A signing of things to come.
Above is a photo of Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson signing autographs for Cuban fans in Havana during the spring of 1947. The Dodgers had used Havana’s La Tropical Stadium as their spring training base during the 1941 and ’42 seasons, and went there again in ’47 to avoid some of the publicity and hostility that would have surrounded Robinson, who was destined to be the first African American baseball player of the modern era. Even away from U.S. shores it was a trying time for Robinson. Havana was run by Americans interests, and was selectively an apartheid city. Robinson stayed at the Hotel Boston in Old Havana, rather than the grand Hotel Nacional in swanky Vedado with the white Dodgers. This annoyed Robinson, but he needed to focus on his play because, though he had been invited to spring training, he was not guaranteed a Major League roster spot. The pressure must have been intense. Even so, in this photo he takes time to sign autographs for Cuban fans, gracious as always, on the cusp of a career that would redefine what it meant to be a Major League Baseball player.
He destroyed everything in his path—including himself.
The National Police Gazette published this issue in 1954, with a cover featuring pro heavyweight boxers Tommy Hurricane Jackson and Dan Bucceroni battling at Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn, New York. The fight took place on March 29, and Jackson won with a TKO in the 6th. He never won a heavyweight title, but was well regarded in fight circles for being fearless, if not self-destructive. In fact, he once fought Floyd Patterson and was knocked down nine times. Each time he rose to absorb more punishment, before losing by TKO in the tenth round. It was apparently one of the worst ring beatings ever, made worse by Jackson's sheer will. Afterward, boxing authorities suspended his license for his own protection. It was a temporary ban designed to force him to recover fully before fighting again, but we've never heard such a drastic step. It's indicative of Jackson's reputation. Was he fearless, crazy, or both? Opinions vary, but we love this Gazette cover. The magazine specialized in boxing photo-illustrations, which we've documented here, here, here, and other places if you're inclined to dig around the site.
Tonight they're gonna party like it's 1955.
Questions abound on this cover of Inside Story, but for each one there's an answer. What did Prince Rainier not tell Grace Kelly? That the palace in Monaco was cold and drafty, and she couldn't sleep in the nude anymore because the premises were open to the public from 9 to 5. What was the amazing Frank Sinatra hoax? His studio Carlyle Productions started a whisper campaign that he was such a dedicated actor that he actually used heroin while filming the heroin drama The Man with the Golden Arm. What is the secret fear that haunts Perry Como? That his family might be kidnapped.
All of these pieces are fascinating, but since it's baseball season and people are high on the front-running New York Yankees right now, we'll point to the story, “The Real Reason the Yankees Lost!” What they lost was the 1955 World Series, and it happened—according to Inside Story—because they were partying too hard. They were ensconced at the Concourse Hotel for the Series, a hole-up made possible by the fact that their opponents were the Brooklyn Dodgers. So with both the home and away games taking place in New York City, and the players barred from sleeping in their own houses to avoid family distractions, the superstar Yanks did some major league carousing.
Inside Story scribe Manuel Shaw describes an allegedly typical scene: “Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, and several other Yankees were sitting around the lobby of the hotel when three lovelies from a nearby night spot showed up. Since the cuties were entertainers familiar to one or two of the players, and were rabid Yankees boosters, it was not remarkable that they were soon in animated conversation with the group, which shortly adjourned from the lobby to an upstairs suite.”
Then he moves into this bit: “A beauteous brunette [was in the hall] clad only in a negligee. The two players wanted to spend some time with her, and they agreed that they would rather do it separately, but she insisted it would be more fun if they both stayed, and after a while she persuaded both of them to come back with her to her room. Soon a real party was underway, joined by many other Yankees, and several doting females who lived at the hotel.”
Well, what good is being a member of the famed Yankees if you can't do some Yankee doodle diddling? Most guys we know can't resist a free beer, let alone a woman in lingerie. A little later in the story, after the question of whether professional gamblers employed the party girls to distract the Yanks, we get this: “If true, this parallels the persistent story in gambling and diamond circles that the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe was introduced to Yankee star Joe DiMaggio just in order to take his attention off the Yankee pennant drive of a few years back.”
Did Inside Story really just say Marilyn Monroe was a mafia Trojan horse? Yup. They did. No ambiguity there. The magazine does not go so far as to say Monroe was aware of the set-up, so perhaps it was a matter of maneuvering her into the same space as DiMaggio at the same time and letting nature take its course. There are worse ways for a man to fall from the sporting mountaintop. And talk about a soft landing. We doubt the story, but you never know. There are far crazier tales starring Monroe. We have about thirty-five scans below, and more tabloids coming soon.
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 its 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 that has God's help, 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. Thus God was presumably rooting for both sides. 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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
1948—Paige Takes Mound in the Majors
Satchel Paige, considered at the time the greatest of Negro League pitchers, makes his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His career in the majors is short because of his age, but even so, as time passes, he is recognized by baseball experts as one of the great pitchers of all time.
1965—Biggs Escapes the Big House
Ronald Biggs, a member of the gang that carried out the Great Train Robbery in 1963, escapes from Wandsworth Prison by scaling a 30-foot wall with three other prisoners, using a ladder thrown in from the outside. Biggs remains at large for nearly forty years.
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