- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
1947: Pre-National’s Tournaments. 1947: Dick Miles/Leah Thall Win National’s. 1947: Eddie Pinner/Peggy McLean Take Pennsylvania Open. 1947: USTTA Building Its Hopes On Mid-Western Novice Tournament.
On coming home, our U.S. Team members (Pagliaro and Hawthorn excepted, for they’d not be going to Chicago) hadn’t much time, with sea legs left behind, to balance themselves and their baggage anew, for surely thoughts of the Windy City National’s, beginning Mar. 28, had to hurry them along.
There’d been only one Topics-reported tournament in the East in the intervening month—the Mar. 8-9th New England Open at the Springfield Y. Charlie Schmidt had beaten Les Lowry deuce in the 5th in the Men’s, and Corrine Delery had stopped Alice Dwyer in 4 in the Women’s.
Out on the West Coast, in the Feb. 22-23 Southern California Open, held at the Long Beach Polytechnic High School gym, Ham Canning sharpened up for the National’s by sticking it to Frank Nemes in a 5-game semi, then quickly finished off Charles Engler. Katharine Linsley said goodbye to a slow-starting Jane Little, stopping her 24-22-in-the-3rd comeback, then, in the final, despite losing the first two games at deuce, rallied to down Jean Hermann. Bill Bower won the Senior’s, Ronald Nissley the Boys’. Men’s Doubles went to Dr. Monroe Engleberg/Vernon Beck after two ferocious 5-gamers—over, first, Canning/Lee Korf and then Christian Seil/Leonard Abrams. John Hanna/Little took the Mixed from Freeman/Nelson.
Long Beach was one of those places where, even before John Hanna began forming a California Affiliate, there had repeatedly been organized play. Future 1976 U.S. Closed Over 70 Champion Dr. Harold "Dutch" McCallister said he won his first ping-pong tournament at a Long Beach Y. That was in 1917, 13 years before Hanna started playing, perhaps in that very same building. By the late 1930’s there was a thriving Long Beach TTA, headed by P.G. Gruneisan—and sporting a Men’s Champ, Jack Irvine, and a Women’s Champ, Mrs. Glen Brown (TTT, May, 1938, 13). Hanna’s contemporary California player/organizer, Hollywood’s Bob Lupo, would later share honors at the Apr. 18-19, 1947 3rd Annual Vallejo Open—Bob as Singles and Jacques Helfer as Class A and (with Ross Peavey) Doubles Champ.
Canning turned up at the Mar. 6-7 Northern California Open too—only not to play, but with Coleman Clark to watch. They were obviously still working their well-established nightclub and theatre act in select parts of the State. Apparently the Berkeley players weren’t quite used to one another yet—for Chuck Chinberg not only won the Class A but the Championship as well.
At the Feb. 22-23 St. Louis County Open, Garrett Nash was the Men’s winner in 5 over Bill Price. Nash/Price of course took the Doubles, though George Hendry/Don Schuessler made an 18-in-the-3rd match of it. Don Robinson won another Boys’—over Tom Klutho. Beginning to make a name for herself was 15-year-old Joan Gummels who defeated, first, Betty Schaefer, then Shirley Nelson in the final. As expected, Kuenz/Lasater were the Mixed winners.
That same Feb.22-23 weekend, Wisconsin, under President Virgil Carson, held its annual Closed. Russ Sorenson won the Men’s from Duane Maule. Carlyn Blank defeated her about-to-be-married sister Carrol to win the Women’s. Veteran’s Champ was Paul Buell over Roy Dowling. Junior’s went to Dick Metten over Dick Peregrine.
At the Mar. 1-2 Central Open in Columbus, U.S. Junior Champion Marty Reisman, again at the invitation of Director Bob Green, came and conquered—easily won the Men’s over Arnold Brown, the Junior’s over Gordon Barclay. Marty, unfamiliarly paired with Dr. Harry Sage, managed also to take the Doubles in 5 from the established partnership of Barclay/McColley. John Varga made his Senior debut a winning one, but was extended into the 5th by Don Wilson. Tybie Thall upheld the sisters’ honor by besting Barbara Cannon in 4, then paired with Barbara to win the Women’s Doubles. Thall/Brown capped a (–23, -17, 19, 19, 16) long fight back to take the Mixed from Cannon and Max Hersh.
