USA Table Tennis
1985: Insook Bhushan/Sean O’Neill U.S. Closed Champions.
I’ll begin this coverage of our 1985 History-making U.S. Closed with the “Welcome to Caesars” greeting with which I opened the Tournament Program:
“‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars…’
A dark ‘Beware…’ was what I heard from more than one voice last spring and then again last summer. But my, your, E.C. was responsive to change, to a new venue—and we had a glittering Miami-Marriott/Miami Beach Convention Center U.S. Open. In inviting a worldly relationship with the world’s best—China and Sweden—we started the USTTA on a roll, put the Association not into bankruptcy, but into what, again and again, we have to high-stakes hope will continue to be a favorable betting situation.
Coming, after that success, to image-making Caesars was another change for us. This, too, was a gamble, was it? I never thought so—not if you consider the odds facing the sport. It was just a logical follow-up—a move for the best.
Objectively, subjectively, it’s a triumphant return we’re making here to Caesars. On Nov. 22, as I write this Welcome, a month before the U.S. Closed was to end, we had 432 entries. So with every turn of every player’s card you can see that entries are up 20% or more from last year and that more players are playing in more events.
Which fact prompts me, of course, to publicly thank YOU—you hundreds of players and spectators reading this—on whom I’m always mindful the success of this tournament so depends. Thanks particularly to Neil Smyth who made an extra effort to bring the Closed back to this glamorous hotel. And thanks, too, to those on and off the E.C. who last-minute supported me in my strong desire to return our National Championships to where in Vegas they began. I’m thinking especially of Howard Grossman, Harold Kopper, and Stan Robens who gave me psychic strength to persevere, try one last spin of Fortune’s wheel, to get the National’s back here.
So, o.k., I’m a modest gambler, am willing to cross a little Rubicon or two. After all, what’s life without a warm welcome for at least a little risk? As USTTA President, as one with introspective Spirit, I know what I need and what Table Tennis needs for a night-sky space in the long, desert-stretch history of our sport.
Thanks, everyone, for coming to Caesars. Because of your support, Table Tennis is looking up.”
Ah, yes, a little soaring rhetoric is what you’d expect from a President like me. Better get a Historian in here to bring things down to earth. I, Tim, introduce Californian William Walden (TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 18) to give us his “Lost Vegas” take:
“It seems as if the major event at the Nationals was selling the tables that were used. The stars of the show were neither applauded nor embraced. Most often they went unrecognized. Danny [Seemiller] was into public relations, while George [Brathwaite] spent his time in the [hotel] lobby, and Eric [Boggan] just disappeared. Scott [Boggan] nursed a headache, Khoa [Nguyen] a sour stomach, and Ming [Lim Ming Chui] scored 21 more times on the casino tables than on those in the tin [t.t.] pavilion.
I guess maybe the National Championships just weren’t that important this year. Where was the vibrant electricity of Las Vegas? Out on the Strip? In the casinos? It certainly was absent in the sweltering arena as we squinted through the darkness to pick up the flight of the ball. Somebody forgot to turn up the Christmas-Tree lights.
I sure got thirsty there, and my stomach growled most of the time. Someone finally set up a small snack bar after a few of us wandered, half-naked, through the hotel coffee shop in our dripping gym shorts.
I did get in a lot of good practice at the Nationals. Ever pull on a nickel machine? It’s perfect for developing a strong backhand loop. Twice a day I did a mile between the pit and the hotel elevator to my room. It made me so wilted and weak that room service beat a costly path to my door with buckets of ice. Six bucks a day…for ice?
Oh, well, my footwork was great around the casino tables. But all that work for a loss? Well, really, I didn’t work half as hard as the National Champions did. Come to think of it, I lost more money than they won. But that’s just the nature of our sport—gives us something a little less than the nickel machines do.
Needless to say, Insook, Sean, Jimmy, and Diana came to Las Vegas for a reason. I guess the rest of us came for reasons, too. We met old friends, resumed old rivalries, and had one heck of a good time! Clink, Clink, Clink, Clink.” [Uh, it sure didn’t sound like you had a heck of a good time.]
Photographer Don Gunn, too, taking some shots at the Closed, had these introductory words to offer (TTT, Jan.-Feb, 1986, 27):
“Within the front entrance of Caesars Palace stands a statue of Julius Caesar himself, his arm extended in a gesture of welcome, with forefinger extended. It is the wrong finger. Down a passageway stands Michelangelo’s David, larger than life, unclothed and high on a pedestal. One always feels a little nervous when passing that massive piece of sculpture. What if something fell off? I can hear the doctor now, ‘You got this head injury from a falling what?’
The day before play commenced I wandered into the pavilion, and soon was lining up barriers, installing nets, etc. Then the workmen politely asked me to desist, as it would cut into their overtime pay, which they would earn by doing these things….Fair enough. I stopped.
Late into the tournament I discovered that the best place to take pictures in the pavilion is in the men’s room. The light there is two F/ stops better than in the playing area….”
Women’s Singles (First Stage)
I move now to the $3,400 Women’s Singles event at this Closed as told to us by Shazzi Felstein (TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 9-10):
“Bright and early Wednesday morning, or at least early, at 9:00 a.m., the Women’s Singles began. There were four groups of six players each, with three players to advance from each group. The three top-seeded players in each group did advance, although not necessarily in the predicted order.
Groups I and III finished exactly in the order of seeding, with Insook Bhushan, Carol Davidson, and Kerry Vandaveer advancing from Group I, and Lan Vuong, Lisa Gee, and Jasmine Wang advancing from Group III. Ardith Lonnon and Connie Sweeris were the two who just missed, Ardith winning deuce games from both Carol and Kerry, and Connie playing two close games with both Lisa and Jasmine.
In Group II, top-seed Julie Au (the tournament’s Defending Champion and overall second seed to Insook) won all her matches easily, but #3 Sheila O’Dougherty moved up to #2 finisher when she beat Vicky Wong, the #3 finisher who’d been second-seed in the Group. Chin-Yur King, who finished #4, didn’t advance but in losing 20, 19 to Vicky made a valiant try.
Group IV was the most interesting, and the only Group with ties. Long after the others had finished, first-through-fourth seeds Diana Gee, Cheryl Dadian, Takako Trenholme, and Olga Soltesz were still battling it out. Cheryl lost a very close first match to Olga, and said she hoped she’d make it out of the Group. She did—in fact, she beat everyone else in straight games. She and Diana ended up with 4-1 records. Takako, who lost close matches to both Diana and Cheryl, and Olga, who lost to Diana and Takako, finished 3-2. When two players have the same record, there’s a head-to-head tie-breaker—so Cheryl was the #1 finisher with her victory over #2 Diana, and Takako got the #3 spot with her win over Olga.
Thus the twelve top-seeded women all advanced. Insook, Julie and Lan were all unbeaten—but in the two Groups of six that would now fight it out, there’d be no carryovers. Crossovers, however, there were: the semi’s would match the #1 finisher in each Group against the #2 finisher in the opposite Group; then the two winners would play in the final, while the losers would play for third/fourth. One crossover would decide fifth/sixth, and one crossover seventh/eighth. The top eight finishers would be the National Team Squad (NTS).”
