USA Table Tennis
1953: Reisman’s Status. 1953: USTTA Problems. 1953: National Intercollegiate’s. 1953: Junior Intercities/All-American Championships. 1953: Summer Tournaments. 1953: Bukiet, Neuberger CNE Champs. 1953: Fall Tournaments. 1953: Fall Tournaments—California.
Shrout and his E.C. felt they’d cut Reisman and Cartland enough slack. Marty and Doug were authorized to play only in the Individuals in Bombay, so it was held against them that they’d tried to play in the Team’s as well. Then, despite ITTF President Ivor Montagu’s charges “concerning travel [problems]” with Doug and Marty, and their “lack of cooperation,” the Association had allowed them to play Bergmann and Leach in the Philippines. (That is, unless Doug had fabricated that acceptance, and all concerned had chosen not to question him).
But now, a year later—it was but one point of discussion in Shrout’s Report of the Mar. 28 Open Meeting at the ‘53 National’s—Doug and Marty, Marty particularly, had still not given satisfactory explanations for their actions. So, just as I’m sure that, abroad, Marty hadn’t wanted to acknowledge that the USTTA had any jurisdiction at all over him, so I’m sure the E.C. clearly saw them as renegades. And renegades traveling the globe they were. Said one fellow on reading The Money Player, “Marty appeals to the criminal in all of us.”*
In speaking of World Champion Richard Bergmann’s difficulties with the English Association that twice led to his suspension, Dick Miles said that Richard’s problem “was a problem of personalities—the personality of the organization as opposed to the personality of the individual. For Richard was an individual—always” (TTT, July-Aug., 1970, 1). This personality problem has also been Reisman’s down through the years, even to the present day. Ivor Montagu said of Richard, “his quarrels with authority…were mostly quite unnecessary,” but he compounded them by preferring the “defiant gesture.” I think Bergmann (take his emphasis on appearance, his liking for expensive clothes, for example) was even more a role model for the teenage Reisman (and consciously or unconsciously remains so) than for many other players who rightly held Richard in awe.
Shrout in his Report said that the “New York Table Tennis Association [presumably sympathetic to Doug and Marty] officially requested permission to handle the punishment of the two top players within the state, but since the matter involved was an International matter, the [Midwest-dominated] USTTA Executive Committee felt that they must handle the situation themselves.” The E.C.’s recommendation? That “if the things reported in this letter [from Montagu] were found to be facts, that these two be suspended for life.” Thus Marty’s belief in himself and in his table tennis ability, his conviction that he and it would independently prevail, come what may, over any authority, was both his strength and his weakness.
Accusatory excerpts from a Montagu letter used against Doug and Marty were:
“a) ‘I was displeased with the conduct of the two.’
b) ‘The two were being unnecessarily difficult, rather than helpfully flexible.’
c) ‘Such is the fate of the honest broker, trying to do his best. They say a sucker is born every minute. I shall try not to be a sucker next time.’
d) ‘They acted irresponsibly and ungratefully.’
e) ‘We live, and learn.’”
Unfortunately, these fragments really don’t tell us what specifically Marty and Doug’s offenses were—but perhaps Shrout’s E.C. had more information, for they unanimously approved the following disciplinary action:
“That Cartland and Reisman be put on probation, allowing them to play for three years in the United States; however, under full suspension for three years for any International play, and if any further incidents occur which are damaging to table tennis in any way, either or both players would be [sic] automatically be suspended for life. This is effective as of this date (June 13, 1953) [and so will remain in effect until June 13, 1956].
Thereafter, through the World Championships, English Opens, and other elite tournaments of 1954, ’55, and ’56, Reisman, who’d already missed the ’50 and ’53 World’s, saw his once promising career come to a stop. For, never mind the several hardbat Europeans he wasn’t a favorite over, unless he had continued competition against the sponge racket and the super-fast, super-aggressive Japanese, he had no chance to regain his place as one of the world’s best. And yet such had been his relatively brief but dynamic play that he was already developing a mythic persona that would be nurtured for half a century.
President Shrout had two main aims this past season. The first was to “build up the strength” of local affiliates. So, did he? The USTTA hadn’t lost any affiliates during the season but they hadn’t gained a single one either. Players interested in forming leagues, or playing in just a local city or state tournament, could buy a modified USTTA membership for as little as $.25. Question is: Who’s going to find and organize such players? Shrout’s Report cited a “lack of activity by the heads of affiliates around the country” (though his own Illinois affiliate that charged, in addition to the $1.50 USTTA membership, $1 per member was going strong). “Many members,” said Shrout, “felt that they were not getting enough for their money or enough to sell [the Association to]…new members.” And with that said, he’s about to raise the cost of a membership from $1.50 to $2.
