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.
It’s time to say goodnight.
The National Police Gazette loved fighters in general and Rocky Marciano in particular. He appeared on the magazine’s cover at least a dozen times, and above you see another colorful photo-illustration put together from a shot made during his first bout with heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, which the much younger Marciano won by TKO. The fight was today in 1952, and the photo appeared on the Gazette a year later in September 1953.
Saddlered, whipped, and sent back to the barn.
The cover of this National Police Gazette published today in 1950 shows boxer Willie Pep being assessed by Dr. Vincent Nardiello after a February 1949 bout with archnemesis Sandy Saddler. Below the cover is another image from the same sequence. Saddler really put a hurting on Pep, as you can see from the severity of his injuries, but that was normal for the two fighters. They met four times, trading the lightweight championship three times in those battles, with the last fight considered even today one of the dirtiest of all time. You can see more from Police Gazette by clicking its keywords below.
If I can’t have you, nobody else can.
The above photo shows Ruth Ann Steinhagen in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, where she was being held after shooting Chicago Cubs baseball player Eddie Waitkus at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Steinhagen had invited Waitkus to her hotel room after a Cubs game, first via a note telling him she had an urgent matter to discuss with him, and later by phone. When he finally went to her room she told him (though accounts vary), “If I can’t have you nobody else can,” and shot him in the chest with a .22 rifle she had grabbed from a closet. Steinhagen was an early example of a new breed of psycho—the celebrity stalker. The story of Waitkus’s shooting would later be used by author Bernard Malamud for his 1952 novel The Natural, which was in turn made into a truly excellent 1984 movie with Robert Redford. The jail photo was made today in 1949, and the shooting had happened two days earlier.
No Moore mister nice guy.
This cover of The National Police Gazette from April 1955 shows light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore putting a hurting on Joey Maxim. Gazette was hyping an upcoming title bout between Moore and Rocky Marciano, then and now considered one of the top three boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves. We doubt that Marciano was afraid, as Moore claims on the cover, but maybe he should have been. The night of the bout Moore amazed/dismayed the crowd by landing a right counter and knocking Marciano to his knees. It was only the second time in Marciano's storied career that he had hit the canvas. He received a count from the ref. Under boxing rules the count should have stopped when Marciano rose—which he did after two seconds—and Moore should have been free to pummel his presumably dazed opponent. But referee Harry Kessler interposed himself between the two fighters.
Moore tells it this way: “The referee saw me stepping toward Marciano, and [put] his butt in my stomach and kept me off Marciano. He grabbed Marciano’s hands and wiped off his gloves while my corner yelled, ‘Hit him! Hit him!’ All of a sudden, Kessler jerked [Marciano’s] hands, and Marciano’s head jerked and [that] brought him to.”
Moore eventually lost the fight. But you have to give him credit—rather than thinking Kessler acted maliciously, he believes the ref was so amazed to see the champ down that he simply forgot his duties under the rules. Still, Moore makes no bones about it—in his view, Kessler cost him the fight. In the end though, Moore had to be proud. He had jumped up a weight class for the bout, and, at forty-one, was a decade older than Marciano. For those reasons and others a Moore victory would have been the greatest upset in boxing history, but it was not to be.
Getting on the same page.
These two December 1960 promotional photos show American welterweight/middleweight boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and Italian middleweight actress Rita Giannuzzi hamming it up after Robinson’s draw with rival Gene Fullmer at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Robinson and Giannuzzi were slated to appear together in a boxing-related movie—title to be determined—backed by lightweight producer Felice Zappulla and filmed in Europe. Apparently the idea never quite caught on, because the movie never happened.
For a little while at least, sports can bring a nation together.
The art deco influenced fútbol poster above, which is signed in its lower right corner by an artist whose identity is unknown to us, advertises a match between top flight Spanish sides Valencia F.C. and Real Madrid at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestalla. Months earlier Spain had become a republic after years of dictatorship under Miguel Primo de Rivera, and was about to enter into a period of unrest and rising fascism, leading to civil war and decades more dictatorship under Francisco Franco. But on this particular winter Sunday in Valencia the sole battle took place on the pitch at Mestalla. The star player on the field was Manuel Olivares Lapeña, who you see at right, but it was Jaime Lazcano Escolá and Juan Costa Font who netted goals that day. The game ended in a 1-1 draw—a triumph for a Valencia squad languishing at the bottom third of the table. But Real Madrid won the league.
A man called Hawk.
Above is a classic boxing cover from The National Police Gazette, a magazine whose specialization in this area we’ve shared with you before. This time the unlucky pugilist is Kid Gavilán, née Gerardo González, aka The Cuban Hawk (gavilán is Spanish for hawk), who on this June 1953 cover is taking a beating from Sugar Ray Robinson. The occasion was 23 September 1948. Robinson won a controversial decision, and when the two met again the next year Robinson won by decision again. Though Gavilán never beat Robinson he did win the world welterweight title in 1951, and throughout that year, 1952, and 1953 defended it by winning brutal bout after brutal bout. That’s why the Gazette says Gavilán can take it. In 1954 he jumped weight classes and lost a middleweight title bout to Bobo Olson, then afterward fought Johnny Saxton and lost his welterweight crown. The rest of Gavilán’s career was up and down, but he’s remembered in boxing circles as one tough hombre. Below is the unaltered photo from which the Gazette made its great cover.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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