Sportswire Oct 18 2012
DODGE CITY
Are you ready for some football?

Did you know there was a football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers? This nice little piece of Americana reminds us of that fact. It’s the cover of a program for an NFL game between the Dodgers and the Washington Redskins, played at Ebbets Field today in 1942. The Brooklyn Dodgers football team existed from 1930 to 1944, at which point it became the Brooklyn Tigers for one season, then the next year merged with the Boston Yanks. This move came about due to a decline in the on-field product caused by wartime shortages of players. But before being folded into another franchise and effectively disappearing, the Dodgers helped bring the NFL into the mass media era when its October 22, 1939 game against the Philadelphia Eagles was broadcast on television. That was the first NFL broadcast ever. Another historical note: the unusual Dodgers nickname derives from the fact that through the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were so many trolley lines running through Brooklyn that people from that borough were called “trolley dodgers.” Naturally, this is also the reason the All-America Football Conference team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the baseball Brooklyn Dodgers, both adopted the nickname. Of course, baseball’s Dodgers were the first to do so, by decades. Lastly, on the cover is a photo of Frank Kinard, who played for the Dodgers/Tigers and, just to make the whole name thing even more convoluted, played for the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. You can learn plenty more about the Brooklyn Dodgers at the website luckyshow.org.

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Politique Diabolique | Sportswire Aug 2 2012
LEAP YEAR
A politics-free Olympiad? Only in our dreams.

Something we've had lying around for two years, this is the week we finally get to share this Japanese poster for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. History books and our fathers tell us what a turbulent Olympiad that was. It was the height of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, and African American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised up a black power salute on the medal podium while the U.S. national anthem was played. That is the event many seem to remember, but of great importance was the Mexican government’s massacre of unarmed student protestors in the Tlatelolco barrio of Mexico City. Although it happened before the Olympics began, the protest was tied to the games because part of the students’ dissatisfaction had to do with the Mexican government’s spending of the equivalent of $7.5 billion to stage the event. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia, prompting medal winner Vera Caslavska to turn her head away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. 1968—you wouldn’t really call it a good year. But at least we have this good poster.

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Sportswire Jun 7 2012
FORD FOCUS
Just hike the ball and hit somebody.

Is it Matt Damon? No. The intense person you see here is U.S. president-to-be Gerald R. Ford posing in his Michigan Wolverines uniform circa 1933. Ford was a very good athlete, and in 1934 he won the Wolverines’ Most Valuable Player award. There are plenty of versions on the internet of this shot from a three-quarters angle, but we’re pretty sure this is the first time a head-on has appeared online. 

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Sportswire Apr 4 2012
GUMMING UP THE WORKS
Wrigley Field falls to the wrecking ball. The other Wrigley Field, that is.

In honor of baseball season in the U.S., we have for your enjoyment today an extreme rarity—an official 75th anniversary baseball program from Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, circa 1951. Casual baseball fans are scratching their heads right now, because Wrigley Field is located in Chicago. Well sure, that one is. But the first Wrigley Field, which opened in 1926, was in L.A. Chewing gum millionaire William Wrigley used the park to house his Los Angeles Angels, a minor league team that played in the Pacific Coast League. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs, but though the park in Chi-Town was built before the one in L.A., it wasn’t named Wrigley until 1927. The original Wrigley Field, with its unusual off-center clock tower, was a marvel of Spanish revival architecture, but L.A. being L.A., it was demolished without a thought in 1966. Check the images below. And... play ball! 

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Sportswire Nov 8 2011
JOE DIRT
If you go, you have to stay gone.

Above is a photo of American heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier between rounds of an early 1970s sparring session, and at right is a 1971 shot of Frazier having a training run along with his dog. Frazier won the heavyweight title by defeating WBA champ Jimmy Ellis in 1970. Little known fact about Frazier: in 1967 when then-champ Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces during the Vietnam War, the WBA held a tournament for Ali’s vacated belt. Frazier refused to take part in that tournament though he quite possibly could have won. Whether he refused to fight as a gesture of solidarity with Ali, or only with his anti-war stance, we don't know. Anyway, Ellis had won that tournament, and in their 1970 bout Frazier pounded him mercilessly, knocking him down for the first two times in his career. Frazier held the belt through several title defenses until 1973, when he faced a colossal figure named George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica. Foreman destroyed the tough, gritty Frazier, knocking him down six times in two rounds to win the title by TKO. It was a devastating beating, and the imagery of knockdowns number two and four are indelible. Still though, during an era that included several rare boxing talents, Frazier showed that he more than belonged. Another little known fact, at least to casual boxing fans: Frazier was a singer as well as a fighter, releasing several singles during the 1970s, including “If You Go, Stay Gone” and the very good “Try It Again.” Frazier died yesterday in Philadelphia, U.S.A. 