Other Events with Women Winners
Before Shazzi continues with the late round Women’s Singles and Women’s Amateur matches, I want to give you the results of other events with women finalists: Women’s Doubles: Final: Insook Bhushan/Diana Gee over Julie Au/Lisa Gee, 15, -18, 12. Semi’s: Bhushan/Gee over Cheryl Dadian/Ardith Lonnon, 11, 11; Au/Gee over Vicky Wong/Carol Davidson, 5, 18. Mixed Doubles: Final: D. Gee/Sean O’Neill over Bhushan/Dan Seemiller, -12, 16, 23. Semi’s: Gee/O’Neill over Au/Scott Boggan, 8, 16/ Bhushan/Seemiller over Dadian/Rick Seemiller, 11, 12. U-1800 Women’s Singles: Final: Shazzi Felstein over Genevieve Hayes, 16, 11. Semi’s: Felstein over Nadine Doyle, 16, 11; Hayes over Cindi Cooper, 16, -14, 18. U-4000 Doubles: Final: Vicky Wong/Jasmine Wang over Chip Coulter/Chris Rivette, 19, 17. Semi’s: Wong/Wang over Rich Friedland/Mark Wedret, 14, -17, 19; Coulter/Rivette over Y.C. Lee/Gary Ruderman, 13, -15, 17. Women’s O-40: Final: Felstein over Barbara Kaminsky, 15, 21.
Women’s Singles (Final Stage)
“The Women’s had 12 players left—two groups of six. In Group I, Insook continued her unbeaten streak—20 games in a row. Lisa, though losing to Insook, won all her other matches easily (except for a close one with Dadian) and so advanced to the crossover semi’s. Sheila also won a close one from Cheryl, and against Trenholme came from way behind in the first to take that game and then the next and so finished third in the Group. Takako beat Cheryl and Kerry two straight to claim fourth. Cheryl, after losing three close matches in these round robins, had a fifth-place breather with Kerry who went 0-10 to finish sixth.
In Group II, Lan was again undefeated, although four of her five matches went into the third game. Diana also advanced, thanks to her 19-in-the-third win over #3 finisher Julie. Jasmine was fourth after fighting off match point against Carol who placed fifth. Vicky was last with an 0-5 record—she played close matches with everyone except Julie, but just wasn’t tough enough to win the tough ones.
Saturday morning brought the semi’s and the crossovers (all best of five). In the one semi’s, Insook easily defeated Diana. In the other, Lan and Lisa, both playing aggressively, struggled into the fifth. Lan was up 14-9, on her way, when, wow, Lisa made nine straight points, attacking everything successfully. Lisa served at 20-15 and Lan won a good exchange, said, ‘That’s it!’ Then she won another exchange. Then she got a point on a net. At 20-18 back and forth went the strong play until Lisa angled a forehand cross-court to take the match.
The final, as expected, was anticlimactic—Insook ($800) three straight, 12, 14, 15, over Lisa ($600). Mostly the two would push some. And then Lisa would loop one. Lisa got more of her loops on in the second and third games, but couldn’t ever really get close enough to threaten even a game. Bhushan made few mistakes, and her pick-hits usually went in for winners. Lisa of course did well to come second, but I can’t emphasize enough how far ahead of the field Insook is—this was the 33-year-old’s sixth Women’s Singles Championship.
The match for 3rd/4th place was between Lan and Diana. Lan, having lost that very tough match to Lisa, now played another grueling five-gamer. Diana was up 10-6 in the fifth, but Lan, scoring with powerful forehands, quickly caught up—11-all. The match stayed even up to 19-19. Then Lan erred—missed an easy forehand; then erred again—looped one out. Third place to Diana ($500), fourth to Lan ($400).
In the play-off for 5th/6th, Julie ($350) destroyed Sheila ($300). Julie had to be disappointed with her showing, but Sheila, given the strong players leading the field ahead of her, fought well to finish sixth. Takako ($250), rallying from 10-6 down in the fifth, beat Jasmine ($200), who was sick at this tournament, for 7th place.
Of the four in the Final 12 who didn’t win prize money, two of them, Cheryl and Carol, play only once a week because they don’t have clubs conveniently located for them (and Cheryl’s club is not very strong). In view of this lack of competition, they didn’t fare so badly. Vicky looked like she had the game to have done better, but she didn’t have the positive mental attitude she needed. [Story was too that neither Vicky nor Jasmine were too happy about their RTP situation.] Kerry looked outclassed in the Final 12. I’m sure the Lake Placid Training Center will be an excellent opportunity for Cheryl, Carol, Kerry, and Ardith to improve. And it’ll be great to have more good women players on the East Coast for a while. Six of the Final 12 women were from California [a state that provided170 of the 441 tournament entries], three from Minnesota/Wisconsin, one from Colorado, and two from the East also in Colorado at the Resident Training Program.”
“The 26-woman field in the Women’s Amateur was almost identical to the field in the Women’s Singles. Table Tennis in the U.S. is not conducive to producing women pros.” Indeed, Coach Li Henan [see Shazzi’s article in TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 11] thinks the Resident Training Program’s great, wishes it were year round, but says that our players have to work more on physical conditioning and more on playing aggressively, these always being highlighted by that which is most important, an unrelenting fighting spirit.”
“In this single-elimination event, the top four seeds, Insook, Julie, Lan, and Diana, all made it to the semi’s. Insook over a feisty Carol, 19, 17; Lan, -17, 13, 5, over Lisa; Diana, 17, 10, over Cheryl (who’d beaten her previously in the Women’s Singles); and Julie, 12, 14 over Sheila. Lan said she kept Lisa to a mere 5 points in the third game because she played more aggressively and all her shots went in. (Compare this last rout of a game she won with the 21-18 one she’ll lose to Lisa in the Women’s semi’s she’ll play later.)”
A good quarter’s result here for Lan, but Shazzi says that “Lan did not go to the RTP, and is not happy about the way players are treated in this country. In the future, she’ll just play for herself—and not for the USA. Asked for an example of ill-treatment, she said that one year ago she was given the Amateur Athlete of the Year award, but the trophy that was supposed to come with it was delayed time after time. Twelve months later, she still hadn’t received it. She also thought that the USTTA should pay the way of top players to the major tournaments.”
In the one semi’s, not enough of Lan’s shots went in against Julie who won two straight. And Insook had no trouble at all with Diana who couldn’t seem to get her shots on the table at all. This set up the first ever meeting between our #1 and #2 players.
We had a fine contrast of styles in the final. Insook is a shake-hands chopper who pick hits, and Julie is a penhold looper with a high-toss, dangerous serve. In the first game, Julie got a lot of high service-returns from Insook that she killed for winners. Julie looped almost everything except high balls, which she put away with well-placed drives that Insook seldom got back. Insook, however, went from 11-14 down to 19-16 up as her ball control caused Julie to miss shots. From 19-16 up, Insook first pick-hit a backhand out, then a forehand out, then from 19-18 ran it out. In the second game, Insook did better against Julie’s serves—she was no longer pushing back set-ups for Julie to kill. Still, Julie, mostly looping, got to 19 before losing that game and the match.
After they’d finished, Insook said that she had heard a lot about Julie’s serves, but that they weren’t as bad as she’d feared. In the second game, she just concentrated on returning Au’s serves deep and getting ready for the next ball. Insook also said that, just based on this one match, she thought Julie, whom Coach Li said was handicapped because she wasn’t training as much as the other semifinalists were, didn’t have as many threats to her game as, say, He-ja Lee did (a few other women told me the same thing), and so Insook thought she could handle Julie’s game. Coach Li said that Insook had learned such good basic technique in Korea that she could get away with less practice than the others who needed to train more against chop.
At any rate, the 8-woman National Team Squad is very strong and fairly chosen. (And I think there is no doubt that the best player won the National title.) In fact, we could substitute several players who didn’t make it and still have a very strong Squad, a fact which reflects the present strength of the Women’s field. I thought it was the best-played Women’s Championship that I had ever seen.
Congratulations to all.”
We go now to Editor Scott Bakke’s beginning coverage of the $11,000 Men’s Singles (TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 6+):
Men’s Singles (24-Player Stage)
“Matches for the 24 players (12 seeded and 12 advancing from Wednesday preliminary round robin competition [not covered here] were divided into four Groups of six, with the top three finishers from each Group advancing to the Final 12. Action began on Thursday morning, and, while top seeds Eric and Scott Boggan, Danny Seemiller, and Sean O’Neill all advanced without a match loss, Eric was pressed to three games by both 1979 U.S. Champion Attila Malek and U.S. Under 15 titleholder Jimmy Butler. Jimmy, although unable to clinch the miracle victory against Defending Singles Champion Eric, convincingly demonstrated he was not to be taken lightly by winning the opening game before being stopped at 9 in the third.
