Actually, from the point of view of President Otto Ek, it was Miles and Bergmann who ought to be embarrassed. On Jan. 14, 1955, the English TTA Secretary-Treasurer Bill Vint sent a letter to the USTTA revealing that Miles had asked the ETTA if they would invite him to the English Open and pay his fare and give him hospitality. Fare, no, but Hospitality, yes, replied the English—providing the USTTA had nominated him. Had they? Ek was irritated that Dick had not gone through Headquarters but had acted independently in violation of ITTF (and therefore USTTA) regulations—to wit: “a table tennis player may accept compensation in any form, traveling and hotel expenses for playing the game in a tournament…[provided permission] to receive such expenses shall have been previously obtained by the player from the Association or Associations having jurisdiction over him.” In a Jan. 29th letter to Dick addressed to his N.Y. home, he warns him if he again acts independently he’ll immediately be suspended.
He sends copies of this letter to others with the addendum:
“If Dick Miles slips back to his ‘bad manners’ of previous years, there shall be no alternative but his permanent suspension from the USTTA. Our organization will be much better off without members who are only members for what they can gain personally. Dick Miles has profited substantially by his table tennis activities, and he should give his all to help promote our organization instead of [carrying on] acts like these. I shall appreciate your views.”
In a Feb. 5th letter, Team Captain George Schein responds; “Too bad Miles had to step out of line. And just at a time when some favorable words were spoken in his behalf [by last year’s Team Captain Hazi]….The only way we can retain or gain the respect for our organization is by keeping all members under control….Permanent suspension from the U.S.T.T.A. would seem kind of severe, but I agree that punishment will be necessary if he does slip back to his “bad manners.”
On Feb.16th, USTTA Tournament Chair Jack Dale, not having heard from Ek that Miles had sent any reply, wrote to Schein that when he’d nominated Miles for the World Team he “was not aware that Dick Miles was again suffering from his annual growing pains.” Now he thinks “we should go slowly in appointing Miles to the World Team….Appointing him to the Number One position on the team now could be tantamount to rewarding him for his indifference and contempt.” He thinks it’s possible that as Dick is touring he may not have received Otto’s letter. At any event, Otto should continue his investigation, and, meanwhile, “a suitable alternate can be chosen in the event it’s necessary to keep Miles off the team.”
However, on Feb. 11th Miles had sent Ek a carefully written reply from El Paso, Texas:
“Dear Mr. Ek:
I had occasion to telephone my home today and your letter was read to me. I hasten to confirm receipt of it but must confess, however, that I am quite bewildered by it and would appreciate a further clarification of your point.
For my part, I wish to state that I have no intention of violating any rules in the by-laws of the USTTA or the ITTF. I want to make my position regarding negotiations quite clear to you at the beginning inasmuch as you are new in your office and since I deem it important to establish a frank, mutual relationship which, I hope, will persevere in the future. Since I am one of the players who derives his living from the game, however meager it may be, you must understand that throughout the year I receive and send hundreds of letters negotiating for exhibitions and tours with players and associations here and abroad, as well as private interested people and organizations. The right to engage in these personal and often, indeed, secret negotiations on which my livelihood depends is one which the USTTA cannot rightfully expect me to forfeit and I am hoping your letter did not suggest such a thing. On the other hand, I am fully aware of my responsibility to the USTTA on matters of sanctions and so forth. A case in point is my current tour with Richard Bergmann. Literally months of private negotiation were required to set it up but, once having done that, you will recall that we requested a formal sanction for the exhibitions. I shall continue, naturally, to seek USTTA approval for my tours whenever they materialize and I trust you will regard this as proper procedure.
My negotiations with Mr. Vint, by the way, were as casual a piece of business as you could find. I merely enclosed a note to him along with a letter Bergmann was mailing on other matters, asking whether the ETTA would pay the equivalent [sic] of round-trip air fares in return for my participation in the English Open. Since his answer was “no,” there was no need to inform you of it but had it been “yes,” I would then have asked him to make a formal request to the USTTA and in turn asked for sanction myself….”
