1939-1940: Establishment of First Women’s East-West Matches. 1939-1941: Continued Popularity of League/Intercity Play. 1940: Pagliaro/Magda Hazi Win Eastern’s; Anderson/Leary Take Western’s. 1940: Champions-To-Be—McLean, Miles, and Shahian—Make Their Teenage Appearance.
Although the Men’s East-West matches had been canceled, the officials’ ire did not extend to the women. Who among them would make a scene? Though of course that didn’t mean they were satisfied with their lot. To date, the women had never had their own National Intercities, and only once, in Chicago in 1937, had even a modified National Team Tryout been held for them. So, given the expense of traveling to tournaments, they just hadn’t the opportunity to play many matches against players outside their own geographic areas. This was even more true for the Far West players, or for, despite their 217 USTTA members (second only to Pennsylvania’s 398), the relatively isolated Minnesota players like State Champion Grace Janowiec or Jean Wadsworth who, at the Jan., 1940 Minneapolis Closed, after being down 2-0 and 20-15 in the 3rd and then down 20-17 in both the 4th and 5th to Grace, certainly could be said, on winning, to have upset her.
A fun competition for the best of the women players therefore was the newly-formed East-West Matches. These were planned by USTTA Women’s Chair Mrs. Violet Smolens, who was assisted in the West by Mildred Wilkinson. First, there were the Preliminary Sectional Qualifiers, each composed of 10 selected players—one held in the East, at the Philadelphia Club under the direction of Mrs. Smolens; the other in the West, at the Indianapolis Riviera Club under the direction of Fred Green, Sally’s father. Unlike the single-elimination National’s, these were round robin matches, and the top five finishers from each of the two Sections would then meet in a Final round robin in Cleveland with the winner to receive the newly donated Emily Fuller trophy.
The Eastern Zone matches were played, as were the Western’s, on the Nov. 11-12, 1939 weekend. National Champion Fuller would not be playing because she wanted to pursue a singing career. As she said later when urged to play in the National’s, she had promised her new singing teacher, "to devote all my time to music and not play in tournaments this year." Perhaps Emily feared what she said her teacher did, "that the mental and physical strain of competitive table tennis was injurious to my voice" (TTT, Mar., 1940, 4).
Still, her presence would be felt for some time. Chance to pick up the Jan. 22, 1940 issue of the Philadelphia Record and, on following the 13 photos of whatever she’s doing there, you’ll get six free lessons. Perhaps these provide the impetus that, with Sam Silberman’s help, will result in Emily’s 1942 instructional book, Top-Notch Table Tennis.* The only other strong Eastern player missing was U.S. #4, Dorothy "Dot" Halliday, who’d lost to Fuller in the final of the ‘38 and the semi’s of the ‘39 National’s. A tonsilectomy had taken her out of competition...and she would never return.
The week before, at the Providence New England Fall Open, New Rochelle, N.Y.’s Mrs. May Spannaus had 17, -22, -21, 17, 19 outlasted Arlington, Mass.’s Mae Clouther and then in the final, after being down 2-0, had gotten by Ruthe (pronounced "Ruth") Brewer. As expected then, all three did well in these Eastern Zone trials. Qualifying 1st for the Final East-West round robin were USTTA President Jim Clouther’s wife, U.S. #5 Mae (with an 8-2 record), followed by U.S. #17 Mrs. Matilda Plaskow (7-3), U.S. #9 Spannaus (6-3), U.S. #3 Brewer (6-3) who, though suffering still another tough (19 in the 3rd) loss to Spannaus, led her as of Dec. 31 in the Wilkinson Cup standings, and Helen Germaine (7-4). Helen had long been a table tennis threat to high-ranking players (she lost 19 in the 3rd here to Brewer), but was often unranked due to insufficient data because, as her National Public Parks Tennis title would suggest, her first love was that sport.
This trial-by-combat produced a cluster of close matches and thus an enjoyable, exciting tournament. Clouther and Philadelphia Champ Plaskow played 10 matches, not 9, for they were 7-2 tied for first place before Mae in a play-off beat her again. The surprising Matilda, on posting a 26-24-in-the-3rd win over Germaine, would have come first had she not lost, 19 in the 3rd, to Philadelphia’s Mrs. Henrietta Wright (2-7 with a deuce-in-the-3rd win over Smolens). Germaine played 11 matches because she, Alice O’Connor, and Mrs. Reba Kirson Monness (after a 19-in-the-3rd loss to Brewer) were all tied at 5-4. In the play-off, Helen again defeated Alice and Reba.
U.S. #14 Molly Kareivis might have been thought more likely to win an upset Qualifying spot than her New Jersey rival, U.S. #22 Alice O’Connor, but Molly’d recently been handicapped by an "arm ailment"—though two weeks hence she wouldn’t have any trouble winning the Essex County Closed over Alice’s sister, Newark City Champ Hazel O’Connor. Moreover, at the Jan. 20-21 Newark Garden State Open, Molly seemed quite herself, for she’d play a sensational, though losing, 26-24-in-the-5th match with Northern New England Champ Brewer. As for U.S. #8 Mrs. Murray Monness, she’d not only gotten married to an attorney during the summer, but with perhaps Keatsian sensuousness had written a book of poetry called "Autumn Souls." Though -15, 19, 18 rallying to beat the #1 Qualifier Clouther, she seemed, in her 15, 16 loss to Plaskow, drowsed with the fume of poppies.
