USA Table Tennis

History of USA Table Tennis: Volume III1954: South Bend Strong at Junior Championships1954: U.S. Association in a Mess. 1954: Klein Scores at Toronto CNE/Marinko Arrives in Canada1954: Pre-NTC Tournaments. 1954: Women’s East-West Matches. 1954: National Team Championships. 1954: Indianapolis E.C. Meeting—New USTTA President Otto Ek Takes Over. 1954: Milt Forrest’s World Tour. 1954-55: East/Southwest/Midwest/California Tournaments.

            On April 24-25 one might see future U.S. World Team members, for South Bend hosted the National Junior Team and All-American Singles Championships. The 2-player (plus one alternate) Boys’ and Girls’ Teams, run by George Koehnke, John Varga and staff, offered Elgin watches as prizes, and Badges for District and National Champions. Entries had to be City Championship winners and Under 18 as of May 31st. Age Divisions in the Singles Championships—11 and Under, 12 and 13, and 14 and 15—also offered suitable awards and badges.

Dave Friefelder, next season’s Illinois TTA V.P. under President Frank Tharaldson, in writing up these Championships for Topics, said there wasn’t much of a turnout in the Team’s. But some of the Illinois-Michigan-Indiana players on the newly formed International Junior Squads had competitive matches. The South Bend Juniors scored an important win in the Team ties by defeating Detroit, 4-1. Dave Krizman led the way with wins over Detroit’s Dick Darke and George Payotelis, and Forest Milbourn helped by partnering Dave in doubles and downing Payotelis in singles. Detroit also lost to Chicago, 5-0, when Darke dropped a 19-in-the-3rd match to Freifelder and couldn’t repeat his Western’s win over Steve Isaacson.

            In the final tie, Krizman, though losing the 1st game in each of his singles—to Isaacson’s picks and Freifelder’s backhand openings and forehand putaways—kept South Bend in contention by rallying to win both matches. Particularly key was Krizman’s comeback in the 2nd game against Freifelder—from down 18-15 he finally won it 25-23. After the Chicagoans had taken the doubles, and Freifelder had beaten Paul Gast, the 1954 U.S. Boys’ Under 15 runner-up to Erwin Klein, Paul returned to win the deciding match of the Championship from Isaacson. All five players in this final, along with L.A.’s Klein and N.Y.’s Bobby Gusikoff, were named to what might be legitimately called the International Team Squad, since, come September, for the first time the U.S. would field a Junior Team against the Canadians at the Toronto CNE.

            Of course it was a foregone conclusion that the South Bend Junior Girls team of U.S. #1 Sharlene Krizman and U.S. #2 Carolee Liechty would win the Championship. They beat their only semblance of competition, Chicago, 5-0. Jo Brady, 1954 U.S. Open

Junior Miss semifinalist to Krizman, provided some opposition. These three girls led the U.S. Squad.

            The following players were the Singles winners. Boys’ Under 11: Oak Park’s Bill Becker. Boys’ 12-13: Chicago’s Norbert Van de Walle, who, in the years to come, though he’s actually a Belgian citizen, we’ll see a lot of. Boys’ 14-15: South Bend’s John Kromkowski (who’ll also win the Boys’ at the upcoming Chicago Summer Open). Girls’ Under 11: Vangie Liechty, Ron and Carolee’s sister. Girls’ 12-13: Oak Park’s Sharon Vorhees. Girls’ 14-15: Elmhurst’s Shelly Ruben who, along with Freifelder, will be given the Illinois Junior Achievement Award for the 1953-54 season.

            At the Players’ Party, Sharlene squeezed out both respect and smiles with her accordion, and Elmhurst’s Diane Wright and the Shipman sisters, Sally and Susan, entertained with a short comedy act.

           

U.S. Association in a Mess

            The Selection for the CNE Tournament was confirmed, following President Shrout’s Aug. 7-8 E.C. Meeting. George Schein would continue as Selection Chairman, and Johnny Somael would Captain the U.S. Men’s, Junior, and Junior Miss Teams to Toronto. The Canadian TTA was giving us $100 towards expenses, and our own USTTA would provide $10 toward each Team player—with the “regret our treasury will not allow a larger contribution.”

            Since Shrout was presiding over this E.C. Meeting, at which only four (of the now nine) members—Vice Presidents Varga and Dale, Treasurer Feldt and Executive Secretary McClure—would stay on for the new June 1-May 31 season, it’s obvious there’d been an unwarranted delay in the election process. Though there wasn’t any contending slate, nominees couldn’t take office until (as an Aug. 23, 1954 letter by Shrout indicated) after the mail ballots were received on Sept. 7. Granted the USTTA was in a sorry state—it was now $2,000 in debt and, as Topicshad “lost” $11,342 from 1949 thru 1954, the Association decided it couldn’t afford to continue it (though what else had they to offer the Membership?). Still, it seemed really stupid not to have all those there who’d have to deal with the mess. Of course who was going to pay their way to Chicago?

