Chapter XXIII. 1937: Aarons Signs Play for Pay Exhibition Contracts in Great Britain Without Getting Permission from the English Association, is Threatened by ETTA and ITTF with Suspension. Strong-willed Zeisberg Protests Vigorously to Strong-willed Montagu. When Montagu Gives Mild Suspension to Aarons, Zeisberg Withdraws USTTA from ITTF. But Anglo-American Dispute Ends and USTTA Rejoins ITTF.
After her playing commitments for the U.S. Team were concluded, Aarons stayed on in London and the very next week worked up a 15-minute exhibition act with "Michael French," "a World Doubles Champion," as her partner. Show business was in Ruth’s blood and she wanted to take advantage of the fame her titles, looks, and personality had brought her. She’d contracted for a series of bookings that, though they would take her up to Scotland, were centered in London--one at the May Fair Hotel cabaret, for example, another on a flood-lit stage at the Paramount Theatre where Claire Trevor's film "Career Woman" was playing (RAS, 66 and 79).
"Michael French" was no "World Doubles Champion," but Michel Glickman, the 1931 French Champion, who for a short time back in the States in 1935, had given some exhibitions with Ruth.* The two of them had quickly incorporated some sophistication into their act. Astaire and Rogers were playing in "Swing Time" at the Streatham Astoria? Don't miss the companion Aarons/French stage show:
"One of the novelties of this attraction is the way in which the latter half of the matches is presented [in the dark], the players being disclosed in silhouette form by means of special lighting. The ball [as well as the net] appears to be illuminated, while the players can be picked out by their white berets, white gloves, and white shoes" (RAS, 63 and 67).
Ah, and it was only last Oct., when Ruth and Sandor Glancz had an engagement at the Palmer House in Chicago, that the manager had chided Ruth "for ordering changes in the lighting system" in the ballroom where she was performing (Oct. 17, 1936 N.Y. Post...in RAS, 48).
Now she was no less direct in speaking with the press about her contracts:
"Since [in Table Tennis] there is no distinction between amateur and professional [that is, all players are permitted to be members of the same USTTA and to play against one another for titles and prizes, and to be paid to give exhibitions and to endorse products--Table Tennis Corporation of America, for example, sold an Aarons bat with carrying case for $2] I intend to make all the money possible while I have my title, and I'm not at all ashamed of cashing in on this opportunity" (RAS, 86).
So what's the problem? How is it that Aarons' difficulties with the ETTA are far and away going to upstage even Sol Schiff's suspect USTTA suspension?...
Back on January 10, 1937--as President Zeisberg would later make clear in his Apr. 29, 1937 detailed four-month chronological review to all USTTA Officers and Affiliates--Ruth had asked for USTTA approval to make contractual commitments in London. So on Jan. 24 Zeisberg wrote her "a letter of approval with copies to W. J. Pope, English TTA Secretary, and Ivor Montagu, who’s both the ITTF Advisory Committee Chairman (in effect, Montagu’s the ITTF President, a title soon inaugurated and that he’ll then have) and the ETTA Chairman, but [says Zeisberg] I didn't know that at the time." That same day, Zeisberg also wrote Pope "requesting ETTA sanction, with copies to Mr. Montagu and Ruth."
According to ITTF regulations, the ETTA had territorial jurisdiction over Ruth:
[That is, with regard to compensatory acts]...players registered with any other national governing Association and temporarily visiting a country upon a specific tour or [for a] tournament, the governing body of that country is entitled to rule...upon such acts as may be committed within its borders...." (ITTF Handbook, 1936-37, 10)
This request for approval for Aarons to make compensatory contracts, Zeisberg thought, or wanted to think, was merely "a courteous formality." And apparently Ruth thought that, or wanted to think that, too, for on receiving Zeisberg's letters in Baden, she signed the London contracts.
It’s hard to believe though that Ruth, as Montagu himself claimed, "entered into the contracts in all innocence and without knowing that ETTA permission was necessary." Surely she had to know, or at least suspect, from Zeisberg’s letters that permission was necessary. But no doubt she wanted to think it was more or less automatic.