This brings us to how he’s been doing with his second aim—that of using Topics to try to increase Membership. The previous season, the loss on Topics, which Shrout said in the future had to be self-supporting, was $2700. For the 10 months of this 1952-53 season, according to his March 28th Report, the loss on Topics was $3200, and the Association so far had “a net operating loss of $1148.34.” Cash on hand? $182.06.
USTTA Trophy Chair Troy Snyder could use some of that cash. He inspected the traveling trophies available at the National’s, and recommended that, “if funds are available,” up-to-date engraving be done. Those most in need were: the Men’s Gimbel Trophy, donated in 1933 by Bernard Gimbel of the New York department store family, and last engraved in 1949; the Women’s Coleman Clark Trophy, donated by Cokey in 1935, and in need of engraving from 1950 on; and the Boys’ Berna Trophy, donated in 1940 by George Perryman in honor of former USTTA General Secretary Joe Berna, and.last engraved in 1948.
Traveling trophies not at the National’s but accounted for were: the Don Henry Memorial Trophy, donated by the St. Louis Association (1951) and given to the National Junior Champion ; the Cinnater (U.S. Open) Sportsmanship Trophy (1952); the Jimmy McClure Trophy (1952) given to the Outstanding Official of the Year; the South Bend Award Trophy (1952) given to the National Team Champion; and the Bradley Trophy (1952) given to the National Intercollegiate Team Champion. Trophies not at the National’s and apparently not recoverable were: the Emily Fuller Trophy; the Hammond Trophy; and the Wilkinson Trophy. Momentarily (?) missing was the Coleman Clark Trophy.
Also needing completion was the USTTA Manual, which had been “in a constant state of rework for the past two years.” There remained 40% still to be worked on, but this would be completed “in the reasonable future.” Tournament Chair Jim Carey “advised that he must reduce his table tennis activities.” He’s a mite discouraged: 40% of this season’s tournament organizers had not sent him by the time of the National’s “completed forms, sanction fees, etc.” Obviously, such omissions affected the Rankings.
The new Tournament Chair would be Jack Dale who’d also replace Clarence Sage as USTTA Vice-President. Jack’s wife Marjorie would be the new Membership Chair replacing Frank Tharaldson.
Shrout complains that “during the past two years the most common reaction throughout the table tennis association has been that of a negative attitude. The members and the officers of the various affiliates do not seem to realize that the promotion of table tennis is a serious job and can only be accomplished with enthusiasm, with positive attitudes and positive approaches.” All well and good, Jimmy—but what’s there to be positive about?
Someone suggested that perhaps the USTTA Executive Committee should be enlarged? Include the past USTTA President. Bring in “regional representatives from each region of the country” and give them a voting voice. Urge that the President of each local affiliate vote not unilaterally, “without even discussing the questions with members in his affiliate,” but by “a directed vote.”
You’re maybe getting the idea that Shrout needs help? You’ll think that the more when you hear his plea that the Association needs “an Executive Secretary”—“full time on a salary basis.” As I say, Cash on hand: $182.06. My own take on this is that, given the USTTA’s present financial woes, Shrout knows the Association can’t hire such a Secretary, and is consciously or unconsciously readying himself to resign as USTTA President. Such a resignation, sooner or later, is inevitable. As Elmer Cinnater, the previous President, finally said, “I’ve had it up to here.”
Topics, in its May issue, has a brief spurt of pizzazz with two “different” articles. One might be called, “Building Your Home Table Tennis Patio Court” (cover photo shows three people in a large, tree-shaded yard at work on a raised cement court and adjacent dining area). The other article I’ll call, “Playing Table Tennis With Positioned Chessman Opposite” (in an accompanying diagram, the table becomes a modified chessboard and players practice precision placement and win game-points by knocking down the men).
The Association and its magazine—which members as of this coming season have to pay not an extra $1.00 but a $1.50 a year for—are in trouble. There’s a dispute between the USTTA and last season’s printer over costs that, from the Association’s point of view, a correct point of view, were excessively billed, and so still not paid. As winter sets in, the USTTA has a cash balance of $47.19. Thus Topics is already into its first stage of fatal decline, is reduced to 8 pages an issue, half of them “in Newsletter style,” and more often than not without a single photo. In mid-season, Editor/Business Manager Lucas will say Goodbye and be replaced for four issues by Shrout’s secretary, Peggy Ichkoff. At the beginning of the season Peggy had taken Virgil Carson’s place as USTTA Executive Secretary; now, as she assumes Editorship of the magazine, Jimmy McClure will replace her as Executive Secretary. Then—but I’m getting ahead of myself; there are still a few end-of-‘53 season tournaments I have to give attention to.
