Monday, March 8, 2010

Fall Guys Chapter 19

It Takes A Thief To Catch A Thief

It’s an old maxim in law enforcement that “It takes a thief to catch a thief,” and Pfeffer soon demonstrated that he was an apt proof of the time-worn motto.

His wrestling exposes in various New York papers were wired into every major town in the United States, and he himself mailed thousands of copies to every sports editor in the United States and Canada.

Even friendly sport scribes were constrained to proceed cautiously in their support of wrestling attractions promoted in their towns when they read of the previous hoodwinkings they and their readers had received.

Pfeffer and the Johnston brothers allied themselves with Al Haft of Columbus, Ohio, who was featuring middleweight, lightweight and welterweight grapplers.

The midget matmen had always been shunned by the trust, so were available for bouts in metropolitan clubs, and only too happy for the opportunity to work. They flocked to the Johnston-Pfeffer banners and soon proved almost as popular as the mastodons.

Three heavyweights, however, continued to hold sway as champions. Though the members had signed a trust agreement, Bowser held onto Browning and George as titleholders, while Londos continued to claim a crown even though Savoldi had defeated him the year before in Chicago.

On June 24, 1934, Londos reestablished himself as champion in New York by throwing Jim Browning in the Madison Square Garden Bowl, in a contest for the benefit of the Hearst Milk Fund. The bout drew a gate of nearly forty thousand dollars.

The day before the Londos-Browning “contest,” the New York Enquirer printed a story in which it revealed that Londos was holding $50,000 as a guarantee he would throw Browning. The Enquirer also exposed the conditions surrounding the “contest,” together with the time scheduled for the “contest” to end, and who the victor would be. Nevertheless, the “unsuspecting” members of the New York State Athletic Commission sanctioned the contest as a “shooting” match.

This, despite the fact all involved, according to Pfeffer’s testimony, Packs, Londos, Bowser, White, Curley, Fabiani, Dusek, Lewis, Mondt and Miller were partners in the business.

The trust partners also assuaged Londos’ feelings somewhat, in the Fall of 1934, by permitting the little Greek Hercules to defeat Ed “Strangler” Lewis, his ancient enemy (and then business partner), in another of those advertised “SHOOTING” matches at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The bout took place on Sept. 20, 1934, with a gross gate of $96,000.

The Chicago Tribune was used as the prop to pry the money from the gullible fans and The Tribune sponsored the Londos-Lewis “Contest.” All the trust partners joyfully attended the bout in festive spirits and happily cut up the melon afterwards.

Any doubts concerning the competitive angle in wrestling are dispelled by reading an excerpt from an article in Nat Fleischer’s Ring Magazine, dated October, 1934. It says:

Regardless of any pre-arrangement - and the boxing commission must be aware that such agreements are made in all championship and other exhibitions - there can be no kick by the fans because they know what to expect and get what they come to see - good entertainment. That’s all wrestling is, nowadays. Legitimate competition is gone. The days of real, honest-to-goodness wrestling matches are things of the past, and we all might just as well get accustomed to the other type, because it is the only kind we can see in these days of commercialized sport.

The Londos-Lewis match in Chicago was the last big house the trust partners were to share in for some months to come, however. Wily Jack Pfeffer was doing his work well. Profits from the midget matmen he sponsored were of secondary consideration. Revenge was sweet and he literally “drank” Londos and his partners’ blood on many a festive occasion.

Through the years, Pfeffer had kept a complete account of every wrestler’s record, and as fast as the combination’s master minds revealed plans for a new bout in one of the metropolitan centers, Jack would reveal to the sports editors that it had been done before.

Perhaps the most notable case was the evening of November 19, 1934, when Jim Londos was paired to defend his title against Everett Marshall.

Billy Sandow was sponsoring Marshall, but he conveniently forgot that his man had met and been defeated by Londos on several previous occasions. Pfeffer went to the New York Daily News with alleged records of the number of times Londos and Marshall had met.

The day of the bout dawned bright and clear, with the various trust partners on hand early to count the line at the box office. They were due for a rude awakening, for the Daily News, with the largest daily newspaper circulation in America, carried a graphic feature sports story headed:


The fans read, and Curley, Mondt and the rest of the partners wept. That evening the principals wrestled before a virtual gallery of ghosts.

Pfeffer was doing his work well, and the fans were beginning to catch on to the way mat contests were arranged.

The clouds gathered and became blacker on the mat horizon.

What had been a honeymoon in January for the mat moguls, threatened to become a divorce in December of the same year.

Then factional disputes developed, and Mondt walked out of the Curley office in New York and began booking and promoting in partnership with Lou Daro of Los Angeles, leaving the eastern section of the United States to Rudy Dusek.

Jack Curley was doing his best to drive Dusek from the office, and Dusek, in turn, was feuding and trying to even old scores with Ray Fabiani.

The mat houses had fallen away to virtually nothing, when the savior came in the person of “DANNO ME BYE.”

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