Chapter XXXIII. 1939: McClure National Men’s Champion; Fuller National Women’s Champion.
Ranking Chair Cinnater, preparing his seedings for the National’s, remarked in a Mar. 11, 1939 letter to one of his committeemen, George Schein, that he "was afraid George [Hendry] was going to be the weak player in the [East-West] match. Really Price should have been on our team." But Elmer couldn’t wait until after the Missouri Valley to name his players. It was "a tough break for Price who really is playing very well."
Cinnater, in speaking of the Men’s Draw, carries on the tradition of his predecessor Hammond, says he intends to have "two east and two west players in each half [of the Draw]" and will then "split the second eight...as much as I can." Bellis, he figures, will be #1, Nash #2, McClure #3, Schiff #4, Grimes #5, Price #6, Hendry #7, and Pagliaro #8. He holds to this, except for reversing Schiff and Grimes. Thus, the East-West quarter’s are laid out: in the top half, (#1) Bellis vs. (#6) Price and (#8) Pagliaro vs. (#3) McClure; in the bottom half, (#7) Hendry vs. (#4) Grimes and (#5) Schiff vs. (#2) Nash.
However, there are also foreign seeds. Earlier it was thought that Hungarian stars Miklos "Mike" Szabados and Istvan "Stefan" Kelen would play, but as they’d just this past year completed a 60,000 mile unusually adventurous Tour ("India, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, China, Japan, Indo-China, Java, the Malay Archipelego and Africa"), perhaps they decided that they’d already seen oddities enough--Japanese players in a show of pre-match good sportsmanship touching noses, for instance--to make them worldly-wise beyond their years and stayed home. *
Presenting something of a problem in the Draw, though, are the three foreign seeds entered**--(#1) the ‘37 and ‘38 Defending Champ Bellak; (#2) the ‘38 World semifinalist Hazi; and (#3) the former world-class player Glancz, who’s making a token competitive appearance. Where to put them? In the Women’s, the #1 foreign seed, Magda Gal Hazi, is positioned in the bottom half of the Draw so that she can’t possibly meet the #1 domestic seed until the final.It would therefore seem logical to make the same positioning for the men. But, surprisingly, #1 Bellak is placed in the top half with #1 Bellis, though not in the same quarter--presumably he’ll play #8 Paggy in the 8th’s, then McClure in the quarter’s. #2 Hazi, instead of meeting Paggy, will face #7 Hendry (as it seems to me Bellak should have). And #3 Glancz will meet #5 Schiff (as is proper).
Ranking Chair Cinnater, who I believe is conscientious, has clearly taken subjective control of the Seedings--his Mar. 11 letter to Schein shows that. How much input he gets from anyone on his Committee, including Schein, is not clear. He tells George that seeds 5 to 8 won’t make much difference. But that’s obviously not true--either he’s not thinking or his subjectivity gets the better of him. Were the Hendry/Price seedings reversed, Hendry would play Bellis in the quarter’s and Price would play Hazi in the eighth’s--a big difference. As for Schiff, though now, with the reversal (had Schein anything to do with that?), he’s seeded behind Grimes, he seems to be in the best East-West quarter’s he can be in. Were he in the top half of the Draw, since he couldn’t be positioned against the Easterner Bellis, he would have had to play Bellak in the 8th’s. In the bottom half of the Draw, where he is now, he can’t be positioned against the Easterner Grimes and so can avoid Hazi until the semi’s. So, with the reversal in seeding, Schiff, not Grimes, seems to have the better Draw--that is, if it’s better for Sol to play Nash than Hazi (whom he lost to last year in the quarter’s of the World’s).
Ohio may be "the geographical center of table tennis," as Hammond hyping these March National’s said, but play in the Toledo Athletic Center was limited. Still, the 64-player Men’s field was slightly enlarged. In early Pre-lim matches of note, John Balch defeated Mort Ladin deuce in the 5th (then went on to down Sam Silberman 19 in the 4th before losing to Hazi), and future USTTA President Jim Shrout got by Toledo’s Ralph Balyeat 19 in the 5th before losing to Holzrichter.
The lst round proper began with the one Expedite Match called by Referee Yetter: Last month’s Kentucky Open winner Cal Fuhrman, who reportedly hadn’t missed a single National’s (true, I think, only from 1934 on),*** and who would lose here to the more aggressive defender Hendry, rallied to beat Duane Maule, -19, -12, 18, 12, 17--with four of these five games being expedited under Close Law 1A (the server-must-win-the-point-on-or-before-his 13th-stroke ), the option which was now becoming standard. In another bad moment for Milwaukee, Michigan Open winner Harvey Davis sneaked by Bud Carson deuce in the 5th.
