Scott Boggan’s involvement in table tennis began--as my wife Sally, Scott’s mother, said in her acceptance speech for him at his induction--when we bought our home in Merrick, Long Island in 1964. For, said Sally, “we found there was a makeshift table in the basement—a board sitting on two sawhorses. Tim’s first reaction was to hack it to pieces and burn them in the fireplace. But I (maybe foolishly) insisted on keeping the table— three-year-old Scott and his friends could play, if not ping-pong, maybe something else on it.”
When I, Tim, his father, returned to the Sport in 1965 after a 10-year absence, four-year-old Scott (born June 13, 1961), and his brother, Eric, two, began to bat the ball with purpose. In the beginning, “points” were awarded if my son could make contact with the ball and send it, on or off the table, towards me…then over the net…and onto the table….Eventually he would be able to block the ball back as I topspinned it to him… and then he’d delight in positioning it so that as I lurched this way and that he ran me ragged.
I believe Scott’s first tournament was the Feb., 1969 Long Island Closed, where he often held the racket lollipop-up, and, supporting himself with a hand on the table, swatted the ball. That fall he was the youngest entry at the Toronto Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Championships and saying that when he grew up he wanted to be “a table tennis and a gin rummy player.” He told the covering reporter for the Toronto Telegram that featured him, along with his photo, that he “liked winning, but only close matches. There isn’t much fun winning by a big score.” (Could he then have ever beaten anybody by a big score?…Maybe his mother?)
At the 1970 Long Island Closed—he was now eight—he won his first event, the Father-Son Doubles. That March, in Cobo Hall, Detroit, he was watching Sol Schiff’s still marvelous fingerspin serves and asking, “Is that a trick ball?”
THE New York City Club at the time was Bobby Gusikoff’s subterranean one in the basement of the Riverside Plaza Hotel at 73rd St., just west of Broadway, not far from what was known as “Needle Park.” The atmosphere was, well, lively, and some thought dangerous for kids, but to my knowledge neither Scott nor Eric ever had a rough moment there, and were always treated well by players of any social strata or ethnic background.
At a tournament I ran that summer of ’70 at the Riverside Plaza, Scott is playing an older boy—is not winning and cursing at every lost point. It does not look good. It does not look good even to me, often a volatile player. And though I too well understand it, I don’t like it. After the match Scott and I seek the privacy of the john. Its urinals don’t always work but there are disinfectants. “People don’t like it!” I tell him. “Especially from a kid!” He already knows, at nine, everything I’m telling him. Why then does he do it?
Tournaments of course gave my boys and me a chance to spend the day together doing something we liked to do. It’s good, I think, that Scott and Eric played for keeps, to win—that, by caring, they learned how to concentrate the more, discipline themselves the more. Granted I strongly encouraged (not to say demanded) high seriousness from them when they played, granted I was a hard schoolmaster (not to say coach), still, it was almost the only time I was strict with them. Certainly I never considered washing their mouths out with soap with the occasional foam of my wrath. No, like me, like anyone, they could get justifiably angry, could often at their discretion hear or use those well known forceful words of life.
Ideally, the inevitable dirt aside, I wanted Scott and Eric to practice at a club where they could watch and talk to and even play with (though that of course might cost me a few bucks) the most professional of players. For I think that unless a boy does this he will never get very good. And if he’s not very good, he’ll either be apt to quit or, what is perhaps from my point of view worse, apt to have too much amateur in him, so that, deep down, it just won’t matter to him whether he wins or loses.
I myself at this time cared about winning a lot. On back to back tournament weeks I drove with my family from Long Island to Detroit for the 1970 U.S. Open Team Championships (USOTC’s) and back, and then up into Canada past Montreal and Quebec City and back. Scott and Eric had fun at the Montmagny tournament, but for the past six months I’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to change from my pips to an inverted racket, and when I blew a 15-6-in-the-5th lead, I broke my racket right there at the table. Then, when with my spare inverted racket I went on to lose two deuce games in the doubles, and finished by serving off, I broke that one, too, on a just off-court door handle. Sally was furious. “A fine example you set for the boys,” she said. “$12 worth of rackets. The least you could have done was give them to Scott.” “I had to get them out of my life,” I snarled. “You’re a child,” she said. Later, I was in the Men’s Room where one of the doubles opponents I’d lost to happened to be. He looked into the waste bin. “Is that your racket?” he said. And looking down at the broken handle and the head there, I regretted what I’d done.
