Sidney Heitner, the present table tennis titleholder, scoffs at the ferociousness of football or lacrosse. He laughs at the rigors of rugby and ice hockey. And, it is with a sneer in his voice that he condescends to speak of water polo or wrestling.
Sidney is a tall, twenty-three year old Jewish lad who came to this country from Austria eleven years ago. He has the well built body of a tennis table player, due to years of strenuous practice at this man’s-sized game. The tiger look that comes into his eye as he advances to the field of honor is enough to unnerve a less formidable opponent. Well has he merited the appellation of the “Amazing Austrian.”
Every inch the fighter and sportsman, Heitner admits that he will repeat. “I never was in better shape,” he says and we can readily believe it. The rigorous and gruelling training grind that he endures in order to reach the pinnacle of physical perfection is well nigh incredible.
A month before a tournament starts, Sidney, who is an insurance salesman living in the Bronx (which must be quite a grind in itself), begins the arduous and monotonous routine to which he attributes his excellence on the table courts of America.
He retires each night at the unseemly hour of ten, sleeps alone, and touches not the filthy weed nor the jocund fruit of the grape. He rises early and after an ice cold needle shower and a brisk rub-down, sprints for the subway and a seat. It is on this jaunt downtown that Sidney devises new strategems which he will use to outplay his rivals.
But sweet are the uses of adversity. Already this gallant lad has defeated J. Kriegel in the national table tennis tournament being held at the Hotel Astor. This match was terrific and nerve-wracking to watch. It kept the spectators in a frenzied state of delirious excitement from the first serve.
‘ALL DUE TO CLEAN LIVING’
Heitner says of his training routine: “It really is important. I have played lawn tennis and I think the mental strain of the outdoor game is as nothing compared with this. If I don’t win this tournament Schussheim will. But I wouldn’t want to bet on Schuss-helm’s chances.”
A friend who evidently is quite close to Heitner remarked: “Yes, it is all due to right living and clean thinking.”
GREATEST TOURNAMENT OF ITS KIND
There are 200 other contestants in this the greatest match of its kind that the United States has ever known. The Hotel Astor’s main ballroom is the scene of action and the sessions are crowded to capacity.
One can readily believe that the showmanship of a Tex Rickard was the inspiration for such a stupendous and gigantic sporting event. Twelve specially constructed tables line the floor and the speed of the bouncing balls causes many an unwitting spectator to wish he hadn’t taken that last drink.
FOUR PLAYERS SEEDED
Four players were considered a sufficient number to be seeded by the officials inasmuch as that body wished to spare the feelings of some of the others. The field this year is unusually good but only Heitner, Abram Berenbaum, Marc Schussheim and Sol Schiff were seeded. The latter is known as the tiger of table tennis tournaments.
This business of seeding only four contestants, as J. P. Allen, one of the foremost experts on table tennis in the East, says, “is showing that discretion is the better part of valor.”
Schiff has already chopped his way through the eastern championship and came out the winner because of his lightning-like strokes. Schussheim is on the same side of the draw as Heitner and has held the national crown on six different occasions. This year he claims that his sporting blood has been aroused. Schussheim came through the opening rounds with a new stroke that promises a whirlwind battle when he meets the present champion. “Marvelous Marcus” is considered Heitner’s chief rival.
Every year the national A. A. U. body decides whether it will allow the use of certain devices during track meets. These decisions have been demanded of this organization by track coaches throughout the country.
It all started about four or five years ago when a Western track coach initiated the use of the starting blocks for sprinters. After most of the world’s record marks for sprint events had been shattered beyond recognition, the august assemblage known as the A. A. U. met and decided that the new marks would not be recognized. They cite the use of the starting blocks as the grounds for their argument.
In the past, their meetings were held after the marks had been broken. For the last two or three years they have met before an important track and field meet and decided what would be okay or excluded altogether.
The coming Penn Relays, which will be held at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, on April 27 and 28, has caused the A. A. U. to issue instructions that no artificial devices shall be employed.
Speaking of the Penn relays, we recall an incident that occurred to Fred Steiner, giant weight man on the University of Pennsylvania’s track squad some years ago. At Franklin Field he stood on a raised platform and heaved the thirty-five-pound weight for a new intercollegiate record of fifty-four feet, five inches.
Sporting enthusiasts generally admitted that this platform had added at least one foot to Steiner’s great toss. Coaches all over the East came out against this new device. They stated there was no apparent use in using artificial means to increase a distance which could not be reached otherwise.
BREAKS OWN MARK
A fortnight after this meet at Franklin Field, the U. of P. boys came to New York City for the intercollegiates which was then held in the Squadron A Armory at Kingsbridge.
Four men were entered in the finals of the thirty-five-pound weight event. All had tossed the ball beyond the fifty-foot mark to reach the finals. Mort Reznick, 250-pound trackman from N. Y. U., was New York City’s only entrant.
Steiner in his first toss in the final even, without the use of an artificial platform, hurled the iron ball fifty-four feet and nine inches. This was an increase of four inches over his previous throw when the platform had been used. The rest of the field all came over the fifty-two foot marker but Steiner won with his splendid toss.
As yet we haven’t heard of any new devices that may be employed at the Penn Relay Carnival this year, but something or other is sure to be on deck when the starter’s gun goes off.