So what could the USTTA say to that? I must add though that since, as usual, there wouldn’t be near enough money in the annually raised “Fighting Fund” to send the U.S. Team abroad without outside help (as of Feb. 28, only $897.63 had been collected), arrangements had been made for them to again be transported by the Army in return for 21 days of exhibitions. I wonder, then, what Dick’s motive was in looking for assistance from the ETTA. Was he hoping to relieve himself of the Army obligations incurred by the rest of the Team? Did he want to pocket the “equivalent” of the airfare? Merely test his reputation? Whatever he had in mind, he was certainly individually motivated.
As was Bergmann who, much to Jack Dale’s belated mid-February discovery and surprise, had contacted, back in November, the Rochester group handling the National’s, asking them if he entered would they give him free room and board. Apparently he expected them to know he was the 4-time World Champion, for he didn’t identify himself (which seems very strange), and apparently they quickly answered No. Dale (who hadn’t seen Miles’s response to Ek) questions whether “Bergmann entered this country as a representative of the E.T.T.A. and cleared through channels with the U.S.T.T.A. for the purpose of playing an exhibition tour.” If so, then Jack agrees with Ek that, in view of the fact that our players will receive hospitality at the English and German Opens and at the World’s, we need to courteously oblige Bergmann. Ek suggests a total of $50—$26 for four hotel nights and $24 for food—which o.k., agreed, is just what he’d get.
On February 9th, Team Captain Schein had sent out Certificates of Availability to those players (how many?) being considered for the Men’s and Women’s Teams. Although they wouldn’t leave for England until about Mar. 25 (return would be approximately May 17), the Teams had to be decided on by Mar. 1 because of deadlines for entries in the tournaments abroad. It’s not clear to me exactly when the Selection Committee made their definitive choices, but waiting until the 11th hour was something they didn’t want to do again.
Hence the E.C. decided that in the future the Team Captain would be appointed in the summer, and would immediately become a member of the Selection Committee. As for the Team members themselves, they would be selected 60 days prior to the World’s, and at that time all players under consideration would have to have a minimum of 9 participation points (Two Star tournaments gave you 2 points, the Three Star NTC’s, East-West Matches, Eastern’s, Western’s, and Pacific Coast gave you 3, and the Four Star National’s 4). Meanwhile, for this year’s Team there were three tournaments coming up that in the eyes of some selectors could be significant—the Feb. 19-20 Western’s, and the Feb. 20 Worcester Open, as well as the Feb. 26-27 Eastern’s. (Prospective Team members for 1956 would get a 4-point credit for attending the 1955 National’s but no other 1955 tournament—which means, with that 60-day requirement in force, next year’s 3-Star regional tournaments had better be scheduled no later than early January, and local 2-Stars before that.)
No problem with Bukiet making the World Team. He won the Feb. 19-20 Milwaukee Western’s over Boggan in a tournament where in the Men’s the strong Chicago and St. Louis players of yesteryear seemed to have disappeared and there was little excitement. One of Bukiet’s victims was Kokomo’s Harry Deschamps, making a late appearance in the Game; almost 32, he’ll play in the Novice as well. In the Men’s Doubles final, the lightly regarded Ralph Ramsey/Howard Thomas duo from Ohio defeated Boggan/Isaacson. Fortunately for what spectators there were, both pairs had problems in the semi’s: the Ohioans, down 2-0, mustered a startling comeback to beat heavily favored Bukiet/Bill Meszaros; and Boggan/Isaacson, down 2-1, rallied to beat Porter/Fess who’d eliminated Krizman/Freifelder in 5. Shahian/Meszaros won the Mixed over Bukiet/Marge Kalman, semi’s winners in the 5th from Freifelder/Prouty. Meszaros had a 20, 17 fight to wrest the Consolation from Forest Milbourn. And Thomas stepped up the action with a 19-in-the-5th Senior’s win over Cecil Woodworth.
In the Women’s final, once Shahian won that 25-23 first game from Prouty it was all over. However, Millie, who’d be selected for the World Team, “couldn’t meet the terms to make the trip.” She told Jack Dale that she had financial difficulties. I don’t know whether she was working and, if so, couldn’t take time off without being fired, but the specific reason she gave, in Dale’s words, was this: “that in the past, it was necessary for players to finance themselves for three to four months at a time [sic: they’d be gone less than two months] and were then reimbursed by the Government or Army or whoever sponsored the tour. She just doesn’t have enough cash to go along with this setup.” But if it were just ready cash she needed, surely, as Dale said in his Feb. 24th explanatory letter to George Schein, some arrangement could have been made?