Plenty of Chicago action in the 2nd round, including some surprises. Lowry 26-24 in the 4th got the better of Nordhem, who in the final of the South Bend Mid-West Open a few weeks earlier had lost by much the same score to Ralph Muchow (MUCK-ow). (No disgrace in that, though, for Ralph had won the Jan. Illinois Open over a strong field--Nash, 19 in the 5th, Anderson, and, in the final, Price, whom he drove "bullet-like smashes through.") Herman Leavitt was also one of the 2nd-round winners: after ousting Feb. Cleveland District winner Al Findlay, he downed the formidable young Sussman in 5. Glancz exhibited something more than his usual stage presence in beating Anderson in 5. And, in the most startling result, 17-year-old Billy Holzrichter, who’d been up, up, up after his win over Nash in the Jan. Burlington Tri-State but down, down, down after his loss to Roger Downs in the semi’s of the Michigan Open in mid-Feb., showed poise and maturity as he waited patiently through 4 games for the right ball to begin again and again the sustained attack that would upset the #1 seed Bellis. "You couldn’t try to hit through Bellis too quickly," Cartland would emphasize. "You had to work the ball."
Holzrichter, who in 1943 would become the U.S. Champion, began playing at the Larabee Y in Chicago in 1934. Two years later, in the Illinois Open, he had a sensational win over Ralph Muchow, U.S. #9 for the ‘36-37 season. After improving his game at the Stay & Play Club, Billy moved to Moline, Il, and from there to St. Louis. Years later, Holzrichter would emphasize how important it was for him to have moved to St. Louis and been able to play in league matches and tournaments against all the strong opposition there. The 1938-39 season "really molded my game," he said.
The 8th’s went pretty much as expected with Bellak advancing 3-0 over Pagliaro. Paggy tried to compensate for a non-existent backhand attack with his backhand defense. But he was still vulnerable on that side, for it was only his forehand that had the heavy chop (TTT, Oct., 1938, 19). Moreover, though he was very fast afoot and if given the opportunity could come in from deep defense to pick-hit shots, he just couldn’t take the offense from Bellak,**** whose two-fingered grip allowed him to stroke not bullet balls (he lost too much freedom of the arm for that) but deceptive, well-placed drives and beautifully controlled drops.
Hazi, too, was difficult to play, especially for the first time. Against Hendry, he backhand-angled for control and 3-1 got it. Holzrichter, varying his strategy with his opponent--forced the offense against the sometimes volatile Abrahams and beat him 19 in the 4th. A Minneapolis attorney, Al Meagher, had invented a ball-throwing robot for practice (TTT, Apr., 1939, 8)--that’s what Price, "our most graceful player" Hammond had called him, must have felt he was playing when he lost 12, 17, 9 to Cartland’s incessant topspin. "Doug was like a machine"--that’s such a familiar line through table tennis time you might well say he was more durable than one too.
Before these National’s, Cartland and Schiff had finished doing an exhibition in Rochester and were being driven to Toledo by Tex B. Lloyd, President of the Geneva Finger Lakes TTA. They were moving along, making good time, but as it had gotten a little stuffy in the car Tex was asked to please open the window. Wanting to oblige these famous players, whatever the request, Tex promptly opened...the door. It seems he was hard of hearing. And now, no doubt about it, the car needed a new door.*****
In the quarter’s, Cartland stopped Holzrichter cold--perhaps after two good wins Billy had a letdown, or, more likely, he just couldn’t find a way to combat Doug’s technique--a combination of unwavering concentration with super-steady forehand control.
Schiff, however, didn’t have Cartland’s confidence? Nash had beaten him 20 and 19 in their East-West match a little over a week ago, and now here Sol started badly, lost the first two games. But then he got back into the match--perhaps while Garrett was convincing Reba Kirson that he ought to be voted "the dizziest player" at these National’s?
Garrett dizzy? Reba should be privy to an interview the 20-year-old Nash would give just a month after these National’s in which, though claiming to be a graduate of the University of Missouri, he seemed to take great delight in portraying himself to Henry W. Clune, a Rochester, N.Y. newspaperman, as a "table tennis bum" (even going so far in this Apr. 11, 1939 interview in the Democrat and Chronicle as to mimic some B-moviegoer’s idea of how such a strange person might talk?):
"Take the time they knocked me off at Lake Forest, Ill.: charge, vagrancy. I’d hitch-hiked in from St. Louis and I guess I looked it. They threw me in the bucket. But the desk sergeant, a good guy, let me have the run of the place until they found out whether I was a stickup man or a corner panhandler. There was a tennis table in the assembly room, I got playing with a young copper who thought he was pretty good, and the first thing I knew I’d beat him out of a $3 bet. With $3 I couldn’t be a vagrant anymore, so they sprung me."
