USTTA Table Tennis Topics columnist Reba Kirson (later Monness) said that the "most exciting" match in the Feb., 1939 Pennsylvania Open was the final of the Boys’, won by Eddie Pinner over Roy Weissman, -18, 12, -20, 18, 19. Weissman, who, like Pinner had learned his table tennis under the tutelage of George Schein at New York’s 92nd St. YMHA, and who was described as being a brilliant pupil at "N.Y.’s select Townsend-Harris high school," had been a consistent loser to Eddie--so had this very close match ended differently, might one of these boys’ lives have been forever changed?
At the March Toledo National’s, however, it was Eddie’s turn to come up short--for, after Indianapolis’s Charles "Chuck" Tichenor had downed Weissman in 4 in the semi’s, he was also able to (19, 18, -17, -18, 18) hold off Pinner’s rally to take the Boys’ Championship. There was another disappointment for Eddie in Toledo, too--in the Men’s Doubles. Paired with 1936 U.S. Boys’ Champ, Sy (later Cy) Sussman, whom Pinner had known since 1935 when they’d both started playing table tennis at the Y, they lost a (-22, 18, -21, 18, -20) killer to Ohioans Harry Sage and Sam Shannon. Since that was in the 1st-round, did it seem likely that in the next decade Eddie and Sy would be one of the best Doubles teams in USTTA history?
Like Sussman, Pinner graduated from New York’s DeWitt Clinton High School--and while there "played table tennis with his Spanish teacher." His first big win out of the Boys’ was at the annual Provincetown, Massachusetts Quiniela tournament in Aug., 1939, where, only 15, he won the much admired Silver Cod traveling trophy (a solid silver "fish" on an ebony base). In this unique format, the winners of five preliminary round robins then play among themselves on one table, with the winner staying on...until one player wins five matches. Pinner, "unseeded and unsung" as New York #12, upset current U.S. Open runner-up Tibor Hazi (19, 20) and U.S. #12 Charlie Schmidt (18 in the 3rd).
Next season, Eddie, like his friend Sy, seemed to be playing everywhere. At both the Sept. 29-30 Brooklyn and the Nov. 4-5 Southern New England Championships he lost to Sol Schiff in the quarter’s.
But, after making the New York Intercity Team (with wins over U.S. #4 Bernie Grimes and U.S. #12 Schmidt), he took the Dec. 9 Pennsylvania Open at Lancaster with a smashing 19-in-the-5th final over Hazi (down 19-18, he smacked in three of Tibor’s serves for the win). In the semi’s, Eddie had been the recipient of some fine sportsmanship by Pagliaro. Lou, "stopping repeatedly during the match because of a leg cramp, could not recover sufficiently to finish the fifth game." Although he was leading 16-9, he probably felt "that his constant interruption of the match was throwing Ed off his game," so he defaulted. Pinner’s fellow New York Y member, Roy Weissman, not content with winning the Boys’, also entered the Men’s--something apparently that was most unusual.
As expected, New York won the Dec. 15-16 Philadelphia Intercities--and not one of their five Team members had more than a single loss. Pinner was 5-1--he was beaten by U.S. #13 Les Lowry but had a very good win over U.S. #7 Bill Price.
The fantastic finish Eddie’d had against Hazi at Lancaster was perhaps a bit lucky. But at the Feb. 3-4, 1940 Reading, PA Eastern’s, he was not so end-game fortunate--in the quarter’s of the Singles he was beaten, deuce in the 5th, by Dan Klepak, and in the semi’s of the Doubles with Sussman he lost another nail-biter, 19 in the 5th, to Hazi and Ham Canning, who this season would be the Pennsylvania #1.
That loss to U.S. #18 Klepak hurt Pinner’s ranking, but, though he didn’t go out to Indianapolis for the early-Apr. National’s, he was still U.S. #8 for the ‘39-40 season.
Eddie continued to play during the summer. He lost in the final of two tournaments at the Broadway Courts--to Pagliaro and Grimes. But in Aug. he successfully retained his Provincetown Silver Cod Trophy by beating, among others, Abrahams, Schmidt, and Chicago’s Bob Anderson, back in the States from his Pan-Pacific Tour with U.S. Team Captain Bill Gunn and teammates Billy Holzrichter, Mayo Rae Rolph, and Ruthe Brewer.