Prouty, however, on hearing the call to play in her first World’s, was ecstatic. Later she’d write a letter to Ek saying how proud she was “to wear the table tennis uniform of our great and beloved country.” She would also praise the “hard and ardent work of the many wonderful people of the USTTA,” and offer thanks for the “memories of those companions, my fellow team-mates, whose helpfulness and kindness I shall remember always” (TTT, Sept., 1955, 4).
In the Junior’s, Krizman downed Isaacson who’d been pressed by Norbert Van de Walle in the semi’s. Norbie took both the Novice (from Bill Minix) and the Boys (from John Kromkowski. Junior Doubles went to Krizman/Isaacson over Van de Walle and Tommy Breunig who, while attending the University of Wisconsin on a tennis scholarship, became the President of the Wisconsin TTA for the 1955-56 season—likely the youngest President of any USTTA affiliate ever.
That same weekend as the Western’s, a warm-up for the Eastern’s was held at the Ionic Avenue Boys’ Club in Worcester, Massachusetts. This tournament helped to define those Easterners who would likely make the World Team. In the Men’s, Somael beat Gusikoff in the semi’s and Hirschkowitz in the final. Schiff was upset, 19 in the 4th, by Worcester’s own Bill “Red” Dwyer. (Two weeks earlier, Bill, with Ben Masterman and Elliot Heith, had taken the New England Intercities.) Men’s Doubles went to Schiff/Somael over Dwelly/Dwyer who’d advanced with a close win over Hirschkowitz/Marty Rubenstein. Masterman took the Junior’s—in the semi’s from D.C.’s best, Eddie Record, and in the final from N.Y.’s best, Barry Michelman, the Boys’ winner over Jordan St. John. Record/Sheldon Sirover nipped Masterman/Allan Madnick in 5 for the Junior Doubles title.
The Eastern’s, played at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y., had a group of stronger players and consequently offered more appeal than the Western’s. In the Men’s, in the eighth’s, some good players fell: Jack Howard, who’d lost to Benny Hull in Worcester, upset Moniek Buki, 19 in the 5th; Bridgeport’s George Ferris, the Chief Referee of the tournament, after eliminating N.Y. TTA President John Parish (from down 2-0 and at deuce in the 3rd), finished off Hazi 3-zip; and Marland Cutler ousted Schiff who knew he wasn’t gonna be on the Team, for just this week he’d accepted a new Footwear position with Honeybugs, a “New York manufacturer of women’s and children’s slippers and casuals.”
In the quarter’s, there were more surprises: Miles showed the effect of his absence from tournament play by struggling 19 in the 4th with Howard; Gusikoff pummeled Pagliaro whose 20-year career was coming to an end; Cutler and his sponge went through Somael in straight games; and, in by far the best match, Hirschkowitz, down 2-1, won the key 4th at deuce to eliminate Ferris. In the semi’s, Gusikoff looked like the 8-time National Champion and Miles his little known foil as Bobby (interrupted by a 3rd-game leg cramp, for which he was allowed a considerable respite by Dick) blasted away to win 12, 17, 13; Hirschkowitz, meanwhile, had too much savvy for Cutler. In the final, Bobby’s offense was stronger than Harry’s defense and that gave him the Championship.
Clearly now, the U.S. Men’s Team, in addition to Bukiet, would be Miles, Somael, Hirschkowitz, and Gusikoff. However, because only five players could be named for the Swaythling Cup Team, the Selection Committee would agree that Erwin Klein, after his fine showing in Toronto but with his L.A. base making it just too difficult for him to repeatedly compete against the country’s best, could play in all the individual events on this European trip. Though, since only three women were selected (why not take a 4th?), was Klein’s way paid too? I would hope and assume so—the more because two of the selectors originally favored him, in place of Somael, on our Swaythling Cup Team.
Nor was there any doubt who would join Prouty on the Women’s Team, for in the Eastern’s Women’s final Leah Neuberger defeated Pauline Robinson—and these two were already the other leading candidates. Praise was due Jean Gere at this tournament, for in the quarter’s she knocked out Lona Flam, 10, 20, -25, 19, and in the semi’s she 17 in the 5th caused Robinson some anxious moments—the more so because in Pauline’s eyes Jean was now a “sponge menace.”
