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 Gavilan, 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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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Jul 28 2010
GLOVE STORIES
Boxing Illustrated chronicled the sweet science for thirty-eight years.

We found this weathered but legible Boxing Illustrated/Wrestling News, a magazine founded by Stanley Weston in 1958, and decided to post it because the cover features Floyd Patterson and Ingo Johansson, two interesting guys we profiled back in December. This issue is from July 1960, and in 1967, Boxing Illustrated/Wrestling News jettisoned its wrestling coverage and went on to become one of the important sports publications of its time. Boxing had been known as the sweet science for nearly two centuries, but during the 1970s larger than life personalities like Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton gave weight to that nickname, imbuing the sport with both emotional impact and intellectual veneer. Ali and Cosell were nothing less than the yin and yang of the sport, two men who seemed to orbit each other like binary stars. Meanwhile, guys like Mailer and Plimpton were the scribes, using their pens to describe unbridled savagery in terms more suited for the Bolshoi ballet. Boxing Illustrated finally folded in 1995, which is more or less when boxing itself began to lose relevance with the world public as the dynamism inside the ring and the intellectualism outside it both withered. The sport still hasn’t recovered, and with the rise of mixed martial arts, many think it never will. More Boxing Illustrated covers and info here. 

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Sportswire Apr 21 2010
BEN THERE, DONE THAT
Wild-eyed southern boy.

Word just came from the NFL commissioner’s office that two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Rothlisberger has been suspended for six games next season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Rothlisberger was accused of sexual assault by a twenty year-old college student, who says Rothlisberger raped her in a nightclub bathroom. He faces no criminal charges, so the policy violation stems from his “poor judgment” in hanging around college bars trying to get young girls to hike his balls. Sigh. It’s a big, interesting world out there, filled with Eiffel Towers, Great Walls, Barrier Reefs, and Machu Picchus, yet guys like Rothlisberger spend their off-seasons playing Gears of War and shooting at deer. Don’t get us wrong—we understand that reaching an elite level of professional athletics eats up a tremendous amount of time and, as a consequence, an equal amount of self-awareness. But there’s unaware and then there’s really unaware. Just as Tiger Woods should have known that being the most famous figure in American sports means affairs will eventually come out, Rothlisberger, who is twenty-eight, should know that putting the make on co-eds is a bad idea. Sure, they look good, and they’re probably not interested in your money, because at that age they think they’re going to be millionaires too one day, but the level of behavior in that environment is a recipe for disaster. Example: one of our college friends once dragged a girl by her heels through a fresh pizza that was lying on the floor. He did it on purpose, when she refused to leave his room. When you aren’t famous, you might get away with something that fucked up and misogynistic. But if Rothlisberger had done it, he’d be in jail right now. That’s why he shouldn’t hang around college students—college isn’t reality. That world is hard to let go, and if you aren’t famous, you don’t have to. But when you’re a millionaire celebrity, let go you must. Big Ben didn’t, and now his team (one of our favorites) will go through three eighths of the upcoming season without him. 

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Intl. Notebook | Sportswire Apr 5 2010
SOUL OF THE GAME
Days go by and still I think of you.

In the United States, Major League Baseball’s 2010 season opened last night with a couple of games, but today is the first full slate of baseball, and in commemoration we’ve tracked down a few images of baseballers from the past. We won’t identify every player, but we do want to make special mention of a few. In panel two below you see Ty Cobb  spiking catcher Paul Kritchell in the nuts. Why? That's just how he rolled. Panel three shows Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays running out a grounder against the Philadelphia Stars during the 1945 season, and below him is Oscar Charleston. Leonard, Charleston, and Josh Gibson, in panel eleven, are all Negro League players who were inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame way back in the early seventies. All three areconsidered by sports historians to be among the best who ever played their positions, though they never played in the Major Leagues. Lastly, in panel fourteen you see Lefty Grove, one of the great pitchers his era, frozen in time just before a game, forever young. We decided to post all these photos because we’re basically a history site, and baseball, more than any other American sport, is inextricably bound with the country’s history. When you think of Ted Williams, you don’t just think of baseball—you think of World War II. When you think of Joe DiMaggio, you think of Marilyn Monroe and her tragic ending. Hank Aaron, chasing a sacred record with grim determination, is part and parcel of the civil rights movement—not for anything he said, but just because that was his place in time. For every era of baseball, the faces conjure moments onthe field, but also events far from the confines of the ballpark. This is what makes the boys of summer such a special group. Seasons change, winter inevitably comes, careers and lives end, but their niches in history are secure. Meanwhile these images are a reminder of just how long and wonderful the summer can be. Enjoy the season everyone. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
April 17
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.

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