Jimmy’s dynamic energy and intelligent play carried him through the rest of his Group matches without a loss, as he snuck by Khoa Nguyen in a deuce-in-the-third nail-biter, while also knocking off Malek, Bohdan Dawidowicz, and Randy Seemiller. Randy, finishing #3, also advanced, primarily because of his 18-in-the-third victory over a very disappointed Khoa.
Over in the Danny Seemiller Group, Danny, the #1 finisher, was extended to three by Brian Masters who finished #2 after foiling a three-game threat to him from longtime thorn-in-his-side Dave Sakai. A three-way tie-breaker would decide the third advancer—and this turned out to be Hawaii’s Allen Kaichi at the expense of Sakai and Scott Butler. Scott ambushed Allen in three, but became a deuce-in-the-2nd victim to Dave’s slow, deliberate play, while Sakai fell in straight games to Kaichi. Thus, this was the only one of the four Groups that would advance an unexpected player to the Final 12.
No surprises in the Scott Boggan, Ricky Seemiller, Brandon Olson Group—these clear favorites prevailed. Boggan advanced without a loss, though facing an 18-in-the-third scare from Olson. Brandon, too, was in three-game peril from last seed Carlo Brignardello who’d downed George “The Chief” Brathwaite and Barry Dattel to finish fourth.
In the last remaining Group, Sean stumbled a couple of times but secured a first-place finish. His stumbles? He was down 20-18 in the third to Perry Schwartzberg before winning four straight points, and he also had a close call with Quang Bui who, on the way to finishing second [Bui finished second?...or “on the way…he was upset (and so didn’t finish second?], suffered a heart-breaking and costly 30-point rating loss to Lim Ming Chui.” Ming also “barely beat an aging Errol Resek 19 in the third, and then defeated the eventual [unnamed] third-place finisher.” That third-place finisher (in point of time after the Resek win) was, as already stated, Bui? Or was the third-place finisher Schwartzberg? If Lim-Ming beat both Bui and Schwartzberg (as well as Resek), he would have come second. But he didn’t beat Schwartzberg, for Bakke says Chui didn’t advance: “If Quang hadn’t recorded a three-game victory over Perry, Lim-Ming, at 37, would have been the oldest competitor in this year’s Final 12.” Quang couldn’t have afforded to lose to both Chui and Schwartzberg—he’d have been out and Lim Ming in.
So, given that Sean was #1 in the Group, who advanced as #2 and #3? We know Quang was 2-1 with Perry and presumably with that “heartbreaking loss” he went three games with Chui, lost to him 1-2—and so finished 3-3. Perry—though it was unstated—must have beaten Lim Ming 2-0, so he totaled 3-2. And that would leave Chui at 2-1and 0-2—a 2-3 record. Which meant this finish: #1 Sean, #2 Perry, #3 Quang. If Perry had beaten Lim-Ming 2-1, all three would have finished 3-3 in games—and surely Scott would have drawn our attention to that. Later, we’ll see that, according to the Tournament Committee’s Final 12 draw, Schwartzberg finished 3rd in this Group, but that, according to Danny, he finished (I believe correctly) second.
[I’ll return to Bakke’s report on the Men’s Singles, which has an historic continuation best saved for last, but first I want to jump ahead to give you the results of the other events (a maximum of 32 tables were in use). First, the satellite Rating and Age events, then the Men’s Amateur, then the Men’s and Mixed Doubles.]
U-2350’s: Final: Lim-Ming Chui d. Carlo Brignardello, 9, -21, 14. Semi’s: Chui d. Todd Petersen, 15, 7; Brignardello d. Randy Seemiller, 13, -13, 13. U-2250’s: Final: Duc Luu d. Brignardello, -18, 16, 18. Semi’s: Luu d. Dan Wiig, 16, 13; Brignardello d. Errol Resek, 16, 14. U-2150’s: Final: James Therriault d. Dhiren Narotam, -20, 23, 18. Semi’s: Therriault d. Michael Baltaxe, 14, -18, 16; Narotam d. Houshang Bozorgzadeh. U-2050’s: Final: Narotam d. Therriault, n.s. Semi’s: Narotam d. Ron Von Schimmelman, 12, -12, 16; Therriault d. Bernie Bukiet, 13, -14, 13. U-1950’s: Final: Dana Jeffries d. George Kahanu, 7, 9. Semi’s: Jeffries d. Kim Gilbert, 20, 18; Kahanu d. Roland Schilhab, 21, 14. U-1900 Senior’s: Final: Darrell Fullbright d. Frank Suran, 18, 19. Semi’s: Fullbright d. James Scott, n.s.; Suran d. Vince McMenamy, n.s. U-1850’s: Final: Chi-Ming Chui d. J. Scott, -16, 14, 16. Semi’s: Chui d. Shonie Aki, 13, -19, 19; Scott d. Peter Graves, 15, 11.
U-1750’s: Thor Truelson d. McMenamy, 13, -13, 17. Semi’s: Truelson d. Tryg Truelson, 10, -14, 20; McMenamy d. Dennis Kaminsky, 16, 13. U-1650’s: Final: Bruce Maclaine d. William Freeman, 19, 13. Semi’s: Maclaine d. Cuong Nguyen, 15, 14; Freeman d. John Baker, 20, -9, 18. U-1600 Senior’s: Final: Edward Voice d. Heinz Kittel, 17, 10. Semi’s: Voice d. Harry McFarland, n.s.; Kittel d. Margaret Hzeih. U-1550’s: Final: Damir Kadija d. Dan Bryan, 16, 15. Semi’s: Kadija d. Rosario Truelson, 16, -20, 17; Bryan d. Chisae Hiraoka, 9, 7. U-3000 Doubles: Final: Karl/Wayne Schulz d. Keri Herman/Carol Plato, 21, 12. Semi’s: Schulz/Schulz d. Voice/Dan Kessler, 15, 15; Herman/Plato d. Ken Hoover/Don Nash, 13, -14, 18. U-1450’s: Final: Dennis Shapiro d. John Blake, 10, 16. Semi’s: Shapiro d. Kadija, 11, -15, 17; Blake d. Eric Owens, 19, 12. U-1300’s: Joseph Kozlowzski d. Howard Lindo, 9, 19. Semi’s: Kozlowski d. Randy Cohen, 14, 16; Lindo d. Michael Tealer, 19, 15. U-1100’s: Final: Cohen d. Charley Aebersold, -20, 19, 15. Semi’s; Cohen d. Hugh Scott, 18, 7; Aebersold d. Robby Johnston, 8, 15.
Over 80: 1. Oliver Nicholas. 2. Joel Mallory. 3. Charles McCallister. 4. Stan Morest. Over 70: Final: Robert Green d. William Walsh, 14, 11. Semi’s: Green d. Eugene Wilson, 20, 18; Walsh d. Wing Lock Koon, 15, 16. Over 60: Final: Michael Scott d. Y.C. Lee, -16, 17, 20. Semi’s: Scott d. Bill Rapp, 17, 19; Lee d. Fred Borges, 17, -15, 22.
The match between Seattle’s Dr. Michael Scott and Y.C. Lee, Director of the Chinese TTC in Los Angeles, had a strange opening twist to it (see Michael’s leprechaun-like article in TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 11). Playfully, since they knew their umpire, N.J.’s Harry Stern, was “not familiar with such prominent players as Y.C. Lee and M.J. Scott,” they decided to play a trick on him (Scott’s idea of course). Each pretended to be the other one. So when Mr. Stern at the beginning of their match announced ‘Service, Mr. Scott,’ it was actually Lee serving. After five-point play, Mr. Stern announced, ‘Service, Mr. Lee,’ though it was actually Scott serving. After ‘Mr. Lee’ (actually Scott) served twice, Mr. Stern called ‘Let!’ He looked at Mr. Lee (actually Lee) and said quizzically, ‘You can’t be Michael Scott. You must be Lee.’