Pinner also won the fall N.Y. C. Queens Championship--over Schiff in the semi’s and Schmidt in the final.
No surprise then that Eddie would again be part of the perennially victorious New York Intercity Team. Teamed with him at St. Louis, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, were Pagliaro, who reportedly hadn’t lost a match in 22 straight tournaments and who would have a perfect 12-0 record in his play at the DeSoto Hotel, and Irving "Whitey" Sheraga, who’d partnered fellow City College of New York student Klepak at the ‘38 National Intercollegiates, and who’d score a big upset at these Team’s over McClure. Eddie posted a 13-3 record--but his "bad" loss to U.S. #17 Earl Coulson was more than compensated for by his wins over U.S. #5 Anderson, #7 Holzrichter, and especially U.S. #11 George Hendry--the latter a "must" 19-in-the-3rd win, and so a downer for the local crowd, in N.Y.’s climactic 5-4 tournament-ending tie with St. Louis.
Sussman wasn’t on the N.Y. Team, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have been. When Pinner returned to immediately play in the Dec. 7-8 Providence Southern New England Open, he met Sy in the final and was beaten 19 in the 4th. The two of them won the Doubles--over Klepak and Stan Fields
At the Feb. 1-2, 1941 Washington, D.C. Eastern’s, Pinner was taken out in the quarter’s by Grimes, but with Sussman won a close Doubles final over Schiff and Hazi who’d beaten them at the N.Y. C. Metro Open two weeks earlier.
The New York State Open was played Feb. 12 at the 92nd St. Y where Pinner had learned the game. He must have felt at home there, must have had an audience rooting for him. For although he and Sy lost the Doubles to Schiff and Laszlo "Laci" Bellak, in the Singles he did what others were beginning to think no one could do--beat Pagliaro. A very satisfying final. And Eddie’s other 4-game wins--over Bellak in the quarter’s and Sussman in the semi’s--weren’t bad either.
In the Mar. 29-30 Connecticut State Championships, the warm-up tournament for the National’s, Pinner lost in both semi’s--in the Singles to Schmidt (Charlie having fully recovered now from his disabling auto accident), and in the Doubles with Sussman to Grimes and Schiff (Eddie’d make some CBS television broadcasts with Sol).
Pinner’s strong play had made him the #4 seed at the Apr. 2-4 New York City National’s--and he didn’t disappoint his supporters. In the Singles, after downing #11 seed Anderson, he met Lowry (who’d upset the #5 seed, the 1934 and 1939 U.S. Champion Jimmy McClure). Their 5-game quarter’s battle--"without doubt the finest match of the entire tournament up to the semi-finals"--was praised in Topics:
"...Lowry dropped the first two games before Pinter’s terrific cross court driving but came back strong to flick over some lightning backhands that Pinner couldn’t even reach. In the 5th game, Lowry went clear back to the barricades to counter-smash a Pinner drive and forge into the lead. Pinner, however, quickly changed his tactics and finally emerged the winner in as beautiful [a] quarter finals match as you’ll see anywhere."
In advancing to the final against Pagliaro, Eddie had an easier time with the 1937/1938 U.S. Champion Bellak than with Lowry. Said one writer, "Pinner made remarkable retrieves of Bellak’s forehand drives and often leaped in quickly with a sudden backhand placement that caught the Hungarian completely off guard."
Since Pagliaro had been upset in the New York Open by Pinner, he had perhaps added incentive to retain his crown--which he did, winning 3-0 (the last game at deuce after Eddie had led 17-11). Leah Thall (later Neuberger) said that Pinner was "the best driver" at these National’s. However, not only did Paggy defend well--on one occasion making "an unbelievable return from 20 feet [back]" that drew "a startled gasp from the crowds then a tremendous roar as Lou’s ‘get’ ball sailed over the net"--he also attacked, driving the ball to both corners, "forcing the fighting Pinner to take the defensive."
