relief for Korea Drive.”
In Choi’s absence, Ferguson beat Klein for the Men’s title, and won both Doubles—the Men’s with Jerry Glaser (over John Hanna/Gene Roseman) and the Mixed with Women’s Champ Barbara Charnack over the husband and wife team of Gerald (“Gerry”) and Clemmie Ryan. Louie Scharlach took the Senior’s from Larry Wexler who’d been the Mar., 1951 New York City Open Senior Champion. In the Junior’s, Klein beat Glaser. Erwin, say local veterans, has the “ABC” qualities that will make him our National Champion: “ABILITY, BRAINS, COOLNESS.”
Background on Klein
The 1950 annual Santa Monica tournament was the earliest, or at least one of the earliest, Klein had played in—and here in the space of just two years he was about to represent the U.S. at the CNE matches in Toronto. I’d mentioned in Vol. II how CalTTA President Bob Lupo had encouraged Klein to move up from that Poinsettia Playground to the L.A. Table Tennis Center; now I want you to read sportswriter Phil Musick, Jr.’s 2002 account of his early friendship with Erwin:
“From 1947 to 1951, Erwin and I lived on the same block of Field Avenue in Los Angeles in a largely Jewish neighborhood. Having moved to that neighborhood—just off Jefferson, south of Adams and not too far from Crenshaw—at the same time, we became best friends. I’ve always said my only claim to fame was having taught him to play. In fact, I think I simply picked up the game a month or two before he did and then passed on my scant knowledge. We learned the game and played incessantly at the Vineyard Avenue playground under the tutelage of a guy I only recall as ‘Coach.’ Funny thing, though, I can still clearly recall his face and the fact that he was a fine club player and played left-handed.
Erwin was always left-handed and we spent hours using a number of different grips, some of them a bit bizarre. As a result, even though we played seriously using the conventional grip, both of us were pretty fair using the penholder grip. By the time we were 11, Erwin was the best boys singles player in the neighborhood and could beat most of the juniors at Vineyard. We played doubles and we didn’t lose very often. I don’t remember the details clearly, but we played in tournaments in Santa Monica, Long Beach, and Hollywood when we were 12. Erwin had the face of a Dubliner even then. [“Chubby,” a reporter would say, “looks like a slightly overripe Mickey Rooney.”] His mom delighted in calling us before friends and family—we were inseparable—and asking in a lilting voice, ‘So which one is the Jew?’ I am Irish, but had dark hair….
Erwin’s mom came from a well-to-do Hungarian family and she was raised in Mexico City, where I believe her father was the Hungarian consul or ambassador to Mexico. In any case, he was a diplomat. When the family moved to Los Angeles, she met Max Klein, the balding son of a family of modest means who later became a kosher butcher. Erwin’s mother was trained as a classical cook when she was a teenager. [The Nov., 1952 So. Cal. Table Tennis News will tell us that Erwin’s mother, Elizabeth, “has opened a bakery counter and fountain at the Melrose Market, Melrose and Fuller. She features a fine selection of pastries and ice-cream confections.”]
My clearest memory of him [Erwin] as a player stems from an evening when we went to the Hollywood Table Tennis club. It was a large venue where I recall the best players in Southern California often played….Erwin got into a winner-take-all tournament as a 13-year-old and won it, beating along the way an adult player who we were told was ranked #4 in California. At that moment, his table tennis career coalesced. People noticed his wonderful talent that night and took an interest in him.
Shortly thereafter I moved to another part of Los Angeles and only saw him a few times a month. As a kid, we both played power topspin games. Erwin was even then an exceptional defensive player who stayed closer to the table than most. In those days, we started with sandpaper and gradually moved to cork, then rubber. But we played with sandpaper in tournaments when everyone else was using rubber. I still remember the day the Coach introduced us to rubber-on-sponge and we thought nobody would ever kill the ball on us again. I think his [Erwin’s] great attribute as a young player was his willingness to practice and play across long hours. It was not unusual for us to play more than 12 hours a day, even if we had to play outside on the stone tables at Vineyard.”
Two things strike me about Musick’s account: (1) Erwin’s willingness to experiment—with grips, with rackets. No wonder he would one day quite casually in the heat of battle, as it were, switch to sponge, feeling he could play as well with that as anything; and (2) Erwin’s desire, like the great New York players, to play and play and play.
In an interview with Jeanne Hoffman in the Jan. 18, 1953 Los Angeles Times, Erwin tells us a little bit more about his early table tennis life:
“…Bob Lupo…saw me play and told me I could get better competition at the California Table Tennis Center. I went over and met the owner, Chuck Feldman. He was real nice. Let me play for 70 cents all day, and helped coach me.
To be able to play more often, I took a Sunday paper route. The Times. Then I took an everyday paper corner on Highland and Santa Monica. Figured the more papers I sold, the more table tennis I’d see. It’s only been a year last September that I’ve been able to play three nights a week. Even on those nights I have to study my homework between matches” (Part II, 11).
Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Open
For the Easterners, this Sept. 4-6 tournament in Toronto heralded the new season in the U.S., and in importance was second only to the National’s. In the International Men’s Tie in which the team winners received Bulova watches (no Women’s or Junior Ties were yet being held), USA (6) defeated Canada (2)—with Schiff losing two matches to1951 Canadian Closed Champ Paul Belanger.Young Klein did very well in his debut—defeated this year’s Canadian Closed Champion Lionel Cloutier, and paired with U.S. Junior Champion Carl Dentice to down Belanger/Jacques Poulin in one of the two doubles played. After Dentice had opened with a win over Pranas Gvildys, U.S. Captain Johnny Somael scored against Belanger and Poulin, and partnered Sol in the remaining doubles to defeat Cloutier/Poulin.
In the Men’s, some of the players who had to work hard to advance were: Al Hibner over Gvildys, 19 in the 5th; Eddie Brennan with 5-gamers over Sanford Gross and Tommy Breunig, and then a 20, 21, -19, 13 struggle with Hibner; John Hunnius (down 2-0) over Senior Champ Lynel Overton, a.k.a. Lionel Ovelton; Dentice in 5 over Max Trofymowyeh; Cloutier in 4 over Bobby Gusikoff, followed by his 20-in-the-4th/19-in-the-5th fight to the death advance over Harley Bradford, Boys’ runner-up to Klein. The two biggest upsets were Howard Ornstein over Cloutier, and Bob Wilkenfeld reaching the semi’s with a 3rd-4th-5th come-from-behind win over Belanger—which no doubt delighted Schiff, now spared the problem of playing the Canadian he’d twice lost to in the International Matches. Wily Bukiet easily eliminated the Juniors—winner Klein and runner-up Dentice—but couldn’t wangle a game from Somael, who was beaten in the final in 4 by Sol.
Leah Neuberger, as expected, won the Women’s, seemingly in a succession of walkovers—downing Pauline Robinson in the final. Best match was Jean Gere’s –17, 18, -14, 20, 22 quarter’s win over 1951 Canadian Closed Champ Audrey Perkins, who fell in this year’s Closed to the new Champ, Latvian immigrant Jeugenija “Jenny” Kapostins, winner over Joan Jessop in the final. Continuing their strong play, Ornstein/Wilkenfeld took the Men’s Doubles from Schiff/Somael who’d had to go 19 in the 4th to shake off Bukiet/Gusikoff. Schiff/Neuberger won the Mixed, but perhaps it was something of a surprise that Bukiet/Sharon Koehnke were able to beat Somael/Robinson (from down 2-0) and then extend the winners to 5. Apparently Sherry wasn’t wearing one of those provocative outfits she’d showed off in England—Bernie would have noticed.