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.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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