At the Western Zone Qualifier, South Bend’s Betty Henry, 1938 World semifinalist by virtue of a highly favorable Draw, finished first with an 8-1 record. Her play, it was said, had "greatly improved." Perhaps, too, she was tougher—no longer quite the teenage innocent who’d burst into tears on confiding to someone the "awful thing" that English International Hyman Lurie had said to her in London: "I’ll be around in the morning to knock you up" (meaning of course in Brit parlance he’d warm her up, practice with her—hit some with her).
Second to Henry was 1939 National runner-up Sally Green (7-2) who, though beating Betty, lost a deuce-in-the-4th match with Wilkinson and struggled with not only #9 finisher, Toledo’s Gladys "Pete" May (winning deuce in the 4th), but #8 finisher, Columbus’s Mrs. Norma Hieronymous Studer (surviving the 23-21 3rd game to win in 5). Fred Green, in a write-up of the match between Betty and his daughter, spoke of how play elsewhere had stopped as both players and spectators watched "Sally driving Betty back 15 and 20 feet from the table and Betty making impossible returns of 5, 10 and more drives for each point." Though Betty lost this marvelous match, 25-23 in the 5th, it was Sally, said Fred, who was "finished...as far as the tournament was concerned, a torn muscle in her upper arm putting her under doctor’s care" (TTT, Dec., 1939, 13).
Other West Qualifiers were Wilkinson (6-3), who’d gone 5 with Henry; an apparently lucky Leary (5-4), helped, I presume, by a last-round 9, 17, 9 win over an injured Green; and Helen Baldwin (5-4). Fred Green thought that probably the most improved player, showing now a more forcing, aggressive game, was South Bend’s Mary Baumbach (4-5). Although Mary beat both Wilkinson and Leary, and played a challenging 24-26 in the 4th match against Green, she lost badly to Baldwin, and had to work hard to defeat both Studer (19 in the 4th) and May (17 in the 5th). What really killed her chances, though, was her -19, 22, -17, -20 loss to Omaha’s Mrs. Virginia Perkins Merica, winless except for this match. Toledo’s Norma Schmaltz (4-5) also had opportunities. But her gutsy play against Qualifiers Leary (19, -19, 20, -14, 17) and Baldwin (19, 23, -20, -17, 28) weren’t enough, for she lost to Studer in 5 (after being up 2-1) and, worse, to May, 19 in the 5th (after being up 2-0).
As it happened, the Final East-West Matches were disappointing. Held in Cleveland, Feb. 17-18, under the direction of Carl E. Heyl, CTTA Secretary, they were missing six of the 10 Qualifiers. Wintry weather was said to have prevented Easterners Clouther, Plaskow, and Germaine from attending—though Brewer, Spannaus, and one Alternate, O’Connor, managed the difficult trip. Flu kept Westerners Green and Wilkinson away, and Baldwin, who a month earlier had won the Missouri Valley, for some reason canceled. In addition to Henry and Leary, one West Alternate, Baumbach, also attended, doubtless to balance the two sections.
The results of this six-woman round robin—in which the East topped the West 6-3—were as follows: (1) Henry, 5-0—with working wins over Spannaus (18, -19, 18, -19, 19), Brewer (6, 19, -19, 17) and Baumbach (16, -9, -20, 16, 17); (2) Brewer, 4-1—pressed not by her nemesis Spannaus, whom she finally beat, and three-zip at that, but by the hard-driving Leary, deuce in the 4th; (3) Leary, 2-3—including a 13, 1, 20 (the 1’s a misprint?) victory over Spannaus; (4) Baumbach, 2-3—losing to Henry, 17 in the 5th and to Spannaus, 19 in the 5th; (5) Spannaus, 2-3—struggling to win 18 in the 4th with O’Connor; and (6) O’Connor, 0-5—shut out despite an 18-in-the-5th chance with Leary.
In a Mar. 16, 1940 letter to Ranking Committeeman George Schein, Women’s Chair Smolens said that she didn’t want to meddle in Ranking matters, but that she couldn’t help making a point. Since these round-robin matches were planned, for "the first time in the history of table tennis," to provide the Ranking Committee with considerable data on East vs. West women players, she felt strongly that...
"the girls who went to all the trouble (braving one of the worst blizzards in the East) and expense to go to Cleveland, should certainly get superior ranking to those girls who didn’t go. After all, the girls who went—and spent on an average of $30.00 or $40.00 for expenses—took a chance of hurting their rankings,...while the girls who didn’t go won’t have any losses....I’d like to see the seedings at the nationals...[based on] these girls’ showings at the sectional try-outs and the final."
