Somebody up there liked him 67 times. And didn't like him 10 times.
These Italian promo posters were made for the drama Lassù qualcuno mi ama, better known as Somebody Up There Likes Me, the rags to riches biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano, who survived a violent father, street gangs and prison to become a world middleweight champion who finished his career with a 67-10 record. If somebody up there liked him, we'd love to hear why he got his ass whipped ten times, but whatever. Paul Newman played the lead in this after intended star James Dean was killed in an auto accident, and the film went on to earn acclaim and win a couple of Oscars for cinematography and art direction. The posters were painted by Renato Casaro, one of the most important mid-century film artists, a man who produced hundreds of masterpieces and was behind this gem and this racy little number. Casaro is still around at age eighty-one and maintains a website detailing his work and career. Lassù qualcuno mi ama was originally released in the U.S. in 1956 and had its premiere in Italy today in 1957
It's time to get up for the best sport in the world.
Yes, hope springs eternal in Major League Baseball, and in the 1948 book Batter Up hope even leads to history. Marty Shane is a very good college player who becomes a mediocre minor leaguer, but through hard work and conquering various obstacles he eventually becomes a major leaguer, and plays a key role in his team's championship season. The story is the standard mythology of professional athletics anywhere in the world, written basically for teens, but in such a way that adults can enjoy it too. The cover art is by Robert Frankenberg, and inside and on the rear you get more illustrations from him.
Baseball is a polarizing sport, isn't it? The on-the-field action can seem slow. But that's an illusion—the actual changing nature of the strategies is constant, occurring from pitch to pitch, and often between pitches. Pitching, batting, running, and defensive strategies differ each second, with constant influence from both the players on the field and the manager in the dugout. That's one reason the game is great—it's chess-like, but on a level that anyone can understand. If they're inclined, that is.
Many people, particularly younger people, aren't especially inclined. Major League Baseball is poised to change the rules of the game in an attempt to draw more young viewers. Will they never learn? Chasing corporate advertising dollars, the league sacrificed young viewers thirty years ago when it moved toward mostly night games, making it muchmore difficult for kids to attend games in person. The easiest way to ensure fresh generations of fans is to simply return to day games, including during the week, but instead they're contemplating a radical reworking of the rules to entice “low attention span” viewers.
A daytime baseball game has to compete with no other sporting event—there's literally nothing else occurring on a spring afternoon. These day games are how we got hooked—2:30 p.m. start time, sitting there with our fathers, first appreciating the fun environment, and then the action. During a spring night or on a weekend there are other sports choices, and those will remain more superficially interesting no matter what changes are made to baseball's rules. What rule change, after all, can make baseball more exciting moment to moment than say basketball, whose season runs all the way through June? Night games also end late, usually around 10:30, which keeps kids out until 11:00 or 11:30—too late for some parents.
Living overseas, we can't attend baseball games. Instead we play fantasy baseball, and we're pretty excited for the start of the MLB season today, having won our league twice in the last three years. Unfortunately, our draft didn't go as well as we'd have liked this time around. But hope springs eternal indeed. And baseball spans the best season of the year—glorious, endless summer, which is lovely whether your team wins or loses. You may be wondering if baseball is in any way pulp. We think so, and we explain our reasoning here. And speaking of fantasy baseball, see below...
The Petit Prince was a true original.
Here’s an event you don’t want to miss—the sure-to-be entertaining grudge match between wrestlers Petit Prince Batman and Le Colosse Siki at the Parc de Sports in Paris. The bout was sponsored by Duval Anisette Liqueur sometime during the 1930s, according to the poster's vendor. The years during that decade where Thursday fell on March 30 were 1933 and 1939. The DC Comics character Batman premiered in 1939. But that wasn’t until May, so if this wrestling poster is indeed from the 1930s then Petit Prince Batman beat Batman by a few months, if not a few years. To us it seems unlikely, but must be true. Anyone have better info? E-mail us.
A legendary boxer faces the winter of his discontent.
The National Police Gazette asks on a cover from this month in 1950 “What Will Happen to Joe Louis?” It's a poignant question. Louis had earned more than $4 million during his boxing career (about $40 million in 2016 money), but thanks to predatory managers and slimy handlers had received only about $800,000 of it. However, his gross earnings left him with a huge tax bill, forcing him to fight past his prime in an attempt to pay off the debt. In September 1950 he met Ezzard Charles and was thrashed. For his pain he earned just over $100,000—not nearly enough to pay off the government. Left with no choice, he decided to shoot for another big payday. First he notched several wins again club level fighters, then booked a bout against another top boxer. That boxer was twenty-seven year old Rocky Marciano, and the meeting ended with Louis being knocked clean out of the ring. So, getting back to the Gazette's question: "What will happen to Joe Louis?" What happened is he retired and became an exhibition fighter, still carrying that heavy debt, and he never paid it off.