Though Montagu was not at Baden (it was the only World Championship he’d thus far missed),** it's not clear to me whether Ruth contacted any other English TTA authority figure (though she should have?) before she signed. Apparently, as the ETTA’s rival publication Table Tennis Activity reported (Mar., 1937, 11) Ruth did not receive any "official communication" from the ETTA; however, Mr. Pope, ETTA Secretary, spoke to her (at some time in Baden?) "and said that he understood that she was to give exhibitions" in London, and she said yes, "and as a result of what then passed she was under the impression that her plans met with approval." (Perhaps Pope didn't realize--and it made a difference that he didn't--that Ruth "was to appear at two London super cinemas and at the Mayfair [sic] Hotel"?)
At any rate, Zeisberg's understanding was that when the U.S. Team arrived in England about Feb. 9 Montagu said that "Ruth and Elmer F. Cinnater, Captain, were lax in complying with his requests" (I assume that Montagu, informed by Pope, wanted verification that Ruth had indeed signed a contract or contracts without first getting permission from the ETTA, and, were that true, he wanted her to break that contract or contracts or be subject to ETTA penalty). That independent-minded Ruth was loath to break any contract (though actually she did secure a cancellation for one week to play with the U.S. Team against the English in Birmingham) we can easily believe--not just because she was legally obligated but because she was enjoying her career in show business, was being fulfilled in part by performing. But world-famous Champion or not, it was ultimately her responsibility to see that she'd actually gotten ETTA permission to make these bookings, and perhaps she knew that but thought the more practical and wiser course (seconded by Capt. Cinnater?) was to just go ahead and sign, and, no big deal, trust that her prestige, her youthful enthusiasm and "innocence," and the sure popular support for her performances would carry the day.
As Table Tennis Activity, defending her, would say:
"...she was news. Pictures and stories about her appeared daily in almost every national newspaper.
It is safe to say that she gained more publicity for the English National Championships than any other individual player.
If only because she was definitely ‘box-office’ Miss Aarons should have earned the gratitude of the E.T.T.A., to whom the financial success of the tournament was imperative.
Common-sense would have indicated that in the interests of Anglo-American good feeling, and as a personal act of courtesy to Miss Aarons, it would have been as well to have...given approval, even if reluctantly, and accompanied by a ‘Don't do it again’ admonition" (Mar., 1937, 11-12).
Zeisberg in his Apr. 29 review defended her delay in responding to Montagu by saying that she and Cinnater had been "led to believe [as Schiff had been led to believe by Biddell?] by H. N. Smith, ETTA Vice President; C. Corti Woodcock, former ETTA Chairman, and Messrs. Backhouse and Fitzgibbon, editors of Table Tennis Activity [they were the ones, remember, who would not be able to get a Press pass for the English Open finals from the ETTA] that the matter would be adjusted harmoniously."
But, regardless of the fact that exhibitions or performances had been given at hotels or cinemas before, the ETTA Executive Committee had just that season passed new regulations regarding "Payment to Players" which they'd decided to apply rigorously. Specifically, as an article in the Dec., ‘36 issue of the official ETTA Table Tennis made clear:
"(g) Players may not enter into any contract to provide for the exclusive use of certain goods or materials, or exclusive play on premises controlled by a firm, in any circumstances.
(h) Players shall not receive any remuneration other than bare expenses for playing in a competitive event in any circumstances" (3).
English players who played table tennis exhibitions for money or were tempted to, and who participated in other sports during the summer, were worried about losing their amateur status? If so, these ETTA regulations helped to protect them. But what about other players who didn’t care if they were considered professionals, who in fact rather liked the idea?
Table Tennis Activity, the rival independent publication, opposed the ETTA view. Their editors argued that "income should be the birthright of those who have climbed to the top. The sooner it is possiblefor a steady income to be made by those skilled in the arts of the game the better" (Nov., 1936, 2).
Further, they said:
"There is no particular virtue in amateurism [or, also in their words, "a descent to shamateurism"]. Too often people label themselves amateurs and thereby seek to justify an inefficient performance.
Rules or no rules, the only time paid players will cease to exist is when nobody is prepared to pay them. Not before" (Mar., 1937, 10).