Peggy McLean Folke, who’d “been taking time out to raise a family, and to secure a Master’s degree in Education,” was soundly beaten by Neuberger. But she was in both Doubles finals—winning the Women’s with Leah (over Flam/Robinson) and coming 2nd (to Neuberger/Hirschkowitz) in the Mixed with Paggy. In the Men’s Doubles, Hirschkowitz/Gusikoff did well to beat Miles/Somael in the semi’s, but Schiff/Hazi, probably more adept now at playing doubles than singles, beat them 3-0 in the final.
In other matches, Hazi won the Senior’s as expected—over Gunn. But presumably playing Senior Doubles was a little beneath Tibor, so it was Gunn/Paul Jackson over Zimmerman/Frank Davison in 5. Montreal’s Roger Desormeaux won the Junior’s from Sheldon Sirover who’d upset Sandy Potiker in 5. Pottiker, however, took the Boys’ from Michelman. Junior Doubles went to Michelman/Sirover over Desormeaux/Mal Krauss, 26-24 in the 4th. Men’s Consolation winner was Holly Haworth over Lionel Ovelton. Women’s Consolation winner was Huguette Parent over Lillian Guyer.
Erwin Klein’s Experiences at Lawrence’s
Erwin Klein didn’t come East for the Eastern’s, but by Mar. 6, in a letter to Si Wasserman, he said he’d arrived in New York, had seen Lawrence’s and felt that the California TT Center was superior. The playing conditions at Lawrence’s “aren’t any better than what we have,” he said. There are two differences: “the bounce and when both tables are going there are five lights over each table, both tables sharing the lights on the side.” When Erwin got to Lawrence’s, he found that many of the N.Y. players had gone to the Mar. 5-6 Quebec Open (the results of which I don’t have), but that Miles, who had just left with his girl friend, had been playing with “Gussy.” (He means Gusikoff, “The Goose,” or “Goosey.”) He then played three sets with Bobby—won two, lost 1. Erwin said Mr. Lawrence had told him that “Reisman broke his arm while running and then falling in order to get the shot back.” To which Klein added, “It was worth it, the ball went on the table.” Though he doesn’t have a car, he offers to meet Wasserman at the airport when he comes in for the National’s.
On Mar. 8, he writes Si again. “Last night I played Hirschkowitz and couldn’t hit a ball on the table. He actually had to give me points in order to keep the score as high as ten….I was so unconfident because of [Ty] Neuberger’s betting and the idea that I had to play well. Also Hirschkowitz varies [his spin] a lot and since nobody does this at the Center, it was pretty rough.
Even icons, unused to their surroundings, show they’re human, vulnerable.
National’s: Miles Wins 9th; Neuberger 6th Singles Title
The Mar. 18-20, 1955 U.S. Open, with 210 entries in 13 events, was held in the gym of the new Recreation Building at Rochester, N.Y.’s Kodak Park. The sponsoring KP Athletic Association has approximately 19,000 members, so it’s certainly to be expected that some of them would have an interest in table tennis and that their team would win the city’s Industrial League. No wonder, too, that, with all the movie and still cameras about, this would be the most photographed National’s to date.
Among the 5-game early-round Men’s matches coming in to the Control Desk Operations team led by Jack Dale, cited as “Official of the Year,” were: Frank Tharaldson over Roger Desmoreaux; Bob Wilkenfeld over Jimmy McClure; and Buffalo’s Morris Meyers over both Howard Thomas (including a 28-26 3rd game) and former Canadian Champion Maurice DeSerres. N.Y.C.’s Moniek Buki would win the Men’s Consolation over Forest Hills’ Marv Shaffer.
Other early matches of note were: Reisman, “his left wrist in a plaster cast” (as a result of that fall Klein had mentioned), over Dave Krizman in three deuce games; Frank Dwelly over Sol Schiff in 4; and Harry Hirschkowitz (18, -15, 23, 19) over Max Hersh. (Max was the recent Michigan Closed runner-up to Eddie Brennan in Singles and also in Doubles when he and Al Hibner lost 28-26 in the 5th to Eddie and next season’s Michigan TTA President Irv Stone.)
