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Parton Keese
June 04, 1984
If you're one of those players who call table tennis "Ping-Pong," you'll get a kick out of this story. Until one emerges from the dingy cellars and poorly lighted garages of the Ping-Pong subworld, the fantasy of beating anyone of world championship caliber must remain unfulfilled. In the fall of 1948, though, I emerged from my basement just long enough to test a superiority complex developed from beating anybody who dared challenge me to a game on my dusty, pockmarked table with its sagging net—anyone willing to contend with lopsided balls, battered paddles and whitewashed stone walls that forestalled more than two backward steps.
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June 04, 1984

A Giant Misunderstanding Nearly Made A Giant-killer Of The Author

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The tournament director and Reisman talked for 10 minutes or so, but there was little Reisman could do. Rules were rules, and it would be ludicrous to rearrange them at someone's whim, even a celebrity's. Reisman still refused to give in, though, and turned to me. "Would you agree to play three out of five?" he asked, putting the burden on me.

"C'mon, Reese, play three out of five!" said someone in the crowd.

"Don't let him con you, Keese!" said another.

I thought about the one point that lay between me and instant fame. I knew I'd never have another opportunity like this. It wasn't my fault. It had been announced. Could I help it if Reisman didn't hear it? I took a deep breath and said, "If it was announced as two out of three, Marty, I guess we'll have to play it that way." The voice sounded foreign to my ears.

"All right, let's go!" said Reisman, grabbing his bat. "19-20, my serve."

After wiping my face with a towel, I walked back to my position and waited. The umpire quieted the crowd. Reisman served a twisting, skipping ball that I dribbled into the net. Now it was 20-20. So much for an upset. In the next 10 seconds, Reisman rammed a ball that I never saw into the corner, then unleashed a top spin serve that struck my racket and bounded high into the crowd.

"Game, set and match, Reisman!" said the umpire. I don't think I heard him.

As we shook hands, Reisman said, "You nearly got me that time." He went on to win the title easily, never losing another game. I felt I had something to do with that.

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