At the National Intercollegiate’s, held in Columbus, Ohio Apr. 17-18 at Ohio State’s Pomerene Hall, USTTA Intercollegiate Chair Robert Cobbs reported that, in the 12-entry Team competition for the Thomas Bradley Memorial Trophy, Ohio State defeated Defending Champion Wayne State, 3-2. The Men’s Singles winner was Jerry Ghahramanian. In the semi’s he beat Rich Puls and in the final Bob Short, who’d eliminated Jerry’s brother George, 18 in the 3rd. The Ghahramanians won the Doubles from Short and Al Ring after both finalists had been tested in the semi’s—the winners by Puls/Dudley Kuhlman, 19 in the 3rd, and the runner-ups by Tim Boggan/John Shoemaker, -20, 19, 17. Roughly 25 participants received awards, including Ohio State’s “Tournament Princess,” Patricia Maitland, who was given a Loving Cup. Thirty players were ranked—from Jerry Ghahramanian to Dick Troxel.
Junior Intercities/All-American Championships
With George Koehnke as Chair, both the Junior Intercities and the annual All-American Singles Championships were held Apr. 25-26 at Chicago’s Net and Paddle Club. The following Manufacturers offered their support:
“P. Becker & Co., Chicago; Bond Products Co., Detroit; British Xylonite Co., New York; Harvard Table Tennis Co., Boston; Hodgman Rubber Co., Farmington, Mass.; McClure Sports Co., Indianapolis; Table Tennis Corp., Clifton, N.J.; and James Thompson Co., New York” (TTT, May, 1953, 8).
Team winners were the South Bend Boys and Girls. As usual, there was early hype about how, say, Rec Centers in Culver City, CA or Montgomery, AL were getting hundreds of kids interested, but it was highly unlikely that any representatives from such Centers actually showed in Chicago. Certainly if they were there they didn’t win anything. U.S. Junior International Squads, both Boys and Girls, were formed with an eye towards “future competition” against European Squads. Needless to say, such Matches aren’t imminent. Carl Dentice was named the “King”; Carolee Liechty the “Queen.” (Carolee “received a jeweled compact by Elgin American”). Top 5 in the Boys: 1. Dave Krizman. 2. Dick Winkle (both received Elgin watches). 3. Bobby Gusikoff. 4. Jack Howard. 5. Carl Dentice. Top 5 in the Girls: 1. Carolee Liechty. 2. Marlene Mall (both received Elgin watches). 3. Sharlene Krizman. 4. Josephine Brady. 5. Lorelle Thiesse.
All-American Champs were: Midget Boys: Glen Ellyn, IL’s Doug Walter over St. Louis’s Chuck McKinley (who’s about to switch exclusively to tennis). Junior Boys: South Bend’s Paul Gast over Chicago’s Willie Williams. Midget Girls: Elmhurst, IL’s Susan Shipman (Mildred’s daughter) over Sharon Vorhees (Oak Park, IL). Junior Girls: Glen Ellyn’s Jackie Koehnke over St. Louis’s Yvonne Pointer.
Season-Ending California Tournaments
The Golden State Open, a.k.a the California State Championships, played Apr. 25-26 at the CA TT Center, was won by Erwin Klein—19 in the 4th over Jerry Glaser, who got some modicum of revenge by beating Erwin with astonishing ease in the Junior’s. Glaser, paired with Bob Ferguson, also won the Doubles from Gene Roseman and the Long Beach Club President John Hanna. Larry Wexler again proved himself the best Senior in Southern California. The Women’s winner was Tiny Eller, locally invincible, over Diane Helfer. Paul Capelle/Arlyn Shapiro were best in Mixed, but had to go 5 to take out Hanna/Jane Little. In winning the Under 11’s from Steve Weiss, Stuffy Singer became the youngest California Champion ever.
The May 24-25 3-star Pacific Coast Championships, with Inglewood’s Gerry Ryan as Chair, offered two Perpetual Trophies—a Men’s Trophy from the Helms Foundation and a Sportsmanship Trophy donated by Joe Cianci. RKO Actress/Dancer Sally Forrest (no relation to Milt) reigned as Queen. In winning this tournament, the 5’, 1,” 110-pound, freckle-faced Klein already showed “a rare combination of great natural ability, mental sharpness and outstanding tournament temperament.” His “months of grueling practice” enable him to quickly grasp “opponents weaknesses” and to capitalize on them. But mostly his meteoric rise to prominence is due to “his poise and confidence” (Jan. 2, 1954 Southland Sportsweek).
Of course, for the 1952-53 California season, Klein is ranked 1st in Men’s (and Junior’s), followed by 2. Bob Ferguson, 3. Bob Edwards, 4. Jerry Glaser, 5. SCTTA Treasurer Chuck Feldman (1st in Doubles with Klein), 6. Bob Shapiro, 7. Larry Wexler (1st in Senior’s), 8. Beryl Shapiro (SCTTA V-P), 9. Si Wasserman (re-elected SCTTA President), and 10. Jim Hertwig. Women’s Rankings: 1. Tiny Eller, 2. Arlyn Manning Shapiro, 3.Diana Levinson Abrams, 4. Diane Helfer, 5. Mary Reilly, 6. Mae Anapol, and 7. Clemmie Ryan.
