History of the Tulsa Table Tennis Club

The Tulsa Table Tennis Club began in 1970 by Steve Sumner at the YWCA at 17th and Memorial.
Peggy Shaha, from Tulsa, was the top women's player in OKLA.
When Steve Sumner moved to Tahlequah, Ok. around 1974, Bob Shaha began running the club.
When Bob Shaha moved to Ada, Ok., Kelly Boyce and Gary Sanchez ran the club from 1976.
The club has moved from Tulsa recreation center to recreation center many times.
Some of the centers the club has been in are (in order):

YWCA - at 17th and Memorial (using Detroiter tables only). From 1970 to 1976.

McClure Park - at 8th and Memorial (we had the 2 small rooms). From 1976 to 1978.

Whiteside Park on 41st between Yale and Harvard (north of 41st) (we played in the large room). From 1978 to 1980.

Ben Hill - northeast of downtown Tulsa (played here only a few months in 1980))

Reed Park - on 41st in west Tulsa off Hwy 75/I-244 (4 blocks west). We played in the large room. From 1980 to 1982.

Owen Park - northwest of downtown Tulsa. We played in the gym (the light from the many windows caused problems at times). From 1982 to 1985.

Henthorne Park - 2 blocks east of 48th and Peoria. We played in the large room. From 1985 to 1990.

Turner Park - at 5th and Harvard near Will Rodgers High School (4 blocks east of Harvard). We played in the non-air conditioned gym. From 1990 to 2001.

Eastland Mall at 21st and 129th. We would enter through the small back doors and play in the closed businesses. We were underground then. From 2001 to 2002.

Dawson Park - 4 blocks west of Sheridan and Virgin). There is only 1 room. We had to move out because the city of tulsa or the dawson board wanted to rent out the building and our tables took up to much room. From 2002 to 6/2019.

Bixby Community Center - 1 block east of 151st and Memorial. From 11/2003 to 6/2023 (19 years! - unitl they sold the building).

South County Recreation Center - in Bixby - at 138th and Peoria. This is a David Correa sponsored club. David paid money to use the gym for 1 year.

John Knox Church - 2929 East 31st, Tulsa, Ok. 74105
(on 31st between Harvard and Lewis on the north side of 31st).
From 6/2019 to present - 6/2022.
The 2 knox church people below got our club into the church. Drew Cowan was casually talking to them about our club needing a place to play (from Dawson Park) and these 2 people below suggested our club move into their church.
Joe Kovair - 918-665-8763
Ralph Manis - 918-808-6959

Special note on Eastland and Dawson:
In 2001 for 1 1/2 years the club moved to Eastland Mall with the help of Jim French who negotiated the move. After Eastland mall, in 2002, Jim French negotiated 2 nights a week at Dawson Park in exchange for keeping the park clean.

The club currently (2022) plays at John Knox church on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Bixby Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

History of Dawson Community Center:
Building was built in 1908 as a one room school house for grades 1 to 12. In 1930 it became a community recreation center. Dawson was annexed to Tulsa in 1949. Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and renovations finished in 1/03. Building is owned and maintained by the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Dept. and all scheduling for the building is done by the Dawson Park Neighborhood Association. In 2002 Jim French negotiated 2 nights a week at Dawson Park in exchange for keeping the park clean.
On 4-15-10 the City of Tulsa took complete control of the Dawson center (until this time the Dawson Neighborhood Assoc. was scheduling all events at Dawson). The Tulsa table tennis club now pays the City of Tulsa a fee every year to use the center.

History of the Bixby Community Center:
Was the old "Doc's Supermarket". Renovated for the  Bixby Community Center and completed and occupied on 12/02.
Tulsa Table Tennis Club had their first meeting at the center on 11-4-03. This center is managed by Tulsa County (not the City of Tulsa).


(1) History of Table Tennis with pictures circa 1902 - click here


(2) History of Table Tennis

Adapted from Tim Boggan’s Chapters of Table Tennis History

Table tennis is thought to have begun in England. The game, and to begin with it was only a game and not a sport, was born in the 1880’s when adherents of lawn tennis adapted their pastime to be played indoors during the winter months. The early equipment consisted of rubber or cork balls, and bats made of dried animal skins stretched over a wooden frame.

The game’s popularity rose steadily, sometimes dramatically; by 1901 table tennis tournaments were being organized, associations had been formed, and books on the game had been published. an unofficial "world championship" was held in 1902. the "parlor game" of table tennis was rapidly assuming the status of a serious sport.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed in Berlin in 1926 and international laws were adopted. The first official world championships were held in London the same year. Seven countries participated. By this time balls were made of celluloid and bats consisted of sheets of pimpled rubber glued to wooden blades. Developments over later decades included "sandwich" rubber (pimpled rubber attached to a layer of sponge), rubbers specially treated to impart extra spin or to absorb spin, and "speed" glues which were absorbed into the sponge to make the rubber springier and add speed to the ball.