Smolens suggests that the seedings for the Apr. 5-7 National’s be (1) Henry, (2) Brewer, (3) Leary, and (4) Spannaus. Of course, as we’ll see shortly, the Ranking Committee, having considered the results of the Feb. 3-4 Eastern’s and Western’s and other tournaments, won’t feel obligated to follow Smolens’ seeding restrictions—and perhaps for this reason Violet will not continue as Women’s Chair.
Popularity of League/Intercity Play
By now women were more and more finding their way into what was predominately competition for men—the leagues. In some cities in 1939-40 they were already secure. The Philadelphia Women’s League was now in its 6th season. And the St. Louis TTA had 11 teams of four women each in their Women’s Division—44 players in all. Other Midwest women’s leagues were going strong—for instance, in Lansing, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Omaha. Moreover, in Omaha, if not this season in an upcoming one, in an effort to improve women’s play, each of the men’s teams would have a woman playing with them.
The Midwest—Des Moines, Iowa, to be precise—was home to Carl Nidy, who’d succeeded Stan Morest as the USTTA Leagues Chair. Carl would eventually rise in the Association hierarchy to become its President. Married, with two daughters, he was a "distributor of animal vaccines and serums." A member of the Drug Travelers of Iowa (as well as the local Chamber of Commerce), he covered much of the state for the "Anchor Serum Company, the world’s largest producers of anti hog-cholera serum and virus." The family’s social life centered round the University Church of Christ, and a unique Club in which 58 couples owned their own clubhouse and enjoyed Friday and Saturday night get-togethers (bridge games, dinners, dances). In addition to his local, regional and national League duties, Carl organized and promoted tournaments, and taught a table tennis class to youngsters at the local Y (TTT, May, 1941, 10-11).
The popularity of leagues, especially men’s leagues, along with intercity and intra-city team play, that we’d seen in Volume I, continued during both the 1939-40/1940-41 seasons. Here are some examples of how in these two remaining pre-War years they flourished in all their variety in all parts of the country.
The powerful Eastern 1939-40 Intercity League consisted of six men on each of five teams—Philadelphia (the Defending Champion), Newark (Captained by Essex TTA Treasurer Bill Cross, who by season’s end would be U.S. #26), Washington (Captained by 1938 U.S. World Team Leader and former USATT President Morris Bassford), Baltimore (Captained by Maryland TTA President Dr. David N. Banen), and New York (Captained by Richard Geiger, described by Topics as "that anomaly, an excellent table tennis player who is also an excellent official"). New York (4-0) would win this round-robin competition, but only after two 10-9 wins—first against Philadelphia when Eddie Pinner and Dan Klepak eeked out a 25-23 deciding game against Izzy Bellis and Paul Capelle, and then against 2nd-place Newark, after Cross had upset Sol Schiff and Charlie Schmidt.
Of course each of these cities had its own leagues. Also, outside Philadelphia, there was a 1939-40 Eastern Pennsylvania League consisting of teams from York, Reading, Harrisburg, and Lancaster.
As in the case of Reading, where the Feb., 1940 Eastern’s are to be held, or Lancaster, site of the Dec., 1939 Pennsylvania Open, interest in league play sometimes leads to an interest in putting on tournaments. Tournament Chair Mel Evans, Jr.—inspired perhaps by a Lancaster Franklin and Marshall University Professor of Education who did a study that concluded that swimming, tennis, and table tennis were the three most popular sports in the U.S.—enthusiastically hyped the Pennsylvania Open, even went so far as to not only invite the real West Coast players but popular movie star Ginger Rogers.
The actress was pictured on the Dec., ‘39 cover of Topics with a sandpaper racket in hand, serving a karate-cut slice of sidespin to her costumed opponent, Santa. She’d even penned a lead article in the magazine (5)—though not to everyone’s liking. "I have been annoyed," one reader was later to write (TTT, Feb., 1940, 21), "at seeing pictures of moviedom’s great and having to skip the drivel with which the articles drip." The 28-year-old Ginger (nee Virginia Katherine McMath of Independence, Missouri) spoke of how much she depends on the game for "exercise and diversion," and how much fun playing the game is for, oh, say, her movie-star friends Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. In answer to Evans’s invitation to her to come east to Lancaster and play in the tournament, she responded with a nice letter, "regretting she couldn’t be on hand to compete, but her studio contract forbids extra activity."
There was league depth not only in the Mid-Atlantic states—Maryland, for example, in the ‘40-41 season had 14 teams—but in New England too. Providence, according to Topics (Mar., 1940, 20), favored a "100% USTTA-membership Home League for less proficient players 23 years old and over....Its 32 3-player teams meet in members’ homes." More proficient players formed a Rhode Island team to play in a New England League. Meanwhile, Boston City League play led to a Boston-New York Intercity Match—kibitzed, it may be, by Jimmy Jacobson, for many years a New York stalwart at the National Team Championships, who that fall of ‘39 did take a moment from his studies at Harvard to come runner-up to Cy Sussman at the Newark Evergreen Open.