Clearly, though, Ruth, whose exhibition status in London was like that of an English player, had violated ETTA rule "(g)" above. And because she had she'd also violated the following ITTF rule:
"22. Expenses: General. A Table Tennis player may accept compensation in any form, travelling and hotel expenses, for playing the game in a tournament, match or competition other than those named in 21 [World Championships, Swaythling Cup and Corbillon Cup], or in an exhibition, only provided that:--
(a) Permission to pay such expenses shall have been previously obtained by the payer from the Association, or such payment shall be by the Association, in whose territorial jurisdiction the event may take place" (Handbook, 1936-37, 8).
Montagu, President of both the ETTA and the ITTF, felt he had to be be adamant. "The ETTA," he was to write by way of explanation to USTTA Topics Editor Bill Haid in Jan. of 1949, "was on the spot as a disciplinary-exercising body: could visitors flout with impunity the rules we enforced on our own players? There was bound to be trouble either way, whether ETT[A] acted or not."
This was Montagu's strongest argument, but he had no trouble finding others...then or through the years. For example, in response to a May-June, 1975 Stan Morest article in Topics, he wrote a Letter to the Editor, me (see TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1975, 6) in which he made the following point:
"...Worse still, in England the particular precedent of Ruth Aarons, using an opportunity to visit England on invitation to play an international match as an official representative, and accepting an engagement for professional entertainment that the law of that time obliged the intending visitor to disclose beforehand and which required a labor permit for entry--this could not only jeopardise our relationship with the immigration authorities in respect to all future teams, but place the offender herself, however innocently, in jeopardy from the law."
Wink at that, will you?
On Feb. 19, 1937 Montagu cabled Zeisberg that his ETTA Executive Committee "UNANIMOUSLY REFUSES PERMISSION WHICH ALWAYS PREVIOUSLY REFUSED EVERY HOME APPLICANT SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES. AARONS APPARENTLY CANNOT OBTAIN RELEASE CONTRACT STOP ACCEPT SHE ACTED GOOD FAITH BUT DISCIPLINARY ACTION IN DUE COURSE INEVITABLE."
Table Tennis Activity reported that there was "no general discussion" among ETTA E.C. members. Their "unanimous decision" had come about after each member was "instructed to telephone Mr. Montagu at specified intervals" (Mar., 1937, 12).
On Feb. 20, Zeisberg writes to his E.C., "If I am wrong in my attitude please stop me but if they suspend Ruth for innocently violating an English TTA regulation we should back her up to the limit." This backing--to Carl and Ruth--Zeisberg's E.C. will give.
At this point one is likely reminded of Zeisberg's Feb. 24 registered letter to...young Sol Schiff--that 1936 letter which said in part:
"This will notify you the Executive Committee voted 6-0 to indefinitely suspend you from membership for signing a contract...without obtaining the Committee's permission...."
And the Oct., 1936 Topics editorial:
"Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Star players who yield to the impulse to play before big crowds without consulting the proper sanctioning official may suddenly find the reward for their thoughtlessness is suspension or expulsion."
Apparently Carl is now prepared to say that because Ruth is an innocent (more innocent than Sol was?) she should not be held accountable.
Ruth herself--who’d told Table Tennis Activity (Mar., 1937, 12), "when I learned that the English Association did not approve, I tried to obtain release from my contract, but was unable to do so"--soon adopted a what's-the-fuss-all-about attitude that would further her innocence: "I really am at a loss to understand the attitude of the ITTF....No one in England had anything but praise to say of my exhibition tour there" (RAS, 86).
On Feb. 23, strong-willed Zeisberg appeals to strong-willed Montagu (in what Montagu will see as an "impertinence" and as "gratuitous advice"): "SITUATION UNFORTUNATE BUT DISCIPLINE UNJUSTIFIED IN CIRCUMSTANCES BARNAS VIOLATION PUT MILLSTONE AROUND OUR NECK WE MUST ENDURE IT SUGGEST ETTA DO LIKEWISE..."
Zeisberg refers back to when Montagu and his ITTF didn't put any pressure on the Hungarian Association to deter World Champion Barna from signing, or disciplining him when he did sign (should they have?), a 1935 ball contract with Sportcraft, and a bat contract with Parker Brothers, Zeisberg and his fledgling USTTA's arch-rival. (Later, in Oct. of ‘36, Zeisberg had attempted to discipline McClure for his contract with Parker Brothers, but this attempt failed, for it was rejected by half of Zeisberg’s own E.C. Whereupon Zeisberg himself successfully urged that "McClure be authorized to have an autographed racket made by P. Becker and Co.")