Mr. Lee (actually Mr. Lee) acted very upset and placed his racket down. Then he indignantly approached Mr. Stern and protested, ‘Why can’t I be Michael Scott? Why must I be LEE?’ Though still not quite sure of himself, Mr. Stern replied, ‘Because Lee is a Chinese name and you look Chinese.’
Yes, Mr. Stern finally got the joke, the more so because Scott and Lee were laughing, and then Stern was too. Seeing the deuce-in-the-third result of the Scott-Lee 60’s final above, you might have been deceived into thinking they’d been two players in mortal combat, but really they were more like fun-loving comrades.
Over 50: Final: Bukiet d. Boggan, n.s. Semi’s: Bukiet d. Leon Ruderman, n.s.; Boggan d. Richard Puls, n.s. Over 50 Doubles: Boggan/Neil Smyth d. Don Chamberlin/Rich Livingston, 17, 18. Semi’s: Boggan/Smyth d. Lee/Ruderman, 16, 19; Chamberlin/Livingston d. Puls/Mac Horn, 17, 12. Over 40: Dell Sweeris d. George Brathwaite, 17, 17. Semi’s: Sweeris d. Von Schimmelman, 5, 16; Brathwaite d. Resek, -14, 16, 21. Over 40 Doubles: Final: Brathwaite/Bard Brenner d. Sweeris/Gunter Pawlowski, 14, 19. Semi’s: Brathwaite/Brenner d. Von Schimmelman/Marty Doss, -19, 21, 15; Sweeris/Pawlowski d. Ichiro Hashimoto/Nick Mintsiveris, 14, 19. Over 30: Final: Malek d. Brathwaite, 13, 17. Semi’s: Malek d. Sakai, 13, 17; Brathwaite d.Chui, 11, -22, 16.
Hard Rubber: Final: Bozorgzadeh d. Tim Boggan, 19, 12. Semi’s: Bozorgzadeh d. Chui, -12, 19, 17; Boggan d. Barry Dattel, 15, -15, 15.
“Brian Masters and Randy Seemiller practice frequently at the Resident Training Program in Lake Placid, so, knowing one another’s games so well, it’s no wonder when they play a tournament match it turns out to be a crowd pleaser. Although Randy won a superb 17, 20 quarter’s match over Sean O’Neill, then a tense down-to-the-wire, -9, 19, 19 semi’s from Khoa Nguyen, it was Brian, 1983 National Amateur of the Year, who got by Quang Bui in three, then 17, 17 prevailed over Randy in the final.”
“The left-handed looping team of Brian Masters and Quang Bui, stepping it up a notch from their runner-up position in 1984, edged the Butler brothers in a -20, 18, 13 final. Scott and Jimmy had -15, 10, 10 rallied in their semi’s to rout the Seemiller brothers, Danny and Ricky, Men’s Doubles Champions at the first eight Closeds. In the other semi’s, Eric Boggan and Sean O’Neill, whom many expected would play the Seemillers in the final, couldn’t combine their talents well enough to thwart Masters and Bui, and so the lefties reigned supreme.
In perhaps the most unbelievable upset of the tournament, six-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champions Danny Seemiller and Insook Bhushan dropped a deuce-in-the-3rd final to the talented Amateur Athletes of the Year, Sean O’Neill and Diana Gee. Many agreed that because of nerves Insook served into the net at deuce; and for the final point Diana whizzed a forehand loop by Danny who, as we’ll see shortly, could hardly have been at his best at this late stage of play. It was the first time he and Insook had ever lost to another U.S. team, and many feel that, whether or not they have each passed their peaks, they are still the ultimate mixed doubles competition. Although they played shakily, they still had enough control and experience to have repeated for the seventh time in nine years. But Sean and Diana played admirably for the win and make a strong duo as well. Think these two pairs will be meeting again?”
Final 12 Men’s Singles Round Robins
The last set of round robins consisted of two Groups of six—a wise decision by co-Tournament Directors Dennis Masters and Dan Simon who, along with their helpers, must be congratulated on a job well done. The players were pleased that their request for an alternative to the tiring two-pronged Men’s Team Trials/Men’s Singles format used the last two years had been heard. [Actually, Scott’s got this all wrong—the players were NOT pleased by these multiple round robins that looked to combine National Team Squad (NTS) standings with the Men’s Singles.] But not Dennis or Dan or any of the Final 12 players could foretell the controversy that would occur under this format, and the shattering effect and consequences it would have on some of the players, especially Danny Seemiller and Perry Schwartzberg.
In Group A, in an effort to keep nepotism from affecting who made the National Team Squad, the Boggan brothers played first. Scott managed to rattle Eric 21-15 in the first and almost won the match in the second, but lost that game 23-21. Despite not playing for weeks at a time last fall, Scott didn’t appear to be too out of practice. But even when he is, he’s still one of Eric’s most formidable challengers. Third game to Eric, 21-18.
Next, Eric faced a stubborn Brandon Olson who, in their Duneland meeting the month before, had rallied at the five-game end to give Eric a knockout blow. Again they split games, moved to the deciding third, but this time Brandon, unable to land several backhand loops because of an uncooperative net, bowed out at 11.
After surviving these two three-game matches, Eric went on to defeat his other challengers—thrashing Quang Bui 8 and 6; downing Randy Seemiller 19 and 14; and annihilating Brian Masters 2 and 14. Quang stopped Scott, deuce in the third, for the valued crossover position.
In Group B, immediately after Danny’s opening 18-in-the-3rd win over his brother, Ricky, upsets became the order of the day. Of course, best of three matches gives the lower-rated player a better chance. The all-out turmoil that occurred, however, resulted from several unexpected outcomes—though surely through the years you’d expect players and spectators to realize that at Caesars Palace, just as in Rome, the ruling class is not assured of anything.
Perry started off the surge by thwarting Danny in a brilliant three-game display of wits and tactics. [No, Perry started off against Sean.] Seemiller was immediately in a disadvantageous position while his Lake Placid training partner and good friend was jubilant over his rare win against the five-time National Champion.
Danny managed to recover against Jimmy Butler, but how he managed one wonders. Down 11-4 in the third after barely pulling out the second, Danny somehow shook off his depressing loss to Perry and escaped the menace of Butler.
Schwartzberg, meanwhile, decided to celebrate his victory over Danny by defeating Sean O’Neill as well. This he did, playing incredibly well en route to an -18, 13, 16 win. Could he be this year’s new National Champion? He seemed to be playing at the peak of his game. After stunning the top two seeds, he needed only one more win to advance to the Final Four. And now against Ricky he had three match points, was three times only one point away from making the semi’s, when the roof over the playing venue literally caved in—dealing a crushing not physical but mental blow to Perry and setting the stage for a tremendous storm of adversity.
No, Perry did not get that last point against Ricky. But he had another chance remaining. Except that Jimmy Butler was emerging as the new U.S. star at this tournament, and his bristling self-confidence forced Perry into another crucial loss—and this time a (-19, -19) straight-game one. [This match was that close? Danny also wrote (in his Letter to Disciplinary Chair Wendell Dillon you’ll soon see) that these were the scores. But someone else wrote that Schwartzberg’s play against Butler was “dispirited,” and Perry’s own Letter to Dillon (you’ll also see) would seem to indicate that.
In the meantime, Sean, with only the one loss to Perry, rebounded to finish off both Jimmy and Allen Kaichi, and, since Danny also downed Allen, he, like Sean, had only one loss. When Ricky failed to beat either Sean or Jimmy, his three losses would not give him any chance to advance. Meanwhile, Jimmy, with a 3-2 record, awaited developments.