 Those coming in to take office were: President Otto Ek of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio who, more than two months after this Aug. 7-8 Meeting, hadn’t even been apprised of what had happened there; Vice Presidents Richard Puls of Dallas, George Schein of New York City, and Lillian Caretta Guyer of Pittsburgh (since she’d helped to organize a 75-member strong Western Pennsylvania League, she was a natural to take over the Courts and Clubs Chair from former USTTA President Jim Clouther who, after a long illness, would die this July); and Recording Secretary Sanford Gross of Cleveland (who’d replace James Carey for the one-year remaining of his uncompleted term).

           

Toronto CNE Tournament

            In an Aug. 20, 1954 telegram to Selection Chair George Schein, “President” Shrout said he discovered Dave Krizman was “not over age” and so for the U.S. Junior Team at the Sept. 9-11 Toronto CNE Dave would replace Erwin Klein who’d “probably not be able to travel from California.” Though Klein had again won the California State Championship (Tiny Eller, and the Doubles pair of Bob Edwards/Gene Roseman were also repeat winners), he’d been ranked 2nd in California to Stan Fields. So perhaps Shrout thought he wasn’t motivated enough to make the long journey? As we’ll see in a moment though, Klein, after “hitchhiking to Toronto, sleeping in hotel lobbies, and subsisting on hamburgers,” will unmistakably make an appearance—quite an appearance.

            But not for the International Matches. In the Men’s, the U.S. defeated Canada 6-4. Since eligible picks Miles and Pagliaro weren’t available to make the trip, we were represented by Somael, Bukiet (he’d won the Chicago Western Summer Open), and Alternates Gusikoff and Schiff. Playing for the Art Barron-Captained Canadians were Lionel Cloutier, Guy Courtois, Art Ngai, and longtime Internationalist Max Marinko who after coaching in Austria had just immigrated to Canada. In the Junior’s, Krizman, Junior winner in that Chicago Summer Open over Steve Isaacson, paired with him here to down Howie Grossman and Denis Limoges, 4-1. And in the Junior Miss, Krizman and Liechty blitzed Diane Wisman and Patsy Boniface 3-0. 

            Doubtless Klein had been playing tennis this summer, for in the spring, though just a freshman at Fairfax High, “he was No. 1 man on the varsity tennis team.” But he didn’t seem to mind mixing his tennis and table tennis. However, in early June at the Pacific Coast Open, one day after his 16th birthday, he’d lost the final to 37-year-old Stan Fields, 23-21 in the 4th, and quite possibly hadn’t cared about playing in any other event (or in the July Invitational won by Eddie Kantar over Jerry Glaser). Fields had gone on to win the Mixed with Mary McIlwain, and partnered by Manny Glaser had come runner-up in Men’s Doubles to Si Wasserman/Harry Tafler. Tiny Eller had been the Women’s winner (“for the seventh straight time”) over Arlyn Shapiro, 26-24 in the 4th.  Kal Glantz had taken the Junior’s from Len Cooperman who’d won the Boys’ over Mike Ralston. Mike’s in the Boys’ now, but his rise will be almost as meteoric as Klein’s. In two years he’ll not only win the Junior’s here in Toronto, but be on the Men’s International Squad against Canada.

             Klein, now 16, of course couldn’t win the Boys, as he had on his last visit to the CNE—Gross protégé Sandy Potiker was this year’s winner—but Erwin did take the Junior’s again, after being 23, 21, -15, 18 strongly challenged in the semi’s by Toronto’s Grossman and to a lesser extent, 18 in the 4th in the final, by Montreal’s Limoges.

            Nor was that all the no-longer-so-chubby Klein would win. You could read Si Wasserman’s 19th Hole comments as Sports Illustrated honored Erwin in its Oct. 11th, 1954 issue, but alright—ready?—I’ll tell you now. In the Men’s, Erwin beat in succession U.S. #4 Bukiet (16, -17, 20, 19), U.S. #6 Schiff (straight-game easy), and in the final U. S. #2 Somael (19, -19, 15, -19, 11). This had to have made him the youngest winner in the tournament’s history. Another teenager, U.S. #21 Freifelder, ust have upset someone, for he got to the semi’s before losing to Somael. Klein/Bukiet won the Men’s Doubles—in the semi’s over Somael/Schiff and in the final over Gusikoff/Harry Hirschkowitz who’d been mid-match engaged in the other semi’s by Dayton’s Tim Boggan/Cy Fess.

            The Canadian Men’s Closed was won in his initial try by Marinko, though it must have been a while since he’d played in tournaments. In the semi’s he had to rally from 2-0 down to edge Don Rathlou, 19 in the 5th, but then in the final he annihilated West Vancouver’s Gerald Addy. 

In Volumes I and II I’ve occasionally referred to Marinko, but at this 1954 time in my then 4-year table tennis career I’d never heard of Max (or, isolated from world table tennis as I was, practically any other international star), and I was embarrassed when he seemed stunned by that.* Of course in the years ahead I’d come to play against him, to know him. His style was to stand firm at the table and, with his large bat and penholder grip, lean in and fast-hands block and shove you all over the place, all the while looking to bang in balls of his own. He was tall and athletic, and had such great endurance that he would tire out many an opponent.

