Marty Reisman

Marty Reisman,
Keeper of the Flame


arty Reisman burst on the international stage in 1949 at age 19 when he defeated the legendary Victor Barna in the final of the English Open — then considered the Wimbledon of table tennis. Later in the same year, Marty made it to the semifinals in the world championships. In the years that followed, he added prestigious titles: US Singles Champion, World Consolidation Winner and others. Among the great classic players he defeated in his career are Richard Bergmann, four time world champion; Alex Ehrlich, another English Open winner and world championship finalist; and Ivan Andreadis, when he along with Marty, was a favorite to win the world championship

A turning point in Marty's career came at the 1952 Bombay world championships. He met a Japanese opponent who played with a new weapon. Both the player, Hiroji Satoh, and his weapon, a thick sponge racket, were unknown in the West and no Western player knew how to go up against this combination. Marty, as well as Bergmann lost to Satoh and his paddle. But once the surprise had worn off, Satoh lost to both of them in exhibition matches in Japan. But the world of table tennis had changed: sponge paddles lead to the high spin game, the loop attack, and deceptive serves, all leading to short rallies — a different game than classic table tennis, and one poorly understood by spectators.

For a short time Marty also switched to playing with a sponge racket; he became US Champion in 1960 playing with one. Yet, he never enjoyed the new sponge game and returned to playing with a classic pips-out paddle. From then on he was the "Keeper of the Flame" and torchbearer for the hardbat game, as the classic game now is called. His win of the National Hardbat Championship in 1997, at the age of 67, invigorated the hardbat movement.

Marty has always been known for his flair for showmanship. He has lost none of it as demonstrated in the many articles about him in newspapers and magazines as of late, his appearances on talk shows on TV and in a BBC TV special about him. He is in the last stages of writing his autobiography, an update of his earlier one "The Money Player." The new version reflects his personality better than the original, his wit and style come through unmistakably. Knowing Marty, we expect to hear and see more of him in the media and at the table.


Hermann Luechinger