“Mr. Niblick” Charlie Comiskey congratulates Jack Keane on winning the Veterans Award as Jack’s son and Veteran’s president Frank Loughrnan look on with evident approval.
( Condon Photo )
On April 7th the Club’s highest athletic honor, the Veterans Award, will be presented to Fencing Chair- man Jack Keane. A former football player, Jack began fencing instruction with Maestro Niederkirchner in 1957. So remarkable was his natural aptitude that he made the finals in the national foil championship in 1958. In 1960 and 1961 he gained the Metropolitan three weapon crown. Then in ’62 he “switched blades,” and specialized in saber. His progress in saber has been meteoric : he ‘was a finalist in the 1964 Olympic Trials ; in ’66 he placed second in the Hungarian Outdoor Championships ; and in ’68 he took the Pan Am gold medal. Jack will be the first fencer ever honored by the Veterans.
VETERANS HONOR KEANE
Veterans president, the redoubtable Frank Loughman, can take a bow for the most successful Veterans Award Dinner in the group’s long history. The evening honored the club’s exceptionally gifted fencing chairman, Jack Keane, who became the first fencer ever to win the club’s highest athletic accolade- the Veterans Award for Progress. Veteran’s V.P. Charlie Comiskey introduced Keane and gave a brief resume of his unique accomplishments. Not only has Jack won numerous national championships and a Pan Am title (1968), but he has done more than any other American (through h is annual Martini & Rossi Tournament) to bring international stars into competition with their U.S. counter parts. Many national fencing stars applauded Jack heartily after he, in a brief acceptance speech, stressed how grateful he was to the NYAC for making his development as a fencer possible and for supporting the International Tournament.
Notables in attendance included Tom Hoyt (who described the event as “one of our wonderful evenings” ) , Harry Lindquist, Jules Soubiran, Jim Farley, Ed Swinburne, Dick Long, Jim Cooke, Joe Moukad, Bill Rose, Charlie Vonhausen, Tom Quinn, Jim Rafferty, Joe McCluskey, Dan Ferris, ‘Bob Rodenkirchen, Msgr. Doersam, Eddie Moclair, and marry others. Club Captain Jim Gilloon, the evening’s principal speaker, justified his reputation as orator and spell binder with a fine speech (cum anecdotes ) on club history.
Hall of Famer, US Saber National champion and US Team captain Jack Keane advising US foil Olympian Peter Lewison at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Photo by Robert Millard
Spotlight is on Alex Orban
by Jack Keane
Two weeks after he had become the first American fencer ever to win a major European tournament, Alex Orban of the NYAC found himself fencing a nameless opponent on the fourth floor strips of this club “Against Orban,” said the chief judge. “But it was my attack,” mildly complained the lithe internationalist. “Uh, uh,” said the judge a former sword fighter of such mediocrity he was secretly labeled as a “pigeon” by any opponent possessing even a shade of finesse in the art. “You started the attack but you hesitated and he beat you to the punch.”
Orban shrugged. He has been through this scene many times. He is America’s most misunderstood athletic talent.
World Class Fencer
Orban is a star. An international star. He can do everything that ever was intended to be done with a saber. And he probably can do it faster than anybody. He is generally acknowledged to be one of the three fastest, if not the fastest, man in the world. But all this doesn’t seem to be good enough to convince the short sighted men who judge his fencing. They persist in making Orban conform to their parochial conception of the art. They are, for the most part, men who have never witnessed, much less participated in, international contests in their lives. They tend to spend endless hours arguing the technicalities of some obscurely written rule. Their theatre is usually the college ranks or perhaps even high school. But judging the sons of Yale or Harvard or Columbia is not the same as judging Orban. He boggles their conception of fencing and defies their synapses. And because he is astoundingly assured he pays the price for forcing tough decisions of these lesser men in the sport. They often vote against him and give him a lecture to boot.
A Matter at Style
His fencing and his style are even too much for some Americans who hold the revered international judging licenses. These are last year’s licenses, Orban is this year’s fencer. And so he struggles for understanding from men who will never understand because to understand would be to deny all the things they have so carefully and wrongfully mentally structured over the years.
But there is escape for Orban. Europe. They understand him there. The Russians understand him because he beats them all the time. The last time he fenced them, he defeated their entire team of four. The French understand him and the Italians and the Germans and the whole gaggle of the world’s elite. This is where Orban does what he can do and it is recognized. And appreciated. When he won in Poland in 1968, Jean Cottard, the renowned French master, said, “Orban showed every action there is to show in fencing in perfect style.” Alex Orban looks as if he was bred at the Mendelian Institute of Heredity for Fencers. He stands a shade under five feet, eleven inches and is a svelte 153 pounds. His body is well formed but it is his legs that tell the story. They are fencer s’ legs, shaped in musculature to his art.
Fled in Uprising
When he was fourteen, in 1954, Orban was introduced to fencing by a schoolmate. The schoolmate lasted three months; Orban went on to greatness. At sixteen, he was the youngest fencer ever to achieve first-class ranking in Hungary. He was labeled the coming star of the Magyar squads.