Michigan, thanks to Ed Dickinson and his Royal Oak Club helpers, held a very successful State Closed. In the Men’s, Chuck Burns defeated 3-time Champion Hersh in a (15, 23, -19, -16, 17) bruiser. Burns/Hersh figured to win the Men’s Doubles, and did—but, down 2-1, they had to come from behind to beat Brown/Cliff Bishop. Pontiac’s Mary Jacober (19, 19, -15, 24) shared total points with Marge Wilson, but, winning all the close games, took the Women’s. Battle Creek’s unranked Hugh Fredenburg won the Senior’s from the State’s #2 Paul Collis.
At Detroit’s Mar. 15-16 Michigan Open, which Director Harold Jacober was pleased to say drew 181 entries, Hersh had –18, 20, 18, 20 difficulty with Barclay in the semi’s, but in the final easily beat Burns. In the Doubles, Hersh/Burns eked out a deuce in the 5th win over Barclay/McColley. Fredenburg won another Senior’s—this time over last season’s #1 Perc Secord. Barclay of course took the Boys’ from he who came up short, Bobby Short. In the Women’s, the relentlessly improving Tybie Thall, turned 23 a few days earlier, was unchallenged by Barbara Cannon.
It was at this Michigan Open that Topics first took notice of Chuck Medick who—"an amazing feat"—had umpired there. Chuck would soon become a highly publicized USTTA umpire. Why? Because he’d been blind since he was two. More on Medick shortly, for he’d be going to the Chicago National’s, and, if unheralded there, might bet a non-believer a pint of ice-cream that, o.k., just watch him, he certainly could keep the score of a match.
Meanwhile, over at Ann Arbor, City Championships were at stake. In the Men’s, Ted Peck dethroned perennial winner Laurie Ault. Jean Smith scored the hat trick—won the Women’s, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. This coming Labor Day Jean would pitch her Dad’s Root Beer amateur baseball team to the State title, and by 1948 would sign a contract with the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
At the Mar. 22-23 Wisconsin Open at Shorewood, Dan Kreer left no doubt he was at his U.S. Top 10 best when he zipped Condy who’d gained the final with a 5-game win over Abelew. Mary Specht took the Women’s —in 4 over newly married Peggy (nee Widmier) Ichkoff. Peggy (whose husband Dick won the Consolation’s) eliminated Carlyn Blank in the semi’s, 19 in the 4th. Sally Green (playing only Doubles because of ill health) teamed with Specht to defeat Blank/Wilson, and with Condy to defeat Specht/Abelew.
Leah Thall U.S. Open Women’s Champion
The 1947 Chicago National’s was dedicated to those "who offered themselves completely in the service of their Country—and to their comrades-in-arms who paid with their lives while serving our cause." Held on 8 brand new Detroiter tables Mar. 28-30 at the Rainbo Arena, it was hyped as "a Players Tournament…run BY players FOR players." The Tournament Committee was pleased to provide a free Players Pass that would allow players to sit anywhere they wanted to "in any unreserved section." Which means they couldn’t do that before, lest they take away a seat from a possible paying spectator? The Tournament Chair was Illinois TTA President Billy Condy, the Chief Referee Berne Abelew, and the U.S. Open Program Designer Jimmy Shrout. This Program’s cover featured a striking photo of a distant lit-up Chicago skyscraper at night viewed from the blacked-out foreground of a rooftop setting; a floating beige shield in the blackness announced the tournament. Inside the Program, an effort was made to explain to an uninitiate audience what tournament table tennis was all about—even to the etiquette expected of the onlookers:
"Applaud as much as you want—and loud—BUT, wait until a point is completed. Players depend a lot upon hearing that ball bouncing on the table. Please don’t applaud accidental shots, such as ‘net’ and ‘edge’ balls. Don’t cheer any player’s errors, no matter how much you want his opponent to win. We know most such applause is purely spontaneous, so won’t you be careful?"