Fellow Yugoslav-cum-Canadian George Jovanov, future President of the Ontario Association, gives us some background on this future 9-time Champion of Canada. Max, he says (see the Jan. 8, 1978 Max Marinko Memorial Tournament Program, 2-4), was born in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia in 1916. At 19, he was then “the youngest player ever to become the Yugoslavian Champion.” Beginning in 1936 Max represented Yugoslavia at all the pre-War World Championships, defeating along the way World Champion Bergmann and 19 in the 3rd almost doing the same to World Champion Vana.

During the War Max was forced to leave Yugoslavia and so took up residence in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. In 1948 and 1950 he was a member of the World Champion Czech Team (along with Vana, Andreadis, Stipek, and Tokar). I’d mentioned before that Max had been jailed for a time in Czechoslovakia for his democratic views—punished by having to labor in Communist-controlled mines. Now, here’s George Gross, a Sports Editor for the Toronto Sun, writing of an earlier instance of Max’s free spirit:

 

“Just before the Czechoslovakian team was to cross the English Channel [on their way to the ’48 World’s], Marinko walked up to one of the team officials and asked him to put this little package, which looked like a bag of candies, in his pocket. The official, busy collecting players’ passports, stuck the bag in his overcoat and continued his task.

The team passed through customs, boarded a train to London and finally checked into their hotel when Marinko walked up to the team official and asked him for the package. Thinking it was a bag of candies the official asked if he could have one. Marinko told him to open it and take one. As soon as the official opened the bag, he went pale. The package contained Czechoslovakian rhinestones….

When the team on the return voyage left the train in Vienna to board a bus which was to take them to Bratislava, they found more than half of the bus cluttered up with big crates of…table tennis balls. When one of the team officials asked how Marinko expected to get it past the Czechoslovakian customs officers, Marinko told him it was up to the president of the Czechoslovakian Table Tennis Association who happened to be a… customs officer. And that’s how Marinko kept his promise of supplying Czechoslovakian table tennis with some 5,000 balls” (TTT, Sept.-Oct., 1975, 7).

                       

            In the Women’s Closed here at the CNE, Max’s future wife, Jenny Kapostins, the Champion the last two years, was eliminated in the semi’s by Ottawa’s Vivien Levy who then defeated Toronto’s Joan Jessop for the title.

            In the Women’s Open event, there was some feisty competition. Kapostins beat fellow Canadian Denise LeBrun 19 in the 4th, then had Sharlene Krizman down 2-1 before succumbing. Jenny’s friend, Velta Adminis, just got by Michigan’s Phyllis Stern 23-21 in the 5th. And Jean Gere upset #4 seed Carolee Liechty, 3-0. But Krizman, after initially contesting with Pauline Robinson, just went limp. In the final, Leah Neuberger survived Robinson’s 1-1 and 21-all in the 3rd challenge to continue her streak of five consecutive victories.

Neuberger/Robinson won the Women’s Doubles with superlative ease over Krizman/Liechty. In the Mixed, only one 5-gamer: Boggan/Adminis scrambled deuce in the 5th by Robert Dutru/Wisman. But then some surprises: Liechty/Fess, down 2-0, made a startling comeback to win 18, 22, 20 from the #1 seeds, Neuberger/Hirschkowitz; and Klein/Joan Jessup upset the #2 seeds Somael/Robinson, then beat Bukiet/Huguette Parent to give Erwin his incredible 4th  win of the weekend.

 

Pre-East-West/NTC Matches

             Three weeks after the CNE, in the absence of Miles, Pagliaro, and Schiff, Johnny Somael won the New York Closed from Jack Howard who’d advanced over U.S. #26 Howie Ornstein in the quarter’s and the one-armed Marcy Monasterial in the semi’s after Marcy had upset U.S. #8 Moniek Buki. A 7-player Women’s round robin was won by Neuberger (6-0), followed by a 3-way tie for 2nd between Pauline Robinson (lost to Lona), Lona Flam (lost to Jean), Jean Gere (lost to Pauline). Astrida Vanages almost –21, 20, -19 did in Pauline.

            Another three weeks,,,and a clean sweep for Leah at the Niagara Falls, Ontario Badminton Club. She won the Singles over Jessop who’d outlasted Gere in the semi’s, 19 in the 5th. Won the Women’s Doubles with Windsor’s Yolanda Sisak over Kapostins/Adminis. Won the Mixed with Boggan over Marinko/Jessop. In the Men’s, Boggan, winner of this tournament the last two years, was upset in the semi’s by Buffalo’s Morris Meyers whose sticky defense didn’t bother Marinko in the final. In Men’s Doubles, Senior winner Marinko and Junior winner Grossman teamed together to beat Defending Champs Boggan/Fess. Mary Joan Altenburg took the Women’s Novice, Bob House the Men’s.

            In the later Central Ontario Closed, Marinko will defeat Hans Jurman who’d ousted Grossman after a hard-fought match. Max and Howie will again take the Doubles. Jenny Kapostins will win the Singles from Jessop, and the Doubles with Velta Adminis over Jessop/Wisman. But Max and Jenny will lose the Mixed to Rathlou/Jessop.