One reason I was so intense with my boys is because I wanted them to care passionately about table tennis and stick with it—at least until I myself had to give it up. What of course they—Scott Boggan, Eric Boggan—would or would not continue to want as life went by was another matter, and so—what was I to do, kill what I loved?—there were no robot-like drills, almost no practice sessions at all, between tournaments when my boys were into playing other sports (PAL baseball, for example). For the most part they did what they wanted to do. Only, as I said, perhaps it was the priest or the schoolteacher in me, but some fist-shaking on my part when they were playing a competitive match (to encourage, to discipline them—Care! Care!) always seemed necessary. My eight-year-old’s concentration was good from the very beginning, but in those days it always took Scott 20-30 minutes to get his head together. Like me, he didn’t enjoy practicing—he always wanted to smile and play games, always wanted to look at the spectators and always wanted them to look at him.
It’s an October weekend in 1971. We’re up at 4:30 a.m. I drive my two sons and two older Long Island boys down to Philadelphia. I’ve worked out a deal with the Director so that it only cost $60 to enter Scott, Eric, and me in various events and keep us playing all day. But I soon get angry because, though I’d protested about it at the last Philadelphia tournament we’d gone to, had written my complaints, as I would write my complaints you’re reading here about this tournament, in Table Tennis Topics, the USTTA magazine I’d be editing for 13 years, nothing has changed. There isn’t the U-13 round-robin junior play there should have been, and, worse, Scott, given his record, is unjustly playing N.Y.’s Timmy House, the #1 seed, in the 1stround. Is also playing him again in the U-15’s. And in the U-17’s in the 1st round he’s up against N.J.’s Mike Stern, the player voted at the last tournament the “most promising junior” among the East Coast regulars.
Is this some payback for my protest last tournament? I don’t believe that. I request modest, reasonable changes in the U-13 and U-15 draws—offer to run two 5-player U-13 round robins myself on available tables. This, however, creates a brouhaha—the Rules must be strictly enforced, the Draw can’t be changed. Ridiculous, I say, these kids want to play. Someone is even objecting to 53-year-old Bernie Bukiet pairing with my 8-year-old in Class A Doubles. As the day wears on, I’m angry, I’m weary, I see boys and girls, their supervising parent, no one much cares about, I’m discouraged. Surprisingly, in the 17’s, Scott wins the 1st game, unbelievably has Mike 20-17 match point in the second! Then he smiles at him, serves a fast tricky serve…off the table. Loses the game. Up 18-17 in the 3rd, he loses that one too. I am both vindicated and extremely disappointed—even, you might say, sick at heart.
The table tennis tour—for that’s what we’re on—is fun? I care too much about my boys’ success? Have been something of a madman, driven to argument and insult with those after all who have worked hard to put on the tournament.
After Scott is finished with his last match—a Men’s Consolation—it is past 11:00 p.m.. It will be another 2-3 hours before the Men’s final. My two sons, the other two Long Island boys I’m responsible for, and I get in the car and head for home. The two younger ones are soon fast asleep.
It is raining and there is no let up.
I stop outside Philadelphia to keep awake. My little eight-year-old Eric (he won that first doubles match with Bernie, deuce in the 3rd, won another match from an older boy after being down 6-0 in the 3rd and crying), he just can’t stand up any more to the pace, the pressure—he and Scott are sitting sound asleep at a Howard Johnson’s counter.
We get back into the car, drive on. Another 20 miles in the rain and I’ve got to stop again. More coffee. Now, though, I’m determined to make it home without any more stops. As it is, it will be after 3 o’clock when I get into bed. I will have been up almost 24 hours.