Speaking of etiquette, the New Zealand TTA (might there be a New Zealander at this 1947, or any, U.S. Open?) would later publish as a "guide" for its members—and any other Association’s members who might profit from it—the following no-nos:
"1. Chewing gum during play or while at the table.
2. Chasing balls after rallies to cause a hindrance to players playing on nearby tables.
3. Umpires smoking.
4. Placing feet on table when ‘fixing’ laces of shoes.
5. Failing to see that the ball is placed on the table after the completion of a match.
6. Passing in front of the umpire when changing ends.
7. Throwing balls to a distant table in such a way as to upset players on an adjacent table.
8. Leaving cigarette butts on the playing floor.
9. Shaking hands at the conclusion of a match right up against the umpire.
10. Using unoccupied tables without the permission of the tournament manager.
11. Failing to wait until the rally ends on an adjacent table before walking behind to go to or from a table" (Table Tennis, Oct., 1952, 17).
Dana Young hyped this Open in Topics: "For the first time, European players will compete. Many are expected to enter directly from the World Championships." Alas, however, these expectations were quite grandiose. Those at station W.B.K.B. who were televising play would have to be content with a grand total of one European player, England’s Betty Blackbourn—and she was in the States not to get chicken-pox, which she did, but to study to become a chiropractor.
World runner-up Blackbourn did not win this 17th U.S. Open’s Women’s Championship. Indeed, like some of the other seeds, all of whom had advanced to the quarter’s from out of an exceptionally large field (49 entries in all), she was readily challenged. After a 17, 22, 18 workout against Ichkoff, the #3 seed Blackbourn was forced into the 5th by #6 seed, hometown favorite Mary Specht. In the companion quarter’s, Defending Champion Bernice Chotras’s 2nd-game win at deuce stopped #5 seed Tybie Thall’s flesh wound threat—this after Tybie had gone 5 with Carlyn Blank. In the semi’s, with both Betty and Bernice capable of two-winged attacks, Bernice gained the final, 18 in the 4th.
In the bottom half of the draw, #2 seed Leah Thall had 19-in-the-4th trouble with #7 seed Mae Clouther. Meantime, the remaining quarter’s saw from the beginning some spirited play. Chicago’s Margaret Woodruff 14, -16, -15, 19, 21 survived a 1st-round encounter with Silver Springs, Maryland’s about to be D.C. District Closed Champion Toni Coletti. And in the 2nd round, the self-taught table-game of San Antonio’s Marjorie Willcox proved durably effective against St. Louis’s Betty Jane Schaefer. However, both the advancing #4 seed Mildred Shahian and #8 seed Reba Monness found their first test to be against one another—with Reba, in leopard-skin slacks, scratching out a win in 5…only to lose to Leah in the semi’s.
The final, but with a different result, was a replay between last year’s contenders. In 1946, Leah, up 2-1 and at 21-all with Bernice, had come very near to winning the title. So many years now she’d paid her dues, been in contention. From the 1940-41 season on, she’d been ranked U.S. #3, #3, #3, #2, #4, #2. Finally, at 31—just before old age would overtake her?—she made her breakthrough. She beat Chotras in 4, losing only the discouraging 2nd , 25-23.
In Women’s Doubles, Blackbourn/Monness, having gotten by Ichkoff/Dolores Mortenson in 5, and, having built up a 2-0 lead in the semi’s with a (spirit-breaking?) 24-22 2nd game over the Thall sisters, looked on course to the final. But when all the figures were in and totaled, it was Leah and Tybie, allowing only 40 points in the last three games, who’d advanced to the final to meet Clouther/ Shahian. Last year the New Englanders had beaten the Thalls, 24-22 in the 5th. This year the two teams played another 5-gamer, but with a different result. Thus Tybie won her 1st National Championship, and Leah, counting her Singles win, her 7th.
