Monday, March 8, 2010

Fall Guys Chapter 16

Police! Police! Police!

Washing the dirty wrestling linen in public via State Athletic Commissions and through friendly newspapers became the sport of both wrestling factions, the eastern combination headed by Mondt, and the Londos group, with Tom Packs of St. Louis and Ray Fabiani of Philadelphia supporting Londos.

The Londos group entered the New York field to buck Jack Curley, Mondt’s promoter, and allied itself with Charlie and Willie Johnston.

Tom Packs later told this writer that this effort to break “Toots” in his own back yard cost Londos, Packs and Fabiani nearly fifty thousand dollars in round numbers, and still the little Greek wasn’t making any real headway.

Rudy Dusek, well known to wrestlers as a matman and promoter through the south, was brought into the east to guide the Johnston brothers in their efforts to help Londos and to book the Johnston controlled clubs and arrange programs.

Meanwhile Mondt and his partners weren’t asleep. They were staying up nights fighting Londos and his new cohorts.

Though the new combination was in control of wrestling in the eastern metropolitan area, Londos continued to hold sway in the hinterlands. Shorn of any championship claims in New York state, the states of Pennsylvania and Illinois, strangely enough, refused to heed the challenges of either Lewis or Browning and the Golden Greek reigned supreme with his crown barely tarnished.

Londos continued meeting the same matmen night after night and while the takings weren’t as large as before, still the gates were satisfactory.

Lewis, Mondt, Pfeffer, Curley, Miller, and Bowser decided to do something about the Greek’s popularity.

The old idea of double crossing Londos through one of his trusted lieutenants occurred to Mondt and his partners. New Haven was selected as the site and a third-rate wrestler named Pat O’Shocker was picked as the man to do the job. O’Shocker goes down in wrestling history as a man who refused to win a heavyweight wrestling championship.

In a signed and sworn story published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat of April 11, 1933, Pat O’Shocker revealed that on the day of his arrival in New Haven (September 12th, 1932) he was taken to an apartment for a conference with “Toots” Mondt. O’Shocker said in the Globe-Democrat that Mondt offered him $15,000 and a contract which would make him rich if he crossed up Londos and won the bout. Pat turned it down. Then Mondt offered him $25,000. Again O’Shocker turned it down. Mondt said he was foolish, as the referee “was all right.”

O’Shocker left the conference and went at once to Londos to tip him off that there was skulduggery at the junction.
Hearing of the plot, Londos announced he wouldn’t go through with the bout. He didn’t trust even the faithful O’Shocker, who had tipped him off. Connecticut Athletic Commissioner Tom Donohue told him if he didn’t go through with the match his title would be declared forfeit. Londos then demanded that the referee be changed. Donohue refused and Londos had to go through with the so-called contest.

He threw O’Shocker in eighteen minutes and then he and Pat took it on the lam to avoid the angry fans, who wanted to lynch both of them.

“Toots” had evidently read the classics, for he believed in the old adage, “If once you don’t succeed, try, try again.” He awaited his opportunity to try again. It was important that Londos be discredited.

Pfeffer says:

Mondt saw another chance to get Londos. Joe Savoldi, who had been tossed numerous times by the Greek, was booked to meet him in Chicago on April 7, 1933, and “Toots” sent an emissary to sound out Joe on the proposition of giving Jimmie the works.

This time “Toots” had a wrestler who knew the meaning of the word cooperation. Everything was all set. “Toots” stole into Chicago (I hate to use the word steal in connection with the wrestling game) and registered under a nom de plume at the Palmer House. He kept under cover until the night of the bout. Then he had the extreme satisfaction of seeing Savoldi win the match from Londos.

The next day Mondt, Savoldi and Judge Bernard Barasa, of Chicago, were on their way to New York, Savoldi, with a contract from Mondt, signed before the Londos match, tucked away in his pocket. Savoldi boomed business for us. He and Lewis had a match that wound up with Joe jumping out of the ring and losing the decision.