The participation in the World Championships increased from seven countries in 1926 to 101 in 1997. 140 countries are now affiliated to the ITTF. Table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988


(3) Here is another 3rd article on the history of table tennis:

The origin of table tennis has never been exactly pinpointed, even though it's a relatively young sport, younger than lawn tennis and not much older than basketball.

The earliest known form of the sport, called indoor tennis, was played in the early 1880s by British army officers in India and South Africa, using lids from cigar boxes as paddles and rounded corks from wine bottles as balls, with a row of books set up across the middle of a table to form the net.

Other versions developed in England during the 1890s, known variously as "whiff whaff" and "gossima," and Parker Brothers began manufacturing an indoor tennis kit that included a portable net that could be set up on a table, a small ball covered with netting, and miniature paddles.

James Gibb, an Englishman who visited the United States in 1900, brought some hollow celluloid balls home and began playing indoor tennis with friends, using the new balls. Gibb apparently came up with the name "ping pong," representing the sounds of the ball hitting the paddle and then the table.

However, an English manufacturer of sporting goods, John Jacques, registered "Ping Pong" as a trade name in 1901 and sold American rights to Parker Brothers, who came out with a new kit under that name.

Another Englishman, E. C. Goode, in 1902 covered his wooden ping pong paddle with pebbled rubber, which allowed him to put spin on the ball. A Ping Pong Association was founded in England that year, but it lasted less than three years, mainly because Parker Brothers' control of the name made equipment rather expensive.

Nevertheless, the sport spread rather quietly in England and Europe, primarily with equipment marketed by other manufacturers using the generic name of table tennis. A new Table Tennis Association was established in England in 1921. It was followed by the Fédération Internationale de Tennis de Table (International Table Tennis Federation), founded at a 1926 meeting in Berlin by England, Sweden, Hungary, India, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Wales.

The first world championship tournament was held in London in 1927. From then until World War II, Hungary dominated the sport. The top players of that early period were two Hungarians: Maria Mednyanszky, who won seven women's championships, and Viktor Barna, a five-time men's champion. Czechoslovakia and Romania also produced several champions.

The American Ping Pong Association was organized in 1930, but its membership was limited because only Parker Brothers equipment could be used. Two rival organizations, the U. S. Amateur Table Tennis Association and the National Table Tennis Association, were founded in 1933. The three groups merged in 1935 into the U. S. Table Tennis Association, which was renamed U.S.A. Table Tennis in 1994.

Central European dominance continued for a time after World War II, but Asian players took over the sport beginning in 1953. One factor in the sudden emergence of Asian stars was the introduction of the foam rubber paddle by Japan's Horoi Satoh in1952. The new coating made the game faster and also allowed players to put even more spin in the ball.

Asian players also developed the "penholder" grip, in which the handle of the paddle is held between forefinger and thumb, which allows the player to strike the ball with the same face of the paddle on any stroke. That grip is now used by virtually all top international players.

Table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988, with singles and doubles competition for both men and women.

(4) Here is another 4th article on the history of table tennis:

Like many other sports, table tennis began as a mild social diversion. Descending, along with lawn tennis and badminton, from the ancient medieval game of tennis. It was popular in England in the second half of the nineteenth century under its present name and various trade names such as Gossima and Whiff-Whaff. After the name Ping-Pong (an imitation of the sound made by the ball striking the table and the vellum bats that were used) was introduced by J. Jaques & Son, the game became a fashionable craze. There are many contemporary references to it and illustrations of it being played, usually in domestic surroundings.

By the early years of this century, Ping-Pong had already acquired some of its present day complexities, though it was still seen by many as an after -dinner amusement rather than a sport. An account published in 1903 found it necessary to warn against wearing a dress suit and stiff shirt-or, for ladies, a white satin gown-but went on to give detailed technical advice about pimpled rubber, the penholder grip and tactics.

The game was popular in Central Europe in 1905-10, and even before this is a modified version had been introduced to Japan , where it later spread to China and Korea.

After a period when it had dropped out of favor in Europe, the game was revived in England and Wales in the early twenties. by that time 'Ping-Pong' had been registered as a trademark, so the earlier name of table tennis was re-introduced. National associations were formed and standardization of the rules began, both in Europe and the Far East.