On Mar. 6, Zeisberg sent Mr. Pope (who'd said that Carl "should have known better than to suppose there would be no objection to her [Ruth's] exhibitions") "a short letter of apology" in which he admitted his error and asked (copy to Montagu) that he, not Ruth, "be penalized."
On Mar. 11, Zeisberg sent Montagu "a short letter" acknowledging Montagu's Feb. 27 "8-page letter criticizing me, Ruth and Elmer," and asked "for postponement of action till we could discuss it." He also cabled Ruth, "MONTAGU PROTESTS PLAYING AS PINGPONGER SHORTENING ENGAGEMENT IF POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSS WOULD AMELIORATE SITUATION." (Zeisberg, as the London papers of the time confirm (RAS, 63-69), is quite right in his comment that "Montagu's allegation that she [Ruth] was billed as a ‘ping-pong champ’ was later found to be untrue."
On March 25, after writing a few days earlier to his E.C. that "if Ruth was suspended we should withdraw from ITTF," Zeisberg sent a four-page letter to Montagu...
"...acknowledging my ignorance started the mess, blaming him [Montagu] for making a mountain out of a molehill, blaming him for the Barna contracts here, telling him it seemed odd to discipline a loyal member for some one else's error, resigning from the ITTF Advisory Committee [but not before giving his last piece of what Montagu as ETTA Chair considered "impertinent" advice: "URGE ETTA TO POSTPONE ACTION"] and telling him that if he had Ruth suspended we would withdraw from the ITTF. [Carl was so sure of that? He wouldn't have the 4-2 vote of the E.C. to do that for almost a month.] (Subsequently he [Montagu] did not show this letter to the ETTA because it was addressed to him as ITTF Chairman.)"
What a prolonged power struggle these two mirror-image, all-controlling figures want to wage. What egos they have.
On April 8, Ruth was officially suspended, and Zeisberg "introduced Executive Committee resolution No. 65 to suspend Bylaw l [ITTF Affiliation]." Which, semantically, is or is not quite the same thing as an actual withdrawal from the ITTF? In his explanation to the Press Zeisberg did not mince words: "The U.S.T.T.A. executive committee regards the suspension of Ruth Aarons as a deliberate affront on the part of certain hysterical individuals at present dominating the English association" (RAS, 86).
On April 12, Montagu and ETTA Secretary Pope sent Zeisberg letters "stating that unless the penalty went through it meant ‘death’ for the ETTA." Ruth had been suspended "from April 20 to June 30 after a 4-hour session of ETTA Executive Committee." The suspension verdict, Zeisberg pointed out, "was typed in advance and dates were written in ink." That was a no-no? C’mon--as if Zeisberg himself with his E.C. wouldn't be so controlling.
The reason the dates were written in ink is because the dates of suspension were dependent on Miss Aarons' plans. That is, as Montagu relates it in his Jan., ‘49 letter to Haid, Ruth was requested to and did "helpfully" appear before an ETTA Disciplinary Committee. An innocent breach of the law Ruth's offense may have been, but the Committee didn't really think she'd made any serious endeavor to void her contracts. Moreover, as Montagu later explains, her advisor, Corti Woodcock, Ivor's "old friend and doubles partner" who spoke for her, "instead of excusing her by an apology and pleading inadvertent offence by ignorance, sought to attempt justification by attacking the rule." And, says Montagu, that defence "struck us. We had to maintain the policy and authority of the rule." So the Committee saw it as their duty to:
"enforce a penalty as testimony of their right to do so and [as an affirmation] that an offense had technically been committed; to make it [the penalty (more than the offense)] a nominal one, so that its [sic: meaning the penalty for the rule’s] infraction should inflict no undue hardship on the technical offender."