             At the Nov. 6-7 Chicago Lake States Open there weren’t any major surprises. Bukiet trounced Isaacson in the Men’s final. Best matches in that event were: Abbott Nelson over Jim Shrout, Illinois TTA V-P and Ranking Chair Bob Blecker over Norbie Van de Walle, Keith Porter over Marty Prager, and Isaacson over Porter. Men‘s Doubles went to Bukiet/Freifelder over Nelson/Prager. Millie Shahian was too strong for Sherri Krizman who’d been –19, 18, 21, 19 tested in the semi’s by Peggy Ichkoff. Krizman/Liechty were best in Women’s Doubles; Shahian/Prager in the Mixed.

            The Sept. 25-26 Santa Monica Open saw #2 seed Bob Edwards, on surviving a 25-23-in-the-5th semi’s marathon against Lenny Abrams, go on to upset #1 seed Erwin Klein (who, as I presume he hitchhiked back from Toronto, could only have been in L.A. a short time since his triumphs at the CNE and probably wasn’t “up” for this tournament). Gene Roseman, before losing to Erwin in the semi’s, came through two challenging matches—first, against Austin Finkenbinder who’d win the B’s over Jack Sumida (after trailing 2-0), 23-21 in the 5th, and then against Bob Ashley, deuce in the 5th. Men’s Doubles went to Klein/Wasserman over Edwards/Roseman in 5. The Boys’ was won by Cooperman who’d been behind 1-0 at and at deuce in the 2nd with Fields.

Out in the Northwest, Warren Pinnard defeated Dick Castillo to take the Oct. Western Oregon Open. But favorites Carl Cole/Bob Hage were best in Doubles. Senior’s winner was Paul Lucien over veteran Walter Judd. Mayo Rolph was still winning Women’s tourneys. The following month at the Portland Open Cole settled accounts with Pinnard. Chris Erickson won the Women’s. And, as anticipated, Al Befills the Senior’s. In Dec., at the Metro Open in Portland’s Circle Theater Building, Castillo downed Hage; and Erickson and Befills repeated their earlier wins.

 

Women’s East/West Matches

            Both the Women’s East-West Matches and the Men’s National Team Championships, competitions so vital for picking the U.S. Team to the ’55 Utrecht World’s, were held Nov. 27-28 at Tomlinson Hall in Indianapolis. During the East Tryouts back in New York on Nov. 7, Leah, though I don’t know why, defaulted to her three toughest competitors—Robinson (5-0), Gere (4-1), and Flam (3-2)—all of whom qualified for the Indianapolis Matches over Marianne Bessinger (1-4) and Helen Fowler (0-5). I assume the West players also had Tryouts, but I’ve no record of them. Perhaps for a final spot on the West Team Carolee Liechty again beat Sherri Krizman (as she had both in July in Chicago and in the CNE’s Junior Miss)?

After a complete round robin the players finished as follows. 1-2: Leah Neuberger (6-1 with a 17, -19, -17 loss to Shahian); Mildred Shahian (6-1 with a -22, -19 loss to Prouty whom she’d beaten in the July Summer Open); 3. Sally Prouty (5-2 with losses to Neuberger, Robinson); 4. Pauline Robinson (4-3 with a –19, -20 loss to Neuberger, and losses to Shahian and Flam). Other finishers: 5: Carolee Liechty (3-4); 6-7. Peggy Ichkoff and Lona Flam (2-5); and 8. Jean Gere (0-7 with two deuce in the 3rd losses to Peggy and Lona).

            In the initial USATT Newsletter (January, 1955—the first USTTA publication since the May, 1954 Topics), Pauline, as she makes clear in her “Over the Net” column, is justifiably a bit piqued that the East-West results weren’t announced at the end of play. “Give the women some attention, dammit!” is what she must be thinking. Tell people the West won, 10-6. And—could it hurt?—name the top finishers (Pauline included)—likely the U.S. Women’s Team to the World’s.

 

National Team Championships

            Tryouts for the New York Team had produced the following results: (1) Somael; (2) Gusikoff; and (3) Hirschkowitz. And this team—undefeated, with Harry (12-1), Bobby (9-3), and Johnny (8-3) all contributing—was good enough to win the Championship. However, undefeated Chicago—with Prager’s 10-1 record counting for much—had to default the promised fun final to New York when Bukiet sprained his back and couldn’t play. Three teams (all with a 3-3 record) finished in a tie for 3rd. One was Washington, D.C. with Tibor Hazi who back in May had won the D.C. Singles over visiting Serviceman Wally Gundlach and the Doubles with Hank Weiner over Ed Clark/ Marland Cutler. Here at the NTC’s Cutler (11-4) received the Outstanding Player Award. Also at 3-3 were Indiana (led by Morris Johnson, 6-3) and Ohio (Boggan, 9-4). Michigan was 1-5, and Wisconsin 0-6 (though Keith Porter had an excellent 13-3 record).