The Mid-Summer Invitational, held July 25-26 in Los Angeles at the California T.T.Center, offered some innovations. A Draw Doubles, for example—pairing by lot the best players with the worst. Also, a different kind of Consolation—divided into two parts: first round losers went into a Novice event, 2nd round losers into a Class A. (Seeded players weren’t eligible for either.) The winners received cash prizes and Hock bats. Entry fee was $5, which entitled one to play in both singles and doubles.
A month or so later, Wasserman will write to “Kenny” Choi , the former Korean Champion who, stranded in the U.S. because of the Korean War, had dominated California play. After wishing Kenny Godspeed in the fall of 1952, Si thought he might still be in Japan, but his letter to him was returned as being undeliverable. In it Si notes that at this Midsummer Invitational, Ferguson beat Klein (11, -16, 21, 20), and says that, “Erwin is not playing very much and is losing his sharpness.” By way of explanation, I add that reportedly Erwin was often playing tennis this summer with an eye to making “the varsity tennis team at Fairfax High in the spring.”
Minnesota, under new President Leo Bernat of St. Paul, issued its 1952-53 rankings, and on July 25-26 at its annual Aquatennial Open there were no surprises. The Women’s round robin went to the State’s #1 Mary Specht over #2 Shirley Lund. In the Men’s it was #1 Eddie Kantar and #2 Harry Lund battling it out, with Eddie finally winning the final, 16, -20, 20, -20, 16. In the one semi’s, Kantar beat the itinerate Illinois #4 Bill Meszaros, while in the other, Lund took out the Minnesota #3, Alan Goldstein, -19, 19, 20, 19. Men’s Doubles winners were Lund/Meszaros over Goldstein and his partner, the Minnesota #5 and its Treasurer Clarence Smith.
The South St. Paul schools rec director wanted to know from Bernat and his Minnesota affiliate whether they’d advise the use of aluminum bats that permit “normal topspins and chops” but have a disconcerting “ping” sound. Those in recreation “were impressed with the paddle because it doesn’t tend to chip or break at the neck as the standard wooden bats do.” Where rackets “are banged around…in disgust or otherwise…the durability of a piece of equipment becomes very important.” Their Question: “would use of the bat for beginners act as a handicap later if wooden paddles were used?” (TTT, Nov., 1953, 5). My Answer: don’t worry about it—it won’t make any difference. Minneapolis, meanwhile, has a “new private club,” the Twin City Club, on Hennepin Ave.
Topics is about to be pared down to 8 pages, curtailing news. But since Pauline Robinson has officially been made Eastern Associate Editor, that means the Membership will hear about New York players, be privy to some of the action at Lawrence’s and elsewhere. Of the ranked Men players, almost half (13/30) are clustered in New York, so it’s good we finally have an Editor that’s conversant with them.
Here’s a hot start. The intense 95-degree temperature at the Aug. 29-30 New York State Open discouraged play—so much so that with only two entries in the Women’s Robinson won rather easily over Helen Fowler in 4. “I don’t think women’s events should be cancelled for small entries”—that was Pauline’s credo from the beginning. Robinson also scored a 1st in the Mixed with Harry Hirschkowitz over Jean Gere/Bob Wilkenfeld. Because Pauline likes to mention in her “Over The Net” column visitors to Lawrence’s, I note the coming arrival of Richard Neilson from England who’ll proceed to beat Wilkenfeld in Friday night play, then win a Tuesday night handicap—“no mean feat for a low minus player to achieve!” In 1940, Richard, then known as Jimmy Nelson, was the Junior runner-up in the prestigious English Open. An actor by profession, he’ll later become friends with movie-star manager Ruth Aarons and, still later, with me.
In the Men’s, Johnny Somael downed Lou Pagliaro in a –17, 3, 10, 12 final that suggests Louie must have literally wilted from the heat. In the Men’s “Novice”—an event which a letter-writer to Topics urges that the USTTA give country-wide guidelines to (because they’re often too many strong players in it)—was Bob Schenck over Jack Howard, who, though without Honorable Mention now, in 15 years will be the U.S. Open runner-up. Artist Gus Rehberger took the Senior’s. Pauline calls Gus the “Rembrandt of Horses” (though of course kinetic energy also races through the action drawings he makes of table tennis players).
Junior winner Bobby Gusikoff, partnered with Moniek Buki, came 1st in Men’s Doubles over the Latvian team of A/3c Ramons Miesis/Gunars Tobiens. However, Bobby and Mal Krauss lost the Junior Doubles to Gerald Grike and his partner Arnold Leibowitz who’d upset Grike in the Junior’s. Junior runner-up Leibowitz won the Boys’ over unseeded Michael Zuckerman after Mike had eliminated #1 seed Barry Michelman.
Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Tournament
Two weeks after the N.Y. State Open, some Easterners trekked up to Toronto for the annual CNE tournament. In the International Matches, the U.S. Men (Capt. Lou Pagliaro, Bernie Bukiet, Bobby Gusikoff, and Dave Krizman) won 6-1 over the Canadians (CTTA President and Capt. Doug Harris, Gerald Addy, Paul Belanger, Lionel Cloutier, and Norman Timmons). Still no Women’s or Junior International Matches though (because the CTTA feels Canada can’t compete?).
Last year’s Men’s Champion Sol Schiff and runner-up Johnny Somael didn’t enter this year. Perhaps this was the week they were giving exhibitions at Macy’s Department Store? The Men’s winner was Bernie Bukiet. In the quarter’s, he eliminated Lionel Cloutier who, in winning the Closed, had three testers, a 23-21 in-the-5th squeaker over Vancouver’s Addy, another (22-20 in the 5th) over a former Leicestershire, England player, Winnipeg’s Norman Timmins, and still another (a 19-in-the-5th final) over Paul Belanger. (Timmins, I might add, had rallied from 2-0 down to edge Don Rathlou deuce in the 5th, and Pranas Gvildys had prevailed in 5 over one of the Northwest’s best, Art Barron, the Senior Champ here.)
In the semi’s, Bukiet had no mercy for Bill Meszaros, his doubles partner (they were runner-ups to Bobby Gusikoff/Harry Hirschkowitz). And in the final, though he doubtless rolled, rolled, rolled against Pagliaro’s staunch defense, he never let him in the match. “You give me good practice,” Bernie reportedly said to Paggy on beating him 14, 10, 16. I don’t know if Louie found that humiliating—his career wouldn’t last much longer—but for sure he’d never return to the CNE. And neither would Gusikoff and his fellow travelers—at least not by driving the way they’d come, for, since they “got lost twice,” their travel time to Toronto was an exhausting “21 hours.”
Leah Neuberger won everything available to her—accomplished the “hat trick,” and, unprecedentedly, for the 5th straight year. She won the Singles from Cleveland’s Elaine Mitchell after Elaine had knocked out the #2 seed Jean Gere in 5. She won the Mixed with Hirschkowitz over Bukiet/Marge Kalman. And she won the Women’s Doubles with Gere (this event for the 6th straight time and with 6 different partners) over Jenny Kapostins/Velta Adminis. Jenny successfully defended her Closed Championship against Velta who’d eliminated Quebec’s Huguette Parent, then Austrian immigrant Herta Sanders, 23-21 in the 4th. One reason for Velta’s improved play was the success of the new Toronto T.T. Centre. Next month they’ll have a Film Night there. The 1949 World’s will be shown, including the “finals between Leach and Vana” and sequences of “Barna, Bergmann, Miles, Reisman, Sido, Andreadis, Stipek, Farkas, and many other famous world stars.” Narration is by Jack Carrington, the famous English Coach.
In other CNE matches, Dave Krizman, Men’s semifinalist, won the Junior’s from Howie Grossman in the semi’s and Gusikoff in the final. Dave’s sister, Sharlene, who, up 1-0 and at deuce in the 2nd, had given Neuberger an anxious moment or two, won the Junior Miss from Carolee Liechty, 18 in the 5th (these two always play 5-game matches.) In the Men’s and Mixed Doubles Dave and Sharlene paired with Tim Boggan and were beaten in the semi’s in both. In the Boy’s, Sanford Gross’s protégés from Cleveland fought it out—with Sandy Potiker defeating Al Vinci for the title.
At the Penn State Open, played Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at Jack Schugardt’s Philadelphia Club, Johnny Somael won the Men’s over Bobby Gusikoff in the semi’s and Tibor Hazi in the final. “Perhaps the finest and most spectacular match” was between Pfc. Wally Gundlach and Moniek Buki. “Wally made some very thrilling returns,” for which he received much applause. In the Women’s, Leah beat Pauline, but, surprise, Tybie Thall Sommer, now living so conveniently for this tournament in Philadelphia, reappeared to place 3rd. Schugardt explained the low turnout on the fact that quite a few of his local players wouldn’t buy a USTTA Membership just to play in this Open tournament (TTT, Dec., 1953, 1; 5).
The Nov. 20-21 New York State Open, said Pauline, “was a tournament of upsets.” Early casualties at the Broadway Courts were Buki to England’s John Parish, Gusikoff to Walter Shur, and Mal Russell and Howie Ornstein to Marcelino “Marcy” Monasterial, an immigrant from the Philippines. Monasterial, whom I’ll give you some background on in a moment, did well to take a game from Somael, and Shur apparently did even better to go 5 with Reisman. In the semi’s, Marty downed Somael in 5, but Cartland lost to Pagliaro in 5. Paggy then won the final from Marty, also in 5, to complete what Pauline thought was the most exciting 3-match tournament finish she’d seen in some time. Cartland/Reisman won the Men’s Doubles; Cartland/Neuberger the Mixed. Bobby Gusikoff took the Junior’s, and Barry Michelman the Boys.’