You can see from the confusingly written lines above (so uncharacteristic of his usual clarity) that Montagu’s squirming with the language, as he must be consciously and unconsciously with his thought, so as to judiciously both penalize and not penalize Ruth. However, more than 10 years later, he says, in that Jan., ‘49 letter to Topics, that he can remember "almost the exact words that passed" between Aarons and himself:
"I.M. ‘Miss Aarons, supposing--appreciate, please, that I am only supposing--the committee find an offense proved, they would not wish to impose any penalty that might inflict a hardship disproportionate to the offense. What are your plans?’
Miss A. ‘When I get back, I am playing in the U.S. Championship.’
I.M. ‘And after the U.S. Championships?’
Miss A. ‘I am going to take a rest.’
I.M. ‘No other engagements? No other tournaments, night club shows, anything?’
Miss A. ‘No, I have had a hard season and irrespective of anything that happens here, I plan to rest all summer.’"
So she was suspended, Montagu recalls, for a period of only "one month [sic] after the conclusion of the [Apr. 1-4] U.S. Championships"--which, if not precisely accurate (since the actual suspension was from Apr. 20-June 30), is perhaps close enough to the truth.
This suspension means, Zeisberg protests, that, unless the USTTA breaks off its affiliation with the ITTF, Ruth can't play in the Apr. 30-May 1 Eastern's--for each ITTF-member Association must acknowledge that the suspension is world-wide (ITTF Handbook, 1936-37, 5).
But never mind that Ruth had no intention of playing in the Eastern's and, in fact, after the National's, would never play in a tournament again. Zeisberg was now on the attack. He'd written to his E.C. that he wanted to get rid of Montagu as ITTF Chair and suggested that they all "help the anti-Montagu people get an energetic Englishman to take over the ITTF."
Certainly Montagu was vulnerable. Since he’d not been at the World’s to Chair the annual ITTF Meeting, this allowed Zeisberg, on sniper’s knee, to snort\ that Montagu’s other "hobby" was "politics." (Years later Ivor--by then, in Gerald N. Gurney’s eyes, "film producer and critic, political figure, zoologist, author and linguist"--would win the Lenin Peace Prize.) And because he hadn't been in Baden to see that all went well, the Minutes of that ITTF Meeting, if indeed they were taken, were lost. As Montagu himself realized, he and the Federation he'd been the guiding force of for 10 years--and would be for over 30 more--was not looking good at all, for the ITTF’s very founding principles were:
" (a) General unity of action.
(b) Mutual respect of the Associations in their dealings
with each other; and
(c) Mutual recognition of penalties inflicted
by any of the Associations" (Handbook, 1936-37, 5)
On April 12, Montagu sent out another letter. Could anyone argue that he and Zeisberg didn't like to write--didn't know how to communicate? This one went not only to Carl but to "all nations represented at Baden," asking, as Zeisberg summarized it in his Apr. 29 letter to USTTA officials...
"...who the 3 Hon. Secretaries of the ITTF were [these were elected at the Annual Meeting--one well versed in English, another in French, another in German, and one of the three--like Montagu himself--well versed in all three languages], who could supply reports of [the Baden] meeting to take the place of the missing Minutes[,] whether the 1938 World Championships were awarded to England, doubting that ETTA could arrange them in time, asking whether the ITTF should be dissolved, and if not, something should be done but he didn't know what."
Meanwhile, the USTTA continued to strive for the general "OBEY THE RULES OR GET OUT" unity of action Zeisberg always wanted. John H. Weinheimer, the former President of the Massachusetts TTA, and thereafter former 2nd V.P. under Zeisberg, had (perhaps at Zeisberg's request?) moved for a "Resolution of confidence in USTTA Executive Committee"--which of course was passed unanimously. This was then countered by what was once Wertheimer's own Massachusetts TTA who "unanimously condemned" the USTTA's threat to withdraw from the ITTF, and said, if the Association did that, they'd withdraw from the USTTA--but then they changed their minds "pending receipt of accurate information." (Maybe they just didn't like Wertheimer any more?)
Anyway, on April 21, Zeisberg, Kittermaster, Cinnater, and Morest voted for USTTA withdrawal from the ITTF, and though Trolle and Bassford, the man who’d eventually head the U.S. peace-keeping delegation to the ‘38 World’s, "counseled further discussion," they too agreed to vote "yes" to make the result unanimous. However, they then decided, or Zeisberg decided, to wait before formally notifying the ITTF of this withdrawal. Indeed (apparently because he didn’t know after Baden who the English, French, and German Secretaries of the ITTF were and didn’t want to address Montagu?), he never does formally advise the ITTF that the USTTA has withdrawn until June 28, 1937--and in this letter acknowledging withdrawal to the Secretaries, whose names he now knows, he also applies for reaffiliation.
