"An incomparable table tennis exhibitionist, quipster, actor, artist, for 25 years the most charismatic player in this country." -- The Washington PostFew world-class athletes have led a life as exciting, interesting, and adventurous as Marty Reisman. He is a holder of 18 International and National titles including United States champion (2 times), British Open Champion, Canadian Champion (3 times), South American Open Champion, World Consolation Champion, and many others.
He is also the author of the 1974 book "The Money Player", an autobiographical book describing his adventurous life traveling the world playing high-stakes matches. His style is best described as attacking. He is also well-known for his personality, wit, and stage presence, attracting spectators as much for his flourish as for his skill.
Reisman is without question the father of the hardbat rennaisance. When sponge appeared on the international scene in 1952, the top players all gradually migrated to it. Those who didn't disappeared... all except Reisman. Amongst the world-class players, he and he alone single-handedly kept the hardbat flame alive for the next 50 years, insisting on the virtues of the classical game and challenging players from around the world to beat him mano-a-mano (that is, without the assistance of their sponge bats). With the advent of the internet in the mid-1990s, his one-man crusade became an international movement enjoyed by thousands of players.
And yet, he continues to find new and exciting ventures to promote. Most recently, Reisman has been hard at work developing an international organization for promoting sandpaper table tennis. Yes, you read that right - the old sandpaper paddles that have been illegal since the early 1960s are making a comeback. Actually, they never totally went away - a large contingent of players in the Philippines who call the game "Liha" play competitive sandpaper at a very high level, and Marty is working to bring them together with the hardbat movement and introduce the world to a game - and sound - that is sure to excite. Think sandpaper is "old school"? Think again.
Reisman made history when he won the 1997 United States National Hardbat championship - an incredible feat for his age of 67 (the event was open to competitors of all ages). He is probably the oldest person ever to win an open national title in a racquet sport. Perhaps any sport!
Shortly thereafter, he issued a challenge to anyone in the U.S. willing to bet $5,000 on a best-of-9 hardbat match with him. Jimmy Butler accepted his challenge, and their two subsequent matches, at the U.S. Open in Houston and at the Westside club in New York, attracted much interest. The former was was professionally filmed. Youth told in the end, and Butler defeated the veteran in both matches - the second match was very close. At one point during the Houston match, Reisman and the umpire argued over which ball should be used. When they finally agreed to use Reisman's ball, a spectacular rally was followed by a typical Reisman-esque quip: "I can assure you that would not have happened with your ball!".
Reisman sadly passed away the morning of Friday Dec 7, 2012 at the age of 82, still at the top of his game, far too early.