Then, over the next sixty years, table tennis developed into a major worldwide sport, played by perhaps thirty million competitive players and by uncountable millions who play less seriously. However, the game itself has not changed in essence since its earliest days, though it is faster, more subtle and more demanding than it was even only twenty years ago. a constant concern of the ITTF has always been to insure that table tennis remains a contest of human skills and that technological developments which add a new factor to the game do not give too great an advantage to the players who have the first opportunity of making use of them. Thus, equipment specifications are carefully laid down, and rigorously enforced.

Other changes-a lowering of the net, a rule to avoid protracted games between defensive players, and rules preventing excessive advantage being gained by the server-were introduced in the thirties and further minor changes are made from time to time. Changes to the rules of the sport can only be made only at the ITTF's Biennial General Meeting, and are never made without the agreement of a substantial majority of the hundred or so member Associations represented at the BGM, all of whom have an equal vote.

Modern table tennis at national and international level is a rigorous as any sport in its demands for the highest degree of physical fitness and mental concentration, attained only by arduous training to develop natural skill. Fred Perry, World Men's Singles Table Tennis Champion in 1928-29, later achieved even greater fame at Wimbledon; perhaps it would not be quite true to say that he moved to the larger court when his play became too slow for the table, but it is certainly true that no sport requires faster reactions and more delicate muscular co-ordination than table tennis.

(5) For still another 5th article on the history of Table Tennis:

The exact origin of table tennis is unknown. It begansometime in the 1890’s as a parlor game andswept the country as a craze which soon died down.

It became popular again in the 1920’s, and pingpong clubs were formed all over the world. The original name, Ping Pong, was a copyrighted trademark of Parker Brothers. Therefore, the name was changed to table tennis. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed in 1926.

As a parlor game, the sport was often played with cork balls and vellum racquets. (A vellum racquet had a type of rubber stretched on a twisted stick.)In the 1920’s, wooden racquets covered with rubber “pips” were first used. These were the first hard rubber racquets, and they were the most popular type of racquet used until the 1950’s.

During that time span, two playing styles dominated - hitters and choppers. Hitters basically hit everything, while choppers would back up ten or even twenty feet, returning everything with backspin. A player’s attack with hard rubber was severely limited and so more and more choppers dominated. This became a problem whenever two of them met since both would often just push the ball back and forth for hours, waiting for the other to attack and make an error. One match at the World Championships lasted over 12 hours. This was stopped by the advent of the expedite rule. See the enclosed Laws of Table Tennis for additional information on expedite.

In 1952, a relatively unknown Japanese player showed up at the World Championships with a strange new type of racquet. It was a wooden blade covered by a thick sheet of sponge. Using this racquet, he easily won the tournament, and table tennis has never been the same since.

Over the next ten years, nearly all top players switched to sponge coverings. Two types were developed, inverted and pips out. The inverted type enabled players to put far more spin on the ball. Both types made attacking and counter-attacking easier. The U. S., which was a table tennis power up until that time, was slow to make the change.

In the early 1960’s, players began to perfect sponge play. First they developed the loop shot and soon looping became the most popular style. Spin serves were developed, as was the lob.

Today, players from Sweden, France, China, Germany and Korea dominate international competition.

Copyright Larry Hodges

Copyright Mark Nordby, Dan Seemiller, John Oros

Copyright USA Table Tennis


Ping Pong Diplomancy - 1971 article - (They were the first group of Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949).

 One of the first public hints of improved U.S.-China relations came on April 6, 1971, when the American Ping-Pong team, in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship, received a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues for an all-expense paid visit to the People's Republic. Time magazine called it "The ping heard round the world." On April 10, nine players, four officials, and two spouses stepped across a bridge from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, ushering in an era of "Ping-Pong diplomacy." They were the first group of Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949.

Ten journalists, including five Americans, were also invited to cover the team’s visit, ending the information blockade from the People's Republic in place since 1949. From April 11th to 17th , a delighted American public followed the daily progress of the visit in newspapers and on television, as the Americans played--and lost-- exhibition matches with their hosts, toured the Great Wall and Summer Palace, chatted with Chinese students and factory workers, and attended the Canton Ballet.

Premier Chou En-lai worked the public relations opportunity beautifully, receiving the Americans at a banquet in the Great Hall of the People on April 14. "You have opened a new chapter in the relations of the American and Chinese people," he told the unlikely diplomats. "I am confident that this beginning again of our friendship will certainly meet with majority support of our two peoples." He also extended an invitation for more American journalists to visit China, provided they do not "all come at one time." That same day, the U.S. announced plans to remove a 20-year embargo on trade with China. A Chinese table tennis team reciprocated by visiting the United States.