In the top half of the Mixed draw, I don’t know how seriously Miles was taking his partnership with Blackbourn and/or their opposition, but I can guess, for they won their first two matches 24-22 in the 4th; thereafter, however, they never lost a game. Tybie Thall/Arnold Brown were able to beat Ralph Bast and wife-to-be Carolyn Wilson, but couldn’t save themselves in the 5th against Schiff/Delery who then in the quarter’s fell 3-zip to the increasingly focused #1 seeds. Leah Thall/Doug Cartland were straight-game advancers. However, whom they’d meet in the quarter’s was for a while in doubt. Kreer/Ichkoff, though down 2-0, finally beat the Lunds, then, up 2-0, lost to Holzrichter/Shahian. Against Doug and Leah, Billy and Millie won the 1st at 19, lost the 4th and the match at 20. Afterwards, in the semi’s, with Miles/Blackbourn blasting away, Leah’s hope for a sweep of titles couldn’t have lasted long.
In the bottom half of the draw, Reisman/Monness won their quarter’s—upset the #2 seeds Hazi/Clouther 18 in the 4th. That meant they’d meet whom? Not the #4 seeds Lasater/Kuenz, for in the 8th’s, leading 2-0, they were stopped cold by Bob Anderson/Dolores Mortenson. After Sussman/Chotras escaped Hersh/Cannon in 5, they faced another life and death struggle in the semi’s—only, down 2-0 to Reisman/Monness, and despite winning the 4th 23-21, they couldn’t make it to the final. This would be Miles’s first U.S. Open Doubles win. Blackbourn’s too, but she would not play in the U.S. again; instead she "‘disappeared’ into the heart of America to prepare for her career."
The English TTA magazine, Table Tennis, would have Blackbourn’s picture on its Oct., 1948 cover, and would speak of how her play was "a mixture of dull aimless plodding and brilliant calculated aggression." Apparently this was because her "attitude to the game" was "a mixture of benevolent apathy and sudden violent enthusiasm" (2). And, if you can believe Reba Monness, her Doubles partner at these National’s, perhaps this Janus-like nature of Blackbourn opened then slammed shut many a door. In a Dec. 27, 1951 letter to USTTA Historian Peter Roberts, Reba shows she’s quite upset with Elizabeth (though not enough upset here to use the even nastier language she was capable of):
"…actually she [Blackbourn] is one of the most selfish people I have ever met, with very bad manners where they counted most….I was very, very nice to her when she was in New York, went out of my way to see that she was comfortable and entertained every moment, the same at [a] Chicago tourney; also she slept at Dick Miles[’s], ate there too, and never did we hear one word of thanks or acknowledgment; it was very common and crude of her…so that in all verity Betty Blackbourn is a nothing, and comes of bad stock, ill bred…and is eliminated from my thoughts altogether…."
Miles U.S. Open Men’s Champion
In Men’s Singles, Miles—8, 2, 15…5, 12, 12…13, 10, 11…13, 12, 12—reached the semi’s without incident, but of course others in his section of the draw had to work for their wins. Freddie Borges, #12 seed, 23-21 in the 4th thrashed his way out of V. Lee Webb’s distracting entanglements (for no one played to the audience more than Lee), but then Freddie fell victim to #8 seed Dan Kreer who rallied from 2-1 down, just as he had in the 16th’s against Hazi. (Two weeks later, Tibor, in successfully defending his D.C. District Championship against threats from both Jimmy Shea and Stan Fields, would lament to a local reporter that, whereas thousands used to watch him play, in this District Closed at the Heurich gym maybe three dozen did.) Cartland, the #4 seed, reached the semi’s against Miles, encountering a (deuce in the 4th) major problem in the 16th’s with Chuck Burns, and a minor problem in the quarter’s (two deuce games) with Sussman. In the 8th’s, Cy had upset #5 seed Bill Price who’d knocked out Brown after Arnold had progressed through 5-game matches with Bast and Maule.
Schiff, the #2 seed, gave up only one game on his way to the semi’s—to Allan Levy in the quarter’s after Allan had eliminated #7 seed Johnny Somael. Arnold Fetbrod, who’d had a 2-1 lead on Levy, was a player that little was ever written about. Fellow New Yorker John Grinnell told me that Lawrence had repeatedly banned Fetbrod from the Broadway Courts for using foul language. Moreover, Arnold had this strange and disconcerting habit of making little noises while pushing back ball after ball—pursing then quivering his lips as he expelled trapped air. Miles said that since Fetbrod never hit a ball, he could give him 12 points. Told me, too, that he, Reisman, and Cartland would play Triples against Fetbrod, would spot him 7, and that he had no chance.