Coming down the last 45-minute stretch, watching the wipers go back and forth, I quickly, instinctively, have to swerve hard to avoid hitting a car.
“What’s the matter, can’t you drive!” a voice screams at me.
And now I begin yelling, howling out loud at myself, begin cursing away, urging myself to stay awake, to be responsible.
Ten minutes later we come to a very bad accident. A car has been wrecked. Four former occupants huddle dazed on the wet grass. Someone is covered with a blanket who will never speak again.
I remind myself that this is it. Even if I am just absurdly, madly, talking to myself here, I’ve got to stay awake—I have to speak out. It’s not just to keep me alive—it’s for the boys, my own of course, but the others too.
It’s one of those times, I tell myself, when it makes sense to be something of a madman.
At the March, 1972 U.S. Open, 10-year-old Scott, paired with Timmy House, wins the Under 13 Doubles. But Scott and I lose the final of the Parent-Child Doubles, 19 in the 4th.
However, I do have compensatory moments. At a tournament in Miami that July, Scott, in an Under 17 match, is down 19-11 in the deciding 3rd and yet is loudly cheering himself on, “C’mon, you can still win!” And, well, I was and still am enraptured at Scott hitting in all those shots, especially unhesitatingly at the end when I was practically holding my breath and didn’t want to utter a word for fear of breaking the magic spell. Yes, he won 10 straight points, and when he came back and sat down and looked at me with that look in his eyes, it was a happy time for a father.
Coincidentally, at a Long Island tournament that fall, I myself was down 19-11 in the deciding 3rd to a longtime N.Y. defensive player Horace Roberts. I kept trying of course, the more so because Scott was sitting up front on the sidelines. As I kept winning points, I kept inwardly saying to myself, “Win this for Scott…Win this for Scott”—and I did. And I was rewarded with the most beatific look of pride and happiness I ever saw on anyone’s face—for he didn’t want to share this joy just with me but everyone around him. “Wasn’t it wonderful my father won?” his face beamed to one and all.
Moving on, as we must, how about a couple of U.S. Open stories?
In 1974, in Oklahoma City, where Scott lost the final of the Boys Under 13 to Rutledge Barry, he and I had a 1st-round 8:00 a.m.-scheduled Parent-Child Doubles, an event which I thought Scott and I had a real good shot to win. I’d gotten there right at 8:00—but Scott, having forgotten his pass, was meanwhile running back to our hotel a few blocks away. Friendly-like, I told my sober-looking parental opponent, who was waiting for us as I knew he would be because the day before he’d remarked to me how pleased he was to see all the defaults, that my boy and I were ready, that he and his boy could go on out to the table, but that I had to go to the john first. Then I raced like a maniac out through the rooms, and down the long corridor yelling “Scott! Scott! And out into the street—but couldn’t see him. Then, cursing, I ran back to the playing hall, thinking I might somehow have missed him and he might be waiting for me. Nope. So then, cursing and yelling, I ran back out onto the street—where, there in the distance, Scott was running. I yelled at him and he hurried the more and we ran down the corridor and burst into the playing hall and, out of breath but trying not to show it, we walked briskly up to the table where our opponents, whom we were a lock to beat, were waiting. They never said a word, but, even if they believed me, they had to be wondering where the hell we’d been, and I demonically imagined that they might have thought I had diarrhea.
At the 1975 U.S. Open, in the Parent-Child Doubles, Scott and I are down 20-19 match point and I tell Scott to just block back his opponent’s serve and I’ll hit the next one in. He dutifully block returns it, but my comment must have tightened him and the ball hung on the net, then dropped back on our side. “Whadja tell me to do that for?” he asked, not in anger but in anguish. For me, the thought that I’d misdirected him, let him down, was, still is, a sorrow of the heart.
During this time, my wife later told me, Scott had made his school baseball team, but then realized that, in order to play the games, he’d have to miss going to tournaments. What should he do? According to Sally—he never said a word to me—he agonized over this choice. Finally he said to his mother, “I’ll play table tennis. Because otherwise Tim will be mad at me.” [Tim—not Dad--is what from the beginning I never objected to the kids calling me].
