HISTORY OF U.S. TABLE TENNIS: Vol. X, 1979-1981
Typeset by Larry Hodges, USATT Hall of Famer
Printed by The Outer Office
Review by Ty Hoff
We have now traversed through nine volumes of Tim Boggan’s comprehensive history of US table tennis (hurry up Tim, newbies of today want their names permanently etched into the history of the sport) and come across the double digit volume (OK, Roman numeral 10). As in previous volumes we have a mixture of narrative and pictorial history as told through Tim’s and others’ eyes and letters, detailed record book as in winners, losers and scores of practically all events (yes the “D” Singles Winner and Runner Up of that one star tournament is inked) in many US (hmm, I see pro golfer Brad Faxon in the results) and international tournaments, reflections on the continuous political maneuverings in the sport, and examination of the sport’s controversial aspects such as rules and equipment (read “junk” rubber).
Volume X covers years 1979 through 1981 (hey, there is a write-up on this reviewer’s first sanctioned tournament in Jan. 1980) and there was no shortage of milestones and major happenings during this time span. We see the elevation of the amateur game through the Class A designation from the US Olympic Committee (thanks Fred Danner) and the establishment of our now permanent national office at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Our inclusion in the 1979 Pan Am Games as a demonstration sport is recounted in the gripping tale of the US Men’s heartbreaking Gold Medal match in San Juan, Puerto Rico versus the Dominican Republic that finished at 4:07 a.m. in the un-air-conditioned morning sans umpire and scorekeeper.
On the professional side we see the announcement of the ESPN agreement to air 52 weeks of 90 minute table tennis shows (wow, can it really be?) for the fledgling cable channel (they needed cheap programming huh?) but they ultimately ran a little short (money) of the 52 week goal. There was also a lot of discussion and confusion as to who is amateur and who is professional although that was ultimately resolved (OK, everyone can play).
Tim’s History recalls the proliferation of “junk” rubbers which resulted in heated arguments in print and on court. So great were the baffling combinations that many players would simply default and verbalize their anger at the combo player. The effect cut across all playing levels, even the highest, as 33-year-old insurance salesmen were winning prestigious international tournaments with their new-found trickery.
Other notable and interesting happenings include the first USTTA Hall of Fame inductions, US Juniors continued international extended stay training in Sweden, Germany, etc., the “I Love New York Invitational” played in the middle of the NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal with 200,000 captive spectators, the new experimental and controversial “Point Penalty System,” and even players refusing to play in front of TV cameras if they were not properly paid (hmm, sounds familiar). The book recounts persons complaining about the tantrums and screaming of top players however I always liked the color and flavor these players brought to the tournament scene.
I highly recommend this History. The pictures alone are reason to purchase this book. Even if your name or picture isn't in it, someone you know from table tennis probably is, whether it be a Boggan or Seemiller, or that senior from your club who won Class D in 1981, and that brings you one step closer to our storied history.