More on Reisman and Cartland coming up—but first, since he’ll be with us for decades, a bit of background on Monasterial. From an article by Kathy Crawford in the March, 1988 issue of Topics we learn that after the Japanese invaded the Philippines in World War II, Marcy, as a member of the resistance movement, was fired on and badly wounded one night while, courier-like, carrying “vital information” to guerilla forces in the mountains outside Manila. As a result, to avoid gangrene he had to have his right arm amputated below the elbow—that arm with which he’d won the Philippine National Junior Table Tennis Championship years earlier. With the fierce determination he would later show me or any other opponent, he’d simply begun playing left-handed. “Within three weeks,” he’d said, “I was playing as well with the left hand as I’d been with the right.” He came to the U.S. in 1945 and by 1946 he’d settled in New York City. In 1948, the year of his marriage to Elidia Flores, Marcy founded the NYC United Nations T.T. Club, and, as we note here in his first appearance in Topics, he’s still the President of that Club (6-7).
Back in the summer it would seem that the USTTA had forbidden Reisman and Cartland to participate in any International play. Did that mean Individual (Singles, Doubles) as well as Team play? Did that mean they couldn’t play with Canadians at the CNE, or even in their own National’s when Canadians were entered? When traveling abroad with the Globetrotters, could they take advantage of opportunities that might arise to play exhibitions with foreign players? What, precisely, was their status?
Just before this 1953 N.Y. State Open, USTTA President Shrout, recognizing that exhibitions were in large part the way Reisman and Cartland made their living, sent two clarifying letters to Cartland. In his Nov. 3rd one, he said:
“…You are perfectly free to play in all competition in the United States and to play in any exhibition matches in the United States as you may see fit to do so with any other members of the U.S. Table Tennis Association.
…[You] are still on suspension from International competitive play but are free to play exhibitions in any country that you may desire providing that this permission does not conflict with the rules of that local country or with the rules of the International Table Tennis Federation….”
And in a Nov. 23rd letter (copy to Ivor Montagu) that he’d dictated on Nov. 19th after having just received a letter from Montagu doubtless offering perhaps asked for advice, Shrout added:
“…It was my understanding that…[regarding possible exhibitions with local associations abroad] you would write asking their permission to play, and I am quite sure if this practice is followed it would be rare indeed that you would be refused, and I am sure only then with some valid reason. As you know, of course, in many of these countries if they so desired they could even see to it that you were not allowed a passport to travel in that country.
…[It] was your responsibility as a great player and as a public figure to lean over backwards to cooperate with all parties concerned with table tennis throughout the world and your conduct must be an example to other players. I know it is not your intention to create trouble nor to do anything except try to make a decent living through your table tennis ability. You must remember that many of these countries have a highly developed national pride and their feelings are quite easily hurt at what they consider a slight or an insult which you might intend only as an effort to arrange satisfactory playing opportunities.
If you get a chance to see Mr. Montagu anytime during the next few months, I think it would be very wise to sit down with him and talk this problem out a little….”
Having already played in, having often been invited to play in, many parts of the world, and seeing the way Table Tennis “business” was really carried on in some Asian countries, Marty and Doug must have been scornful of Shrout’s presidential niceties, his distant-from-the-action proprieties, his posture of affecting a worldly experience in these matters he didn’t have. At any event, wherever Doug and Marty played, at home or abroad, they were certainly welcomed by many. Only, win or lose, Marty couldn’t be picked for any USTTA Team abroad. Not when the present E.C.’s #1 sina qua non is “Integrity and Character to properly represent the U.S.A. in international competition.”
Ditto for Cartland, whose book Table Tennis Illustrated (1953), published by the Barnes Sports Library, has just come out. (Would you believe, as he says, “The author has taken hundreds of action movie shots of the best players of the game in order to study their various strokes”?)
Likely it was at this New York Open, two weeks before the National Team Championships and the East/West Matches at South Bend, that the N.Y. Tryouts were held. Qualifying was likely essential to having a chance to make the U.S. World Team to Wembley. The New York Men in their order of finish were (first 4 make the N.Y. Team): 1. Somael (9-0). 2. Hirschkowitz (8-2). 3. Gusikoff (6-3). 4. Howie Ornstein (6-3). 5. Mal Russell (5-5). 6-9. Buki, Zoltan Farkas (former World Champion Gizi Farkas’s brother based only temporarily in New York), Schiff, and Wilkenfeld (3-6). And 10. Hal Green (2-8).