There remained two matches that were of significance. Perry had strong prospects of a 3-2 record for he would play Kaichi and was a 300-point favorite. Danny and Sean, both with one loss, were playing their last match for the #1 spot…except for one complication. If Danny won, he’d (4-1) finish #1 and Sean (3-2) would finish #2. No complication there. Why? Because in the three-way (3-2) tie, Sean’s 3-2 games record was better than Jimmy’s 2-2 and Perry’s 2-3. If, however, Sean won his match with Danny, he’d finish #1and Danny would be in a three-way (3-2) tie for #2 between himself, Perry, and Jimmy. In that case, Jimmy would advance because his 3-2 record was better than Danny’s 3-3 or Perry’s 2-3. The one complication was that Perry had not yet beaten Kaichi, and should he somehow lose to him there would be a two-way 3-2 tie, in which case Danny would advance because he’d beaten Jimmy head-to head.
Perry, unable to advance in any tie-breaker regardless of who came second, on seeing his longtime friend Danny in serious trouble near the end of his third game with Sean, had slowed his match with Kaichi down to a crawl. Then, as he watched Danny lose, he knew the only way he could help him was by defaulting his own match. That would give him three losses, and now there’d be only a two-way 3-2 tie-breaker, and Danny would advance. But could Perry do that—default?...With extenuating circumstances, he could, and did. [These circumstances, and the ramifications resulting from them, I, Tim, will describe in detail shortly.]
Perry’s default created sheer bedlam and pandemonium as a squall of spectators and tournament officials, confused, tried to realize how and why this had happened. Obviously, though, Perry’s default that moved not Jimmy but Danny into the Final Four, had placed the entire event in a terrible light.
For Danny, Jimmy, and Table Tennis, it was a tragedy, but the show did go on. After a painful resolution on Danny’s part—a National Singles title here would have given him a $6,000 bonus from his Butterfly sponsor—he realized Jimmy deserved to advance over him, and he stepped aside to restore justice to what was otherwise referred to as Black Saturday.
If there were modern-day gladiators, then Danny would have to qualify as a heroic one. He resisted the temptation of accepting the wrong solution to a situation that was extremely stressful to himself, but even more so to Jimmy. Indeed, Danny, though favored with partners Ricky and Insook, was so devastated he was unable to win either the Men’s or Mixed Doubles that followed.
[USTTA E.C. Players Rep Sheila O’Dougherty echoed Scott when she said (TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 18):
“…Danny’s final decision to drop out of a proposed play-off match with Jimmy and allow him to move into the crossovers was based on his feeling that although the situation was terribly unfair to him it was even more unfair to Jimmy. [The situation was “terribly unfair” to Danny? Well, not according to the questionable format, not if you think Perry should have and would have beaten Kaichi; but unfair in that the situation psychically teased and tortured Danny, made him terribly distraught.] Danny agonized over his decision at length and was emotionally devastated to the point of stating, ‘This has been the worst day of my life.’
To be U.S. Champion for so many years demands a drive and inability to accept defeat that made this decision especially difficult. I would like to thank Danny for making a very tough and courageous decision. I feel it was the morally right choice which is needed to retain confidence in the integrity of players and the validity of table tennis. It should serve as an example to young players in determining the spirit of competition. Hopefully, Danny will continue to compete and eventually devote himself to full time coaching, so that he may always be an active force in the development of table tennis in the United States.”]
Crossover Men’s Semi’s
The match between Sean and Quang featured all-out displays of power, and although much of the play was hard-fought and close, Sean prevailed, 20, 15, 21.
On the next table over, however, in the match between Defending Champion Eric and 14-year old phenom Jimmy there was no such predictable result.
It was back at the ’78 Nationals, also at Caesars, when the then 15-year-old Boggan dominated the Junior events on his way to upsetting Danny Seemiller in the Men’s Singles final. Some witnesses still refer to it as the wildest final of the ‘70’s.
Here, in this seven-year-later semifinal, Jimmy was about to pull out the upset of the ‘80’s. As well as Jimmy had been playing, however, the spectators at these Nationals seemed to believe Eric’s world-class experience and deadly anti would carry him over the young Butler to a showdown with Sean. But in a thrilling, five-game see-saw battle, Jimmy played—at times—out of his mind, and a new, youngest-ever finalist would oppose O’Neill.
Jimmy won the match through superb counter-punching off his backhand, and his ability to effectively return Eric’s serves, while also utilizing all parts of his game.
After dropping the first game, he succeeded in coming from behind in the second to win at deuce. In the third, Jimmy—really feeling the pressure—went for bad, impulsive shots and Eric cruised to a 21-7 win.
The fourth game saw Jimmy trail 9-12, but then he impressively scored consecutive winners off Eric’s anti and, encouraged, moved into a 16-14 lead. Then, however, he carelessly missed his own serve, and Eric followed with a dead-loop winner. At 17-all, the turning point of the match occurred when Eric pushed a backhand that rolled along the top of the net (as if having to decide three or four times whether to go over or not), then fell back on Boggan’s side of the table.
Jimmy then had the serve and a 19-17 lead, but, surprise, Eric played three spectacular shots to go up game point. The spectators were breathless. The more so when Jimmy made one of the best tactical moves of his young career. When Eric served for the match, he moved to his left to loop follow, but Jimmy, anticipating this, returned the ball to Eric’s far forehand, catching him off guard and so won that point, and then two more in succession to send the match into the fifth.
Now it was all Butler as he unstoppably created leads of 6-1, 9-2, and 12-4 before Eric scrappily fought back. But Jimmy, up 12-8, was still too relaxed to choke, and he ran out the match at 11, all the while demonstrating quiet intensity and terrific poise. [My son Eric’s life was about to change, and this defeat, after eight straight years as champion or foremost challenger, coupled with the fact that new rules would prevent him from continuing to play in the Bundesliga, thus leading him to semi-retirement and a four-year enrollment in and graduation from Long Island University, was one of the factors I think that contributed to the change.]
Despite the controversial playing format, Sean and Jimmy, the two youngest in the Final 12, indisputably earned, and so deserved, to be the stars of this year’s 10th U.S. Closed Men’s Singles event. Together they were responsible for ending, or at least interrupting, Danny and Eric’s lengthy reign. [Though Danny and Eric would continue to have their triumphs, neither would ever again be the U.S. Men’s Singles Champion.]
Unlike Eric, Sean had been playing Jimmy frequently and knew how good he could be. Jimmy came from behind to take the first game—but Sean never let him keep pace afterwards and won the next three games 11, 10, 18, thus earning the $1,800 first prize, while Jimmy got $1,400 for second. The final standings were: 3rd place: Bui ($1,200) over Eric Boggan ($1,000), 11, 18, 9 [as we’ll see later, this match provoked controversy]; 5th place: Scott Boggan ($900) over Brandon Olson ($800), 19, -18, 11, 17; 7th place: Rick Seemiller ($700) over Dan Seemiller ($600), def.; 9th place: Randy Seemiller ($500) over Brian Masters ($400), 14, 9, -23, 19; 11th place: Kaichi ($300) over Schwartzberg ($200), def.
All in all, the ’85 U.S. Nationals will be remembered as the tournament that contained an ending to Danny and Eric’s famous battles and the emergence of two new stars in Sean and Jimmy. This year’s final was clearly an inspiration to America’s youth, as both Sean and Jimmy represent great role models to other dedicated Junior players.”
This U.S. National’s will also be remembered for Perry Schwartzberg’s default, and for what he and others had to say about it. I want to give everyone involved a say, but to do that I have to avoid unnecessary repetition and so need sometimes to condense and summarize.