At the 1976 USOTC’s, Scott, 15, and Eric, 13, teamed with Mike Lardon, 16, to win the Junior Division. Scott’s play was excellent—he won the Most Valuable Player Award with a perfect 18-0 record, beating along the way the Canadian National Junior Champion, Pierre Normandin of Quebec. Also, at the ’76 U.S. Open, Scott had paired with Mike Stern to take the Under 15 Doubles, but at the ’76 U.S. Closed, in the Under 17 Doubles, he and Randy Seemiller, leading 2-0 against Jimmy Lane and Faan Hoan Liu in the final, lost 23-21 in the 5th. Scott, however, made the Final 12 in the U.S. Men’s Team Trials. Finishing 11th, he came within one place of making the U.S. World Team, for the USTTA had passed a Rule, an unpopular one, that allowed a Junior, should he finish in the top 10, to be automatically put on the Team.
After his success, I began my light-hearted Junior of the Month article on Scott this way:
“Hearing what I thought were strange noises, I’d just thumped heavily down the stairs when my 15-year-old son suddenly came flying over the living room sofa, scaring the astral body right out of me. He was dressed in the second-hand jodogi he’d bought from a friend, screaming a ki-ya, and assuming in his Imagination the impossible—an asana in mid-flight—what Swami Vishnudevananda calls the ‘Shooting Bow’ position.
‘Scott.’ I yelled. ‘What the f___ are you doing!’…
Of course I knew what he was doing—or thought I did—because when I was younger I used to yell and jump in front of the living room mirror too.”
Then, continuing the interview, I said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, ‘What did you do last summer?…I mean, who helped you improve your game the most?’”
“Fernando [or, more properly Fuarnado] Roberts—he was nice and let me stay at his house lots of times when I played all night at Reisman’s [Marty’s Club was at 96th and Broadway]. And [Mike] Bush. And Roger Sverdlik. And [Dave] Sakai [in Waterbury, CT.]. And Barry Margolius. When I was in Boston he forced me to practice with him….It was either that or go out into ‘The Combat Zone.’”
“Speaking of that zone,” I asked, “what the hell are you doing with those pajamas on?”
“They’re not pajamas. And you know damn well what I’m doing. I’m preparing for my 5-week Judo class. And after that I’ve got a 5-week Yoga class. I’m also practicing, at times, to be a vegetarian.”
O.K., wonderful. But back now to how your game improved. “You’ve gone to the last three Seemiller clinics. Didn’t they help you a lot? What did you do there?”
“I engaged in some very serious playing and hard training—I especially enjoyed the drills. Rutledge Barry and I are very good at drills.”
“Uh-huh. And your Judo and Yoga—you expect they’ll help to discipline you?”
“Oh, yes. They’ll give me flexibility. To play table tennis—especially at Reisman’s—you have to have flexibility.”
The interview continued, but with less banter and more seriousness, until at the end Scott made the point:
“…[My] idea of being a professional is playing every weekend, flying from coast to coast, and competing in whatever good tournament I can. And that’s much more than what I’m doing now or ever will be able to do with the money my parents can give me.”
Whether Scott will become a professional or not, and, if so, where he’ll be playing, at this time remains to be seen. However, the 1974 German National Champion, Jochen Leiss, will win the 1977 U.S. Open—and will be credited by Scott with helping him to improve his flat forehand. Scott’s forehand was coming up in too much of a salute to past authority, so Leiss urged him to incorporate more body twist, get more of his weight pivoted into his shots, and hit the ball flatter.
At this ’77 Open, Scott moves forward in his table tennis career. Still 15, he beats Barry, then his brother Eric, 13, in a 5-game final to win the U.S. Under 17 Junior Championship.
At the ’77 CNE, where the previous year Scott had won the Junior Mixed Championship, he took three titles—the A Singles and Doubles, and the Junior Doubles—and was a member of the winning U.S. Junior Team. Meanwhile, the organizers of the USOTC’s agreed to my request that the strong Butterfly-sponsored U.S. Juniors be allowed to play in the Men’s Division…and the boys almost won it, losing to their arch-rivals, the Seemiller brothers, 5-4 in the final. At the ’77 Closed, Scott and Eric took the U-17 Doubles.