Columnist Clune goes on to say that Nash goes on to say, and with that same seemingly carefree indifference, that he really deplores, if not "con" talk, downright hustling: "I never stoop to such practices until the buckle of my belt presses my backbone. It’s purely a coffee and cruller dodge. I prefer to be on the legit."
Make Garrett legitimately dizzy, then, if you like, for as Clune admiringly tells us, "Nash is really something of a genius at a tennis table, pulling all sorts of fancy shots, twisting and leaping like an adagio dancer, grimacing and keeping up a continuous chit-chat."
Nash was never content to be merely an entertaining showman, however--he wanted to win. After losing the 3rd and 4th games to Sol, he came back victorious in the 5th.
Grimes began impressively against Hazi, winning the lst game at 12--but could do nothing thereafter.
The remaining quarter’s--McClure vs. Bellak, undefeated in the last two U.S. Opens--was the great crowd-pleaser.
Against many an opponent McClure’s aim was to build up topspin until he could get the ball he wanted to kill, or, if he were back on defense, to wait, with his wonderful sense of timing, to quickly pick-hit one through. But against Bellak, whom Cartland acknowledged was really "tricky’ and "one of the few players to keep me on defense," Jimmy knew he had to very aggressive. And ("Jumpin’ Jehosephat!") he was. Bill Price would later say that in these National’s Jimmy played "the fiercest, most fighting offensive game I’ve ever seen" (TTT, Feb., 1950, 3).
With that same "shrewdness" or "caginess" that he shared with tennis great Bobby Riggs (Reba Kirson in TTT, May, 1938, 9), Jimmy decided to "drive all of his [Bellak’s] serves and try to serve myself so he couldn’t do the same thing to me." Moreover, he had to keep the ball away from Laci’s forehand, unless it was hard hit--but, and though many people didn’t think Bellak had much of a defense, Jimmy said he also had to watch out for Laci’s "peculiar terrific backhand chop." The forehand side was definitely to be guarded against. "Just lifting the ball over to that side with top-spin was not enough, because if it was just the least bit high he would either jump over and crack it with his forehand or hit it with that indescribable forehand-backhand, which he never hits the same way twice" (TTT, June, 1939, 13).
When McClure called Bellak an "ungodly" opponent, he meant of course that Laci was so unpredictable, made so many outrageous shots, that he confused player after player and made him doubt himself and lose heart. But this did not happen to McClure. "Jimmy was able to take the offense a little more often than Bellak"--and, as Price said, this made the difference. Topics pointed out how Jimmy’s "great speed and fighting spirit enabled him to move all about the table in order to hit his favorite forehand drive," and "with devastating cross-court smashes in four deucedly exciting games [-21, 21, 22, 20] Jimmy blasted the crown off the baldish head of [the] 2-time champion" (Apr., 1939, 3). Of course the crowd gave them both a tremendous ovation.
Thus there would be, after two years, a new Open Champion. Would it be the "scholarly and ruddy" Hazi? Tibor, who was not particularly athletic at the table, had sedentary pursuits. He’d studied accounting and enjoyed playing chess. But neither Patience nor Humility were his strong points. And, as he hated to lose, his exertions, his emotions, often brought a flush to his face.
Born Feb. 9, 1912, he’d just turned 27. His real name was Hoffman. But (see Reid’s Victor Barna, 107), as Hungarian society was anti-Semitic (hence Braun became Barna, Klein became Kelen), he used the name Hazi. Thus, as USTTA Executive Secretary Victor Rupp and and former President Carl Zeisberg in a joint Feb. 21, 1941 letter would make clear to those who might help the Hazis become U.S. citizens, Tibor was "in compliance with a Hungarian Law requiring Hungarian contenders in government subsidized international sports to use Hungarian names." Before Hazi came to the States, the Hungarian government had him go to Gdansk-cum-Danzig to play at an S.S. club with Hitler’s picture on the wall. "Do you eat pork?" asked his host.
Tibor had arrived in this country on Mar. 15, 1939, only a few days before the National’s, with his wife Magda whom he’d married two years earlier. He’d served in the Hungarian Army for eight months, then was released by special permission to come to Toledo. However, Hazi’s entertainment visa, arranged by H. N. Smith for Tibor’s Exhibition Tour with Bellak after the National’s was good only for 6 months.
But if Hazi was worried about his future, as who in his position wouldn’t be, it didn’t stop him from (20, -11, 20, 18) winning the close ones against Nash. Glancz, for one, said that Garret has "great talent but needs a better defense and calming down" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 7).
