Jon’s Birthday Celebration, Tim Boggan’s Winning Table Tennis

Danny Wilcox Frazier was just one of the players in last night's ping-pong marathon during Jon's birthday celebration.

My brother Jon’s four-day 40th birthday extravaganza continued last night and into the early hours of the morning.

We spent much at the evening at the Lower West Side studio of Carlos J. Ortiz, Jon’s dear friend and a 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Award winner.

The studio is on the seventh floor of what appeared to be a former warehouse, and has everything one could want in that type of space: sufficiently high ceilings; a river view that looks out onto a pagoda-like building; a kitchen; ample work space; and a flat-screen television and nearby cozy couch.

It also has a ping-pong table.

We played for hours last night in the first major space one sees immediately upon entering and seeing the clean, white walls on which rows of pictures by members of the Illinois Press Photographer Association hang.

Mike, Jon and I grew up with a ping-pong table in our front hallway that spent a lot of time doubling as a mail repository.

Every two or three months, we’d shove the mail under the table and play fervently for a couple of weeks before the mail began its inexorable crawl back onto the table.

We’ve got a beauty of a table at our house that essentially is our dining room.  Dunreith negotiated for it in typically savvy fashion, getting the man at Dick’s to go down to $210 after the $500 table was initially listed as half price.

Unfortunately, my mail placement habits have not changed too much in the past 30 years, so our pine green friend often sports a collection of magazines, bills, credit card offers and the occasional piece of personal correspondence.

Aidan and I have been playing recently, though, and we had all combinations of teams between Jon, Mike, his dear friend and award-winning photographer Danny Frazier, Carlos, Carlos’ fiancee Tina, her friend Adriana and other partygoers.

Table tennis historian Tim Boggan participated in the 1971 “ping-pong diplomacy” initiative that saw a crew of American players venture to China during the Nixon era in an effort to improve the then-chilly Cold War relations.

Apparently, Boggan has written a nine-part series about the history of American Table Tennis.  I’ve not read them, but remember vividly reading his Winning Table Tennis as a child.  Interspersed with black and white photos, the book explained how to play, talked about the era’s stars, discussed the penhold and Continental grip, and included information about the China trip.  It also had brief sections about his sons, Eric and Scott, both of whom eventually joined their father in the USATT Hall of Fame.

Driving home at close to 2:00 a.m., replaying the points in my head, I thought of Boggan and the book I enjoyed reading so much in my youth.  I’ve just checked on Amazon and there are three sellers.  They may hear from me soon.

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