I’d been carrying on a correspondence with a new and from then on lifelong friend, Nisse Sandberg, Founder/Director of Sweden’s Angby Club, and had raised money from USTTA members to send a U.S. Team—the Boggans, Barry, and Jimmy Lane--to the Swedish Open Junior Championships in May of ’78 (the 17’s was won by Mikael Appelgren, whom Lane beat in the Team’s).
At the 1978 Open, in the final of the U-17 Doubles, Scott and Eric, down 20-14 in the 5th rallied to defeat the strong Swedish team of Jens Fellke and Lars Stener. Two years later, in the Under 21 Doubles in the 1980 U.S. Open, these Swedes will beat the Boggans deuce in the 5th.
The ’78-’79 season starts well for Scott. He’s the Men’s runner-up to perennial winner Danny Seemiller in the final of the fall CNE. He’s also Men’s runner-up at a Trinidad-Tobago tournament he’s been invited to—and his write-up of this Invitational is the first of a number of articles he’ll do for the USTTA magazine, Topics, and for my later magazine, Timmy’s. His Table Tennis Enterprises team of Eric, Roger Sverdlik, and David Philip wins the USOTC’s by defeating the Seemiller team, 5-3. Scott has a 15-3 record, including an amazing win, from down 1-0 and 20-12, over the former Canadian Champion Derek Wall.
However, at the 1978 Closed, Scott catches the table edge with his upswing in a Men’s semi’s match against Danny Seemiller, breaks his thumb, and is forced to default. . Danny, who was in no danger of losing this match with Scott, then lost the final to 15-year-old Eric. Throughout their careers, the Seemillers and the Boggans, though often opponents, were always friends. Danny helped Scott and Eric, particularly when they were younger and not yet, but clearly had the potential to be, his rivals.
In the spring of ’79, Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Director of the Iowa Nissen Opens that Scott was annually invited to and played in, and in years past and for years to come the U.S. Men’s Team Captain, with his players, Scott and Eric, the Seemiller brothers, and Sverdlik, have advanced to play in the Championship Division at the Pyongyang, North Korea World’s, and, as Eric has put it from the beginning, “were favored to lose every match.” Still, visiting North Korea, and China (that’s some side trip!) is quite an experience.
That May, Scott wins the $600 1st-prize in the Men’s, and wins also the Mixed with Angelita Rosal Sistrunk (later Bengtsson), at the Pacific Coast Open in San Diego. The following year at this tournament he’ll lose deuce in the 5th to U.S. Champion Attila Malek.
In Aug. of 1979, Scott leaves for his four-year stay in Germany. He has a hard time at first, would later confide to Sally that once he had to choose between eating and buying a pair of shoes. Sometimes he cries himself to sleep, won’t tell his family this then because he wants to be self-sufficient, doesn’t want to fail. He has a bad first fall session of play (in the beginning his practice situation is often poor—has to walk four miles to practice his backhand loop against 1600-rated players), but his Julich Team coach, Dirk Huber, supports him, keeps him in the same playing position, and four years later he’ll finish #1 in the Bundesliga 2nd Division West with a 35 and 3 record. At the ’79 Closed, Scott loses in the semi’s of the Men’s to the eventual winner, Malek. Also loses the final of the Under 21’s to Eric in 5. However, he qualifies for the U.S. Team.
In Feb., 1980, Scott , who’s sponsored by Joola, goes at their behest to Belgium to coach a little—Jean-Michel Saive, in the future one of the world’s top players, is one of his pupils. Living in Europe made it easy for Scott to represent the always cash-strapped USTTA in tournaments abroad. And not having to commute gave him leisure time to study German and read books. Melville’s Moby Dick, for one, wherein he was struck by the line (as if there were a table tennis analogy?), “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.”