Connecticut’s #1 player, George Ferris, in a Letter to the Topics Editor (TTT, May, 1947, 5), questioned Chief Referee Berne Abelew’s implementation of the Expedite Rule in the Levy-Fetbrod match. After Fetbrod had decisively beaten Billy Condy, "who couldn’t or wouldn’t chisel" against him, and then, with his "heavy back-hand chop and impregnable table defense," had taken a lead against Levy, the Westerners began booing and the Easterners cheering. When the Westerners exhorted Levy to chisel, he did, and Abelew, after warning the players that there had to be more offensive play, too abruptly from Ferris’s point of view "snatched the ball from Fetbrod who was about to serve and called the rule." Ferris’s point was that, though Levy might have continued to push, he might not have.
Hence Abelew should not have been so dictatorial, so eager to rule (see Laws in TTT, Nov., 1946, 9) that play was "uninteresting to the spectators," and therefore detrimental to the game. It wasn’t fair to Fetbrod, who had no chance with Levy in Expedite. It also wasn’t fair to Fetbrod, said Ferris, that Abelew, showing prejudice, tried to quiet the Easterners but not the Westerners. More discretion is needed, Ferris argued, if good will is to be promoted among East and West players, and players and officials. Helene Cinnater’s comment was "PU." Levy had no choice but to chisel, she said, and, she might have added, if Ferris himself said Fetbrod had no chance with the Rule in, didn’t Levy understand this too? So why in the world once committed to chiseling would he stop?
Reisman, the #6 seed, after being 19, 22, 20 playful with Cal Fuhrman—who, as we’ll see, will have a life-changing reaction on feeling victimized by the Expedite Rule—went down to #14 seed Jimmy McClure, outscoring him in points but losing the vital deuce games. Holzrichter, along with the other top seeds, advanced to his seeded place in the semi’s—dropping only one game to Hendry, but being 22, 20, 19 extended in the quarter’s by McClure who’d eliminated him last year. Hendry had obliged Bridgeport, CT’s George Ferris with an early loss, thus allowing him to win the Consolation.
Abelew had been reluctant to let the blind Chuck Medick umpire. But, as Gary Ellis of the Long Beach, CA Independent Press-Telegram tells us, his point of view changed:
"During his [Medick’s] stay in Chicago, Jack Brickhouse (announcer for the White Sox and Cubs) conducted a television interview with Medick. The Chicago Tribune wrote an article on Medick’s antics. ‘Two players were warming up and I said, "the ball is cracked."’ Medick laughed, adding, ‘every official worth his salt carries an extra ball. Later they tested the ball and it had a very small crack. I heard it.’ The newspaper reporters raved, the players raved, and the tournament directors became believers" (reprinted in TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1972, 18).
Later, Medick would tell Kansas City Star reporter Ed Garich that seeing the ball wasn’t all that important:
"After all, there are three basic things you must know about a table tennis shot….You must know what kind of shot it is, whether drive or chop, whether it hits the table or net, and on what part of the table it strikes. I can do all these with my sense of hearing alone" (Mar. 27, 1953).
Reportedly, Chuck umpired one of the semi’s, I don’t know which. But both would have put pressure on him. In the one, Schiff rallied to beat Holzrichter in 5. Billy, seemingly in control of the match, was the victim of a freak occurrence. As he came in for a shot, his racket caught the table edge, shearing off the rubber. A 5-minute recess was called while a player helped out with some fast-drying glue. However, said Billy, "after that, the racket wasn’t the same, and when I had to serve I just had no feeling with it, and lost the match. Maybe I just psyched myself out." Perhaps the lack of a back-up racket reminded Billy, U.S. #4, he’d better help mind the store—the one that sold the Leyland rubber rackets, the Gus and Bill Holzrichter Pro Sport Shop on Cicero. In fact, wasn’t it time to expand. How about another shop on Devon?