Calming down? Well, perhaps, for consider his mercurial sports background as reportedly told to Rochester columnist Clune:
"A wild little hobbledehoy around his home town, St. Louis, he got banged by a motor car, suffered two fractured ankles, and when he began to limp around again, he saw a game of table tennis in the local Y.M.C.A. and thought that might take the place of basketball until his legs regained their old zip and spring....
But he went back to basketball next year, was picked as an all-state high school player, ran on the track team, and got through two matches of the St. Louis Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament...[before] he got an awful pasting....
Next he tried baseball, to be expelled from the U. of M. [University of Missouri] Athletic Association when he was caught playing summer ball for hire and had a brief fling in the Three I league."
Presumably Garrett hadn’t the inclination to try to compete with his St. Louis rivals Hendry and Price in tennis. Which might serve as a reminder that those in the other semi’s in this National’s were good with a larger racket too. But though Cartland had won a game from McClure, down 14-2 in the 4th, he’d never really threatened him. Said Jimmy, who’d "zoned in" after beating Bellak, "I had all the confidence in the world and nothing looked impossible for me to hit" (TTT, June, 1939, 13).
In his final against Tibor, Jimmy said he was determined "to rush him off his feet" and, except for the 3rd game, with the help of a handkerchief bandana and rolled-up pants cuffs, he succeeded. This final was broadcast by WTOL, and, as the cover of the April, ‘39 Topics shows, Jimmy is being interviewed on air after the match. Hazi is also pictured on that cover, looking, with a smirk, as if he knows something we don’t. The secret explanation is that Bellak, not caught by the camera, is whispering something into his ear. Perhaps an intimate’s response to Tibor’s claim that Jimmy used illegal fingerspins against him? "I don’t say that’s why I lost," Hazi said many years later, "but he did use them at critical times."
Jimmy of course denied the charge. As did an unprotesting Tibor himself (his argument being that, as a newly arrived, dependent guest in this country, looking for all the goodwill he could get as he and his wife tried to make a momentary living and maybe a future life here, it wouldn’t be to his advantage to protest and so cause an unpleasant scene?).
Mamaroneck’s Bill Gunn, who’d been President of the Larchmont Westchester Club in 1935 when it changed from PPA to TTA, spoke of the one "sour note" in an otherwise beautifully-run tournament--the service:
"...I saw many top-notch players waving their paddles and arms in superfluous motions, designed not to impart spin to the ball, but to confuse the opponent and take his eye off the ball. At least two players served from behind their backs and under their legs. I even suspected 2 of deliberately serving before the opponent was ready. I think our rules on service need a little strengthening" (TTT, May, 1939, 17).
If Referee Yetter--who, beginning in the Mar., ‘39 Topics had started a "Why and Wherefore" Umpire’s column--or any indefatiguable umpire like Max Graf, or in fact any umpire or official, even the one in red shoes, thought a violation had occurred, he, or she (women umpires were a "pleasing novelty" at this tournament) could have called attention to the Appendix to Close Law #4. This says that when "the umpire suspects preliminary spin, he may cause the offending player to serve with the serving hand open and flat, fingers straight and together, thumb free....[But here’s the part the USTTA would sooner or later agree needs strengthening.] This should be enforced only when the umpire is sure that illegal preliminary spin is being employed" (TTT, Mar., 1939, 18). And if an inexperienced umpire, though trained by Yetter for these National’s, isn’t sure?
Pathe News reportedly was going to show not controversy but a "51 foot sequence" of the last point in both the Men’s and Women’s final to an estimated 20,000,000 viewers. Toledo Mayor Roy C. Start was there to present if not all of the 34 trophies donated by Toledo businessmen at least the most impressive Gimbel and Coleman Clark perpetual ones. General Chair Ed Cannon (his Crimson Coach Tobacco ads began now to appear in Topics), Vice Chair Larry Minneker, and Treasurer John W. Winn, Jr. were some of the Toledo dignitaries applauding in tuxes.
Cannon, who helped begin the annual Toledo Lake Cities Open in 1937, had an enviable sports background. He was "the first four-letter man in the history of Columbus, Ohio South High School, winning awards for football, baseball, basketball and track." After he’d come to Toledo in 1925, he "organized the Red Man’s Tobacco basketball team," and in 1929 the Tobaccos won the League Championship. Later, in 1935, his Crimson Coaches softball team won "the world’s amateur title at Chicago" (TTT, May, 1940, 11).
Winning the Men’s Consolation at these National’s and therefore one of the trophies (the total value of them all?...$1,000) was Chicago’s Wilson DuMez, Jr. After losing to Lowry in the Singles, he couldn’t have shown more determination, first in his -19, -19, 20, 15, 18 semi’s against Paul Capelle, then in the -15, -12, 21, 18, 19 final against Gordon Muchow.