On their way from Belgium to the German Open at Russelshiem by train, Scott and his friend and fellow U.S. top player, Mike Bush, who’s also playing in the Bundesliga Second Division, discover too late that, as Mike writes, “we were at our last stop and the train we were on that was pulling out would only carry us further and further from our destination.” So, what to do? Mike continues:
“Watching through the just-opened train door the cement platfom shooting by at about 15-20 MPH, and hearing Scott’s voice behind me, ‘Go for it,’ I had thought, ‘You’d have to be crazy to try it!’ But I had jumped and, sprawled out on the concrete, had watched Scott do the same. He had bounced around on the fast-moving cement for about a second before he was totally wiped out. Neither of us could get up for about two minutes we were laughing so hard. When we had just about recovered, I said, ‘The funny thing is, this isn’t really our stop!’ Which of course put us back into hysterics.”
Result of their fun? Scott with a scraped knee; Mike with a broken left index-finger and a scraped playing hand. After their losses in the Team’s at this German Open, Mike writes:
“…we regained our lost enthusiasm as we watched the superb versatile play of youngster Cheng Ying Hua [then playing for China, but who, 20 years later, would be inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame]....Cheng [up 2-0] had gotten severe leg cramps just before the match went into the 3rd game. Barely able to walk, he altered his spin-every-ball style into a block-every-one. [But his Czech opponent] Dvoracek, who usually has no trouble against this style with his fanatically consistent spinning game, had no chance to win or go through Cheng’s brick wall defense. In this game, Dvoracek spun as many as 40 balls a point before he missed….”
Punitive-minded (and from my point of view continually incompetent) USATT officials and (disrespectful) Scott, defended by me, are often at odds. But there are those in the Sport Scott esteems. Here in 1980 is part of what he had to say about Engelbert Huging, the 1978 German National Champion, who was a Julich Club teammate of Scott’s. Something of a tortured soul Engelbert might have been, but he wasn’t nearly as wild as he looked, and we still keep in touch with him, his life in Australia.
“I had the use of a nearby hall early in the morning,” Scott wrote, “and for one week we trained together every day starting at 7 a.m. Huging encouraged me and was a sort of inspiration to me. He played with two different types of sponge—something like a Tackiness-Phantom combination. He went from #30 in Germany to the top 5 in about six months. Everyone said he got so good because of his racket. This infuriated him so much that for the first half of the Bundesliga season he used two different colors on his bat [this was before the two-color rule was mandatory] so one knew which was the regular sponge and which was the tricky long-pimpled sponge. With this two-colored bat he had the best record in the league—losing only two matches….
Huging was definitely a unique person—was often high-spirited with a friendly, even lovable atmosphere about him. He was like a big bear—strong, solid, and with an endless supply of stamina. I remember running with him one day, and after about 4 miles, he twisted his ankle and fell. When his muscle-bound body went down I swear I felt the ground shake. Tired and relieved, thinking now the run was over, I was happy—but definitely didn’t want him to know it. But seemingly always Huging had an inner strength to go on and amazingly he hobbled up, started on, and ended up running another 8 miles.”
Huging was sponsored by Joola, and Scott too…until—he didn’t think it made any difference--he was seen using a competitor’s type of rubber in a tournament, felt he’d play better with that. A real no-no. At which time Joola rightly just stopped paying him. However, the Joola-USA team of Scott, Eric, Malek and D-J Lee, the Joola U.S. distributor, did win the 1980 USOTC’s. At both the CNE and the U.S. Closed, where the infamous “Boggan” Point-Penalty Rule was a subject of controversy, Scott is runner-up in this or that final, but, more importantly, he qualifies for the U.S. Team to the Novi Sad World’s—a USATT E.C. vote to exclude him from the Trials and thus the World Championships fails by a 3-4 vote.
At the 1981 World’s, the U.S. Men’s Team—the Boggan and Seemiller brothers, and Mike Bush--get back into the Championship Division. Also, the #2 U.S. Team at the U.S. Open has a nice win over Canada when, down 2-1, Ricky Seemiller upsets Kosanovic and Scott in the 5th match comes from 1-0 and 20-15 match point down to beat Errol Caetano. That July 4, Scott badly burns himself, spends a restless week in the Burn Unit of a local hospital—but there’s no infection. Says the plastic surgeon, “Scott will have to face the fact that at best he’ll regain only 95% of the use of that hand and will never play table tennis again as well as he’s played it before.”