In the other semi, Miles, a bit testily, overcame Cartland in 4. According to local reporter William Fay, Doug’s "unorthodox habit of talking to himself," plus his "agile retrieving," irritated Miles. After losing the 2nd game at 19, Dick asked the umpire or referee, or both, "to ask Cartland to keep quiet." And Doug did—though inwardly he must have fumed. Afterwards, as he did last year, Dick beat Sol in straight games for his third straight Open win.
That Eddie Pinner didn’t come to Chicago to defend his Doubles title with Sussman, or that last year’s runner-up Schiff and Somael weren’t paired together, couldn’t have been more obvious when Bob Anderson/Somael beat Sussman/Hazi in the quarter’s—an upset matched by Cartland/Fetbrod over Holzrichter/Price. The super steady New Yorkers then made their unimpeded way to the final. Schiff/McClure, trying to reach back for a pre-War performance, knocked off Kreer/Hendry, but then were beaten in the semi’s by Hersh/Burns who’d eliminated Miles/Borges. Thus all four seeds were eliminated, and Cartland/Fetbrod, surely thought an unlikely winner in the beginning, proved as invincible in the final as they had in the semi’s.
Though Defending Champ Marlin Tucker was seeded #1, Hazi vs. Varga in the Veteran’s final had been pretty much a given from the start—with Hazi winning 3-0. Tibor apparently didn’t play Veterans’ Doubles, and when neither the Varga nor Tucker pairs could win, the victors were the Indianapolis duo of Ed Baase/Don Wilson.
There was another Indy winner when in the Boys’ Under 15 Eddie Hancock 8, 4, 8 seemingly annihilated Fred Rogers of Columbus—except one has to add that this was a 5-game final. In the Junior Under 18’s Reisman beat all comers, including finalist Barclay, in straight games. Despite Gordy’s precociousness, there’d be no more National Championships for him.
Reisman, however, didn’t always enjoy being the Champion. He tells a poignant story about how one of his hoped for hustles didn’t work out. A prospective pigeon, having won two games from Marty (for sure, the last one just "got away," as they say), and $20, and pleased that he’d shown this upstart teenager what the game was all about, said, "Look, you’re a nice kid, but I don’t want any more of your money, I just wanted to make a point." And so saying he picked up his belongings and left. Left Reisman looking after him in such shock that, as the guy walked away, young Marty blurted out plaintively, "Come back, I’m the National Junior Champion! I am, I really am!"
Pinner/McLean Take Pennsylvania Open
In the Apr. 12th Pennsylvania Open that followed—a one-day tournament Chaired by Bethlehem TTA President Sidney Liu that proved to be quite manageable when 50 or so players looking to enter late had to be turned down—Reisman not only 14, -19, -12 lost in the Men’s semi’s to Eddie Pinner, but in the Junior semi’s as well, 19 in the deciding 3rd , to fellow New Yorker Norm Schuman, afterwards runner-up to Morris Chait. Pinner, who’d beaten Chait 2-1 in the quarter’s, went on to defeat Sussman in the final—after Cy had eliminated both Schuman and Cal Skinner, surprise –18, 22, 18 winner over his wartime USO touring exhibition partner Schiff. Peggy McLean, Queens College Junior, who might have become U.S. Open Champion had she gone to Chicago, won the Women’s over Montclair, N.J.’s Eugenia Koukly. Peggy and Sol took the Mixed over Pinner and Philly’s Virginia Reardon.
Chicago’s Much Hyped Mid-Western Novice Tournament
Thanks to Chicago advertising man George Koehnke who "created the idea" and sold it to the Chicago Sun-Times," the Apr. 12 "First Mid-Western Novice Championships" were held at Lane High School in the Windy City. Reportedly, more than 12,000 players "from 25 cities and five states" participated in "District Meets" to see who would qualify for the Chicago "Finals" in seven different Singles events: "Boys under 15, girls under 15, junior boys under 18, junior girls under 18, [and] men, women, and senior men over 35." In addition to District medal and Final trophy awards, a Team trophy (1st in an event is worth 40 points…4th 10 points) was given, as it turned out, to the Chicago delegation who triumphed with 310 points to runner-up St. Louis’s 230. The preliminary Chicago District meet was "handled by the School Bureau of Recreation through 67 Chicago playgrounds." St. Louis, "with a similar plan," raised "about $2,000.00 to send 12 contestants and 2 officials to the Chicago finals." A "Novice" was defined as "any amateur player who has not won a state, district or national ranking."