I’ll begin with Dick Evans’s Dec. 21 letter [dated Saturday showing Dick’s immediate outrage] to Wendell Dillon, Chair of the USTTA Disciplinary Committee (copies to the E.C.):
“Thank you, Perry Schwartzberg, for a lesson in class, in what makes our sport great, in what our USTTA President referred to in accepting his (Dec. 20th) induction into the Hall of Fame as ‘the pursuit of excellence.’ Thanks, Perry, for what you tried to do to little Jimmy Butler, to the innocent Allen Kaichi, and to your friend, Danny Seemiller, who cried in sadness and humiliation. Thanks, Perry, but no thanks!
I want this letter to be considered a formal request for disciplinary action. I want Perry Schwartzberg immediately expelled from the Lake Placed Training Program and be subjected to any other action the Disciplinary and Executive Committees find appropriate. I do not want one penny of USTTA money to support such unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Evans’s Dec. 21st letter to Dillon drew this Jan. 4th response from E.C. member Mel Eisner who’d not been present to see Perry’s default or attend the Meeting that followed:
“…For you to send a ‘formal request for disciplinary action’ to the Disciplinary Chairman, and to include in it an emotional, sarcastic, vitriolic paragraph designed to incite, does not represent anything that this country and its traditions are based on. [How about speaking your mind?] You are attempting to act as prosecutor, judge, jury and hangman under the guise of a ‘formal request.’ And immediately, please! And you distribute same, i.e. your emotions, to the E.C. This is not the action of one mature in years—one who has gained the knowledge and experience to act with deliberation, with fairness, and with a sense of justice.
…All the facts are not yet revealed. There were plenty of witnesses—let their testimony, as well as that from Perry himself, be the basis for a judgment. If the facts call for severe and lasting punishment—then so be it.
But I do not share your approach to what could be a very serious upheaval in the life of an individual. What is now to be done should be done with great care, great understanding, and as much information as is humanly possible.”
Mel’s letter in turn prompted a Jan. 12th reply from Evans’s friend Rufford Harrison:
“I do agree that Dick appears to be attempting to act as prosecutor and judge, but disagree that he should not have written what he did. He was, after all, there. He does know, or thinks he knows, what Perry did. And he therefore has the right, in fact the obligation, to write to the Disciplinary Committee….
So Dick wrote emotionally. I don’t consider that as bad of him as you do, since at this stage it is not his job to be unemotional. At this stage he should let the DC know exactly how he felt—how a spectator felt at the time, and therefore just possibly how others—the general public—could have felt. The DC needs to know that. If no one were emotional about this sort of thing, nothing would happen.
I fully agree with you that what is done should be done humanly and with understanding. It is the DC’s job to do that….
Harrison’s letter then got the following Jan. 20th response from Dick:
“I saw the incident—I’ve seen Perry do similar things in the past. I have a right to express my feelings and my wishes in the matter. I did so. If that makes me all the things Mel says, so be it. I’ll accept the responsibility.
If I had the authority to make a decision on the matter, I would suspend Perry for a year with all the penalties such a suspension would involve, including dismissal from all USTTA-funded programs and eligibility for the 1987 World’s, and I would look at his attitude and behavior when he is re-instated with a view toward evaluating him for future USTTA-funded programs. In my opinion he made a huge mistake and it is symptomatic of Perry’s character, which I find deficient.”
On Dec. 22, Earl Adams, Umpire for the Saturday Schwartzberg-Kaichi match, wrote the following Report to U.S. Open Referee Ralph Spratt:
“…Both Perry and Allen proceeded to their table, at which time Perry requested permission to leave the area for a drink—he returned in approximately five minutes. The match then proceeded in a normal manner, Perry winning the first game easily. At the first game interval, Perry again asked if he could get a drink—I gave him my permission and he left the area for approximately five minutes.
At the start of the second game, there was a perceivable change in Perry’s attitude toward his match. He instituted a series of delaying actions, toweling, pacing the area, seemingly unable to get ready for each point. [He’s obviously been stalling from the beginning. Is the possibility of a default already beginning to form in his mind?] As the second game proceeded to a point ¾ through the game, with Allen ahead 16-14, it was apparent to me that Perry was more interested in the match on another table between Danny and Sean. I therefore officially warned him to cease his delaying actions.
Within several minutes after my warning, the Danny-Sean match concluded. Perry immediately ‘dumped’ four or five points allowing Allen to win the second game.
During the interval prior to the start of the second and third game, I observed Allen talking to Sue Butler, but heard none of the conversation.
The interval lasted about a minute, then, as I was preparing to get the third game underway, I was approached by Perry, who said: “I have to default the match.” No reason was given. [Did Adams ask for one?] I immediately went over to Allen and informed him that he had won the match by default. I then turned in the match results to the control desk and informed the Tournament Referee.”
On Dec. 30, Tom Baudry of the USTTA Disciplinary Committee responds to the complaint filed against Schwartzberg by Dick Evans:
“…The consequences of Perry Schwartzberg’s default caused Dan Seemiller to go into the Final Four and kept out Jim Butler who would have gone in if Perry had won the match. It was obvious Perry had dumped to help a friend. The Tournament Directors were upset, the Referee was upset, some players were upset, and a meeting was held to obtain more facts and to determine the best course of action to take in order to conclude the tournament.
The meeting was conducted by Ralph Spratt, the Tournament Referee, and attended by: Erich Haring, Asst. Referee; Dennis Master and Dan Simon, Tournament Directors; Tim Boggan, USTTA President; Earl Adams, Umpire; and Tom Baudry, Member of the USTTA Disciplinary Committee.
Perry was called in and he stated that the pressure of the Round Robin System was just too much. He was upset and confused and wanted to help his friend Dan. Perry also mentioned that he heard suggestions from Sue Butler that Kaichi default the match to Perry. [Referee Spratt felt that Schwartzberg had “panicked at the thought that Kaichi might throw the match, and as a result both Perry and his best friend Danny had to pay a price for their stupidity.” As far as Perry’s prize-money was concerned, he stated that his default moved him to a 12th –place position, and that he should be allowed the $200 he’d earned to reach the Final 12 (at the moment, however, Perry’s prize money has been held back).
Dick and Sue Butler came in next and denied [sic] suggesting to Kaichi that he default the match. They were appalled at the whole situation and hoped that something could be done to rectify Jim Butler’s predicament.
Allen Kaichi was then called in and asked if anyone had suggested that he default the match. He answered, ‘No,’ [sic] and stated that he was confused as to why Perry was stalling. He said he heard people saying that Perry was going to dump the match because Danny was losing his match with Sean.
Dan Seemiller was then called in and was visibly shaken and in tears over the situation. He was asked if he knew beforehand that Perry would default to help him advance to the semi’s. He said he did not. He was irrational due to being so upset, and threatened to sue if we pulled him out of the tournament and took any action against Perry. Ralph Spratt calmed him down and then suggested a playoff match the following [Sunday] morning between Dan and Jim Butler—“the only parties that stood to gain or lose due to the default.” [Think the Butlers will go for that?] Ralph suggested that Dan relax and think it over before giving us his answer. Ralph wanted Dan to volunteer for the rematch rather than be forced into it. The rematch idea was agreed on by all in the room as the best possible solution to the immediate problem.
Allen Kaichi was recalled into the room and was asked to be totally honest with us. He then said that Sue Butler did suggest he default [sic] so that Jim would go into the Final Four. This was suggested after it was obvious [sic: but see Pam Simon’s opposite point of view below] that Perry was going to default. We thanked him for his honesty and concluded the meeting. The proposed rematch in the morning did not take place—Dan defaulted, and Jimmy advanced.
I believe the unsportsmanlike conduct by Perry Schwartzberg cast a cloud on the balance of the tournament. The finals were quiet due to lack of audience participation; there was no enthusiasm. It was the Championship of the United States, but something was wrong; it was lackluster and the tournament had definitely lost something. I want to commend Ralph Spratt for a difficult job well done. The Tournament Directors did a great job keeping the lid on and things flowing. I believe the people suffered because of Perry’s actions and that he deserves to be disciplined in some manner.”