In the 8th’s, Miles allowed Meyers 18 points total. Klein beat Boggan easily—and I don’t mind telling you that, though local reporter Ike Shynook mentioned me (U.S. #7 this season) as one of the tournament’s “upset victims,” it was quite clear that Klein was already at 16 much better than I at 24 was. Actually, with only one exception, all 8 matches went just three games—Reisman seemed to have no chance against Hirschkowitz; nor did Monasterial against Somael, Dwelly against Cartland, Hazi against Bergmann, and Bill Palmer against Bukiet (Bernie had been upset two weeks earlier in the Illinois Closed by Prager, absent here, who’d then lost in the final to Meszaros). The only real “victim” in these 8th’s was #3 seed Gusikoff in a 5-gamer with Keith Porter who’d earlier eliminated Marland Cutler as well.
Quarter’s play saw Miles defeat Klein handily in 4 (in the 3rd and 4th games Erwin scored only 16 points total). Porter, continuing his out-of-this-world play, prevailed over Hirschkowitz, 19 in the 5th (after being down 19-14), but drew the admonition from Pauline Robinson that he’d be well advised “to keep his temperament under control in the future,” for she was sure (and I wish she’d have been more specific) “he did not get as much satisfaction out of his wins as he could have.” In the semi’s against Miles, Keith got a total of 35 points. Somael, meanwhile, rallied from 2-1 down to beat Cartland, then gave Bergmann a respectable –24, 18, -7 –17 fight. In the final, before an estimated 1200 spectators, with games 2-1 for Miles, the Expedite Rule was in, and Dick quickly built up a 10-4 lead for a win. The American Detroiter A tables were to his advantage, he acknowledged (ah, would that a World’s had ever been played on them).
In Men’s Doubles, four strong teams made the semi’s. Bergmann, an intensely proud professional, was presenting his own laurel wreath of respect to Klein by partnering him—and they reached the final with a 4-game quarter’s win over Gusikoff/Hirschkowitz (who’d had some 17, 21, -19, 15 troubles with Palmer/Manfred Feher), and then a 4-game semi’s win over McClure/Schiff. Gusikoff said that Bergmann, whom he’d soon be touring with, doing Exhibitions for the Globetrotters, had “marvelous table control.” Bobby also said he wasn’t comfortable playing Richard because he floated so many of his returns, and Bobby’s whipped-up forehand was more effective against “spin and pace.” Reisman paired with Cartland to down Miles/Somael, then Bukiet/Hazi in the semi’s (Bernie and Tibor had been down 2-1 to Boggan/Meszaros who earlier were lucky to get by Van de Walle/Bert Lee-19, 19, -18, 23, 19). In the final, Bergmann/Klein had to go 5 to beat the injured Reisman/Cartland. Surely it was remarkable how Reisman with that cast encumbrance could play so well. Indeed, I’ll much later see quite a bit of Cartland, and I could tell that even he, for all his savvy, his worldliness, was a little awed by Marty, and it made me wonder about the times they’d had together.
There weren’t the close matches in the early rounds of the Women’s that you had in the Men’s. Montreal’s Denise LeBrun would win the Consolation’s over Marge Kalman. Peggy McLean Folke had enough practice to 21, 20, 18 turn back Carolee Liechty’s bid to advance, and Cleveland’s Elaine Mitchell rallied from two games down to eliminate Jean Gere. But, as was becoming evident first in the 8th’s then in the quarter’s, San Antonio’s Marjory Willcox and her sponge racket was the player drawing gasps. First she finished off Sally Prouty in straight games, then stopped Lona Flam in 5. Naturally that prompted Pauline Robinson in her “Over the Net” column in the next Newsletter to comment:
“It [sponge] may be a good game, but that game is not table tennis! It is not a question as to whether you can beat it or not, as it makes an entirely different game out of the sport. Most of the grace and agility in the game is lost, as it is impossible to play a regular game against it. You can only stab at the ball, and hope it will go back over the net” (Apr., 1955, 6).
Robinson herself lost in 4 in the semi’s to Shahian, after the defending Champion had been under great pressure in the quarter’s to beat Mitchell in the expedited 5th. Neuberger, however, went blithely on—through Krizman, Willcox, and Shahian in straight games—to take her 6thSingles title in the last 9 years.