In the Midwest, Louisville’s 12-table Municipal T.T. Center hosted 1940-41 Falls Cities leagues. During the ‘39-40 season, National Champion and Indianapolis club-owner Jimmy McClure said that Indianapolis had "more league play than any other city in the country." He thought it "amazing how many factories and business places wanted to sponsor teams this year." And, what’s more, offer trophies and medals galore—for the winning teams; the 8 players with the best records; the 8 showing the best sportsmanship; and the 8 voted most improved. Moreover, if you hadn’t won anything by season’s end, perfect attendance for the 14 weeks got you a gold medal (TTT, Oct., 1939, 21).
The 1939-40 Minneapolis/St. Paul leagues, like a number of others, had a 100% USTTA membership. During 1940-41, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo—like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska—enjoyed intercity play. As did Tulsa, Skiatook, and Ponca City, Oklahoma, as well as Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City, Kansas (with Bill Guilfoil as its Closed Champion).
Topeka had a thriving league of 14 four-man teams. City Champ Cecil Woodworth noted that for the ‘39-40 season all league players had to be Club members at a cost of $1.25 per month. When a howl went up from many who said they couldn’t afford it, an agreement was reached where non-members would pay $.15 an evening—and, said Woodworth, "the old installment plan worked!" (TTT, Dec, 1939, 13). Obviously Cecil’s game worked too because he’d share Singles honors in the first (1940) Colorado Open with Women’s Champ Leslie Friedman of Denver.
Of course, as former USATT President/Editor Carl Zeisberg had never tired fuming about, there were always those who just didn’t want to pay the membership fee that league play or tournament play demanded. USTTA Membership Chair Ed Cannon, irritated that nine players had participated in some ‘39-40 sanctioned open tournaments without buying a USTTA membership, said that if the offenders didn’t pay up they wouldn’t receive a ranking, and that if tournament sponsors didn’t check players’ memberships, as they should, they’d be fined a $1.
Membership was always a problem with the Association, and, powerless to draw-in huge numbers, or stop the geographical infighting, the Board of Governors repeatedly resigned itself to think "small." Hence, any provisional affiliate "with over 25 regular members is eligible to apply for change to a District Association, and thus acquire the right to vote in the national election of officers, sanction its own closed tournaments, and have the same jurisdiction over the territory [not to exceed five counties] granted to it as a State Affiliate" (TTT, Mar., 1940, 9). One need only recall New York Metropolitan TTA President John Kauderer’s fall-of-1938 troubles with the rival Ross Ackerman-led NYTTA (that didn’t like the, uh, membership mix of the MTTA and sought to wrest jurisdiction from them) to understand why the MTTA, with its varied leagues, was one of the first to apply for this District Association control.
Naturally one thinks of leagues being played in the evening, but in Denver 35 or so postal employees "who work late shifts" were said to be planning a once-a-week "morning league" (TTT, Oct., 1939, 19). And in Portland, Oregon 16 three-man teams were actively going at it, while, in designated hotels in towns in southern Oregon, traveling salesmen also played in a league (TTT, Dec., 1939, 12).
If you wanna play, you find a way.
And there’s no better example of wanting to play and finding a way than the Hazis. Back East after their Midwest Tour in time to participate in the Dec. 9, 1939 Lancaster Pennsylvania Open, Magda, in Ginger Rogers’ absence, won the Women’s final—24-22 in the 4th over Brewer. Her husband reached the Men’s final after just getting by Schmidt 19 in the 5th. His opponent was Pinner, who’d smashed through Bellis at will, then received a belated default win over Pagliaro who, "stopping repeatedly during the match because of a leg cramp, could not recover sufficiently to finish the fifth game." Paggy, according to the local covering reporter, "was leading 16 to 9 but probably feeling that his constant interruption of the match was throwing Ed off his game...decided to be a sportsman and discontinued the match" (GSS II, 25). In the final, ruddy-looking Tibor got slapped in the face, as it were, and so turned even redder than usual. Leading Pinner 19-18 in the 5th, he served three times and watched three times as Eddie blasted in winning returns to power away the title.
At Lancaster, Grimes had lost a tense (16, -20, -21, -19) quarter’s match to Schmidt. Five weeks later, in the final of the Westchester County Open, he lost again, agonizingly—this time to Schiff, 24-22 in the 5th.
The Midwest stars, too, continued their peripatetic play. At the (Illinois, Iowa, Missouri) Tri-State Open, held Jan. 13-14, 1940 in the Burlington, Iowa Memorial Auditorium, Billy Holzrichter—his "ability to counter-drive is exceeded only by his uncanny judgment as to when to do it"—won the Men’s for the third straight time, downing Garrett Nash in the final, -14, 23, 7, 19. Sally Green, to no one’s surprise, took the Women’s over Helen Baldwin. Entertaining Elks Club magician, Norval Prugh, made table tennis balls disappear—but could he have had anything to do with what was stranger still, the reappearance at this tournament of our first woman International, Helen Ovenden? (TTT, Feb., 1940, 15).