On Jan. 2, Pam Simon, Dan’s daughter and a good friend of Perry’s, wrote Disciplinary Chair Dillon:
“It has just recently been brought to my attention that Mrs. Butler has led everyone to believe that she said Kaichi should have defaulted—but she claims she said this after Perry had walked off the table and not before. I was sitting a few feet away from her and what she says is just not true.
Perry was standing on the far side of the table ready to start the third game and Mrs. Butler was standing up and yelling very loudly to Kaichi, ‘Perry is going to dump. You default! Default now!’ Kaichi said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘If Perry dumps that will put Jimmy in third place!’ Perry heard all this and then walked off the table, defaulting. I feel that Mrs. Butler pressured Perry into taking that action.
If Mrs. Butler had said those things after Perry defaulted, then what was Perry’s motive for walking off the table—he could have just lost the third game like any other athlete whose heart is not into winning.
Perry may be viewed as displaying poor sportsmanship, but isn’t it also poor sportsmanship to yell to an athlete to default? Is any disciplinary action going to be taken against Mrs. Butler for encouraging an athlete to default?” [Problem is: both from Perry’s dumping action last year and his suspicious actions this year, Sue Butler has every reason to panic a little and try to protect her own.]
On Jan.6, Bob Partridge—apparently a member of the Disciplinary Committee—writes to Wendell, says he’s inclined to take some disciplinary action, but doesn’t know what that should be:
“…I also feel that Sue Butler should be reprimanded for inserting herself into the situation and causing Perry to default. [It seems to me it’s not just Sue who’s causing Perry to default in this manner but troubled Perry himself.]
I talked to Tom Miller who was the Chief Umpire and he gave me some interesting information: 1. Kaichi beat Schwartzberg in last year’s Nationals, so the possibility existed that he could have beaten him without the default [but last year Perry went on to a 2-9 record in the Final 12, showed no competitive drive, and tried to default against Danny and in effect did; whereas from the beginning that wasn’t the way he was playing this year, nor was it the way this year’s match between the two was playing out, as Perry, with his 300-point rating advantage, easily won the first game from Kaichi.
2. Eric Boggan dumped to Quang Bui in a match that he didn’t want to play and meant nothing anyway [well, $200]. No one complained about that. [And why, since there’s no parallel and given the circumstances, should anyone have expected that Eric, having just lost his U.S. title, would want to play?] 3. Sue Butler’s face was contorted with emotion as she almost insisted that Kaichi default to Perry. 4. The whole affair is an indictment of this system for selecting a U.S. Champion, since the actions of a single individual can prejudice the outcome.”
On Jan.7, Dan Seemiller sent a hand-written letter to the Disciplinary Committee:
“…It’s my feeling that we players were not prepared well enough with regard to the format that was used. This format was a highly complex one, with difficult and potentially dangerous situations forced onto the players. In all my playing days I can never remember being in more intense, explosive situations.
Combining the Team Trial and National Championship is a big mistake. Too many possibilities—2/3 matches, tiebreakers, matches that pit brother against brother, friend against friend. I can understand that in a Team Trial some of these circumstances can’t be avoided, but why bring them into the National Championship? [Referee Spratt agreed, urged that in the future the Men’s Championship follow a knock-out format.] The combining of these two competitions, which ought to be kept separate, was the major factor for the just-ended “debacle’ in Vegas.
Why did it happen?
1) Not enough communication between the top players and the Tournament Committee.
2) So many tie-break possibilities. It was mind-boggling. I was involved in literally at least 30 or 40 different outcomes over the last two rounds. [And what if there’s an error or omission or two in the scoring? Consider the bit of difficulty I had above in trying to sort out the results of Sean’s First Stage Group?]
3) Danny, Ricky, and Perry were in the same Final 12 round robin Group of 6. Also, in this Group there was a mistake causing an imbalance. From the First Stage round robin there were supposed to be advancing to each Group two #1’s, two #2’s, and two #3’s. But our Group actually had two #1’s, three #2’s, and one #3 because Perry, a #2, was erroneously considered a #3 advancer. Eric’s Group had 2 #1’s, 1 #2, and 3 #3’s. These mistakes created an imbalance in the draw.
4) Of course I have to play Ricky first, then Perry second (Perry’s been my practice partner and roommate for five years). A system that arranges such start-off matches—against a brother and a close friend is unfair to us. Mentally it’s tough to knock out or be knocked out by each other. I think the Trials and the U.S. Championships must be separated—they’re not the same.
5) I felt the system may have worked if the matches were 3/5. I’d asked Dennis Masters for months about this, but he said there wasn’t time to play 3/5s. The 2/3 matches tightened the whole process—games, even points would probably come into play. Friendships would be tested, brothers ready to come to blows….
6) In this system players were rarely on equal terms. Previous matches and their game scores always gave a positional advantage. When I played Sean, he was already in and I wasn’t. Even though we’d both lost one match he had already advanced. Sean had occasion to remind me of this at crucial stages of our match. Jimmy Butler played my brother when Ricky was already mathematically eliminated, but Perry and I played him when he was right in the thick of it and playing like a tiger. There were literally 20 other examples of this. From a player’s standpoint such timing is of critical concern.
7) This format has been used in previous World Cup play, often with disastrous and embarrassing moments—it generates dumping and unsportsmanlike conduct.
8) Mrs. Butler’s intervention telling Kaichi to default triggered the fiasco. [A case can be made that it was Perry’s actions, past and present, that triggered it. At the very last U.S. Closed, leading Danny 1-0 and hanging in there close as the second game came down to the wire, Perry had been VERY disturbed over a questionable readjusting of the score in Danny’s favor, whereupon he just gave up the match, said he was defaulting. When I intervened, told him he’d have to also default all his remaining round robin matches, he continued, but didn’t play a real point the rest of the match. I was irritated of course and when I asked him for an explanation, he said, “Danny wanted the Championship more than I did.” ]
9) Even though Kaichi beat Schwartzberg in last year’s Team Trials, this year’s unfinished match between the two looked to be closer than one might expect. [What might one expect if Kaichi beat Schwartzberg last year? What’s the logical follow-up to that thought? Surely, you don’t mean to suggest that, though Kaichi was the favorite, Schwartzberg, as expected, would put up a good fight? The thinking behind the words isn’t clear.]
10) Perry’s decision to default, I think, was not pre-meditated, but was a frustrated reaction to what he felt was a hopeless situation. I feel any action taken against Schwartzberg would not be right.”
On Jan. 12, Danny sent a typed letter to the E.C. saying that Perry would like a hearing with them. He explained how, after Perry’s two opening wins against Sean and Danny, his deuce-in-the-third loss, after he’d had three match points, “hurt him immeasurably and threw Ricky, Perry, and myself into a whirlwind of possible tie-breakers with two rounds to go [these rounds to be played the next day]. He had to sleep on it. He didn’t sleep much; he was nervous.
The next day he played Jim Butler in a big swing match. He lost 19, 19. Because of this 0-2 loss he was eliminated, had no chance for the crossover—in every tie-breaker situation, he couldn’t make it. His house of cards had fallen—he was out of title contention.
In this state of dejection and a bit confused about the tie-breaks [what was he confused about?], he now had to play Kaichi. In last year’s Tryouts Allen had beaten Perry. This year, regardless of the outcome of their match, Kaichi would finish 6th, so this match meant nothing to him, little to Perry. [Little to Perry? That’s not true, for if he lost it, there would not be a 3-2 three-way tie with Jimmy advancing but a 3-2 two-way tie with Danny advancing to have a chance for another U.S. Men’s title. And I can’t believe Perry was confused about that.]
