The Great Americans

Excerpt from USATT web site (2003 US OPEN)

Hardbat: A Return to Classic Table Tennis

By Howard Blum


n this modern and fast-paced world, innovation, technology, and change are revered and coveted. The pace of change in competitive table tennis has increased rapidly in recent times, but some traditions and values are worth preserving. Many of us who are old enough to remember the way the game used to be played during its heyday in the first half of the 20th century still appreciate the qualities of the Classic Game. This is the motivation for the revival of the old way of playing table tennis without sponge on the racket: Hardbat Play, as it is now called.

Dick Miles Bobby Gusikoff Marty Reisman
Dick Miles Bobby Gusikoff Marty Reisman

Since not every hardbat player is old enough to remember the Classic Style of play, a brief history lesson is in order. In the 1950’s and earlier, table tennis was played with wooden paddles that were covered with short pimpled rubber with the pimples facing outward. Some rackets also were covered with other materials such as sandpaper or cork sheets, or even simply used with no covering at all. The resulting style of table tennis was the norm prior to the introduction of sponge coverings and then later inverted rubber, which when introduced, literally changed the game of table tennis forever.

Emily Fuller Jay Purves Leah Neuberger
Emilly Fuller Jay Purves Leah Neuberger

Have you ever seen a Classic Hardbat table tennis match? The rallies tend to be longer than in the modern game, and the points can therefore be more fun for both spectators and players. The recent creation of the United States Classic Table Tennis Association (USCTTA) – an affiliate of USATT – was motivated by the desire to preserve the Classic Style of our game with the hope of adding to the ranks of the core group that refuses to let the old game simply fade away.

It was Marty Reisman who kept the flame alive from the 60s to the present time. His spectacular Hardbat championship win in 1997 convinced many that Hardbat was a great sport to play and to watch. Many thanks also must go to USATT Hardbat Committee Chair, professor Scott Gordon of Sacramento, CA for his unrelenting efforts to get the Classic Game recognized by USATT, which now offers Hardbat events in both the U.S. Open and U.S. National tournaments.

Ruth Aarons Lou Pagliaro Marcus Schussheim
Ruth Aarons Lou Pagliaro Marcus Schusshaim

If you are a table tennis player and have never experienced the "Classic Game" then let us encourage you to do so. At this U.S. Open, there are five Hardbat events for your playing and viewing pleasure. If you are old enough to remember those days of yesteryear when you played Classic table Tennis, we urge you to try it again. If you are young, then please come and find out about the joys of the old ways that the legends of the game still love to remember and share. Some of our regular hardbat players are well beyond their retirement age and yet remain competitive and enjoy the game.

Doug Cartland Jimmy McClure Sol Schiff
Doug Cartland Jimmy McClure Sol Schiff