 

Indianapolis E.C. Meeting

            Here in Indianapolis that Nov. 27-28 weekend, Otto Ek held his first E.C. Meeting. Three months after he’d been told the USATT had liabilities of $2,000, he was pleased to hear Treasurer Feldt say that now, with no magazine expenses, the Association’s outstanding bills had been cleared up, amounted only to $200, and that there was about $250 in the treasury. But Marge Dale, Membership Chairman, who at the August Meeting had confirmed that “No membership cards would be issued without money received in advance,” gave a woeful State-of-the-Membership Report. There were “145 Sr. memberships [at $2.each], 101 Jr. memberships [at 25 cents each], 44 multiple memberships [3 years for $5 rather than $6], [and] 172 Club memberships” (a flat Club fee of $10 covered “any number of players who belonged to a recognized Table Tennis Club”—like, say, a Y Club). That’s 462 members providing the Association with very little income to succeed” (TTT, Jan., 1955, 5). Ek was right to consider this an Emergency Meeting.

            So what to do? “Many ideas were suggested by interested people on how to create more interest in the game, sell more memberships, etc. Many of the ideas were good, but had been suggested before. It was pretty well agreed that most of these ideas would have to be carried on by the local affiliates.” Uh-huh. And everyone knew how dismally in the past they’d responded to the challenge. Well, one thing that could be decided on was that, come January, the subscription price of the mimeographed Newsletter (which I think of as an interim extension of Topics) would remain the same $1 that before bought the magazine. 

            Another decision was to reinstate Reisman’s “playing privileges within territorial jurisdiction of USTTA.” Which is puzzling, for how, if he hadn’t been reinstated earlier, had he been able to play in last November’s New York State Open? In fact, where had Marty (and Doug Cartland?) been since November?

 

Milt Forrest’s World Tour

            USTTA Public Relations Chair, Hollywood’s Milt Forrest, from Apr. 29 to Dec. 29, 1954 was off on a world tour, armed with $250 worth of Paper-Mate pens (from the company of that name in Culver City, CA) that, in a good will gesture, he’d give out as gifts. His aims were: to make table tennis friends as he went sight-seeing abroad, to try to promote a 7 cents international airmail post card (as earlier he’d promoted a 4 cents national airmail post card), and, since he taught French at USC, to make a University tour of France. Here are some of the table tennis highlights of his trip.

            In Honolulu, where the USTTA had had an affiliate under George K. C. Yee, he acted “as co-tournament manager of the 13th Annual Hawaiian Open.” The winner, for the 3rd time, was Otto Schilling over Eichi Oki who’d upset 2nd seed Yee.

            Milt notes three memorable experiences he had in Japan:

 

“…[First, he witnessed] a mammoth industrial team tourney consisting of 137 teams, with five men and five women representing each commercial sponsor. Twenty tables were used, half of them making use of a ‘soft’ table tennis ball….[The tournament was admirably organized and the] presentation of awards to winners, including large parade-type flags was something to behold!… [Second, Milt organized] an exhibition in which the Japan T.T.A….[provided] Mr. Ogimura and their national champion. [This champion, the Jan., 1955 Newsletterhad reported, was Toshiaki Tanaka representing Tokyo’s Nihon University. He’d won out over 497 entries. Ogimura lost in the quarter’s to Yamaguchi’s (Kichiji?) Tamasu. The 272-entry Women’s was won by Fujie Eguchi over Yoshika Tanaka.]….[And, third, Milt said] at the table tennis center of Mr. Harada, originator and manufacturer of the sponge rubber bat…[he got to play with] Mr. Satoh, former World’s title holder.”

 

            After a visit to the Hong Kong table tennis center, Forrest went to Manila, where he said “not only were the Officials of table tennis awaiting me on the pier, but also Marty Reisman. His partner, Doug Cartland, was in Formosa. We made a quick trip out to the Governor’s palace;…[he’s] a table tennis enthusiast.” From Saigon Milt went to Singapore where players spoke of Miles, Reisman, Cartland, and wanted to know about table tennis in America. In France he met the most table tennis officials because he was there four months on a 2500-mile tour of the country. He attended the finals of a tourney in Roubaix, and in Paris, where they have many inter-city tournaments, “a manufacturer of tables sponsored a juvenile tourney with a million francs as prize money.” A last highlight was to chat in French with Amouretti, Lanskey, Haguenauer, and Marcel Corbillon, ITTF Deputy President.

            Forrest concludes with his “belief”  (though I don’t know on what grounds; perhaps he thinks it’s just an appropriate coda) “that America is within a few years of the top [world class] positions…[if] we can keep a strong U.S.T.T.A. functioning” (TTT, Apr., 1955, 9-10).

 

  East Coast Play

            U.S. Champion Miles had also been conspicuously absent, but that was because he was on a Globetrotters Tour with Richard Bergmann. Just before the Tour was about to start, Miles and Bergmann had a $2 admission send-off at Lawrence’s in which they also played others. In an Oct. 21, 1954 letter to Si Wasserman, “Big Ed” (whom I can’t positively identify—though it’s likely Ed Coleman)** tells what he heard from Eddie Pinner regarding this send-off:

 

“’Last night about 5 p.m. I stopped at Lawrence’s and ran into new-nose Miles….Would I [Pinner] warm up with him? I didn’t want to as I haven’t played in two years—but there was no one else so I obliged. About 20 minutes later Somael came in and took over. About 5 minutes later the Great One [Bergmann] came in looking to warm up—I was elected. He’s far off his game as evidenced by the results that evening:

1—Miles lost two straight to Gusikoff

2—Miles just managed to beat Buki

3—Gusikoff carried Bergmann to 4 games…

4—Somael went 5 games before bowing to Bergmann

5—In the grand finale Bergmann had the chiseling rule called against Miles (Pinner referring). Dick had Bergmann 14 to 6 in the 5th game—Bergmann triumphed as Ty Neuberger blew his stack and was carried off to Bellevue because he had laid 50 to 1 on Miles with the score 14 to 6…the greatest display of histrionics as Miles dogged against a terrible Bergmann.’