It was still unusual for either a Senior or a Junior to play in the Men’s. Philly’s Al Nachsin, though beaten in the 1st round of the Men’s, was runner-up in the (have to be 35) Veterans to George Bacon, Jr., 10 years earlier one of the best players in the country. But none of the four semifinalists in the (have to be under 15) Boys played in the Men’s (because of the $5 entry fee?). Eddie Pinner knocked off Albert Arace, the holder, but Indy’s Charles Tichenor was too much for Roy Weissman in the semi’s or Pinner in the final (though Eddie, down 2-0, forced Tichenor to 5).
The Men’s Doubles had some unexpected results. Before losing in the semi’s, Holzrichter and Gordon Muchow beat Grimes and Nash in straight games, then had to go 5 to finish off Les Lowry and Ned Steele. The Ohio State University partnership of Sage and Shannon were too 22, -18, 21, -18, 20 tough at deuce for the soon to be famous team of Pinner and Sussman. Earl Coulson and Roger Downs, down 2-0, had a nice win over Bellis and Silberman. But two big matches in the quarter’s really decided the winners. Bellak and Hazi were 19, -19, -16, 20, 19 almost beaten by Pagliaro and Abrahams who together were able to do what Paggy couldn’t do alone against Bellak--wrest the offense away. World Champion Schiff and McClure would not be the U.S. Champions: Hendry and Price upset them--with much credit going to Price who "repeatedly nullified the champions’ fierce driving by miraculous returns" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 3). In the final, the Hungarians were easy winners. Sandor said that Hendry and Price made a big mistake by playing an almost entirely defensive game against them. But Hendry’s reply to that would surely be, "What choice did we have?"
Defending U.S. Champion Fuller Wins National’s Again
Although Ranking Chair Cinnater says he doesn’t know much about how to seed the Women’s and asks for help from committeeman George Schein, another East vs. West pattern prevails through the anticipated quarter’s. Top half of the draw: #1 Defending Champion Emily Fuller vs. #8 Betty Henry and #3 Dorothy Halliday vs. #7 Mildred Wilkinson; bottom half: #4 Sally Green vs. #5 Reba Kirson--with the one and only foreign seed Magda Gal Hazi positioned to meet Reba in the 8th’s; and #6 Clara Harrison vs. #2 Ruthe Brewer.
Even though there were 43 entries, a number of last season’s ranked players were missing. Former U.S. #3 Ruth Wilson, now a freshman at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, showed this past season that she still had plenty of skill and endurance--won 102 straight games. Not in any tournament, mind you, for she was making the most of her college experience. "At a barn dance and country fair held for the benefit of the college swimming pool fund Ruth took on all comers at table tennis at 10 cents per game, the college offering to pay 25 cents to anyone who could beat her. Well, she played and played--from 4 P.M. till 11 P.M....with only time to grab a bite to eat--and the college didn’t pay a cent and gained $10.20 for the fund" (TTT, May, 1939, 9).
Last year’s U.S. #4 Mae Clouther wasn’t in the draw. Husband Jim explained in a Nov. 28, 1939 letter to Cartland, Grimes, and Klepak that "Mae had practiced faithfully [for this tournament], made arrangements to team up with Emily [Fuller] in the Women’s doubles and had purchased plane tickets for the trip to Toledo only to cancel the entire business because the family physician ordered her to bed with a severe attack of grippe." Other players based in New England--Jane Stahl (formerly #13), Barbara Shields (#14), Lucia Farrington (#15) and Priscilla Woodbury (#18) were also absent.
Former U.S. World Team member Dolores Probert Kuenz, New Rochelle, N.Y.’s May Spannaus, and Chicago’s Helen Ovenden, set for a summer vacation in Mexico pursuing another passion, taking photographs,****** were others among last season’s top 12 who didn’t make it to Toledo. Clara Harrison, 6th seed here, was defaulted in the Preliminary Round. Maybe, since she was available for Women’s and Mixed Doubles, she didn’t think a seeded player could possibly have to play a Pre-lim and so wasn’t alert to hear her singles match called?
Although entries were "limited to 32" players, that didn’t mean that after 32 entries had been accepted, no more players could get in--it only meant that some players would have to play preliminary matches. Perhaps of the 43 entered those who sent in their entries the earliest were spared the extra play? (Though most would have welcomed an extra match?) What the rationale (if any) was for deciding who plays these additional Pre-lim matches is not clear to me, for even three of the eight seeds, including the #2 seed Brewer, were asked to play them. And of course there were no byes. All this certainly seems an odd arrangement, for it probably wouldn’t give any player meeting up with any seed in her first match even a fighting chance. Since for the Women there was no Consolation event, as there was for the Men, could making the trip here to play one quick single elimination match for a $3 entry fee be very satisfying? Granted, though, 6 of the 9 seeds (including Hazi) played a ("fixed"?) first round match against a Toledo or nearby Michigan player.