This match did determine the fate of Jim Butler and myself. I’m Perry’s coach and longtime friend. Just being put in this situation frightened Perry. He didn’t know how to react, to play. [There’s the rub. Personal loyalty loomed as large, or larger, to him than doing what was expected of him as a player in this format.]
Perry was confused and disoriented at the beginning of this match. [Confused about what? About whether to try to beat Kaichi obviously.] He did try and won the first game. Allen didn’t seem to be trying too hard, he was weak. Perry lost the second game at 17. He still wanted to win, but things started to happen. [First and foremost was Perry’s second-game loss to Kaichi.] Mrs. Butler called Kaichi over between games and told him to default to Perry. Apparently she felt Perry was dumping to help me. Kaichi looked stunned.
Then in an absolutely dazed state, Perry felt that he should default to protect me. This was a mistake. In his mind he actually thought Kaichi was going to default. Allen did not play hard at all the first two games. [Then how did he beat Perry at 17 that second game?] So much had happened to Perry in the past 30 hours that when Mrs. Butler was telling Kaichi to “Default! Default!” Perry defaulted.
Later, I called Perry and we discussed whether I should withdraw. [Dick Butler, not surprisingly, had a talk with Danny about that same subject.] It was a bad system—so unfair and difficult situations had to occur. I asked Perry, ‘Is there any chance that Kaichi could have won if you played 100 times?’ He said, ‘No.’ I withdrew—I protected him the way [sic] he protected me. [I don’t think so.]
Perry’s decision was wrong and he is sorry that he did it. Lake Placid is very important to him; without it he can’t continue. He’s given his whole life to table tennis. Please don’t take it away because of this one mistake. Thank you.
Also on Jan. 12th, Perry sends a Letter to Wendell Dillon explaining his side of the story. He begins by saying, “I now see how stupid and unsubstantial my actions actually were, but at the moment of reckoning my decision-making abilities had been lost. I apologize greatly for my actions. [In the past, he’s apologized publicly for other actions he’s done at tournaments.] And I only hope that no one ever has to go through the same hell that I did.”
He emphasizes that he didn’t enter the Men’s Amateur or the Hard Rubber Singles because he wanted to concentrate entirely on winning the Men’s Singles. If he were to lose in either of those events, he said, his ego would surely suffer and affect his chances of winning the National title. “Some players can lose and still come back to play (Sean and Jimmy, for example). However, it takes an important element to help them come back—a strong support team. I possess none. When I lose, in the words of another top player, ‘I feel as if God is blowing his nose at me.’ And because of this, my ability to play after losing has never been one of my strong points. When I lose, please let me leave. I believe that other competitors in other sports (boxing, tennis, etc.) may feel the same way. But in any case I do believe that my lack of a support group (or even a coach!) led to my eventual downfall, for the weight that was thrust onto my shoulders was far too much for me to bear at the time.
After coming out of initial round-robin group, with strange things happening to me, such as Ray Guillen’s default to me (after over an hour), and also Quang Bui’s position being switched with mine in the final grouping (I was scheduled to play Sean, Danny, and then Ricky). [But considering how extremely well you played all three of them, it’s hard to believe these “strange things” could have bothered you…until you failed to advance.]…
For some reason, the Tournament Directors split the 6-man round robin into two days’ play. I had to sleep on those three match points I lost to Ricky. I did not sleep well. Next day I did not feel well; wasn’t ready to go against Jimmy—didn’t even like the assigned table. Only negative thoughts entered my brain. I did not see myself as a master of my destiny, but instead felt myself being pulled into the current, into the undertow—I felt myself drowning. And who was there to tell me otherwise? No one, that’s who. For even the small support group that I did have (my coach and friend Dan, his brothers, my Lake Placid teammates) were all busy fighting their own little wars. Except against Jimmy, Ricky wasn’t the fighting tiger I had faced. Rick went down like a kitten. Why couldn’t I have gotten the kitten? Well, you win some and you lose some. I lost. Again.
And still the System wanted me to play. Without my ego, without my spirit. And play to destroy the wants of my coach and best friend. Danny had lost to Sean after Sean was already assured of advancing and Danny wasn’t. Not exactly an even fight. And with Sean’s usual conduct, Danny got nervous and lost. Only one match left.
Kaichi didn’t have any fire, any fight. He was just like me, wondering what we were doing out there. I won the first and although I lost the second, I felt that I would win the match. I felt sick. And I’m sure that I looked nauseous, for I had never felt so bad, so lousy, so in limbo.
And then I heard Mrs. Butler tell Allen to default. She was trying to protect her son as best she could. In my muddled mind, egoless, spiritless, I envisioned Allen running to the umpire and declaring, ‘I default!’ So feeling sick, no longer feeling up to playing, I, in my infinite wisdom, beat him to it. Can you believe this? I protected my team. I had just a moment before regretted taking Danny out, and now I reacted for his needs. ‘It takes more energy to act than to react….’And so, with Mrs. Butler’s action, her move, I (being a speed chess and ping-pong player) reacted, countered, took my shot…right or wrong, I reacted.
O course after Danny dropped out of the tournament (as I actually feel he maybe should have) and I was defaulted, I have great sorrow and hurt for those I could have hurt. [You’re not sure there were very many?] I apologize to whomever I hurt either directly or indirectly. Only I do not apologize to the System. It is cursed and should be abolished if table tennis is to be considered a class sport. The only people hurt [sic] were myself, Danny, and maybe in some strange way Eric Boggan. For he was the only player to lose and not get another chance. But then again maybe he wouldn’t really have wanted it.”
I, Tim, also did a write-up regarding the default, but, as it would be mostly a repeat of what you’ve already read. I’ll just add that, after losing that close match to Ricky, Perry began to lose it, began to suspend himself…until finally—what?—more and more he began to feel the imperfections in the venue, the format, the players, the opposing spectators, and, most of all, in himself, and literally just did not want to go on.
Though you might agree that others directly or indirectly contributed to Perry’s action (including me, who last year perhaps should have insisted on bringing Perry’s give-up not just to the E.C. but to the Disciplinary Committee)—I think that when all is said and done Perry’s action—undeniably wrong—is undeniably Perry’s responsibility…and that without question he should be disciplined appropriately.
Just what “appropriately” is, taking into consideration this context and Perry’s lifelong contribution to our sport, is not perhaps an easy matter for the Disciplinary Committee to decide. As Oscar Wilde said long before he got to Reading Gaol, “Truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
To bring a close to this chapter, I must say I haven’t a copy of the Disciplinary Committee’s decision as to Perry’s punishment, but I know he didn’t contest it. He was officially requested “to leave Lake Placid no later than Mar. 23.” I also know what Bill Hodge wrote in his “Hodge Podge” column (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1986, 21):
“Perry will lose his $200 prize money and will be ineligible for any USTTA or USOTC support. He will be allowed to participate in any USTTA tournament as an individual but may not represent the USTTA in any competition. He may also not participate in any training, coaching, or other activity funded by the USTTA or USOC, but will remain eligible to run for office…end of story."
Well, almost. Emily Cale pointed out to me that Election candidate Perry (and also Sue Butler and Dell Sweeris) had not purchased by Jan.1 the membership valid for their entire term of office as they were supposed to. But I’ll see those memberships are taken care of and I don’t anticipate and don’t want to consider any nit-picking about their ignorance or negligence regarding such a rule.
Dick Evans, too, wasn’t quite finished with Schwartzberg. At the Mar. 14-16 E.C. Meeting, he’ll make a motion that during Schwartzberg’s six-month suspension he not be allowed to play in tournaments even as an individual. Seconded by Bill Hodge—but it failed 3-5-1. O’Dougherty moved that Perry’s suspension start not May 1 but Mar. 23. This failed 1-8. Evans moved that Schwartzberg not be allowed to hold E.C. office. When this motion died for lack of a second, they were done with him.