This same Jan. 13-14 weekend, in the Huntington, Indiana Central States Men’s final, Don MacCrossen’s "terrific powerhouse forehand" smashed through Earl Coulson. Betty Henry won the Women’s, but runner-up Wilkinson’s 18-in-the-5th match with Baumbach was the one to watch.
More MacCrossen, more Henry at the Jan. 27-28 South Bend Indiana Open. Don, on his way to a 3rd-place Hammond Cup finish and a U.S. #14 ranking, upset Holzrichter, 19 in the 4th, in the final. Apparently after the Draw was made, last-minute Chicago entries were accepted, which meant that Coulson, this season’s U.S. #17, had to play, or agreed to play, Al Nordhem, last year’s U.S. #19, in the 1st round—which Earl won, deuce in the 4th. Bob Anderson was also beaten early—in 5 by Sterling Mitchell of Indianapolis. Henry again won the Women’s, but again Baumbach drew everyone’s attention. This time she beat Wilkinson in 5, and then forced Betty to struggle to a 23-21-in-the-4th win. The Boys’ of course was won by National Champ Chuck Tichenor—but, surprise, an unheralded Negro youngster from Chicago, 13-year-old Carl Manley, took him to 5.
The Feb. 3-4, 1940 Eastern Open ("Hi, Pal" began the PTTA announcement urging participation in this tournament) was held in the ballroom of the Rajah Temple in Reading, Pa. There was nothing unexpected in the 45-entry Men’s matches until the last 16—but then, though the favorites came through, they all had to go 5: Pagliaro with Cross, Bellis with Philadelphia County Champ Ham Canning, Klepak with Philly’s Al Butowsky, and Hazi with Hartford’s Johnny Abrahams.
The Eastern’s, second in prestige to the National’s, was not, as they say, a "players’ tournament"—not like, to take an unusual example, next month’s Minnesota Closed where innovatively not only first- round losers in the Men’s went into a Consolation, but losers in that went into still another Consolation! You lose early in these Eastern’s and you’ve only one consolation—that the matches you’ve come to watch will be good ones. So it was with three of these quarter’s—Schiff over Hazi, 18 in the 5th; Bellis over Grimes, deuce in the 4th; and Klepak over Pinner, deuce in the 5th. Unfortunately everyone seemed so spellbound watching these games that no one wrote anything about them.
The semi’s? Not exactly anticlimactic: Pagliaro over Bellis, 16, -19, 19, 16, and Schiff over his doubles partner Klepak (they lost in the final to Hazi and Canning), 20, 22, 17. To the delight of the onlookers the last match of the evening brought the tournament to a climax: Paggy over Sol in 5—winning the last two, 23 and 19.
The 15-entry Women’s featured the appearance of 13-year-old Margaret "Peggy" McLean, who by decade’s end will have become a world-class player. In one half of the draw, Reba Monness, who I suspect had the most helpful warm-up match—against Chevy Chase’s 14-year-old, D.C #1, Carolyn Wilson—said, if not a prayer, a poem, and advanced with a 22-20 in the 3rd win over Philadelphia County Champ Maltilda Plaskow. In the semi’s, however, Reba lost a crucial deuce 1st game and was stopped in 3 by Magda Hazi. In the other half of the draw, May Spannaus eliminated Alice O’Connor, who, as someone said, had been and perhaps still was, on a "milk diet" (whatever that meant). Then in the semi’s she followed through with her usual win over Brewer. Oh, will I ever beat her? Ruthe must have thought. In the final, Magda, who’d won the Mixed with Tibor, then had a fairly easy time with May.
The Western Open, played on the same Feb. 3-4 weekend as the Eastern’s, was held in the Grand Ballroom of the DeSoto Hotel in St. Louis. In the Men’s, no upsets in the 16th’s or 8th’s—though some might have thought young Tichenor’s 19 in the 4th win over National Mixed Doubles titleholder Al Nordhem constituted one. But Al, ranked among the Men’s Top 20 last season, would be unranked this year, and Tichenor would be in the Top 25.
Of course, when, in the 8th’s Defending Champion Nash lost two deuce games to a local Omaha player, Warren Hotz (he’d be Nebraska TTA President next season), no one for a moment thought he was in trouble. Not that Garrett avoids trouble—on court or off. He’d been threatened by the Nebraska TTA with USTTA suspension after failing to return the Eugene Eppley Perpetual Trophy "in time for its presentation to the winner of the Missouri Valley Open," and for subsequently ignoring four requests for its return. But he did finally return it, at these Western’s—and so no point trying to suspend him for his negligence now, especially since he was already, after this tournament, going to be suspended for the rest of the season because of his and Bellis’s ungentlemanly behavior at the Intercities.