In the Preliminary Round, History notes that Helen Germaine’s hard-hit forehands pounded Leah Thall (alias 17 years later World Mixed Doubles Champ Leah Neuberger) into 10, 18, 15 momentary oblivion. Also, in a looking-glass match that had to be the bane of careless reporters scribbling down Draw results, Chicago’s LaVera Weber got by Toledo’s Edna O’Connor in 5, but Chicago’s Jayne Weber lost to Toledo’s Margaret Hart in 5.
There were two 5-gamers in the First Round too. Taking advantage of Harrison’s default, Saginaw, MI’s Virginia Andre advanced to the 8th’s with a -19, 17, -19, 19, 17 win over Detroit’s equally unheralded Patricia Montieth. And Reba Kirson who, against her doctor’s advice, had come to play complaining of a "strained hand, a sprained back, [a] cold and other ills" (TTT, May, 1939, 8), was still just too competitive to quit and rallied from 2-0 down to take out Toledo’s Norma Schmaltz in 5.
Absolutely no upsets in the eighth’s--but two close matches just the same. Dot Halliday, last year’s finalist, was-16, -17, 18, 16, 11 forced to recover from an unexpected bad start against Margaret Hart, and 1938 world semifinalist Betty Henry, after 12, 17, -19, -18, 18 starting well, almost went down to Detroit’s Margaret Koolery, not even ranked in the top 25 in the U.S. in 1938. Foreign seed Hazi had no trouble with the ailing Kirson and so play ran true to form into the quarter’s.
Born into a banking family, the well-educated, quick to learn English Hazi (nee Magda Gal) was a former Hungarian superstar. From 1929-34 she was a 5-time World Singles semifinalist, in ‘35 a finalist, and, in addition (did anybody ever have a better 2nd-place record?), was a 5-time World Women’s or Mixed Doubles finalist. But she would not add this or any U.S. Open to her many European titles. Here, in the twilight of her career, she was attacked and beaten in 4 by teenager Sally Green who would soon become the dominant U.S. women’s player. Wilkinson in her first two rounds had been 11, 9, 21 "extended" only by Kentucky Open Champ Martha Kiefer, but then in the only other 4-game contested quarter’s she was eliminated. Halliday, who’d knocked Mildred out of last year’s National’s, did it again, and so advanced into the semi’s--and, on, as would abruptly happen, out of the sport forever.
Dot had her moments, but Fuller, as she had been in their 4-game final last year, was just too 13, -16, 18, 15 savvy and played perhaps too "masculine" a game for her younger, less experienced opponent. Cartland remembers how Emily, accompanied by her mother, would arrive at the New York City Club to practice for a couple of hours with the best male available. No surprise then that Emily herself said that against men "I find myself hitting harder, chopping deeper and playing faster" (TTT, Feb., 1939, 9)--a fact that was echoed in the 1939 Schiff/Cartland book Table Tennis Comes of Age (113 and 138).
Topics columnist Reba Kirson said that this book "will knock the women’s game strongly, with Ruth Aarons to find interesting reading therein" (TTT, Jan., 1939, 9). Sol denied this, but I think the always feminist-minded Reba******* has a point. Consider these lines:
"There is no real reason why the best men players should be several points better than the best women. And yet today they are. Differences in strength and psychological reactions might account for slight masculine supremacy it is true. But only lack of practice, lack of enthusiasm, and lack of time account for the difference.
...The offensive game is winning among men, but very few women can hit well in a pinch. They happen to be more nervous, or seem to lack the power of concentration....
...[As] yet there are few women who have well-rounded games with which to battle for the offense or great enough knowledge of tactics to want to battle for the offense" (111-112).
While these comments are at least somewhat controversial, they’re mild compared to the strange advice which follows. Sol tells the women:
"And I suggest that you play as often as possible against women, rather than men. That is, of course, if you can get good feminine competition in your neck of the woods. Until the women’s game gets more like the man’s [and how in the world might it do that?] there’s very little real reason for playing with men, learning to return their faster shots and hit their harder chops, when you’ll have to play against a different geared game altogether. Strive to attain the perfection of a man’s game, but, even before that, strive to attain those strokes that will help you to defeat your feminine competitors.
And when you play with men in serious matches such as in mixed doubles [would there be any other time?], pay attention to the game. And pay attention to the sort of clothes you wear to take part in the game. Wear short skirts, or, better still, "shorts," and a pair of regular sneakers. And play to win--to make a good shot rather than a good appearance..." (112).
