The Close of Sport

Damon Runyon

Th’ Mornin’s Mornin’

The New York American/February 5, 1917


In the event of war, and a general call for men, professional and amateur sport in America will—in fact, must—practically cease.

The spectacle of a lot of husky fellows engaging in baseball, or other athletic endeavor, particularly for hire, at a time when the nation required just their type of physical manhood, would be wholly intolerable.

It was not so at the time of the Spanish-American war, perhaps, but that was a different war. If there is a conflict now, and the assembling of a great body of men for the grim work by land and sea is undertaken, the baseball leagues will probably never open their gates.

In fact, it is said that Ben Johnson, president of the American League, and his associates are already considering the contingency of war, and mapping out a course to be pursued should there be a widespread call to the colors. This course, it is declared, is nothing more or less than the closing down of the professional game.

Baseball, football, and all other manner of sport would wither before the blast of patriotic feeling that would follow a call for men. Can you imagine a couple of thick-headed prize-fighters attracting anything but a few well-aimed and decadent eggs if they attempted “fighting” at a time when soldiers and sailors were required by the country for the business of war?

There are in America at this time a number of boxers who, by every right, should be serving their home lands. The list includes several who are regarded as top-liners in the ring. Some have been severely criticized; others have escaped notice. All have gone along getting engagements and making money. It remains to be seen what sort of receptions they get, however, when America commences to realize what a hang-back and a slacker really means.

Al McCoy’s Record

Al McCoy, the American middleweight champion, who is signed up with the celebrated Australian patriot J. Lester Darcy, for a match that will probably never take place, had about a dozen battles last year.

This is in answer to a query.

He has two knockouts in his 1916 record. He stopped one Jack Hammond in two rounds, and one Jack Hanlon in three. Who is Hammond? We give it up. Maybe it was John Craig Hammond or John Hays Hammond. And Hanlon? We pass again.

Albertus boxed Young Ahearn twice and George Chip once last year. Probably his best effort was the winning of a fifteen-round decision over Hughy Ross at Bridgeport. Hughy is a very shifty yung man, and can fight a bit.

If you look back over Albertus’s record since he began fighting some eight or nine years ago you will find that such as Billy Murray, Mike Gibbons, Soldier Bartfield, Wildcat Ferns, Joe Borrell, Jimmy Clabby, and numerous others have all had their paste at him, and none succeeded in knocking him unconscious.

Service Will Resume

They continue their ante-mortem proceedings in connection with the boxing game today, according to the present programme.

The hearing of the charges against Fred Wenck, chairman of the State Boxing Commission, will be resumed at a mysterious trysting place in this city known as the Bar Association.

This hearing was begun at Albany some days ago, but it is said the sanitary authorities complained, so it was brought down to the big town. The theory is that after standing for the noxious odors from those glue factories of the Jersey side, Manhattan can inhale almost anything.

Just what the outcome of the hearing will be is a matter of conjecture. In view of the action of Governor Whitman toward exterminating the pasting, probably the outcome will not make much difference anyway, save to Fred Wenck, who naturally seeks to clear his escutcheon of the asparagus cast by Harry Pollok, et al

If the game is killed, the Fulton-Weinert meeting will probably be the last fight of any importance under the Frawley law, and Harry Pollok, who will doubtless be accused by history of participating in the assassination of the diversion, suffers a horrible punishment. Harry has to be a party to the profits of the last encounter, which is certainly tough.

Harry is the manager of Charley Weinert. Charles has a guarantee of something like $4,000 for fighting Fulton. Harry gets his managerial bit of that.

What is the Cure?

Many physicians have hurried to the rescue of the boxing game since it became apparent that it is in a desperate way. They have suggested numerous remedies. Now that the game seems to be dying, they all want it to live.

It is to be feared, however, that they come at a time when rigor mortis has set in. Had they rushed to the pulmotor and the saline injections earlier; had they been a little more solicitous when the patient first developed symptoms of suffering some months ago, it would have been saved.

This column, as every reader of it knows, has always favored boxing conducted in the right way. Whenever Th’ Mornin’s Mornin’ raised its typographical voice in protest against some abuse of the pastime, it was with the idea that the outcry might, in some small way, contribute to the elimination of that abuse, and consequently add a mite to the uplift of the game.

What is being suggested now should have been done long ago. It is a pretty late hour to be rushing up the stimulants. If some assurance could be given Governor Whitman and the legislature that the game will be conducted in the future along the right lines, maybe they might withdraw their opposition—but who is to give that assurance?

Let it be clearly understood by all and sundry, that in killing the Frawley law, boxing itself is not killed. Merely the legalized form is done away with. There will be a reversion to the old club system, and the fighting will go on just the same, wherefore, it appears, the question arises: Is it better to have the game carried on under the supervision of the State, and at a profit to the State, or have it conducted as a private enterprise, without any specific regulation?

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