Leah also won the Women’s Doubles with Peggy Folke—a title that will be Peggy’s last and mark the end of her career. In the final, they beat Prouty/Shahian, 3-0. Earlier, before losing to Flam/Robinson, the Canadians Joan Jessup/Diane Wisman came through valiantly via a –18, -12, 25, 20, 16 struggle with Marge Kalman/Marion Mueller. Lona and Pauline eventually fell in 5 to Sally and Millie, as did the South Bend teenagers, Krizman/Liechty to Leah and Peggy.
The Mixed final was a reverse of last year’s—this time Miles/Shahian won; but Schiff/Prouty, down 2-0, almost came all the way back before losing 19 in the 5th. Doubtless Sally was gracious in defeat—for she won the Sportsmanship Award. Often the Mixed matches produce the most spectator fun, and this year was no exception. Bernie Hock/Mary Schook, though behind 2-1, finished 27-25, 22-20 to eliminate Howie Ornstein/Jean Gere. In later matches, Miles/Shahian downed Boggan/Krizman in 5, then Bergmann/Neuberger who’d 8, -20, 20, 20 broken free of Klein/Flam.
Hazi didn’t drop a game in successfully defending his Senior’s title. Ben Morgan, local Monroe County Champion whom Tibor beat in the semi’s, thrilled home town fans with his wins over Bill Gunn and Bernie Hock. Runner-up Louie Scharlack was also runner-up in the 50’s, for Gunn, carrying on his annual U.S. Open battle with Louie, regained his title from him in a 5-game final—19 in the 4th, 19 in the 5th. As a side note, Cincinnati’s Walter “Judge” Alexander, the oldest player at the tournament (said to be somewhere between 75 and 80), played 5-game matches in both the 40’s and 50’s. Hazi and Cleveland’s Manfred Feher easily won the Senior Doubles. But runner-up Cartland’s job with Simeon Sabre was to get them to the final, and he did—with 5-game wins over Paul Buell/Ken Kasten and Defending Champs Hock/Gene Bricker.
At the other end of the age spectrum, no uncertainty as to the Boys’ winner either. Norbie Van de Walle would drop a game to Michelman, but otherwise give up only 36 points to him. In the final, Kromkowski, who’d knocked out Potiker 3-0 in the semi’s, got just 30.
The outcome of the Junior Miss Championship held but one doubt, and that was resolved when Krizman beat Liechty in the final for the third straight year. The most exciting matches were Pontiac’s Eleanor Tiffany over Toronto’s Diane Wisman, deuce in the 5th, and Buffalo’s Mary Joan Altenberg (“a lot of talent, if handled properly” said Pauline Robinson) over Milwaukee’s Jean Veit, 19 in the 5th.
This year’s National Junior Champ was Erwin Klein—over the Eastern Junior Champ Roger Desermeaux, 3-0. On Klein’s side of the Draw, two of the best matches were: Barry Michelman’s 8th’s win over Milbourn in 5; and Klein’s 3-game semi’s problems with Isaacson (Illinois Junior Champ over Van de Walle) before Steve apparently didn’t care, and I dare not tell you, how many points he got in the 4th and 5th. Earlier Isaacson had beaten both Worcester’s Ben Masterman. (who’d barely escaped Dayton’s Tim Morgan 19 in the 5th) and Montreal’s Dennis Limoges.
On the Desermeaux side, there was more action aplenty. Dayton’s Larry Folk almost had a winner at 23-all in the 3rd but Mal Krauss wouldn’t let him advance until the 5th, after which Larry lost to Grossman, and Howie, though all momentum, up 2-0 and at 21-all in the 3rd, couldn’t finish Van de Walle. Norbie, on beating Krizman –20, 13, 21, 22, made it to the semi’s where he lost to Desermeaux in 5. Roger, meanwhile, didn’t have it easy—was down 2-1 and at 20-all in the 4th with K.C.’s Tom Culver who earlier had been in the same precarious position with Sandy Potiker. This while Desermeaux had fallen behind 2-1 to Eddie Record. Lots of vitality with these Juniors, lots of matches that could have gone differently.
At the Executive Committee Meeting held this National’s weekend, U.S. Team Captain Schein was given permission “to replace any member of the Men’s team with Klein if his play is better in the English and German Championships” or if George “has any trouble with any of the men on the team.”
As if New Yorkers could cause problems. But, hey, let’s follow them abroad and see.