Sol Schiff, “Mr Table Tennis,” dies at 95

Feb. 29, 2012, 5:15 p.m. (ET)

For Immediate Release

Sol Schiff, born on June 28, 1917, passed away on February 26, 2012.

Sol "learned the game on a lunch table at P.S. 151 on East 91st St. in 1925.” By 1928 at P.S. 30 in Yorkville, he was playing with a wooden bat on another improvised lunch table. Later he joined the 92nd St. YMHA, where, for $1 a year he could go swimming and play ping-pong in the Game Room.

Who could ever have imagined that, with such humble beginnings, Sol Schiff would go on to become not only a world champion in this sport he loved but a legendary figure whose accomplishments would transcend the sport itself.

After honing his game at the 92nd St. YMHA with the encouragement of friends George and Leo Schein, Sol, at 15, was both the 1933 New York City Junior Champion and High School Champion. At 16, he won the coveted Singles and Doubles titles at the (1st) 1934 USTTA Open.

In 1935 Sol attended his first World Championships and took the Men’s Consolation, defeating England’s Alec Brook. For this straight-game victory, Sol received a silver medal, and an exact though naturally smaller 12-inch Sheffield silver replica of the prestigious Singles Cup given to World’s Men’s Champion Victor Barna.

Sol was just 18 when, after starring for victorious N.Y. at the Team Championships, he won the 1936 American Zone U.S. Closed. After that, amid very debatable circumstances, he was suspended--prevented from playing in that year’s World’s and U.S. Open -- for signing a racket contract with Parker Brothers.

At the 1937 World’s, Sol compiled a fantastic 21-1 record in Swaythling Cup play that greatly contributed toward the U.S.’s one and only win in that competition. In Singles, he led that year’s eventual World Champion Richard Bergmann 2-1, but lost in 5.

In 1938, after the ITTF followed the lead of the USTTA and lowered the net from 6 and 3/4" to 6" Sol paired with 1936 and ‘37 World Doubles Champion Jimmy McClure to win a 3rd straight Doubles Championship for the U.S. In Singles, after knocking out 1936, ‘37, and ‘39 Singles runner-up Alex Ehrlich, Sol was beaten in the quarter’s by Tibor Hazi. However, before returning to the States, he and 1935 U.S. Open Champion Abe Berenbaum won the English Open Doubles. And once back home he and McClure added the U.S. Open Doubles to their increasing triumphs.

Sol would go on for decades to win honors on and off the table. In the 40’s he would be a 3-time U.S. Open runner-up, and in the Singles at the ‘47 World’s he gave that year’s runner-up, Ferenc Sido, a furious 5-game battle. But it was in Doubles that much of his later fame came.

Astonishingly, through 27 years, he was a 10-time Men’s Doubles and 15-times Mixed Doubles U.S. Open finalist. And at the annual CNE tournament in Toronto, a tournament second in prestige only to the U.S. Open, Sol’s record was 5 Singles, 8 Men’s Doubles, and 11 Mixed Doubles wins.

Back in the 30’s he’d begun giving exhibitions around the country, and in wartime continued them, before, during, and after he’d served in the Army. Later, selling table tennis equipment, he became a much sought after dealer for his accommodating nature and ready availability. Still later, furthering our international contacts, and putting all his domestic experience to good use, he served as President of the USTTA for an unprecedented 10 years, 8 of those consecutively.

It is then, with good reason, that for his lifetime dedication to the Sport Sol was, is, and always will be known as "Mr. Table Tennis."

For more information, contact Dean Johnson 757-478-3605