The 1981 Closed was a memorable tournament for a very focused Scott. In Men’s Singles, after being down 2-0 to Lim Ming Chui in the 16th’s and rallying, he went on to beat Jimmy Lane in the 8th’s, Danny Seemiller in the quarter’s, D-J Lee in the semi’s, and his brother Eric in 5 in the final. I kept walking about, peeping from a distance at the match between my sons, vacillating back and forth as to who I wanted to see win, especially when Eric stubbornly held on to take the 4th, but I was finally pleased to see Scott win, for Eric had already won the Championship. Off I went by myself and cried a bit—for I felt it was a once in a lifetime event. Amazingly, that Closed, Scott was in 5 finals—the Men’s, the Under 21’s, the Hard Rubber, the Men’s Doubles, and the Mixed Doubles. He then came 2nd in the U.S. Team Trials behind Eric.
Before going back to Germany, Scott gave me an interview for Topics, in which he answered questions, among which were the following.
In response to whether his league play and training in Germany had helped him win this U.S. Championship, he said:
“Yes, definitely. In the last 3 months particularly I started to get much better practice than I’d ever had before…with my Swedish roommate Ake Gronlund and the German Internationals Wosik, Nolten, and Huging. I’m so used to severe loops now I’m not apt to miss Danny’s. And compared to American players, Gronlund plays so fast that he’s improved my hand speed and made it seem like some of the players I played, in the Team Trials, for example, were moving in slow motion. And Huging, naturally, is marvelous practice—my loop against his changing chop….
My serves are trickier now. I can flat hit or loop topspin, can loop long serves very well. My backhand goes cross court or down the line. My anticipation’s better—I get to lots of balls now and can even turn them into point winners….”
Did you, I asked, “always get plenty of food, and rest, even in this Vegas atmosphere?”
“I never eat much during a tournament. In the morning, I’d have some hot chocolate, eat some fruit, then later drink some caffeine, a soda. Also, I got up every morning at 7 o’clock and was always one of the first ones at the playing area. I’d try to practice short periods of time with different people, and I always took time out to loosen up quite a bit. I think, if you don’t overdo it, sleep’s not that important. Naturally, though, I wasn’t up until the wee hours gambling [as, I might add, he was on some other tournament occasions].”
Scott went on to say that he felt he played his best in a Mixed Doubles match with Kasia Dawidowicz Gaca, and that he had no trouble switching to hard rubber for that one event (for a “$100 an hour,” he shrugged, why not play twice a year, and, no, it made only a moment’s difference that “I stroke the ball totally different with each racket”).
With regard to playing his brother Eric in the final, he made these points:
“…I know him and his game so well, and have formed a very good flat-hit style to play him. Often I found myself relying totally on instinct—that is, when Eric didn’t spin much this match, I just kept hitting his anti hard. Also, unlike a lot of players, I always watch the ball and not what Eric with his fast motion does to it. ‘How does the ball take off?’—that’s always the question I’m looking quickly to answer.
…[When] I was up 19-17 in the 5th, I did for a moment have some total schizoid feelings—I don’t know why, perhaps because Eric had been cheering me on [in my earlier matches]. Anyway, I wanted him to prove himself with a point [even after he’d come back from two match points in the 4th!]…I mean it was crazy. I knew I was going to win the match, but I just wanted him to get another point. So he served and I pushed it to his backhand, popped it up really, and it just caught the back edge. We both knew that was it.”
And, finally, Scott’s thoughts on winning:
“…I did soon find it a little ridiculous not that so many people were shaking my hand and congratulating me but that so many of them—strangers—were seizing the opportunity to ask me one absurd question after another…about my racket, my strokes, my thoughts on table tennis in the Olympics, whatever. Whereas if I’d have lost, they wouldn’t have said anything to me….
