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February 1: Ping Pong Champion

Lawrence Bush
February 1, 2010

6Blatereisman by mal andersonPing-pong champion Marty Reisman was born on this day in 1930. He learned to play the game in New York settlement houses, and he has remained a “hardbat” player (using old-fashioned rubber-coated sandpaper paddles) throughout his life. “In the world championship today,” he complains, “the ball goes no more than three times across the net. In the old days, rallies would be thirty or forty strokes. There was a dialogue between two players that even a child could understand.” Reisman toured the world as the halftime act of the Harlem Globetrotters from 1949 to 1951. He holds eighteen national and international titles and has been U.S. champion twice and Canadian champion three times. In 1997, at age 67, he won the U.S. National Hardbat championship against competitors of all ages. Reisman died December 7, 2012 from complications of heart and lung ailments. To see him in action at age 19, look below.

It was fun all the way. All I did was to play countless money games with lots of people from the very worst to the very best and, presto, I became a world-class player.” —Marty Reisman

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.