The Eastern women in their order of finish were (first 4 qualify): 1. Leah Neuberger, 10-0. 2. Pauline Robinson, 9-1. 3. Lona Flam, 8-2. 4. Tybie Sommer, 7-3. 5. Jean Gere, 6-4. 6. Miriam Kanarek, 5-5. 7-8. Helen Fowler and Reggie Greenstein, 3-7. 9-10. Marianne Bessinger and Irene Bondy (2-8). And 11. Christine Thomson (0-10).
I assume Reisman and Cartland were not allowed to tryout for the team that would represent New York at the NTCs, for, even if they qualified and then hadn’t a loss at South Bend, they weren’t going to be selected for the Wembley World’s. So why deprive other New Yorkers of their chance? I also assume Pagliaro wasn’t interested. These assumptions were buttressed by the fact that all three continued to be tournament active, as witness their entry in the Nov. 28-29 Westchester Open at the White Plains County Center. Cartland 16, 20, 19 won the Men’s over Pagliaro, who’d taken out Reisman, -19, 6, 20, 17. In Men’s Doubles, Reisman and Junior Champ Gusikoff beat Cartland/Buki. Pauline Robinson was the Women’s winner, but she and Somael lost the Mixed to Cartland and Marianne Bessinger. Marianne, though losing in the Open to runner-up Jean Gere, successfully defended her Westchester Closed Women’s title. Alan Marshall upset perennial winner Cal Skinner to take the Men’s Closed. Bill Gunn of Westchester won both the Open and Closed Senior’s.
When Pauline Robinson would lament that for Easterners there was “Not a single tournament from December 13 to February 20, after four straight in November,” that remaining Nov. tournament I haven’t covered was the Nov. 7-8 Central Canadian Open at Niagara Falls, Canada. Tim Boggan successfully defended his title in the Men’s—this time against Pranas Gvildys who’d knocked out last year’s finalist Ben Morgan in 5. Boggan/Cy Fess won the Men’s Doubles over Gvildys/Don Rathlou.
In the Women’s, Toronto’s Joan Jessop “won her first major crown by defeating [Canadian Closed] champion Jenny Kapostins…[and received] the Bentley Trophy and a lovely chest of silver.” Windsor’s Yolanda Sisek took the Women’s Novice from Dayton’s Ann Shy, runner-up for the second year in a row. Jessop/Rathlou were the Mixed winners over Kapostins and Modris Zulps (who 15 years later would be the Canadian Closed Champ). Detroit’s Ed Gutowski, Michigan TTA Vice-President, took the Senior’s. Detroit’s Dick Darke the Junior’s after runner-up Steve Long had eliminated Ontario’s #1 Junior Howie Grossman.
With Topics reduced to 8 pages and Robinson dutifully covering play in the East, it’s not surprising, since there’s no other sectional Editor, that there’s little coverage of tournaments elsewhere. I’ll fill you in where I can—occasionally with the help of Chicago’s Dave Freifelder who continues to write his “18 and Under” column for Topics.
At the Illinois Open, held Oct. 24-25 at the Chicago Net and Paddle Club, Bukiet was finally stopped in a final…by unranked Billy Holzrichter. Check the data here, and you’ll see there was nothing insufficient about Billy—he had the heart, the game, to beat Bernie, -17, 19, -18, 20, 16. Chicago’s Bob Blecker, on being surprised by Dayton’s Sid Stansel, took the Men’s Consolation from Milwaukee’s Tommy Breunig. Holzrichter/Bukiet, mutual admirers, won the Men’s Doubles from John Varga/Frank Tharaldson, both of whom had been upset in the Singles—John by Freifelder, and Frank, 19 in the 5th, by Bob Green, still not out West. Earlier, the Daves (Freifelder/ Krizman) had a good 5-game win over the Harrys (Hirschkowitz/Lund).
In the 12-entry Women’s, Millie Shahian had a rather easy final with Sally Prouty who took the Mixed with Hirschkowitz over Marge Kalman/Bukiet in 5. In round robin play, Shahian teamed with Mildred Shipman to come 1st in Women’s Doubles over (2) Kalman/Prouty, (3) Sharlene Krizman/Carolee Liechty, and (4) Elaine Mitchell/Eleanor Kimes (members of Sandy Gross’s Cleveland entourage). Junior Girls’? This time Liechty over Krizman. Junior Boys’? Krizman over Harley Bradford. Junior Doubles? Krizman/Freifelder over Breunig/Steve Isaacson.
