|Sportswire||Sep 20 2013|
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
|Sportswire||Sep 16 2013|
|Vintage Pulp | Sportswire||Feb 3 2013|
It’s Super Bowl time again in the U.S., and as we did in 2009 and 2010, today we’re commemorating the occasion. This time we have a selection of five sports covers from acclaimed pulp artist George Gross. They were published between 1940 and 1951, and are alll college themed. No surprise there—collegiate ball ruled back then. But not today. Today the NFL is America’s passion, and Super Bowl Sunday is the day when even non football fans turn their attention to the sport. After revealing that we once lived in the Bay Area, is there any doubt who we’re picking to win tonight? That’s right—Baltimore in a walk. Just kidding. Chesapeake Bay has its charms, but when we say Bay Area we mean the one and only San Francisco Bay. So we’re backing the Niners, if for no other reason than football may be watching the emergence of a once-in-a-generation talent in Colin Kaepernick. If that’s the case, he can certainly announce his arrival big time with a Super Bowl victory. Final score: San Fran 24—Baltimore 20.
Update: Hey, we're writers, not seers of the future. If we actually knew who would win we'd be as famous as Criswell. At least it was a decent game .
|Vintage Pulp | Sportswire||Jan 29 2013|
The National Police Gazette absolutely loved showing boxers getting their faces rearranged, as we’ve previously shown you here and here. On this cover from January 1954 the puncher is Rocky Marciano and the punchee is Roland La Starza, who despite appearances here was a quality fighter whose distinction is in being the man who came closest to defeating Marciano. That was back in 1950, when La Starza’s record stood at 37-0 and Marciano’s at 25-0. La Starza was the darling of boxing writers because of his scientific style, whereas Marciano was considered a brawler. The contrast could not have been more compelling, and the fight was a back and forth affair that thrilled the Madison Square Garden crowd. The two men ended the bout even on the scorecards, but La Starza lost the decision due to a controversial supplemental pointing system that tipped the tables for Marciano.
|Sportswire||Oct 18 2012|
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.
|Politique Diabolique | Sportswire||Aug 2 2012|
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.
|Sportswire||Jun 7 2012|
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.
|Sportswire||Apr 4 2012|
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!
|Sportswire||Nov 8 2011|
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.
|Vintage Pulp | Sportswire||Jul 26 2011|
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.