Meeting the letter but hardly the spirit of the law was Boys’ Under 15 winner, 14-year-old St. Louis Beaumont High freshman Don Robinson. A protégé of Bill Price’s, Don may have been playing only a year—but in Jan. he won the Ozark Open Under 18’s; in Feb. at the Western’s he came 2nd to Barclay in the Under 18’s; also that same month he beat last year’s #7 U.S. Junior Tom Klutho to win the St. Louis County Open Under 18’s; and finally in the Boys’ Under 15 at the National’s he got to the semi’s before being eliminated by the winner Eddie Hancock. Some "novice," this season’s U.S. #3 Boy. Counterpart winner, if you can call her that, was unknown 13-year-old Olga Parchutz, a Chicagoan who’d "won awards at checkers, track, and quoits."
Junior Boys Under 18 winner was 16-year-old Paul Stormdorfer of St. Louis’s Soldan High; he liked to collect stamps. His counterpart winner was Joan Gummels, another Price protégé who couldn’t be the U.S. Open U-18 Champion only because there wasn’t any such event for Girls. This "novice" had earlier won the Feb. St. Louis County Open from two of the season’s nationally-ranked women players—U.S. #14 Betty Schaefer and U.S. #18 Shirley Nelson, and just recently at the National’s had upset U.S. #13 Barbara Cannon.
The Men’s was won by 18-year-old Bradley University student Walter Shur, whom neither the Chicago Organizing Committee nor Topics knew anything more about—that, for example, he’d played in the Nov., 1945 New York Open or had been ranked U.S. #10 in the Junior’s in 1946. This novice beat another, Kenosha’s Keith Porter, the 1947 U.S. Open Men’s Consolation runner-up, and Wisconsin #7 for the season. In the Women’s, in the most evenly matched final of the tournament, Shirley Youngberg, a bookkeeper who’d won medals in skating and volleyball, defeated fellow Chicagoan Lucille Gorka, 19 in the 3rd.
Mike Grassi, a father of two, who lived "in the famous ‘Hill Section’ of St. Louis, which boasts of such athletes as Joe Garagiola of the St. Louis Cards, and Yogi Berra of the N.Y. Yankees," took the Senior’s from Louisville’s Lionel Armstrong.
Quite a mixture, these Novices.
Moreover, from the play this Tournament received in Topics* —much more than the Eastern’s or Western’s, and as much if not more than the National’s—you’d think there wasn’t a tournament more important in the country.
Underneath a posed photo of nine boys—all holding their rackets over their hearts as if pledging allegiance to the USTTA—one reads the ever predictable article of our Association as it boxes-in its "HOPES ON THE NOVICE PLAYER":
"TO ALL NOVICE PLAYERS
Topics is very much interested in your particular activity. We will continue to do everything we can to print articles about your club, tournaments, etc. [Indeed, in the Apr., ’47 Topics, Koehnke had an "How To Start A T.T. Club" article in which he stressed the importance of building up the games of "10 to 15 year olds."] YOU are the players who will be our future champions. YOU are the fans who will control our organization in the years to come. YOU are the developers of GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP and CLEAN LIVING. We need your support…you also need ours. Let’s work together in the best interests of the game we all love. Our first step in unitizing is to secure U.S.T.T.A. membership. We look forward to welcoming many new members" (Mar., 1947, 6).
Perhaps Topics will become more of a novice-oriented publication? Will intrigue us—like that "Reverse Tournament" I mentioned earlier—to follow the progress of all those players who don’t win, and who therefore aren’t interested in USTTA tournament circuit play?…
* For the write-up of this "Novice" tournament, I’m indebted to the following issues of TTT—Feb., 1947, 14; Mar., 1947, 7; May, 1947, 6; and Oct., 1947, 5.