Surely, even almost 60 years ago, much of this is condescending to any woman who wants to play seriously.
When younger, the sports-minded Magda Hazi, as we learn in an Elwood Maunder article, was a very good lawn tennis player and enjoyed "swimming, fencing, and rowing." Bellak might have been thinking of her when he advised ambitious table tennis players, men or women, to take up other sports as well. Of course, Magda was an exceptional sportswoman. Though she said that as "a student at the University of Szeged she played on the university [table tennis] team as its only woman competitor," in today’s world it’s still primarily only in the U.S., in Rating events, that boys and girls, men and women play tournament singles matches against one another. But that’s because of built-in cultural or competitive differences (the best men are, and always have been, better than the best women).
Sol and Doug generally are right on the money in assessing the pre-War game and are even prophetic in their vision of the evolution of the sport, but, c’mon, for women not to try to improve their game by playing against better players just because they’re men, not only smacks of "women ought to know their place" but isn’t sound advice.
And when Sol says (and, Reba’s right, what would the great Ruth Aarons think of this?): "Players like Emily Fuller--the present national champion and probably the best woman player, past or present, to hold the title--are proving that women can drive and chop and play a fast masculine game" (113), one suspects--what?--that he didn’t see Ruth win the 1936 World Championship.
At any event, how did Ruth and Emily get so good? By playing competitively, yes, but also by repeatedly playing against men in practice.
That other Ruthe, Ruthe Brewer, friend to Schiff and Cartland, who certainly played with them--Hammond spoke of her "New York" game (TTT, Apr., 1939, 5), and Table Tennis Comes of Age affirms that she’s "practiced with various men and picked up a man’s game" (140)--had a good chance to make Papa Brewer’s National Championship hopes for her come true: but she lost in 5 in the semi’s to Sally Green, after being up 2-0.
Schiff and Cartland in their book speak of Green’s forehand as "a quick and vicious stroke, patterned after some of the best among the men players" (139). Sally, I might note, played for the league-leading Riviera Club in the Indianapolis Men’s League. But although Reba Kirson praises Sally as being "the trickiest player" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 8), she still could not take even a game in the final from Fuller, who as Schiff and Cartland say not only has "an excellent defense," but "forehand and backhand drives [that] are very sound and capable of making many points even against masculine opposition" (138). And though Sally was from nearby Indianapolis, Hammond wrote, "Never before has a crowd been for the defending champion playing against a younger girl from the spectators’ section of the country--an unusual compliment to the poise and charm of the Easterner" (TTT, Apr., 1939, 4).
Green did get some measure of revenge against Fuller, though. After two for-a-time-uncertain matches--a -15, 18, 17 quarter’s win over Germaine/Kirson and a -19, 7, 17, -14, 14 semi’s win over Brewer/Matilda Plaskow (who’d 23, -21, 19 escaped Halliday and Henry)--Sally and Mildred Wilkinson won the Women’s Doubles from Emily and Magda Hazi in straight games. "Sally is inspiring for she is a fighter and a hitter," said Mildred. "She is a perfect partner. Her strokes are quick and she moves like lightning" (TTT, Oct., 1939, 8). A view corroborated no doubt by Sally’s early swimming and diving prowess. Actually (see Dave Camerer’s article in the Apr. 6, 1941 N.Y. World Telegram), it was because she’d hurt her back diving that she began playing table tennis--her father, a tennis player, after whom she fashioned her much admired forehand, said it would loosen her up. It sure did.
Perhaps to further the looked-forward-to compatibility of the "Mixed Splash Party" and "Midnight Buffet" Sat. evening from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., the Sat. Mixed Doubles event drew 70 players (TTT, Apr., 1939, 24-25). So of course there were who-knew-what-might-happen? match-ups.
The strong Chicago partnership of Nordhem and Wilkinson 9, -19, 20 shakily got by Bob Anderson and Margaret Koolery--which, since the losers wouldn’t be in the Sunday finals, left them with nary a care during the stretched-out not too late and not too early party-time hours to follow? McClure remembers playing with Koolery in a Mixed Doubles once when, after the match is over and he’s gone round to shake the opponents’ hands and has then started to walk off court with them, he notices that Koolery is still at the table. "Madge," he says, coming back, "Why are you out here? It’s all over."... "It is?" she answers. "Did we win?"..."Yes."..."Good," she says.
Also, in these eighth’s, Green and Roger Downs, the formidable Indianapolis pair, stayed in contention by 19, -17, 21 unsteadily rising above the steady play of Cartland/Plaskow.