To those in the know, this move in having Savoldi lose to Lewis was a necessary one. Londos had marshaled his political forces in Pennsylvania and Illinois and the Commissions in these states ordered a return match between Londos and Savoldi.

After his victory over Savoldi, Lewis promptly wired the commissions in Pennsylvania and Illinois that in view of the fact he had defeated Savoldi, who had won over Londos, he was willing to meet Londos “anywhere, any time, any place.” This quieted Londos, who seemed strangely apathetic whenever Lewis was mentioned as an opponent.

Lewis and Mondt’s next move was for Lewis to journey to Boston, where the “Strangler” lost to Ed Don George. The latter had just lately won back his claim to the heavyweight title by defeating Henri De Glane, he of the famous Montreal double-cross.

Inasmuch as Bowser and Lewis had repaired the political fences this maneuver of Lewis’ in losing to George was considered a smart one. Even if Londos did decide to meet Lewis, the bird had flown, and any shreds to Londos’ title claims now rested on the brow of Ed Don George.

To forestall Londos challenging George for a match anywhere but in Boston, where Bowser could protect him, George signed a contract with Bowser to defend his title in Boston against Londos. As Massachusetts had no commission governing wrestling, Bowser selects his own referees for all matches, and Londos could readily perceive the danger in signing to meet George in the Bean City. Lewis and Mondt had the Golden Greek blocked again, but he continued wrestling.

Ray Fabiani, of Philadelphia, managed to keep the Pennsylvania Commission in line and that august body refused to recognize either Browning, George, or Savoldi as title claimants. Londos was still kingpin of the mat world - in Pennsylvania at least. Packs’ political friends kept the Missouri State Commission faithful to Londos also, so the Greek maintained shreds of his popularity.

Now to get back to Savoldi. Mondt, Pfeffer, Miller, Lewis, and Curley wanted to build up Joe Savoldi as an opponent for Jim Browning in order to stage a big open air match for the benefit of the Hearst Milk Fund. After losing to George, Lewis came back into Madison Square Garden and was pinned by Savoldi.

Ring around the rosy.

Mondt’s eastern combination planned to stage a Savoldi and Browning Championship match in the open air for the redoubtable Hearst Milk Fund. Rudy Dusek decided to do a little double crossing on his own hook. Like Mondt, he found a matman within the new eastern combination’s own ranks who was willing to talk business.

He was Sol Slagel of Nebraska, a half-starved grappler whom Jack Pfeffer had been brow beating. Slagel also harbored an obscure grudge against Savoldi for some slighting remark the latter had once made concerning his (Slagel’s) ability. He made an easy subject for Dusek to work on.

Therefore, in June of 1933 at the Coast Guard Station in Staten Island, New York, Sol Slagel climbed into the ring to throw Savoldi and thus spoil any possible gate which might be in the offing when Browning and Savoldi met for the title. While Slagel succeeded in his part of the bargain, the wily “Toots” had protected his wrestler sufficiently enough by having one Captain Barry Peschmaylen, front man for Mondt, in the ring as referee.

Slagel threw Savoldi not once but ten times with Peschmaylen finally disqualifying Slagel on a supposed foul and awarding the victory to Savoldi.

When the partisan referee took this step riots broke out throughout the club and only the prompt work on the part of coast guardsmen prevented serious injuries to scrappy spectators and wrestlers alike.

The newspapers carried the stories of Savoldi’s ignominious rout and the Browning-Savoldi gate receipts were definitely lessened.

The voluble Mr. Pfeffer states:

“When Savoldi and Browning met in an open air match it was raining so hard the crowd was almost invisible, so the boys wrestled two hours without a fall, Browning getting the decision, and they didn’t get a cent for their services.”

While Londos wasn’t making his former big money, he was keeping Mondt and his supporters from getting any profits.

The fight entered another stage - that of intrigue.

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