My [that is, E.C.’s, a.k.a. Big Ed’s] impression [from what Pinner told him]: Bergmann said: I am not liking the tables nor the floor. When I get a drop shot, I am so fast I usually kill the return—1000 out [of] 1000 I return and 900 out of 1000 I not only get to, but slam away for the point. To verify this he withdrew a Lloyds of London policy from his inner pocket of a natty tweed suit wherein they guaranteed that he returns 1000 out of 1000 and slams 900 out of 1000.

Here is the most conceited player Pinner ever saw.

He is fairly fast but not so fast as Paggy. He has nice form but is primarily the Leach type of player. Somael hits against him and drop shots effectively despite the Lloyds policy. I guess the bounce is kind of dead at Lawrence’s. Also Bergmann is not used to the conditions, etc., etc.

In all fairness, though, he didn’t lose a match and probably won’t. He fights all the time and even at 20-12 against himself he thinks he figures to win….”

                        Later, Richard himself will have a few things to say about this Tour for Table Tennis:

 

“The Tour started in October and by the time it ends we shall have played at something like 150 venues.

We are performing every night to an average crowd of 10,000 people. At Madison Square Garden we played three times, each before 18,000 spectators, and the two shows in Chicago each attracted a capacity crowd of 21,000.

…[By] the time the tour is over about a million-and-a-half people will have seeen the matches between Miles and myself, which should certainly put table tennis on the map in U.S.A.” (Feb., 1955, 9).

 

            Pauline Robinson spoke of Bergmann as “certainly a great showman.” But she was irritated that Sandor Glancz and Pauline Betz, “representing themselves as Table Tennis Champs,” were getting attention on The Steve Allen Show. “Who deserves the publicity (and cash), the real tournament supporter, player and champion, or the person who hasn’t played in an event for donkey’s years?” (TTT, Jan., 1955, 4). Of course it’s forever the same story. Such an “entertainment” program wants fluff with which the host can interact; there’s never any intent to advance theSport. The very experienced Glancz and Betz knew what was wanted, knew what they could do—as Pauline herself says, “It was fairly good as a show.”

Somael continued his strong play by giving himself a birthday present—he wrapped up the Dec. 5 Westchester Open, held at the County Center. Also furthering his hopes for a place on the 5-man World Team was 17-year-old Gusikoff who knocked out Hirschkowitz in the semi’s, 19 in the 4th, and, though down 2-0 to Somael, wasn’t beaten until the last 21-19 point in the 5th. Others waging fierce 5-game fights were Monasterial with Hirschkowitz, Buki with Schiff, and Schiff with Somael. Alan Marshall claimed the Westchester Men’s Closed by beating Bill Gunn, 18, 24. Somael/George Ferris took the Men’s Doubles, 19 in the 3rd, from Gusikoff/Hirschkowitz. Barry Michelman downed Mike Zukerman to win the Boys.’

            Neuberger massacred the opposition in the Women’s—gave up only 103 points in 12 games. Robinson came 2nd over Gere, who emerged all cut up from a –15, 19, 24 mangled match with Marianne Bessinger. In the Women’s Closed, in round robin play, Marianne lost her title to Judy Solkow. Runnerup was Ruthe Brewer Grimler (now remarried and living in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.). Mixed Doubles went to Gusikoff/Robinson over Hirschkowitz/Neuberger (Somael partnered Bessinger—I hope he and Pauline weren’t having a tiff).

            Miles and Bergmann would continue touring with the Trotters, but, since we’re going to get to California before they do, I’ll pick them up later. I need mention that Dick had the greatest respect for Richard’s professionalism and sportsmanship. Dick remembers that once during a rehearsal Richard suddenly stopped play and came round the table to say, “Look, you’ll simply have to hit the ball harder than that.”

            “But if I hit it any harder,” replied Dick, “you’ll never get it back.”

            “Don’t be silly,” said Richard (he was always called Richard, never Dick), “if you hit it accurately, so I can get my racket on the ball, I can get back any shot you can hit, no matter how hard.”

            Understandably, Miles was impressed by Bergmann’s pride, his confidence in himself.

            Also, Dick liked it that Richard “would not tolerate any hamming up of our exhibition—such as playing with pots and pans, or the like. Such antics, he claimed, demeaned the Sport.”