In the quarter’s, another two exciting matches. A couple of months earlier, Laci Bellak had told his friend Reba Kirson, "We win the mixed or I kill you." Well, they didn’t win--lost to Downs and Green, -19, 17, -21. But, regardless of whether Laci so much as laid a hand on her, or whatever ailed her, Reba said she couldn’t play afterwards for a month. Two pairs who knew their partner’s games and temperaments very well--Tibor and wife Magda Hazi, and Sol Schiff and his good friend Ruthe Brewer--played an up-for-grabs match, with the Hazi’s -13, 10, 19 finally having the best of it.
But, in the one semi’s, the Hazi’s 17, -20, -13, -19 couldn’t win the close games and Nordhem/Wilkinson moved into the final. Al "can play doubles like an inspired fiend," Mildred enthused. He "can hit shots that are absolutely uncanny" (TTT, Oct., 1939, 8). In the other semi’s, Downs and Green prevailed in 5 over Ralph Muchow and Betty Henry who the round before had 10, 20 downed the holders Fuller and Johnny Abrahams.
In the final, with both pairs using the same tactics--topspinning or driving whenever possible and otherwise placing the ball back to the body of the person who hit it--Nordhem/Wilkinson won three close games. This allowed Mildred to go back to her secretarial position in a Chicago law office with two title-deeds well done, and Al to be publicly proclaimed by both Bellak and Glancz as a very impressive doubles player.
* See TTT, Feb., 1939, 4, for the "60,000 Miles with Table Tennis" article by Istvan Kelen. Kelen’s early book, Success At Table Tennis, was advertised in the Jan., 1938 issue of Table Tennis Activity, 80, as being by Istvan (Stefan) Kelen. Later, in the installments of his The Odyssey of a Table Tennis Champion (The Autobiography of Stephen Kelen) that began to appear in the Butterfly Table Tennis Report in 1987, he speaks of how he and "Mike" Szabados were invited to play matches in Japan. See also Ervin Brody’s "Hungarian Newsreel" (TTT, Dec., 1941, 21) for the story of how these Japanese, instead of shaking hands before a match, touched noses.
**In TTT, Jan., 1939, 9, Reba Kirson says that foreign-seed Bellak will become an American citizen in Mar. of ‘39. But I feel sure that’s incorrect. See Frank Dwelly’s scrapbook, 34, where in a 1940 article about the National’s at Tomlinson Hall in Indianapolis, the writer says that Bellak "expects to become an American citizen in four more years"--quicker if he could marry an American girl. To which Laci laments, "I can’t find anybody who’ll marry me." (Laci does marry--in 1947.) As for Glancz, TTT, Feb., 1937 tells us he’s applied for U.S. citizenship papers. Of course, Bellak, Glancz, and Hazi will all become U.S. citizens.
***The first record I have of Fuhrman entering any National’s is the 1933 APPA one in Chicago. Here he lost in the 1st round of the Singles by default, and was not enetered in the Doubles. This leads me to believe he didn’t show.
****See TTT, Feb., 1950, 3. The writer (presumably the magazine’s editor, Bill Price) says that it was Paggy’s inability to hit through Bellak that made him decide to become "the world’s greatest defensive player." Reba Kirson--in TTT, Oct., 1938, 19--says that over the ‘38 summer Lou developed an excellent defense. Schiff, too, agreed that Paggy’s defense greatly improved--see Table Tennis Comes of Age, 19.
*****I assume it was this National’s--the ‘39 National’s--that Lloyd was driving Schiff and Cartland to. Doug told me that after he and Sol had done an exhibition in Rochester Lloyd was driving them to a National’s. See the Don Hassett article in the Mar. 15, 1939 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that links the three of them. The National’s were to start on Mar. 17. On the night of the 14th when Lloyd successfully defended his Monroe County Championship at the Rochester Y, Nash put on an exhibition there with Cartland--Garrett subbing for Schiff "who was prevented from appearing when motor trouble left him stranded in Binghamton."
******See TTT, Apr., 1940, 8, for Helen’s interest in photography. See also the Nov., 1939 article in the Illinois TTA’s Table Tennis News--in YFS I, 59B--for both Helen’s Mexico vacation and picture-taking hobby.
*******From the beginning (with the first issue of the Topics-booklet format), from May-June, 1937, 8, through May, 1938, 9, Reba called her column "A Gal’s Slant." (Feminist-minded as she was, she opened her first column with a quote from Voltaire: "All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of woman.") From Oct., 1938, 11, through May, 1939, 8 (at which time she discontinued it), she renamed her column "The Feminine Angle." (Perhaps in part she dropped the column because she became Mrs. Murray Monness on Sept. 2, 1939.)
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