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The Marble Wars Of 1922


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The summer of 1922 was very exciting. This is the game which led to the annual national marbles tournament which started in 1923.

April 21

(click to enlarge)


After winning this game in Jersey City, Buster Rech challenged all comers. The drama was reported in the newspapers. It got quite complicated. Rules were being made up as they went. Champs of different cities played different games, so how could they compete fairly to see who was really best?

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Buster's challenge was taken up by Washington D.C. Their champ was Mike Troiano. More stories are told in the Washington Post, but there's a fee for the articles so they'll have to wait. lol (The NY times archives are free from 1851 to 1922.)

May 14





Buster beat Mike. He was now "officially" the world champion. But the excitement wasn't over.

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A new "world championship" tournament was arranged.

This time the players would meet in Philadephia.

Red Stoddard will represent Philadelphia. Frank McQuade plays for Baltimore. Nickey Markoff is the champ of New York City. And Marjorie "Babe" Ruth will play for Newark -- because no boys answered the mayor's call.

But Jersey City is protective of its champion. Why should Buster have to prove himself in Philadelphia? He is already champion of the world. Challengers should come to New Jersey.

If Buster doesn't compete he would just be "the obscure champion of Jersey City", replied the rotary club of Philadelphia.

May 20



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The games go on. Or they will when school lets out. A tournament is planned in Queens. The winner will go up against New York City's Nickey Markoff, for the Greater New York championship.

June 11


Meanwhile, in New Jersey.

Jacob Goldberg wins the statewide competition while Buster Rech watches. But now Buster will fight again.

June 18



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How cool! As a long-ago tenant of both 1st. Avenue and P.S. 40 (close enough!) I really enjoyed this story.

And while I generally dislike 'authority' and the rules it imposes, let's face it. "Knucklin'" and "Gimpin'" can ultimately only lead to world chaos! ( :

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I thought I had enough articles to tell the whole story, but it was a convoluted story, and it's been a bit since I downloaded them, so now I can't recall.

In any case, now I'm not seeing anything else about Rech or Markoff or Ross competing against each other.

Here it is already July 9, 1922. And then sometime within the next month or so, plans had made for a more formal and better organized tournament the next year, with many cities invited in advance. Perhaps the greater New York plans fell apart.

This is from an article by Armstrong Perry in The American Boy.

BY THIS TIME marble championships where getting to be hot dog all over. Even Boston

had one. In a match between Washington and Tidewater, Virginia, one newspaper

measured the two contestants like a pair of prize fighters, published the measurements

and said that on account of the shapes of their hands one player would win at "fat" and

the other at "ringers" and it came out just as the paper predicted. The Scripps- McRae

organization, which has a string of twenty-eight newspapers, called a hundred editors

together for a conference about this time and they all began to talk about marbles. Before

they finished they had spent a half a day discussing the game and had decided to organize

a national tournament for 1923 to decide whether Buster Rech or Frankie McQuade is the

real national champion or whether the title belongs to some boy in San Francisco, New

Orleans, or elsewhere

Link to PDF of article
at the Jersey City Rotary Club site)

Rech and McQuade are mentioned. Rech's New York challengers seem to have evaporated. That sort of makes sense, since Markoff had already lost a tournament to McQuade so he wasn't a contender for the national title. But did he play again?

Pix from the article:


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Anticlimactic postcript:

There is record of Rech playing one more "world championship" match -- in September of '22. He lost, and one Francis Dinkey of West New York was declared the "marble monarch".

September 8


But how did Francis Dinkey come to be in the game? No clue.

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LOL. That wasn't such a bad name. lolol

I also have a lot of other tournament-related articles from other years, so much that I can't post it all. So I've been trying to let it gel, thinking about a good way to organize it. I'm an information addict. I hadn't been on any binges in a while, but Don's Berry Pink trophy knocked me right off the wagon.

So anyway ... the New York Times archives are free up through 1922. I'm hoping that just maybe the 1923 articles might be free next year. I was tempted to pay for some of them but I think I can at least wait until January, just in case they do become free. It would be neat to see articles from the first year the National Marbles Tournament was run. The 1923 articles might even fill in some of the blanks I'm missing from the 1922 story. Folks do like the occasional human interest recap, you know.

Here's a pair of stories I have from 1926 -- with some serious human interest stuff built in. In 1926, if Danny Gore won the tournament his city was going to pay for him to go to college. AND he had his lucky shooter stolen. But he managed to win his semi-final without it.

The shooter was found in time for the final but ....

(click for larger/expanded versions of the articles)

1926_07_2_BeforeFinal_Excerpt_75pct.jpg . . . . . . . . . 1926_07_03_Final_WillisHarper_50pct.jpg

Notice what the prizes were. There were trophies, if that is what was meant by "silver cups", but they didn't go to any of the winners. First and 2nd place and the "league winners" all got watches. And the champ also got baseball tickets.

That's sort of how it was in 1922 also. There were trophies at different levels, and at least one medal. And the winner of the game which might not have happened was supposed to get a gold watch.

A gold watch was at least one of the prizes the big winner got in 1925.

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