           

Southwest Tournaments

            At the Feb.12-13 Texas Open in Fort Worth, Charles Rankin defeated Louie Scharlack to take the Men’s. At the Nov. Gulf Coast Open at Houston, Mort Finkelstein had got the worst of it in both Men’s Singles (lost to Rich Puls) and Doubles (lost to Scharlack/Montemayor deuce in the 5th). This time he’d at least win the Doubles with Rankin—over Butler/Harris. Though—so, back and forth, it goes—they’d later be stopped again, in Louisiana by Hugh Baxley/ Jay Taul, but Finkelstein would win the Singles there over Rankin. The Women’s winner here in Fort Worth was Marjory Willcox (her 14th straight Texas Women’s Championship) over the upcoming Louisiana Open holder, Libby Skalovsky (Oklahoma City). Women’s Doubles went to Willcox/Hughes over Jane Allison/Skalovsky. Mixed to Rankin/Skalovsky (who’d lost in Houston to Finkelstein/Glotzman) over Charles Hurst/Carolyn Norman. Senior’s: Scharlack over John Patterson (Houston). Junior’s: future USTTA President Norman Kilpatrick (playing out of the Tallahassee Youth Center) over Bob Petty. Lawrence “Swede” Sandquist was presented with the Sportsmanship Award for his promotion of the Sport in Texas.

  

Midwest Winter Tournaments

            There were some good 5-game Men’s matches at the Jan. 8-9 South Bend St. Joe Valley tournament: Dave Krizman over both Eddie Brennan and Bill Meszaros; Bill Palmer over home town hopeful Jack Foster; and in a spirited final Harry Hirschkowitz over Bernie Bukiet. Said the anonymous Newsletter commentator:

 

“…Harry displayed such magnificent defense as has rarely been seen before. Time after time returning Bukiet’s powerful drives and kill shots from 20 and more feet behind the table, Hirschkowitz had the crowd cheering in tribute to his skill. The slightest slip or return higher than 6 inches by Bukiet saw Hirschkowitz move in with a piercing counter attack, passing the renowned international star with glasshard kills on either corner” (Feb., 1955, 5).

 

Bukiet/Meszaros (in a friendly but perhaps business partnership) took the Doubles from Keith Porter/Frank Tharaldson. In the round-robin Senior’s, Bernie Hock came 1st, Paul Buell 2nd. Junior’s went to Krizman over his winning Junior Doubles partner Isaacson who’d survived a deuce in the 4th threat from Grossman. The Boys’ winner was Sandy Potiker, U.S. #2 over John Kromkowski, U.S. #8. Forest Milbourn was the Men’s Novice winner (and consequently, according to the new USTTA Novice Rules set up by Milbourn’s mentor John Varga, Forest was no longer eligible in the future for such an event). Carolee Liechty and Sharlene Krizman split the Women’s and Junior Miss finals—with Carolee winning the former in 5, Sherri the latter in 4. Sherri of course won the Women’s Doubles with Carolee; and she also won the Mixed with Boggan.

I think this South Bend tournament was Fred Danner’s first. He’d been getting tips from Varga at the Y and, though pursuing job possibilities as he readied himself to graduate from Notre Dame, was becoming more and more interested in the Game. Later, he’ll be prominent in Long Island Table Tennis, and eventually, as a USTTA E.C. member, will be instrumental in getting Table Tennis USOC major-sport status. 

            The Central Indiana Closed at Indianapolis that followed was won by Louisville’s Grayson Hanks over Benny Helm, who’d knocked out Bernie Hock. Bernie, however, did team with the other Singles semifinalist, Jack Pangburn, to take the Men’s Doubles. Jack, with his wife Toby, also won the Mixed—over Hock and Women’s winner Mary Schook. Women’s Doubles went to Singles runner-up Dot Webber and Phyliss Day. Bob Parrett came 1st in Novice; Gene Bricker 2nd. Jerry Glass was best in Junior’s; Larry Shireman best in Boys.’

Though Bukiet had lost the St. Joe, be assured he didn’t fail to win the Jan. 28-29 Chicago Illinois Open. In fact, he really did look like a world quarterfinalist in his late-round destruction of Isaacson, Porter, and Boggan. Best matches were Eddie Brennan’s comeback against Krizman from down 2-1 and at 22-all in the 4th, and runner-up Boggan’s 26-24 in the 4th win over Varga. Bukiet/Meszaros again took the Doubles—from Brennan and Irv Stone (busy pushing the new Motor City Club in Detroit). In the Women’s, Shahian moved to solidify her place on the U.S. Team with rather easy wins over Liechty and Krizman. The Junior’s went to Isaacson over Boys’ Champ Norbie Van de Walle. Boys’ runner-up John Kromkowski won, if not his first, certainly his last Novice event.

            Out in Kansas, the Ghahramanian brothers dominated very event they could. In the Men’s, Jerry defeated George who’d earlier taken out brother Harry, 19 in the 4th. K.C.’s Ed Doane put up a good 4-game fight against Jerry in the semi’s. In Men’s Doubles, Jerry and George downed Dave Cowley/Claude Edwards. In the Mixed, Jerry teamed with Reed to beat George and Lois Thomas. Omaha’s Nancy Will, as predicted, won the Women’s over Topeka’s Carrol Reynolds. Junior winner was Tom Culver over fellow K.C.’er Willie Stansberry.      