On April 22, Kittermaster writes to the E.C.:
"Our reason for getting out is not because the ETTA have suspended Ruth, but because we refuse to recognize the ITTF rule which makes this mandatory on us. [So we joined the ITTF, have been a member for four years, but, though as Zeisberg says, "we believe in obeying regulations," we don't recognize (and never have?) one of its founding principles?] While we feel that the ETTA have legal grounds for their action, we are sure that British Fair Play would not tolerate disciplining a foreign player, through no fault of hers [Ruth was not in any way at fault?] for the mistake of her own association. As the ETTA is dominated by Montagu, who by his first cable showed that he was not an impartial judge [if Ruth has broken an ETTA rule, he, as ETTA President, can hardly be impartial to that], and as the ITTF is also dominated by Montagu, we have no other way of bringing our case before an impartial jury to protest what we consider an unjust sentence than to withdraw from the ITTF."
Montagu is the problem. The tack of attack is to veer at him and his (only now noticed?) mismanagement of the ITTF. In his Apr. 30, 1937 letter to Montagu, Zeisberg’s defiant last words are:
"...we cannot follow your do-nothing and time-limit policies on pushing, which have caused the last two World Championships to degrade the game. By disregarding your ITTF rules we have virtually eliminated pushing in America.
...Every one [sic] now sees that our ban on knucklespin, enacted three years ago, was wise.
...We consider administration of the ITTF very unsatisfactory and detrimental to the development of the game, and believe the chief reasons are that its organization is too cumbersome and that you do not have time to attend to it. American members of your Advisory, Equipment, and Rules Committees realize that functioning of these committees is a joke...."
Granted Zeisberg’s regional problems trying to organize the USTTA, what must Montagu’s world-wide ITTF organizational problems be? Surely each man, given the herculean task he’s undertaken, is vulnerable to attack. As critical as one sometimes has to be of the highly opinionated, combative Zeisberg, there’s no denying he’s a determined fighter and really wants his vision of "his" USTTA to become a reality just as much as Montagu does his vision of "his" ITTF.
Zeisberg’s anti-Montagu strategy of the moment is to get ETTA V.P. Smith, former ETTA Chair Woodcock, and the Table Tennis Activity editors, Backhouse and Fitzgibbon, to work up concerted opposition. Zeisberg cables Backhouse: "PLEASE SEE WOODCOCK. AMERICA WILL WITHDRAW PROTESTING MISMANAGEMENT WOULD HELP REORGANIZE REDERATION [sic for FEDERATION] DIRECTED BY A LONDON EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE."
Next day comes a cablegram from Woodcock: "RECOMMEND INSTANT WITHDRAWAL SHARP SEVERANCE SALUTARY CONDUCIVE ULTIMATE CLEAN HEAL VEHEMENTLY AGREE FEDERATION REORGANIZATION VITAL WILL COOPERATE WHOLEHEARTEDLY...."
And the day after that a radiogram from Backhouse: "SUPPORT WITHDRAWAL BOOSTING WOODCOCK ETTA ELECTIONS RESULT MAY FIRST."
To which Zeisberg responds: "ANNOUNCED WITHDRAWAL [to Associated Press] GIVING YOU OUR PROXY TO CREATE PROVISIONAL FEDERATION GOVERNMENT SUGGEST FIVE LONDONERS COMPOSE PROVISIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE WITH ABSOLUTE POWERS TILL NEXT CONGRESS."
What the hell is Zeisberg getting into here? He goes so far as to consider that, if one can't find the Minutes of the ITTF Annual Meeting at Baden or establish that three Hon. Secretaries were elected there, then one "could even legally argue that the ITTF no longer exists."
Zeisberg begins to sum up his Apr. 29 four-month chronological review by saying that "things are in one ungodly mess--due not to the Ruth Aarons case, but to the cumbersome organization of the ITTF and the lack of time devoted to it by the Chairman." He, or his gigantic and often idealistic-minded ego, says, "I for one am willing to devote considerable time to help make the ITTF an efficient organization for the good of table tennis."