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Jul 26 2011
KING BASILIO
He had a face only a mother could love.

The National Police Gazette focuses on sports with this July 1956 cover of welterweight and middleweight boxing champion Carmen Basilio. According to the Gazette, Basilio lost his welterwight title to challenger Johnny Saxton due to the fact that the judges had been bought off by local mob figures. This may have been true. Saxton was tight with—or perhaps controlled by—a Philadelphia wiseguy named Blinky Palermo. Saxton was no hack—he went 39-0-1 to start his career—but in some of those fights his opponents gave less than their all, conspicuously so. Saxton won his first title in 1954 against Kid Gavilán, and that fight was openly discussed as a fixed affair. When Saxton topped Basilio in March 1956 in a fifteen round decision, Basilio said bluntly of the judging, “It was like being robbed in a dark alley.” The Gazette took up his case four months later. Other magazines weighed in on Basilio’s behalf as well, and in September 1956 he got his revenge when he knocked out Saxton in a rematch. Basilio finished his career 56-27-7 having taken quite a few beatings, and having dished quite a few out. In the end his face was a topographical map of all those battles, but on this Gazette cover showing him after winning the welterweight title, he positively glows. There’s nothing quite like winning. 

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Sportswire Feb 4 2011
MAX FACTOR
In 1929 Max Schmeling was just another hungry young boxer.

As long as we’re on the subject of promo materials (see next post), here’s another rare find. It’s a publicity still of German boxer Max Schmeling from late 1929, a time when he was being touted as a contender for the world heavyweight boxing title. The photo was shot in New York City, and was used as a press handout for newspapers and magazines writing features on the fast-rising fighter. Schmeling soon won the heavyweight belt, albeit in controversial fashion, and held it until 1932, when he lost to Jack Sharkey, also controversially. Actually, controversy followed Schmeling his entire career, peaking around the time of his second bout against Joe Louis, in 1938 at Yankee Stadium. The bout was billed “The Fight of the Century” because by then Schmeling had been anointed a hero of the Nazi Party (though reluctantly, biographers tend to agree), which made his first round destruction by Louis a cause for celebration (though it should be pointed out that many Americans, particularly some wealthy and prominent ones, were openly pro-Hitler). In 1939 the winds of war began to sweep across the world, and Schmeling fought for the German army in Crete. After the war he became an exec at Coca Cola in Germany, and  amassed considerable wealth. Time passed, and he and Joe Louis became friends. When Louis died impoverished in 1981 Schmeling paid for a funeral with full military honors. Max Schmeling lived fourteen more years, finally dying this week in 2005 at the age of ninety-nine. He is yet another of those complex characters from history, which means we may revisit his story sometime down the road. In the meantime, if you’re inclined, you can read a bit more about the great Joe Louis here

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Nov 11 2010
LEADER OF THE PACK
Paul Hornung was one of the NFL’s greatest players, but he couldn’t outrun the truth.

Above is a Lowdown from November 1963, with stories on Liz Taylor, Jackie Gleason, Inger Stevens, and Green Bay Packers football player Paul Hornung, who had gotten into hot water with the NFL. Hornung enjoyed a fast lifestyle, and had gotten to know other fast people, including a gambler named Barney Shapiro who routinely called asking for inside information to facilitate his betting. Pretty soon, Hornung was betting too, up to $500 a game on both the pros and college. When NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle found out, he suspended Hornung for the 1963 season, which is about when Lowdown weighs in with their “not guilty!” claim. But Lowdown was wrong—Hornung was guilty, and he admitted it. The revelation was a stunner, and became a story so big that ESPN recently rated it the second most shocking sports scandal of all time, surpassed only by the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But Hornung had one thing going for him—he was beloved by football fans. Eager to forgive, they did exactly that when he repented. Convinced of his sincerity, the NFL reinstated Hornung for the 1964 season, and he continued a career that would end in the Hall of Fame. 

