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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER MARTY REISMAN
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America's best-loved ping-pong player


Marty Reisman was ready for The Tonight Show. But was The
Tonight Show ready for Marty Reisman?

In a recent TV appearance, his name was announced and he started across the stage toward the desk of guest host John Davidson. Then suddenly he seemed to get lost in the floodlights. For a few seconds the television audience didn't know what was happening. An anonymous cameraman raced out of the wings to guide Marty to his destination.

"My gosh, that's never happened before," laughed Davidson. But Marty's humorous stumbling may well have been part of his act because, as America's best-loved table tennis player, he very often does things that haven't been done before. On The Tonight Show he returned shots with his foot and behind his back, broke a cigarette with his slam shot (that has been clocked at 105 miles per hour), and soon had Davidson sprawled across the table trying to reach shots that came back of their own.

At 48, Reisman (rhymes with "policeman") is still the nation's highest paid Ping-Pong player in exhibitions. The stunts that he has developed over the past 30 years make his games pure entertainment. But Marty is more than a player; he is a personality, a man with a thousand stories to tell, and an instant friend to the people who visit his table tennis center on 96th Street just west of Broadway.

"I feel I'm moving with the times," he remarks, late one evening at the center. "When from an athletic professional point of view some people would think about retirement, my career is on the point of fresh blossoming." He is referring to the fact that his autobiography, The Money Player, published in 1974, is now being converted into a movie script. And other things are happening. Several months ago his table tennis parlor was the scene of a unique recording session — a piece of music titled Tournament Overture for Flute, Cello, Synthesizer, and Two Ping-Pong Players, composed especially for Reisman. The event was followed by a regular tournament. And this fall Marty has a long-range exhibition tour lined up.

"I started playing on the Lower East Side, about 1942," he says. "A year later, at the age of 13, I was the New York City Junior Champion. … At 17, I represented the United States in the World Championship which was held in London, at Wembley Stadium. There were 10,000 people watching. I lost in the quarterfinals. … The next year I made it to the semifinals and received a rating of number three in the world.&quo............
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