But the 1956 uprising changed all that. Alex decided to leave, arriving in California early in 1957. After a season in Los Angeles he left for San Francisco to join the famed Pannonia AC, then under the maestroship of George Piller, the fabled Hungarian master who also had decided not to return to Hungary after the Melbourne Olympics. At the 1960 National championships, Alex earned a Gold Medal with the great Pannonia team. The opponent, ironically, was the NYAC. Then came three years of military service and finally his entry onto the NYAC squad in 1965.
National Champion Thrice
He started out with a bang winning the national championship and leading the team to victory. Since then, he has won the individual title in 1969 and 1970 and has been the leader of the saber team in an undefeated skein reaching back to ‘ 65. “The New York AC is the only club where fencing actually exists,” says Orban. “Sure, there’s a lot of what looks like fencing in other clubs but there is no feeling of what the sport is basically about. Here we have athletes who are reaching for the essence of the sport. That is what makes the difference. Here we have real fencing because here we have a situation in which the athlete can develop.” The highest influences on Orban’s career were his early teacher in Budapest, as well as George Piller, and the club’s Olympic coach, Csaba Elthes. “I have been very lucky that I always had only the best teachers . I don’ t think I could have gone this far without them.”
Future World Champion?
At the age of 31, considered to be the start of a vintage period for a saber fencer, Alex Orban feels he might have a chance to be world champion. With his club and his coaches and his teammates behind him, he feels the necessary mental support. “When the calls don’t go right, it’s nice to know there are some other people around who know different. It saves me when I’m down.”
SWORDPLAY: The eleventh annual Martini & Rossi tournament will be held in the club’s gym on April 16, 17 and 18. The committee is expecting over fifteen nations to attend, with Russia among the probables. The World Junior
Championships at Notre Dame a week earlier should guarantee a large and enthusiastic field.
FENCING: The Sport For All Ages
by Jack Keane
Fencing makes a new man of AI Vogt at 71 .
Reverse the numerals of Steve Renshaw’s age, 17, and you have Al Vogt’s.
Interestingly, that is not an unusual spread of years for competitors in the sport of fencing. Perhaps, then, it comes closest to qualifying as a truly ageless sport.Something a man who wants the value of a workout or the thrill of competition can enjoy equally.
Al has been a member of the New York A.C. since 1944, joining from the former illustrious French YMCA which moved downtown to Chelsea from its location near the Ziegfeld Theatre. Steve is a high school youngster out of Wayne, New Jersey, who carne to the club last year as a Junior Member to take advantage of the .Club’s great fencing program. The same lure drew AI Vogt over three decades ago and has held him here since.
On First NYU Team
As an undergraduate at New York University, where he majored in Civil Engineering, he had fenced on NYU’s first intercollegiate team in 1924 . He became Captain the following year and, in 1927, was instrumental in bringing the legendary Julio “Papa” Castello into the NYU picture. From that moment on, NYU was to compile the greatest record ever in the history of intercollegiate fencing.
“We weren’t quite so good in my time in school,” Al confesses. “Although I did place fifth in my senior year of 1927. That, incidentally was the same year Dernell Every, later another club member, won the first of his two intercollegiate championships. Later, he became a three-time Olympian and led the NYAC to many national titles. ”
Winning Isn’t All
AI, himself never achieved any major crowns, coming closest when he placed fourth as a finalist in the (in those days) powerful junior championships. “It would have been nice to have won but winning isn’t the only thing you get out of fencing.”
Al declares that one of those benefit s is the chance to meet great people who become life-long friends. “I’ve had the pleasure of fencing or practicing with the likes of Every, Silvio Giolito, Warren Dow, Nick Muray, Leo Nunes, all club members and all national Olympic champions, and everyone a gentleman. That’s important in sport. ”
Al also feels that fencing does things for his personal sense of well being. “In my field there’s quite a lot of tension day in and day out. That’s why I’ve made it my practice to come to the club at least once a week to work out. After a couple of hours I feel like a new man.”
Renshaw Junior Champion
Also feeling pretty good these days is Stevie Renshaw. After a season of hard work under the hand of Coach Csaba Elthes, the youngster placed fourth in Junior National Championships in saber. More recently he has continued his winning ways, capturing the New Jersey High School championships in December. An excellent student, Steve is being eyed by a goodly number of colleges for scholarships. ‘To me fencing is the most highly individual sport. It’s you against somebody else and you can’t make any excuses. At the same time you are part of a team, so you can’t let them down either. I was in gymnastics and liked it a lot, but obviously I prefer fencing more. I prefer it here best of all because of the good coaching and all the good help from the older fencers.” (When you’re seventeen, everybody is older. Damrnit. )
If you’ve always wondered what it was like to fence, why not come down to the fourth floor fencing room and give it a go. We have two excellent masters and we meet every day of the week except Friday and Sunday. And don’t ask if you’re too old to start. Remember, fencing is the ageless sport.