 

California Tournaments

            Since Stan Fields was out on a National Schools Assembly Tour with Harry Tafler, that made it even more likely Klein would win the Dec. Greater L.A. Open. And of course he did…with three 19 in the 4th matches—over Murray Schneider in the quarter’s (Schneider earlier had to go 5 with Jack Avalos), Si Wasserman in the semi’s (earlier Wasserman had to go 5 with Cooperman), and Bob Edwards in the final (earlier Edwards had to go 5 with Bob Rosenthal). However, in “the most exciting match of the tournament,” 40-year-old Bob Green, who back in 1948 in Columbus, Ohio had engineered under a veritable spider-web of lights that memorable U.S. Open with its Miles-Reisman deuce in the 5th final, upset San Francisco’s Mendel Milstein, deuce in the 5th. In Men’s Doubles, Edwards/Gene Roseman beat Klein/Wasserman. B Doubles went to Jack Sumida/Olen Albertson (they’d also win at Inglewood). Mike Ralston won the B Singles and also the Junior’s over Len Cooperman; Cooperman the Boys’ over Bobby Fields.

            Apparently only males played in the L.A. Open, but at the Inglewood tournament that followed there was a Women’s event and in the final Ruth Cohee defeated Mae Anapol in straight games. Klein again won the Men’s, Roseman/Edwards again won the Doubles, Green again won the Senior’s, and Cooperman again was in the Junior final against Ralston but this time he won. Albertson took the B’s from Don Ellis; Mordecai Carey the C’s from Jerry Lewis.

California TTA President Wasserman worked in tandem with Herman L. Masin for a January, 1955 write-up of Klein in Practical English (a scholastic magazine). Since in the Feb. Inglewood tournament, Klein again beat Edwards, this time 19 in the 5th, one would have to agree with the above writers that Erwin wasn’t a “choker.” The article points out that the “tougher the competition, the better he plays”—and, perhaps conversely, the weaker the opposition, the worse he plays. Anyway, he’s “constantly thinking as he plays.” “Whenever you’re losing,” says Erwin, “there’s something you can do about it. The idea is to figure it out and then do it.” An Honor Student at Fairfax High, Klein’s something of an egg- head? Well, he does like to eat eggs. “He’d eat a dozen a day if I’d let him,” said his mom.

            Actually, Chubby can be pretty active—he does a lot of rope-skipping “to strengthen his legs and build up his wind.” But he’s not always so serious, so dedicated. “In practice he’s always pulling off weird shots and imitating the styles of famous players. He’s great at this and is always drawing a barrel of laughs.” Erwin says, “If I couldn’t enjoy myself while playing, I’d never have taken up the game” (18).

            Klein won again in Long Beach—in the semi’s over Wasserman (he’d lost deuce in the 5th to Edwards at Inglewood), then in the final over Senior Champ John Hanna who’d eliminated Bob Ashley. Jane Little came 1st in the round robin Women’s, Clemmie Ryan 2nd. Roseman/Edwards won another Doubles. Bobby Fields took the B’s but lost the Junior’s to C. Hunt.

            In early February Klein certainly had a chance to enjoy himself, for he and Wasserman appeared on the Art Baker TV show, “You Asked For It”—“2nd act after the ‘Cobra Kissing Ritual’” Si wrote in a Mar. 1st letter to his brother Tom. “The interview portion was live but the table tennis was filmed. They took about 1900 feet & used but 150 or two hundred feet.” The $150 they got for the show, Si said, would “help defray some of Klein’s expenses to the National’s.” The two also put on an exhibition “between halves of the UCLA-Stanford basketball game.”

Erwin was invited to be part of Bergmann and Miles’s Exhibition at the L.A. California Center, which further stimulated play at Si’s Club. He wrote Tom that “450 people jammed their way in…[some had to be turned away] at an average $1.40 admission.” Erwin lost two straight to Miles, but took a game from Bergmann, so you’ll have to ask his mom if she thought he came away with egg on his face.

 

 

 

SELECTED NOTES.

            *After Max died in 1975, I wrote an In Memoriam poem to him that closed with the following lines:

 

Well I remember the first time

I saw him in the ‘50’s,

In Toronto at the CNE,

In that make-do

Dressing room above the animal ring,

That amphitheater there.

He seemed, with the summer flies

And the slowly changing players,

So jock-strap ordinary.

Until, sphinx-like,

He looked at me and said,

‘You do not know who I am?

You have never heard of me?’

 

Only two lines from a late afternoon long past

When I had to confess my innocence.

But, as I think about the Ex,

Whereas all else from twenty years ago

On such a day is dead and gone,

Max’s voice, within, stays strong.”

.

**“Big Ed” indicates in his letter his initials are E.C. He’s obviously a friend of NYC’s Pinner’s as well as L.A.’s Wasserman’s. The only N.Y. player whose initials were E.C. I could find in any roster of players about this time was Ed Coleman, whom I’d never heard of. Later, in the Dec., 1955 USTTA Newsletter, in the “Coast Scripts” column by A. Phan, I was surprised to read…“Ed Coleman, pro-golfer of NYC, arrived in time for the Ryder Cup matches at Palm Springs. (Summers in N.Y.—Winters in LA—what a life!) Ed’s recovered from an ailing back, and may indulge in t.t. this year.”