The Wasserman's have made quite a splash in table tennis for years - twice. First was way back, in the 1950s and 60s when Si was a top player and an even better organizer and coach (running clubs, tournaments, coaching, and countless USATT positions) and Patty was winning U.S. Open titles. The second was more recently, as husband and wife, and led to the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award for Si and ten medals at the 2017 U.S. Open for Patty. Yes, you read that right - ten. (Click on their names below for their Hall of Fame profiles.)
The two prepared for the tournament by playing 5-6 times a week at the Oceanside TTC, the San Marcos TTC, and the Encinitas TTC. They also play on a robot at their home regularly, and twice a week go for a one-mile walk. "On Sundays I collapse," Si said. "Patty is still full of energy."
Si Wasserman started playing in 1949 - and he was already 27 years old. Now 96, he is still active as a player and, even more, as a sponsor. If you read through his Hall of Fame profile, your eyes start to glaze over at the sheer number of positions he's held with various California table tennis groups and then with USTTA. He ran countless tournaments and exhibitions, and was president of the Southern California TTA for three years. Later he would chair the USTTA's Coaching Committee and Disciplinary Committee, and captain the U.S. Team at the 1959 Worlds in Dortmund, Germany. He wrote a regular "Coaching Canopy" column for USTTA Magazine and authored a booklet, "How to Improve Your Table Tennis."
When I interviewed him he seemed proudest of the California Table Tennis Club, which he took over in 1952 and ran for nine years. During that time their players (many coached by him) won over 50 national or international titles. Their greatest player was Erwin Klein. When Klein was still a junior he won the Southern California Men's Singles Championship - but Si later beat him at the LA Open. Yes, Si could play.
Then he stopped for 30 years, from the early 1960s to 1994. But then he was recruited as a member of the newly created California Table Tennis Hall of Fame . . . and he was back!!!
He is now the primary sponsor for:
The 2018 World Veterans "Viva Las Vegas" Farewell Party this Sunday at the playing hall, immediately following the award ceremony.
The Nate Wasserman Junior Scholarship, annually given out to top USATT junior players. It's named after his younger brother but will soon be renamed the "Nate & Si Wasserman Junior Scholarship."
The Lily Yip TTC Junior Program
The #1 financial sponsor of the USATT Hall of Fame
Outside table tennis he's played golf for many years - yep, another table tennis player who plays golf!!! At his best he said he was a five handicap. He's had three holes in one and has broken 70. He was the operations supervisor for 14 golf courses in the LA area for a number of years.
And now, at age 96, he is one of ten players in Over 90 Men here. He finished second in his group to advance to the quarterfinals, where he will play Yves Laine of France, Thursday at 9AM on table 93. Si and Nicholas Gangi are currently 2-0 in the Over 90 Men's Doubles round robin - five teams, with a complete round robin, so he's almost clinched a medal, and has a good chance of a silver or even gold. He plays with inverted on both sides - made the change from hardbat to sponge in 1955 - and plays an all-around game, pushing, blocking, hitting, and chopping. (Here's Tim Boggan's speech when Si got the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, with lots of pictures.)
Patty Martinez Wasserman has gone from junior star to senior star. (Just browse over her Hall of Fame profile to see just how many titles she's won - and the profile only covers her early years, not the many medals she's won in recent times.) She was just 13 years old at the 1965 U.S. Open when she faced 9-time Women's Champion Leah Neuberger in the Women's final. Yes, she was in the U.S. Open Women's Final at age 13! And then the miracle happened - down 15-20 match point in the fifth, Patty scored seven in a row to win. As former National Champion Bob Gusikoff said, "I'm leaving now. Who wants to see the men's final after the women? It would be an anti-climax!"
Fifty-one years later, at the 2016 World Veterans Championships in Spain, she and Charlene Liu would get the silver medal in 60-64 Women's Doubles. And now, two years later, she and Charlene are together again as they compete in 65-69 Women in doubles as well as singles. The two won their three preliminary matches, all 3-0.
But it gets better. At the 2017 U.S. Open six months ago she was entered in ten events. (There was a limit of nine events per player, but one event only had two players, so they allowed her to play ten.) Yep, she won medals in all ten, including about half of them gold.
That 1965 Women's Singles title was just the first of three for Patty - 1965, 1967, and 1969, at ages 13, 15, and 17. All three of those years she also won Women's Singles at the Canadian Open. (She missed one in-between year due to a hip injury.) She won the triple crown at the U.S. Open at least twice - Women's Singles, Women's Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.
And she does all this with a hardbat. Yep, unlike her husband Si, she never switched. "You can't feel the ball!" she said when I suggested she try out Tenergy.
Unlike her husband and seemingly every other table tennis player, Patty has never played golf. However, she has won backgammon and handball tournaments.
"We love Southern California living," Patty said. When asked what else she does outside table tennis, she said, "I liked shopping. But my hobby is my grandkids." She has seven.
Why not stop by after the Farewell Party on Sunday to meet and thank for the Wasserman's for their contributions? And maybe, just maybe, take a peak at the results or check and see if they are wearing any medals around their necks. They probably will!