My god, he's been complaining yearly about how difficult it is to try to organize the USTTA, and how much time without pay he's been putting in--and now he wants also to help organize the ITTF?
Or does he? Though on Apr. 30 he’s going to send out to all National Associations a one-page "Suggested Plan For Reorganizing The ITTF," he’d concluded just the day before that:
"...it seems wise to devote at least as much time toward building a better national association here, and it might be best, with that end in view, to avoid time-consuming European squabbles by staying out of the ITTF for a year, so that we can really develop our own large territory."
I'm reminded of that long and ought-to-taken-seriously Dec., '35 letter New Yorker Stanley Borak wrote to Sidney Biddell protesting the inconsiderate treatment of those "chiselers" disqualified in the Middle Atlantic States tournament, and Zeisberg's sharp, dismissive reply to him on reading a copy of his letter--that it was "tripe," full of "loose contradictory thoughts." What, in the English-speaking world, has Zeisberg been doing this last week in April but writing "tripe."
Meanwhile, Table Tennis Activity has asked everyone to consider:
"...[Might] it not be that greater disservice will be done to the game by an international dispute than by a few exhibitions of which the English Association have, for reasons known only to themselves, not so far felt themselves able to approve?
...[While] the situation may be of some importance on the matter of domestic policy, the greater considerations of Anglo-American cooperation and goodwill should be allowed to prevail" (Mar., 1937, 14).
Zeisberg’s raise-the-stakes rhetoric suggests he likes his hand, will stand pat:
"Holding four of the six world's championships as it does, the United States Association has no qualms about pursuing an independent path. The game is so popular and financially successful in the United States [sic] that Europe stands to lose most by not reinstating Miss Aarons..." (RAS, 86).
But Zeisberg’s rhetoric, and the summer meetings he had with H. N. Smith and Corti Woodcock notwithstanding, the USTTA will eventually offer to exchange apologies with the ETTA, from which VPs Smith and Woodcock in protest had resigned, and will re-affiliate with the ITTF. Then, as Table Tennis Activity will report, the E.T.T.A. will "welcome" U.S. representatives "to London to compete in the ['38] World Championships [and afterwards] to compete in the English Open" (Jan., 1938, 71).
So, thus ends happily "an unfortunate chapter in international relations"? "Let the whole incident be buried deep in oblivion," says Table Tennis Activity, "and be clean sponged from the records of the game as if it never happened."
But though years, decades, will pass, Montagu on more than one occasion will be forced to correct misimpressions and misstatements of fact about both the Aarons-Pritzi disqualification and the Aarons suspension that would continue to appear in U. S. articles.
Montagu was right, for instance, to take exception when Laflin and Roberts, in one of their late 1940's "History of Table Tennis" articles in Topics, bizarrely suggest, without putting forth any explanation whatsoever, that, because England's "only chance for international success was in the women's division," England "had been prominent in depriving Miss Aarons of her title" (TTT, Dec., 1948, 4).***
Really? Are we to believe, asks Montagu in that Jan., ‘49 response to Topics editor Haid, that all the jurors from all the different countries voting to enforce the 1 hour and 45 minute time-limit in the Aarons-Pritzi match had been intimidated and/or bribed by "the single ETTA representative"? Is that the argument? And then, I myself might further ask, after England had supposedly cunningly contrived to deprive Aarons "temporarily of her right to play at all," come July l, when Ruth's suspension is up, the English women will have a much better chance to win next season’s Corbillon Cup?
Such unproven, mean-spirited statements are just silly and do a disservice to Montagu, England, and History.
*RAS, 8-8a. On Mar. 27, 1935, at an exhibition on Staten Island, Aarons and Glickman were joined by Schiff, Berenbaum and others.
**See Montagu’s Jan., 1949 letter to then Topics editor Bill Haid (prompted by remarks made in a history article by Laflin and Roberts in the Dec., 1948 Topics).
***This bizarre suggestion comes from Zeisberg? (For surely Laflin and Roberts leaned very heavily on him for much of their information on table tennis in the 1930’s.)