My father is tougher than your father.
This bit of World War II propaganda, which was created by the Graphics Division of the U.S. government's Office of Facts and Figures in 1942, caught our eye for a couple of reasons. It features champion boxer Joe Louis, which is interesting enough, but it also features a quote he had uttered while taking part in a military charity event: “We’re going to do our part… and we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.”
This is an interesting turn of phrase because of the inversion of “our” and “God.” The way Louis formulates the idea suggests God desired the war and the U.S. was just helping out. Usually you hear the sentiment expressed as, “God is on our side,” but Louis's quote has more power loaded into it than the standard iteration. It casts Japan as not just battling an enemy nation, but battling the natural order of the cosmos.
Of course, the Japanese also thought they were divinely guided, and over in Europe where Germany was fighting several countries at once, the opportunistic Adolf Hitler, though a skeptic in private, declared himself a Christian in public and busily used religious sentiment in his devoutly Catholic nation to whip up support for his rule. We have a sizable collection of World War II propaganda inside Pulp Intl., originating from many countries, which we think is worth a look. You can see some of it here, here, here, here, here, and here.
When worlds collide you want front row seats.
So, everything we write today, pretend we wrote it yesterday. Ready? We talked briefly about Muhammad Ali's proto-MMA experience a few weeks ago. We've been saving this item to share. It's an actual unused ticket stub for the Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki exhibition match at the Nippon Budokan arena today yesterday in 1976, exactly forty years forty years and one day ago. Oh yes. This is rare. At least we think it is, because we've never seen another one. We've uploaded it vertically below so you can get a good look at it by dragging it to your desktop and rotating it.
Ali invades Japan and helps invent MMA.
When Muhammad Ali died last week we remembered we had some rarities laying around, but it took a few days to find them. These are the items we were searching for—posters from Ali's June 1976 match at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. In what would now be called a mixed martial arts bout, Ali and Inoki fought to a draw, however this was not a freeform battle, but rather a tightly regulated exhibition match. Nevertheless, Ali's leg was so damaged from Inoki's repeated kicks that an infection set in and for a brief time the medical discussion turned to amputation. Today the Budokan match is considered by Ali fans an embarrassment in the boxer's storied career, but it was also an important precursor to MMA, a case study in how boxing and MMA are incompatible sports, and yet another example of Ali's trailblazing nature. He was the king and he will be missed.
He gave every last drop of his blood—to the IRS.
This National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1951 shows a bloodied Joe Louis in the midst of a title bout loss to Ezzard Charles in September 1950. Louis had retired, but when the U.S. government's Internal Revenue Service came after him for $500,000 in back taxes, he fought again—at age thirty-six—with the agreement that the proceeds would clear his debt. Thus Gazette's sub-head: “Why Joe Louis Can't Quit.” He'd hoped to pay off the entire bill with one fight, but the crowd was small and the purse far less than expected. With debt still outstanding, he did the only thing he could—take more fights.
And in the center of the magazine Gazette offers up Hazel Nilsen as its Date of the Month. Gazette featured established personalities on its calendar pages only occasionally, which means the magazine's promo shots today serve as an encyclopedia of aspiring starlets who almost—but never quite—made it. Nilsen was aiming for Broadway because of the excitement of acting before a live audience, but never appeared in a play. Instead she scored small roles in three Hollywood westerns between 1949 and 1952, including as an Indian maiden named White Fawn in Apache Chief, before fading from the scene. Showbiz is a cruel mistress.
They didn't call him the Bronx Bull for nothing.
How much beating can a fighter take? National Police Gazette asks that burning question on the front of this issue that hit newsstands this month in 1950. The cover star is Jake LaMotta, the Bronx Bull, who was famous for being able to take a punch—or fifty—and his unseen opponent is French fighter Robert Villemain. The photo was made during their December 1949 bout, a match LaMotta lost by unanimous decision. But his reputation as someone who could take a punch grew even when he lost, and eventually reached legendary proportions. His most serious beating occurred in February 1951 during a bout with Sugar Ray Robinson that was dubbed the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. By the end the fight had become an epic of human destruction, and almost certainly caused permanent damage to La Motta. But in ninety-five professional matches to that point he had never been knocked to the canvas and he didn't fall that night either, even during a vicious final-round barrage that had LaMotta staggering around the ring. So the answer to Gazette's question—How much beating can a fighter take?—is simple. If you're LaMotta, you can take plenty.
The boys of summer headline autumn’s biggest event.
The Los Angeles Dodgers board a United Airlines DC-7 charter plane headed to Chicago, where they would battle the Chicago White Sox in the 1959 World Series. Pictured are Sandy Koufax, Don Zimmer, Pee Wee Reese, and other stars. The Dodgers won the series four games to two. The three games played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum drew huge crowds, with game five’s attendance of 92,706 remaining a World Series record to this day. The photo was made today in 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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