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Richard Butler Hall of Fame Induction

By Sean O'Neill | Feb. 18, 2017, 4:55 p.m. (ET)

Richard Butler - 2014 USATT Hall of Fame Introduction

by Sean O'Neill

It is truly an honor to present Richard Butler for induction into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Playing Scott and then Jimmy Butler was no easy feat and the reason was quite simple. The boys were taught Richard’s rock-solid backhand.  In each of our championships matches, my job was simple - to stay away from BH to BH exchanges with either one of them.  When people whispered, “Did you see that Butler Backhand?” what they were really paying homage to was Richard!  Now I won’t mention much about his forehand other to say it was often described as somewhat weasel-ly, but his backhand was indeed World Class! 

At the 1978 US Open Team Championships in Detroit, Richard coached our team of Mike Shapiro, Scott and myself to win the Junior Division as Team Butterfly.  His calm and encouraging presence allowed a 17 year old MVP and two 12 year olds to go undefeated beating much older teams from Boston, Pittsburgh and Canada.

Two years later Richard took Scott and I to New York City to appear on ABC’s “Kids are People, Too” TV show, a very cool highlight of that trip was visiting Marty Reisman at his club. The final image is how Butlers and O’Neills spent each December on center courts playing in the finals of the Nationals.  If you notice Scott’s has the bigger trophy is the picture.

Training with Scott and Jimmy in China or playing next to them at the Nissen Open while their dad umpired the match has created a lifetime of family memories.  Richard was in Jimmy’s corner at the 1985 National Finals, and he and Sue watch us take the Silver Medal in the 1987 Pan Am Teams in Indy.  Yvonne’s Tournament of Champions saw our families representing Team USA along with Augusta favorite Derek May.  Richard did enjoy doubles so it made sense that Scott and Jimmy won the Nationals in 1989.  Thanks to our Singles play in the Trials, Jimmy and I were paired up in Barcelona at the Olympics.  This goes to show that American kids can are best when they are taught by their fathers! Right Timmy and Yim?

I would like also like to thank Richard for his countless hours supporting both the Junior Olympics and US Olympic Festivals.  His class and grace behind the control desk and on the microphone made each competitor feel great about representing our sport and showcasing it to the general public. 

Now I would like to read a heartfelt message from USATT Hall of Famer Richard McAfee and then have Scott and Jimmy introduce a video they made for tonight’s event.

Richard provided these words, “It is difficult to express that high regard that I have for Dick Butler in just a couple of paragraphs.  I remember fondly the great work that he and Sue, along with Yvonne Kronlage did for many years as Directors of the AAU Junior Olympic Table Tennis Events.  During this time, I took teams of juniors to these wonderful events and got to see firsthand the professional and people skills that Dick possesses.

"When I was chosen for the position of Competition Manager for Table Tennis by the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games, my first objective was to find an Assistant Manager.  This position is critical, as the Assistant Manager had to be a person who could step-in and replace me if for any reason I could not continue my duties.  Dick Butler was my first choice as I knew he could both handle the technical challenges and also the high pressure that managing an Olympic Event presents.  Shortly after our staff was assembled, we learned that we would also be responsible for organizing and conducting the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics Table Tennis Events.  These would be held in a different, nearby city, and would require the building of a separate venue.  In many ways the Paralympics Table Tennis Events are more difficult to organize that their Olympic Counterparts.  After discussing this new challenge with Dick, we decided the best course of action was that he should take on the lead for the Paralympics, as Competition Manger.  During the Olympic Games, Dick was my back-up and during the Paralympics, we would switch positions and I would become his back-up. 

This was one of the better decisions that I made in Atlanta, as Dick did an outstanding job in the organizing and conducting the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics Games.  He literally “raise the bar” in Atlanta and took the event to a new level of excellence.  In addition, Dick was invaluable in his assistance during the Olympic Games as well.

I would like to share one very special moment that occurred for Dick during the 1995 World Team Cup which we ran as the “test” event for the Olympic Venue.  Team USA upset France during the event and gave Korea a strong match in the Semifinals.  This was an historic effort as Team USA took home the bronze medal and Jimmy Butler was named as the “outstanding player” of the event.  As Competition Manager, I was scheduled to present this award but I wanted Dick to make the presentation.  It was one of my personal “highlights” to be able to see Dick present this award on the podium to his son to the chants of USA-USA from the packed house.

I know that both I and our sport miss his active involvement.  However, I am so happy to see that Dick is receiving this recognition from the USATT Hall of Fame Committee.  It is an honor that he richly deserves.“

Now Scott and Jimmy will introduce a video they produced for this evening

 

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