…One reason why Eric wins so many close matches is that he hates to lose. But from Saturday on, he and I had understood the situation. We knew we were going to be playing each other in the final and again in the Team Trials. So, night after night we continued to share the same room. Life goes on. You’ve got to accept the fact that playing a brother is like playing a close friend.”
Scott returns from Germany for the Apr., 1982 Louisiana Open—is $500 runner-up to Eric and wins the Doubles with him. Then the following week is an Assistant Coach to Danny Seemiller at the Colorado Springs Elite Training Camp.
At the U.S. Open, in the Men’s Doubles, Scott and Eric, after beating the Koreans Kim Taek Soo and Son Sung Soon, lost the final in 5 to the Seemiller brothers. But Scott won the Hardbat Singles over the Swede Lars Franklin.
Scott and Eric then went West—to play in the Los Angeles Korean Open, then the High Desert Open, in Victorville, CA, where Eric beat Scott in the final.
At the ’82 National Sports Festival in Indianapolis, Scott got mugged going back to his dorm room at night, was taken to a hospital, but recovered from a head gash to win the Singles and Doubles.
Then it was off to Seoul and to Taiwan where Scott, a U.S. Team member, gave away a pretty much valueless U.S.-awarded trophy to a young bystander. This precipitated a storm of protest, followed by an attempt to suspend Scott without due process, a fiery counter-attack by me as to the incompetence of those charging him, and the firing of Disciplinary Chairman Mike Scott when he ruled a sort of Let’s-forget-the- whole-thing judgment.
At the ’82 Closed, Scott, playing the Olympic Game, not having declared himself the professional that Eric said he was, played in the U.S. Amateur and won it. Also, after having repeatedly lost to Dean Doyle in the final of the Closed Hardbat event, he won that too. In addition, he was a finalist in the Mixed Doubles, and again qualified for the U.S. Team via the Trials.
So from the ’81 Closed through the ’82 Closed, Scott, probably the most flamboyant top player in the U.S., had a pile of titles and 2nd-places to his credit. He’d been the National Men’s Champion, the National Sports Festival Champion, the National Amateur Champion, and the U.S. Open and National Hard Bat Champion. But though he was never formally charged with any breach of discipline, he certainly was informally, privately, charged by the USTTA Executive Committee and denied the Athlete of the Year Award. Nor, though he was based in Germany, would enough E.C. members consider putting him on the 4-man U.S. Pan-Am Team but insisted he’d have to come back for the Trials.
In 1983 Scott, though he’s writing some controversial articles, continued representing the U.S.—in his 3rd World Championship, and in the French, Russian, and Swedish Opens, and later in the German Open. Hitting in forehands, he went 5 at the Swedish Open with World #16 Erik Lindh. Scott’s now writing interesting, animated articles on play in Europe for my magazine Timmy’s.
In 1984, Scott added another National Championship to his record—the Men’s Doubles with Perry Schwartzberg.
1985 wasn’t a bust—Scott won the Men’s Doubles in Montreal, earned $400 in the North American Championships, was runner-up in two events at the CNE, and then
defeated Danny Seemiller to win the $500 1st prize at the Hoosier Open. He also won the November John Kauderer Open at Westfield, N.J.
But at the ’85 Closed he placed 5th in the Men’s, and his career was coming to an end.
After that he played sparingly, though with some success—as late as 1989 he and Eric played a final at the Westfield Club. But by this time he’d married Celeste, become a New York City firefighter, and had started his own Tree Service business. No time for table tennis. The only tournament for him thereafter was the World Policemen/Fireman’s Games in Memphis in 1991, which his Firehouse sent him to and which he and Celeste treated as a momentary vacation. Of course he won easily.
In 1993 their first son Taylor was born; in 2000 their second son Zach.
Scott, with his two jobs and two sons, was serious enough before the horrors befalling the Twin Towers and the subsequent devastating, few-minutes-away-from-Kennedy crash on Long Island which he was quickly called to. So Sally and I’d hoped that he and his family would come to Vegas—combine this induction time with a much-needed vacation. But, sorry, it wasn’t to be.