Sportswire Sep 16 2013
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
What happens if you stand in the way of progress? You get run over.

The above photo shows the groundbreaking today in 1959 for Dodger Stadium, a venue that would become the home of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers. In a mostly Latino barrio of Los Angeles known as Chavez Ravine, a long process of buying land from willing sellers, forcing land sales via eminent domain laws, and finally sending in cops to forcibly evict the remaining homeowners resulted in clearing a site about 350 acres in size. The land had originally been slated for public housing, and most of the purchases and eminent domain sales had occurred between 1950 and 1953 for that purpose. But the 1953 election of conservative mayor Norris Poulson halted those plans, because he opposed public housing as “communist” in nature. The land sat idle for five years, but when the parcel was given to the Dodgers in 1958, the remaining occupants had to go. They were smeared in the press in order to turn public opinion against them, and were then evicted, resulting in ugly scenes of families being dragged from their homes. Sulfur and Cemetery Ravines were filled in and the entire site was graded. An elementary school was simply buried whole. A total of eight million cubic yards of earth were moved. Today, Dodger Stadium is considered one of Major League Baseball’s crown jewels. 

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Feb 3 2013
GRIDIRON GANG
Today is not just any given Sunday.

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 .


 
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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Jan 29 2013
ROCKY AND A HARD PLACE
In boxing “almost” is just another way of saying “defeat.”


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.

The above shot is from the September 1953 rematch. Marciano left no doubt who was the better fighter given a second chance. Though La Starza started strong and fought tough into the middle of the bout, the later rounds turned into a Marciano punching clinic. The ref stopped the match in the eleventh, saving him from the indignity of what surely would have been his first knockout suffered. There’s actually video of the fight online, but we decided not to post a link because the yahoo who uploaded it couldn’t resist adding some terrible music, a common problem on YouTube. So instead of the video we’ve uploaded a shot of the Gazette’s “Date of the Month” Melodie Lowell. Check out all our boxing imagery by clicking keyword “boxing” below.

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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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 22
1972—Plane Crash Victims Found in Andes
The Chilean Air force locates fourteen survivors from a plane that had crashed in the Argentine Andes two months earlier. Four days after the rescue, a Santiago, Chile newspaper alleges that the survivors became cannibals to ward off starvation. The surviving group confirms that they ate human flesh at a press conference two days later.
December 21
1958—de Gaulle Elected President of France
World War II hero General Charles de Gaulle is elected President of France by an overwhelming majority. During his time he leads France to develop nuclear weapons, ends the French presence in Algeria, and survives several assassination attempts. He eventually retires to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, in north-east France, and dies from a heart attack on 9 November 1970.
December 20
1989—U.S. Invades Panama
The United States invades Panama with the goal of overthrowing the dictatorship of Manuel Noriega. Noriega had been a CIA agent for many years, and because of this special status, U.S. drug authorities had turned a blind eye toward his activities, which included helping to create a crack cocaine epidemic in American inner cities. In 1988, Senator John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations concluded that the Noriega saga represented one of the most serious foreign policy failures in U.S. history.

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