The nation’s #1 defensive player, Bellis, might likewise have been doubly suspended, had there been any point to it, for Pennsylvania TTA President Robert G. Metcalf and his E.C. had insisted that "Chiseling matches must stop," and so had issued the directive that all tournament sponsors in Pennsylvania "refuse entry to known chiselers," and specifically Bellis. So, no National’s, no U.S. ranking for either Garrett or Izzy this season.
Milwaukee’s "Wild Wampus," Don MacCrossen, was 9, -19, 20, 18 extended here at the Western’s in the 8th’s by Chicago’s Bill Ablin, then lost in 5 in the quarter’s to U.S. #11 Ralph Muchow. Against Ralph, the "Wampus" continued to whomp the ball, but, as Tournament Chair Claude Camuzzi wrote (TTT, Mar., 1940, 16), this match was a "slugfest, with long rallies that had more counter-driving, both forehand and backhand, than ever before seen anywhere." Anywhere? Well, anyway, the spectators kept "applauding wildly."
Muchow in turn was stopped by Bill Price, who’d 19 in the 4th earlier disposed of Tichenor, Boys’ Champ here over Allan Levy, whom we’ll hear much of in years to come. Camuzzi pointed out that the usually defensive-minded Price, "the game’s stylist," had lost to Ralph "every time they met in the last four years." This time, however, "a driving, changed Price determined to hit—and boy! he did." Price also won the Men’s Doubles with Nash and the Mixed with Delores Kuenz. Commanding the Singles spotlight, though, was U.S. #14 Bob Anderson, for he became the new Western titleholder, gaining more and more confidence with each successive late-round win—first over Holzrichter, 19 in the 5th (after being down 18-16), then Nash in 4, and in the final Price in 3.
Peoria’s Marge Leary took the Women’s from Kuenz, 18 in the 5th—with the second most interesting match being Topeka’s Mrs. Rose Baeder’s 12, -19, 21, 19 win over the St. Louis TTA Secretary and Women’s Chair, Mrs. Esther Guenther.
Pre-National’s Warm-up Tournaments
Immediately following the Western’s, in the Michigan Open, Feb. 10-11 at Battle Creek, Holzrichter rebounded. In the semi’s he avenged his South Bend and St. Louis losses to MacCrossen, then in the final finished off Muchow three straight. Ralph, who was about to receive his dental degree from Northwestern, and who perhaps even now had begun acquiring his eventually fabulous collection of antique radios,** had been upset in the Central States by Tichenor. But here in the semi’s he drilled enough balls through fellow Chicagoan Anderson to advance in 5. The greatly improved Baumbach won the Women’s—but had to go 4 in the semi’s with recently married Norma Schmaltz Landwehr, and 5 in the final with Gladys "Pete" May.
In the Feb. 23-24 Illinois Open final against Holzrichter, it was Anderson’s turn to recover—and in the most satisfying -21, -16, 15, 22, 19 way. Marge Leary, who the week before in the Kansas Open had been runner-up to Baldwin, downed Chicago’s unranked Gladys Hotsenpiller, the Illinois TTA’s Recording Secretary. But Gladys, after just three years of play, was able in the semi’s to beat Wilkinson, rallying from 2-1 down to win the 4th, 28-26, and then the 5th. In the Veteran’s, Ed Dugan, still managing (with Helen Ovenden?) the Chicago Stay & Play Courts, got by former Western Open Champ Mort Ladin in 5. And in the Boys’, the promising Carl Manley defeated Ralph Bast, a Chicago player we’ll hear more of later.
Beginning next season, slender, blonde Hotsenpiller, wife and mother, would accept the newly established Topics position of Women’s Social Editor. Wonder how important that job could be? Take a tip from the USTTA’s retiring First Vice-President Ed Cannon. He says his Toledo Association has been mindful not just about sport-page but society-page attention. The latter, he said, gives "table tennis social prestige in a community," and automatically attracts "the interest of a higher grade element both in play and tournament attendance." This emphasis, he says, is "probably being neglected in most table tennis communities." Ah, yes. One reflects on why over the decades this great social-leveler of a Sport, in one vanishing low-rent-urban-club after another, does not attract the interest of a "higher grade element."
Anyway, at Toledo they were trying. If you attended the Mar. 2-3 Lake Cities Open Players’ Party, you were given a Bingo card free and permitted to participate in 10 Bingo games. Prizes were $35 in cash and approximately $50 in merchandise" (TTT, May, 1940, 25). Perhaps the idea of being able to win money encouraged the desired participation—certainly the tournament entry was said to be the largest since the ‘39 National’s.
Gratifyingly, everybody saw a Men’s final worth the price of admission. Holzrichter and Anderson did another crowd-thrilling flip-flop—with Billy outperforming Bob on the highwire, 24-22 in the 5th. In the lead-in semi’s, Saginaw Valley Champ to-be, Max Hersh, fell to Holzrichter, while next week’s repeat Wisconsin Closed holder MacCrossen went down swinging to Anderson. The Milwaukee "Wampus" did win the Mixed with Sally Green, but only after being extended 19 in the 5th in the final by Leah Thall and Bob Green. With the Indianapolis National’s only a month away, the #1 and # 2 Women’s seeds, Henry and Green, were upset here at Toledo. Wilkinson, who went on to win the tournament, came from two games behind to thwart Henry, and runner-up Baumbach, trailing Green, won the 4th at deuce, then the 5th easily.