The 2nd annual Gulf Coast Open, held Nov. 14-15 in Houston, drew 143 entries from Texas and surrounding states, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana. So many tournament players, and yet not one of these four states wants to help the USTTA grow, not one is willing to affiliate. Must drive Shrout nuts. Oklahoma City’s Mort Finkelstein won the 74-strong Men’s, 3-zip, from Austin’s Alfred Cho. Houston’s Virgil Kraus and Austin’s Joe Tucker scored a 1st in Men’s Doubles over Cho and Austin’s Sam Liu. Women’s winner was Shirley Sternberg of Austin who was unchallenged by runner-up Lydia Norman of Fort Worth. Other winners: Women’s Doubles: Sternberg/Sharlene Glotzman. Mixed: Sternberg/Cho. Junior’s: San Antonio’s Alfred Guevara over Austin’s Lamar Evans. Boys’: Mario Hernandez over Don Richardson. Senior’s: Louie Scharlach over Oklahoma City’s Lou Coates. Men’s Consolation: N. Y.’s John Grinnell, based at Ellington Field, over Coates—which I guess puts the lie to Pauline Robinson’s line, “Grinnell, you ought to lay off for a few weeks, then quit completely.”
Up in Oregon, bless them, where they are affiliated under President E.J. Coffey, Portland Club Secretary/Treasurer Tom Phillips reports that “the club gave one-year subscriptions to Topics, as a special gift, to all members who paid, in advance, their annual club dues for the 1953-54 season.” At the Oct. Western Oregon Open, Carl Cole scored his first major win—the men’s Singles, 3-0, over Ike Benveniste.
A few weeks after Wasserman had written to Choi that Klein wasn’t sharp, 15-year-old Erwin won the Sept. 26-27 Santa Monica Open. Only it wasn’t only his –17, 21, 18, 13 slow-starting final with Bob Ferguson that tested him but his 20, -11, 11, -19, 18 semi’s encounter with Chicago defensive star, U.S. #16 Marty Prager. Marty then paired with Paul Capelle to win the Men’s Doubles—in 5 over Ferguson/Harry Tafler.
Prager wasn’t the only newcomer to arrive on the Southern California tournament scene. Stan Fields, former Manager of the Washington, D.C. Ice Palace Courts and skilled at both exhibition and tournament play, won the 29-entry Oct. 31-Nov. 1 Hollywood Open. In the quarter’s, he beat #2 seed Bob Edwards after being down 2-1; in the semi’s, Lenny Abrams, 8, 20, -19, 10; and in the final, Capelle, 15, -20, -20, 14, 17, after Paul in his semi’s had knocked out Ferguson. Fields/Ferguson were the Men’s Doubles winners—over Edwards/Gene Roseman. Nick Kaline took Class B honors from Russ Thompson in the semi’s and Murray Schneider in the final. Russ, “the West Coast sponge rubber bat distributor,” is the guy who can get you, as he did Milt Forrest, one of those Japanese-made Atomic sponge bats. Forrest, clearly an early proponent of what would come to be called “junk” rubber, also used an “Alex Agopoff Bat from France which features a double layer of aluminum.” Some fun, huh?
Which reminds me: Fields would later be the subject of an encomium by Californian D.M. Gunn:
“What made Stan Fields such a joy to observe in action was simply that he made the game beautiful. Not for him the brutal Panzer smashings and the gallons of sweat. Rather, each stroke had the grace of a fencing master, elegant but deadly. His shots were made with care; just the proper amount of spin, speed, and angle, placed as the situation required. And no haste. He was in no hurry for the final, quick coup de grace. His chops were low and loaded, his drop shots an exquisite tantalization, if I may coin a word. Above all, he was a thorough gentleman, not changing his character when going to the table, nor when facing adversity” (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1976, 24).
In the repeated absence of Klein, Fields followed up his Hollywood win with another. At the Long Beach Open, held Nov. 20-21 at the Washington High School Gym, he slipped into the title as he would his most comfortable sneakers—defeating, in a 15, 17, -17, 11 semi’s, unseeded Jim Limerick, who’d upset Wasserman, and, in a 15, 13, 17 final, Bob Edwards, who’d 20, 19, -17, 26 wrested the other semi’s from Capelle. Fields, with Capelle, also won the Doubles, though in the final Edwards/Roseman fought 5-game gamely. Women’s winner, as expected, was Jane Little.
Were Klein already the older U.S. Champion and aficionado of world-class play he’d become, you might have connected his tournament absences with the English Open being played Nov. 9-12 in Manchester. But neither he nor any American player/analyst would avail him or her self of the opportunity to engage or check out the competition there. Where was the wherewithal to do it? It seemed hopeless. One of our Champions, Sherry Koehnke, we apparently won’t see any more. She’d abandoned the thought (if ever she had it) of becoming world class, but she was not alone. For whether our players, our officials, realized it or not, the more the U.S. absented itself from international play, the less chance we had of again becoming a table tennis power. The best of our players could compete against one another, as they were about to do in South Bend, but if they thought this provided safe passage to Excellence, they’d be—especially in later voyages—continually at sea.
*Miles, for one, was struck by Reisman’s comment in The Money Player that he, Dick, “never hustled people for money” (44). Marty didn’t know why Dick occasionally didn’t put on an act, didn’t dump—but more’s the pity seemed Marty’s point of view.