Pinner also did well to get to the semi’s of the Mixed with St. Paul’s precocious "Tiny" Moss (not yet a teenager?). But he was not to be totally denied. Though they would have to work hard at it, Pinner, almost 17, and Sussman, 18, would be the youngest U.S. Doubles Champions in the 11 National’s played so far. In the quarter’s they defeated the tenacious New Yorker Schmidt and his New Jersey partner Bill Cross, deuce in the 4th. In the semi’s, Pagliaro and Nash, deuce in the 5th. And in the final, after being down 2-1, the Defending Champions Schiff and McClure.
Pinner, ranked U.S. #2 for 1940-41, began the new season in earnest by playing in three tournaments in four weeks. At the Aug. 1-2 Provincetown tournament, he was in three finals. He won the Men’s Quiniela for the third straight time--beating, among others, Sussman, Lowry, and the now suddenly tournament-serious Dick Miles--to retire the unique Silver Cod Traveling Trophy. He also won the Mixed with Women’s Champ Mae Clouther. But in the Men’s Doubles he and Sy were upset by New Jersey’s best, Bill Cross, and Miles.
Though Dick, a New Yorker, somewhat perversely hadn’t played in the ‘41 Manhattan Center National’s (Why waste the money? Why enter? I can’t win it), he’d been Pagliaro’s practice partner for months, and so of course had gotten very good, perhaps to the point where Louie could give him only a three-point spot.
Pinner also won the two N.Y. Summer Tournaments at Herwald Lawrence’s Broadway Courts. In the first, with victories over U.S. #32 Cross in the semi’s and U.S. #13 Sussman in the final. Also, this time he and Sy (who’d upset Paggy in his Singles semi) took the Doubles from Cross and Miles. In the second Lawrence tournament, he had victories over Miles in the semi’s and U.S. #3 Schmidt in the final.
But in the Sept. 19th Brooklyn Open Pinner was beaten, 2-0, by Cartland who, no matter how many exhibitions he played, seemed quickly to regain his competitive touch. Likely this, and the results of the Oct. 12-13 Brooklyn Championships--Paggy beat Grimes in the semi’s, and Pinner in the final, after Eddie’d had no easy (-16, 18, 20, 12) time with "very talented newcomer" Miles--prompted Sandor Glancz to say in his Topics "Gossip from Gotham" article that "Cartland plays the best game in the city," and that he, Pinner, and Pagliaro "will be very close this season."
Pinner, on the winning New York Team with Miles and Schmidt at the Nov. 30 Philadelphia Eastern Intercities, lost a surprise match to Baltimore’s hard-driving Gordon Barry (the more so because Gordon, with unexpected agility, had about 300 pummeling pounds behind that fast forehand). Eddie, however, did not make the New York Intercity Team to the National Intercities in Chicago--but Miles did, and Hazi, and of course Pagliaro, though Lou had a surprisingly mediocre 8-4 record in N.Y.’s win at the Windy City.
Back on his home turf, Paggy won the Jan. 29-31, 1942 Manhattan Championships, beating not Pinner but 16-year-old Miles, 19 in the 4th, after Dick had defeated Eddie in 5 in the semi’s.
Pinner lost another 5-game semi’s at the Mar. 14-15 Washington, D.C. Eastern’s--to Hazi, who was then beaten in straight games by Pagliaro. Eddie (in Sussman’s absence) teamed with Tibor to win the Doubles from Paggy and Miles.
Miles was again Pinner’s undoing two weeks later at the Greenwich Connecticut Open--Eddie lost to him in Singles, and Eddie and Sy lost to Dick and Abe Berenbaum in Doubles.
At the Apr. 10-12 Detroit National’s, after Pinner had rallied to down Holzrichter in 5, he was surprised in the semi’s by last season’s U.S. #20, Chuck Burns (formerly Bernstein), who’d earlier upset Hazi and McClure. But Eddie and Cy did retain their Doubles Championship--their toughest competition being McClure and Bellak in a 5-game semi’s.
Quickly now because of the War the Sport would lose many of its top players to the Armed Forces. Bellak, already in the Army, had gotten leave to come in mid-Apr. to Detroit, and later that month McClure would join the Navy. Others serving, or about to, were Klepak, Lowry, Nash, Hendry, Holzrichter, Anderson, and, forget about Doubles Championships for a while, Sussman, and his pal Pinner--in the winter of 1942-43 an aviation cadet listening to Glenn Miller records while stationed at Atlantic City...and of course unaware as yet of what awaited him in the Pacific.