HISTORY OF U.S. TABLE TENNIS: Vol. VII, 1973-1975
Typeset by Larry Hodges, USATT Hall of Famer
Printed by The Outer Office
Review by Mike Babuin, PhD, Chair of U.S. Hardbat Committee
Just last week I was talking with one of my young colleagues at the local University where I teach science classes and he was telling me about a new course that he is currently offering this semester entitled “the History of U.S. Sports”. Naturally, this surprised me and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask him what he was covering with respect to table tennis. As expected, I got the usual and customary response….(“you mean ping-pong?”). Last Tuesday when I saw him again, and I brought-in all six volumes of Tim’s historical table tennis treatise and literally dropped them off in a loud ‘ker-thunk’ on top of his desk while he was seated busily grading papers. I asked him to take a peek at the material over the week and that I would promptly reclaim my volumes next Tuesday. The look of shock seeing the look on his face was well worth the effort because it was clearly evident that he couldn’t believe that there was that much information on record compiled for American table tennis. I quickly reminded him that the first six volumes only go up to the end of 1972….
The latest volume of Tim Boggan’s the History of US Table Tennis (Vol. VII) spans the time period 1973 through 1975 which is especially nostalgic to this reviewer in that 1973 marked my first appearance in a USTTA sanctioned tournament. With respect to table tennis, the early to mid-1970’s means different things to different people, and to me I remember it as the dawn of the Seemiller dominance in America. Danny Seemiller is (arguably) the best American born, inverted sponge table tennis player of all time and yet, it appears that every decade or so, great things often times seem to run in pairs…the Rowe twins (ok, yes, they were from England), Danny and Ricky Seemiller, Eric and Scott Boggan, Jim and Scott Butler, …who’s next ? (maybe CJ and AJ Brewer?). But in 1973, young Dan was emerging as a national and international power to be reckoned with for years and years to come. His somewhat unorthodox and unique style best characterized as a lethally effective “windshield wiper” style of holding the racket, may have confused some of the opponents back in the day…as might his left-handed loops, and anti-spin rubber on the backhand. But of course….this is but one key aspect of that time period worth mention – there were many, many others in this book which Tim has so meticulously chronicled in this latest volume.
In general, when I receive my copy of Tim’s volumes I first glance at all of the pictures to see some of the players I grew up with as they were 35-years ago when I was a kid. Then, I read the volume in detail from cover to cover, followed by a brief sabbatical of a week or two, I read it again and this time, I (gasp) take notes whereas I have a personal interest in developing a US tournament chronology through time (as best as one can be prepared). Where else can we go to get this information which is so obscure and difficult to find?
Additionally, I always am interested in learning what the equipment was (tables, bats, Sitco robots,early Newgy robots, balls, etc…) for that time period. Regrettably, unless you still horde every copy of table tennis topics stored away in boxes in your attic, the history of US Table Tennis treatise is the next best thing (actually better because the pages are bound properly, and the paper is high quality - not crumbly, old dilapidated newspaper remnants as are most vintage editions of Topics which survive from the 70’s and 80’s.
What I like best about this volume is the fact that it is jam packed with photos, detailed event information, results, and interesting side stories that otherwise the reader would never become aware of. And of course, seeing pictures of guys like Ross Brown (ala Jerry Garcia), Ray Mack, Steve Berger all sporting hair (or more hair) is always fun (*I never had that problem did I?).
The reader will also enjoy seeing photos and events of other great American table tennis players at the national level such as Lim Ming Chui (once on the US National Team and ranked in the top 5 in the USA) and, learning of him and his teammates as they compete at the Calcutta (India) Worlds. Another gem worth reading is George Braitwaite’s amazing performance at the Benson & Hedges tournament in Jamaica that catapulted the US team to victory.
Also, this era beckoned the dawn of several truly great players of prominence….the first, is one of the best women players to ever play for the USA- In Sook Na - formerly Captain of the South Korean Women’s team at the World’s in Sarajevo (former Yugoslavia). Additionally, this time period saw the emergence of Eric and Scott Boggan both very young and making an introduction into what will be evolve into an illustrious and memorable mark upon American table tennis in years to come.
For me personally, I also enjoyed reading about some of the great regional players of that time period which I remember and played against. People like Jim McQueen, Hou-Min Chang, Fred King, Jean and Tom Poston, Denny Stanley, Bill Brown, Steve Hitchner, Tommy Tarrant, and many, many others that played at the Lion’s Park in Raleigh for over three and a half decades. But that is one of the great things about this book…regardless of where you grew up, you can find information on players, venues, and tournaments in your area that will evoke similar nostalgic memories.
Even the front cover photo of Ron Shirley by Mal Anderson evokes memories…how sad it is that Ron - a tremendous supporter for decades of American table tennis - did not get the opportunity to see his photo on the front cover of this most important volume.
I especially enjoyed the detailed description of the Paddle Palace and the history of that club, how it got its name, and the many tournaments offered there, ALL of this is extremely interesting and memorable for the casual reader to explore for the first time, or to reminisce upon.
For me, one of the crown jewels of this period documented in Tim’s book is the literary emergence of Marty Reisman’s first (and long out of print) book entitled: “The Money Player”. Even 35-years later, this book is STILL considered mandatory reading and is a “must read” book for anyone that has even the most ancillary of interest in table tennis – (if you can still find a copy of it). At the time the book was published it was acclaimed by virtually all as being truly brilliant in that the story behind the stories are finally told in pure, honest, and intimate candor regarding Marty’s many adventures, and life experiences across the world playing table tennis. Lets face it that is what table tennis fanactics want to hear, and wish to read….not just another instructional “how to” book, but rather, tell us the stories of the tournaments, the players, the good, the bad, all of it! Bravo Marty! For having the wisdom, insight, and intestinal fortitude in 1973/74 to share much of these private and intimate moments and amazing recollections with the rest of us – if only other top players would do the same!
Lastly, I couldn’t help but enjoy the detailed description of the World’s mens single finals between Anton Stipancic (from the former Yugoslavia) and Istvan Jonyer (from Hungary). This write-up described all of the key ups and downs of the entire mens draw including how the US Team fared, as well as a detailed description of the final match which also included a beautiful caricature of Anton Stipancic drawn by Rudy Stipkovic on page 530. Somehow to me, this caricature eerily resembles Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones (Note: however, the lips are not quite large enough to be those of Mick) and I thought it a great addition to the story of the final match.
All of this and much more awaits the reader. This reviewer gives volume VII a clear 5-star “thumbs-up” and urges you to not only get a copy as soon as possible (before they are all gone), but take the time to get the entire, complete set of all six preceding volumes as well. In doing so, you will have the complete story that otherwise would be lost forever if not for the tireless and loving efforts put forth by Tim Boggan to document the history of our favorite sport – the best sport in the world.