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Swindles & Scams | Sportswire Aug 20 2010
SCORING MACHINE
Federal prosecutors say defrauding clients out of two million bucks was a slam dunk for Jay Vincent.
Yesterday, former professional basketball player Jay Vincent, who played for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and other teams during a nine year NBA career, was indicted on a variety of counts relating to an alleged scheme to defraud 20,000 job seekers. Vincent’s Foreclosure Bank Inspection, Co. offered people work nationwide inspecting homes that had been returned to bank ownership. His company took care of the necessary training for the job, but there was a catch—applicants had to pass a background check. These checks (which are constitutionally dubious, in our view, since they result in applicants being refused jobs for transgressions like having a poor credit score) cost upwards of eighty dollars, but once Vincent’s desperate applicants paid the fee, prosecutors say his company simply pocketed the money.

How much cash do they claim was made on this scam? Two million dollars. That’s a 2 with six zeros after it. If true, this is sad on two levels: first, that a former NBA player who probably had a thousand other opportunities went this route; and second, that jobseekers who were being crushed by a recession had no choice but to feed on the corpses of people who had already been crushed before them. Vincent has had no comment thus far, but his attorney has described the former basketballer as a “legitimate businessman engaged in legal activities”, which we think is like claiming to be a “legitimate cigarette marketing executive”, or a “legitimate geologist for a mining company that blows the tops off pristine Appalachian hills and dumps them in valleys, destroying wildlife and contaminating groundwater”. In other words, “legal” isn’t a synonym for moral—at least not in our book. But unfortunately, we didn’t write the book everyone else is playing by—Wall Street did. And it seems as if Vincent may have memorized it chapter and verse.     

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The Naked City | Sportswire Aug 16 2010
DEATH IN PHUKET
A fight between two falang leads to murder in a Thai resort town.

In Phuket, Thailand—a place known as one of the hellraising capitals of the world—a manhunt is underway after a British kickboxer killed an American marine following a fight at a nightspot called the Freedom Bar. The alleged killer is 28-year-old Lee Aldhouse, above left, who had lived in the Phuket area for about four years. According to witnesses, Aldhouse instigated an altercation with Dashawn Longfellow, 23, who was in the bar visiting a female employee. The fight between the two foreigners—who are “falang” in Thai parlance—ended with Longfellow as the victor, and shortly thereafter he and the employee left the bar. Aldhouse then went into a nearby 7-11 store, where he was caught on security cam (above) either stealing or buying a knife. He immediately went to Longfellow’s apartment, knocked on the door, and allegedly stabbed the marine to death in front of a witness. Official accounts stop there, but unofficial accounts posted on a Phuket-based internet forum describe Aldhouse as a well-known troublemaker, someone police were well aware of due to previous run-ins and who locals avoided because of his violent temper and knowledge of Muay Thai kickboxing. He had fought professionally, and considered himself a disciple of the art. At least one witness described Aldhouse as enraged to have lost a fight to someone with no professional ring experience, and suggested that, for a man with such an erratic nature, embarrassment was motive enough for murder. The killing is one of several so far this year in Phuket involving falang, including one just last month in which a former U.S. Navy officer killed a local girl and disposed of her body by stuffing it in a travel bag and dumping it by a deserted roadside. The expat propensity toward violence is a constant source of friction in Thai resort towns, and the Aldhouse/Longfellow murder has only served to ratchet up tensions even more. Police are scouring the Phuket area for Aldhouse, but so far haven’t located him. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 30
1935—Penguin Launched
Penguin Books is launched by Allen Lane and begins publishing cheap, no-frills paperbacks. Lane's idea of selling books not just in bookstores, but in train stations, pharmacies and corner stores, quickly revolutionizes the publishing market.
July 29
1957—Paar Takes Over Tonight Show
Today in 1957 Jack Paar begins hosting The Tonight Show. During Paar's five year stint, his unpredictable antics and strong comedic style help turn the program into a ratings juggernaut and a national institution.
1981—Charles and Diana Marry
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer marry at St Paul's Cathedral before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated global television audience of 750 million, making it the most popular program ever broadcast.
July 28
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."

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