So either Wilkinson or Baumbach will be the next U.S. Women’s Champion? Perhaps not. An announcement in Hotsenpiller’s new Social Register announces the marriage of Mildred Susan Wilkinson to E. William S. Shipman on Mar. 23—just two weeks before the National’s. Mildred’s gonna spend her honeymoon practicing? As for Baumbach, she no sooner beat Green than the very next weekend at the South Bend Mid-Western she lost to her.
I don’t know if the Kansas City Western Missouri Men’s winner, Dr. Herman Mercer, entered the Mar. 16-17 Des Moines Central Western States. But George Hendry did, and, no broken bones about it, bluntly did away with Minnesota Closed Champ Ed Litman in the semi’s, and Harry Lund in the final. Since Harry had lost not only the Minnesota Closed to Litman but the Minneapolis Open to that other Twin-Cities Ed, his 5-game semi’s win over Sirmai here was sweet.
Western Missouri Women’s Champ Dorothy Benson showed for this Carl Nidy-Chaired tournament, but she was beaten in the semi’s by the eventual winner, Baldwin. Runner-up Leary got the most attention though, because her semi’s opponent was the 10-year-old sensation, Helene "Tiny" Moss, already the Minnesota Closed Champion after a 5-game win over Grace Janoweic. By the end of the ‘40-41 season, Tiny would stand tall, be ranked among the Top 10 women in the country.
The last pre-National’s warm-up tourney for the Westerners was the Mar. 30-31 Middle States Open at Cincinnati. Here the itinerant Hazis couldn’t have been more formidable, for they won everything. Most difficult, and most rewarding, for Tibor was the Men’s title, for, down 19-17 in the 5th to his winning Men’s Doubles partner Bellak, he was said to have "smashed over four consecutive points to win." The Women’s final, according to the covering reporter (T/MHS, 37), was a "bitter struggle....With the score tied at one game each and Mrs. Hazi leading 22-21 in the third, Miss Green unconsciously struck an ‘out’ ball on the fly, costing her the last point. The young Indianapolis star then ‘blew up’ and the last game was a rout." Sally always was intense, huh?
The Easterners were also sharpening their games. Pagliaro, on winning the Feb. 22 New York State Open at the 92nd St. Y, continued to establish himself as the favorite to take the National’s. By this time he’d given up his managerial job at the D.C. Columbia Courts, had left Washington and returned to New York because his wife, Josephine, was pregnant with Paulette and she wanted to come back to her East Side roots, to be near her family, where she felt comfortable. Paggy, of course, was no longer a teenager working as a floor boy/clerk for a furrier firm and given to an occasional small-time hustle,*** but a recognized name, and one with added responsibilities. He’d soon be a father, had been managing, I believe, the New York Olympic Centre Club on Broadway between 91st and 92nd Streets (Harry Piser’s Club?),**** and had to be gaining confidence. Since he’d married, he hadn’t, except for the one tournament he’d cramped in and defaulted, lost a match.
Here at the New York State he beat in succession Klepak, Schiff, and Schmidt. Such wins deserved praise, but perhaps N.Y. Metro TTA President John Kauderer had exaggerated a wee bit when he’d told a reporter from the N.Y. Sun that powerful Paggy’s "bullet-like drives travel at a scientifically estimated speed of 250 miles an hour" and if you "happened to be in the way of one," you’d be nursing "a half-inch welt."
Brewer, also priming for the National’s (did she ever voluntarily miss a tournament?), won the Women’s over Clouther in the semi’s and Alice O’Connor in the final. Before losing to O’Connor, 18 in the 4th, California’s Pauline Betz, the 1939 U.S. Indoor Tennis Champion, upset both Plaskow and Monness—an historic oddity, and an embarrassing one I should think. But being aware of such a result, one can see how later Pauline and Sandor Glancz could stage sophisticated table tennis exhibitions together. Another historic moment occurred at this Open, for, in listing the results, Topics mentions for the first time Dick Miles—perhaps the most famous player the U.S. ever produced. At 14 he lost the Boys’ Singles (-19, -14, 20, -17) to Roy Weissman, one of New Yorker George Schein’s proteges from the 92nd St. Y.
A more publicized tournament was the Mar. 9-10 Rochester, N.Y. Northeastern Open, sponsored by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. In preparation, the paper even "inaugurated a table tennis school" that was said to have almost 100 students enrolled for an "8-week Tuesday-night course under Tex B. Lloyd, five-time Monroe County champion," aided by Ted Mosher and others (TTT, Mar., 1940, 17).
Pagliaro won the Men’s, 27-25 in the 4th over Schiff, and received what he wanted—not a men’s wristwatch, but a woman’s...for his wife. This win over Schiff, Louie would say later, was very important—for it broke the psychic barrier Sol had over him.