Ping-Pong was "an apt metaphor for the relations between Washington and Peking" noted a Time reporter, as each nation signaled, in turn, its openness to change. Despite the public warming trend, Nixon and Kissinger decided to keep their back-channel negotiations with China to themselves. It was not until July 15, after Kissinger's secret mission to Beijing, that Nixon announced that he, too, would make the journey the following year, as the first American president to visit China.

For another article:




Ping Pong Diplomacy 1971
Nothing had prepared the world for the startling spectacle that happened in Peking, China in April of 1971. Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai greeted the first American delegation to set foot in the ancient Chinese capital since Mao Tse-tung took control of the land 22 years earlier. After nearly two decades of hostility towards the United States, fifteen American table tennis players and three journalists had made a breakthrough of historic proportions. One young American diplomat had clearly stated that he had joined the State Department to solve the problems of the world, and then sat analyzing the political impact of a ping pong game. Never before in history, has a sport been used so effectively as a tool for international diplomacy.

Even though China’s invitation to America came as a complete shock, it gave the communist nation a good opportunity to take a major step under the disguise of a sporting event that required no direct contact with Washington. It also gave China the opportunity to retreat if the intended results had failed. China’s ping pong ploy did offer the Nixon administration a bright future of opportunities. Immediately, it promised an easing of tensions in Asia and a prospect of profitable trade relations between the two countries. This move opened the door with dealings with the Soviet Union on crucial matters such as arms control in the Middle East. Only hours after Premier Chou’s welcome of the table tennis players, President Nixon announced initiatives to trade and travel between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.

The U.S. table tennis team was comprised from the world’s most improbable political diplomats ever. The group was lead by Graham Steenhoven, 59, a Chrysler Corp. personnel supervisor and President of the U.S. Table Tennis Association; Rufford Harrison, 40, a DuPont chemist; Tim Boggan, a University professor from New York; Jack Howard, 36, an IBM programmer from California; George Buben and his wife from Detroit; Glenn Cowan, 19, a student from Santa Monica, California; John Tannehill, 19, psychology major at Cincinnati University; Errol Resek, 29, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and his wife Jairie; George Braithwaite, 36, a United Nations employee; Connie Sweeris, 20, a housewife from Grand Rapids, Mich.; Olga Soltesz, 17, of Orlando Florida; Judy Bochenski, 15, of Eugene, Oregon; and Dick Miles from Sports’s Illustrated and 10 times U.S. table tennis champion.

The American table tennis players, lead by team captain Jack Howard, did engage in friendly competition with their Chinese opponents at Tsinghua University. Fifty Chinese men, women and children, dressed in red jumpsuits "danced" out the tables and barriers for the matches, in full Chinese style. During the games themselves, 18,000 people watched from Peking’s magnificent Indoor Stadium, all clapping as one, all silent as one. The Chinese were amazed and amused by the long hair, bright colored clothes and red headband of American table tennis player, Glenn Cowan. He was clearly the favorite of the crowd. The Chinese won the Men’s games 5-3 and the Women’s 5-4. Afterwards, the two teams exchanged gifts and walked off together hand-in-hand. One thing was all too clear to the Americans … the Chinese were trying hard NOT to embarrass the Americans by lop-sided scores.

The U.S. team paid a historical visit to the Great Wall of China, an Ancient Summer Palace outside Peking and strolled through the streets of Shanghai. They were treated like royalty from the moment they stepped foot in China, with 8-course meals and a choice of seats wherever they went. Tours of the majestic mountains and open fields of bamboo shoots were given with pleasure. The people of China were kind, but they seemed to have no emotions or personalities and dressed in dull military-like uniforms. Pictures of Mao Tse-tung were everywhere and loudspeakers played propaganda messages continuously. The Chinese made it very clear that they welcomed the "People of America" with tremendous interest and curiosity.

China did allow the American journalists, who accompanied the table tennis team, to shoot more than 10,000 feet of colored film during the visit. Voice-casts were made to the U.S. by telephone relays and there was no evidence of censorship. China had waived it’s rule requiring all film to be developed and inspected. The most important message the Americans brought back with them was what their hosts got across in a subtle way: That China is a united, rational society trying to open the doors to other parts of the world.

Ping Pong Diplomacy: The Rematch 2008

TIME Magazine Cover:
USA Table Tennis at
the Great Wall of China 1971

 A gift from Zhuang to Cowan helped lead to a U.S.-China exhibition in Beijing and the end of 22 years of Chinese isolation from the West.
A gift from Zhuang to US Table Tennis player Glenn Cowan helped lead to a U.S.-China exhibition in Beijing and the end of 22 years of Chinese isolation from the West.

Richard Nixon meets with
Mao Zedong in 1972.