Magda Hazi won the Women’s—but it wasn’t easy for her either. Earlier, after Molly Kareivis lost to Hazi but upset Brewer, Ruthe, with a win over Magda, forced a play-off. This time Hazi beat them both. However, the most thrilling match of the tournament had to be the rally the Hazis staged against Schiff and Brewer in the Mixed. After surviving the 3rd game at 19, Tibor and Magda were down 20-14 in the 4th—yet won it, 23-21, and of course the 5th...under 10.
The Northeastern’s was followed by the Mar. 15-16 New England Open at the Cambridge Y. Frank Dwelly, who’d be U.S. #21 this season, ended up playing Massachusetts #17 Russ McKeown in the final—this after he’d had to meet in the semi’s the previous week’s Worcester North Atlantic Open winner Les Lowry, soon to be U.S. #6. In the other, much weaker semi’s, McKeown had only to play Massachusetts #13 Bill Holden, whom he upset 19 in the 5th. "Name" players—Schiff, Schmidt, Grimes, and Abrahams—were all listed in the Program. So what happened—none of them showed? As it was, Dwelly, perhaps slow to think he had to work for the win, beat McKeown in 5. Mae Clouther, Massachusetts Closed Champion over North Atlantic winner Corinne Delery, defeated Brewer from a field that included the just-budding U.S. superstar, Mildred Shahian.
At the Mar. 23 Connecticut State Open, Pagliaro again won the Men’s—over Bellak, who beat Grimes in 4 in the semi’s after Bernie had taken out Schiff in 5. Brewer, on her way to winning the season’s Wilkinson Cup, defeated Spannaus in 5. Mae won’t be at the National’s—is retiring due, as she says a little cryptically, to "domestic duties." Miles again lost the Boy’s to Weissman, 3-0—which may momentarily have dampened his enthusiasm, not for playing, but playing in tournaments.
The final pre-National’s warm-up tournament for the Easterners was the Mar. 30-31 Newark Atlantic Coast Open. This was held at the Evergreen Club, where 20 players were reportedly "improving their games by means of table tennis movies. [Movies of whom?] They chip in to buy the films, and study them carefully" (TTT, May, 1940, 15). Dan Klepak won all three titles. He beat the still active Jimmy Jacobson in the Singles, and took the Men’s Doubles with Brooklyn’s Mel Rose, and the Mixed with Women’s winner Brewer. Value of the three trophies? Maybe as much as the $15 Dan would later win by answering a football question on KYW’s "Truth Or Consequences" program? His mother wasn’t impressed. As Dan said on being interviewed years later by Sandor Glancz, she thought "I should do something productive." So, he said, "I took the state civil service exam." After he moved to Albany, where there was no one to play table tennis with, he re-focused his energies toward new goals, and eventually became Special Assistant to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller (TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1973, 16).
So for a while many of these stars in our Sport shine, then are gone—into another space-time continuum, another life.
*Top-Notch Table Tennis was published by Ziff-Davis as part of their Little Library Sport Series (another author was World Champion boxer Barney Ross). In her short "Foreword," Fuller pays homage to Silberman as a Coach and thanks him for his help "in the preparation of this book" (9-10).
**Muchow’s Mar. 7, 2000 obituary in the Chicago Tribune said that Ralph had "a private, not-for-profit museum of 3,000 working antique radios"—the largest collection in the world—and that it was "featured in the February, 1997 issue of Smithsonian magazine."
***At a May 13, 1990 get-together of players at Dick Miles’s house, I heard a story about how teenage Louie had turned up anonymously at a New York City pool hall where they had a ping-pong table or two and began playing a fellow for 25 cents...then 50 cents...then "Want to make it for a dollar?" To which the apparent "pigeon" responded, "Look, Lou Pagliaro, if you want a dollar this bad, take it." Years later, Portland, Oregon’s Jack McLarty, an Art student in New York who spent a lot of time at Lawrence’s legendary club, wrote of another way Louie would try to make a buck. Louie, he said, "was barred from playing the pinball machines" at Lawrence’s. The Club paid cash "for high scores at that time," and Paggy "could run the score up endlessly" (Table Tennis World, Mar.-Apr., 1996, 10).
****I’ve Pagliaro’s "Olympic Table Tennis Centre" business card ("Lou Pagliaro, Mgr."). The address on the card is "2471 Broadway...Between 91st & 92nd Sts." This is also the address of Harry Piser’s Club, where Dick Miles first saw the Hungarians, Bellak, Glancz, and Hazi, play. Perhaps at this time Paggy worked for Piser? Next season Lou will be managing a Club at Broadway and 79th. In addition, I’ve Sol Schiff’s "Olympic Midtown, Inc. Table Tennis-Bridge" business card ("Sol Schiff, Mgr.") that has the same exact design/logo that Pagliaro’s has—except the address is different: 711 Seventh Ave....Between 47th and 48th Sts. Who copied whose card?