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robertsnell
11-27-2011, 03:59 PM
Waterloo Evening Courier
9 January 1929

He Was My Pal Said many men In Varied Walks

Tex Rickard Born Jan “, 1870, Early Encountered Stirring Success


Following is the first chapter of "The Life of Tex Rickard," written by George Kirksey of the United Press sports staff, who was with the late promoter at Miami Beach up to the time of his death. Additional chapters, probably 10 in number, will follow daily. The story is based upon facts obtained by Kirksey up to the time or Rickard's illness, and on information gathered from many parts of the country
from men and women who knew Rickard from boyhood, including his 81- year-old mother in Seattle, who contributed
largely to the first chapter.

By GEORGE KIRKSEY,
United Press Start Correspondent.

"He was my pal." It was said of Tex Rickard by many men in varied walks of life; by cowboys and millionaires, prize fighters and society men. But it remained for his 81-year-old mother, when she learned of his death, to plumb the depth of the sincerity of his extraordinary character by saying: "George was my pal." The man who rode a trail to fortune from the ranches of the far west to the heights of showmanship and unparalleled success as a promoter .was christened George Lewis Rickard. His nickname of Tex, by which the world came to know him, was given him during his early manhood. His mother never liked it. "He was always George Lewis to me," she said.

Parents Were Illinois Pioneers.

Rickard's parents were pioneers in Illinois. His father was a millwright and the family migrated to Kansas, where Tex's father built the first fully equipped mill in the state. Rickard often talked of this. It was characteristic of the man that he took the same straightforward pride in simple things of typically American life that he did in his most spectacular achievements as a showman.

George Lewis Rickard, then, was born Jan. 2, 1870. The date of his birth has been variously misrepresented, due usually to a prevailing tendency to lop a few years from the toll taken by time from prominent characters. Rickard himself was uncertain in later years as to the exact place of his birth. He always gave it as Kansas City, but once explained:
"Well, it was outside Kansas City in a place called White Church, Kan. But I always just claimed Kansas City."

Memory of James Brothers.

Boyhood for Tex was far from dull. Jesse James' mother lived near the Rickards, and one day, shortly after Tex was born, a posse invaded the neighborhood, hunting for the bandit and his brother, Frank. There was a "right smart lot of shooting," as Rickard put it, claiming he was born to the sound of firearms. Until death stilled his naive, indomitable spirit, there always was a "right smart lot of excitement," where Rickard was around. When Tex was four years old the Rickard family settled in Sherman, Tex., but moved frequently from place to place as the father followed his trade of installing mills. It was at the age of six, according to his mother, that Tex had his first experience with fighting. He came home from Sunday school one day, his best clothes torn and dusty, his face beaten and bruised.

First Taste of Fighting.

“George had been told never to fight, and hadn't defended himself when an older boy attacked him," explained the, late promoter's aged mother in recalling the incident. "When his father heard that, he reversed his instructions, but gave George a whipping anyway, telling him he should have another every time he didn't defend himself. "After that, George never got any more spankings."

While the Rickards were living at Cambridge, Tex., the promoter's father died, leaving Tex with quite a job on his hands for a boy of 11,that of contributing materially, to the support of a widowed mother, two brothers and three sisters. Mrs Rickard subsequently moved to Henrietta, whereTex received a little schooling when not riding cows and doing odd jobs around the ranch.

Experience As A Cowboy

In 1886, before he was out of his teens, tex took the long trip up the north trail with many head of cattle for Montana. He rode with an outfit which wintered 16,000 head in three herds in that state. Less than 1,000 head survived the blizzards. At another time, 11 cowboys started north from the panhandle to Omaha with 3,500 steers, Tex being the youngster of the group. On the morning after the first day's travel, an exhausted calf was found with the herd, sunk on its haunches. Rickard adopted- the calf, named it "Sitting Bull" and saw it safely to Omaha.

That calf gave Tex. a lot of trouble on its wanderings, but he would always get it safely back to the herd. One of Rickard's favorite yarns of his youth was about the calf. "I used to ask the other boys so often if they had seen 'Sitting Bull myself for a long time afterwards," Tex recounted.

Invited to Become Bandit.

The afternoon the herd stirred up the dust of Omaha's main street, Tex met three slight acquaintances. They had a plan on foot to rob a mail coach and proposed that Rickard join them. "I said I'd go, but I didn't," Tex told long afterwards. "A posse killed two of those fellows and the third was hanged later on." Rickard continued to "punch cows" until he was 22, and must have made a reputation for himself far removed from that of lawlessness for two years later in 1894 he was elected city marshal of Henrietta, Tex.


Chapter 2



Rickard Went To Alaska In 1895
First Big Stake

Opened Saloon and Gambling House
Aquires Name of
“Square Shooter”



Tex Rickard made a reputation for himself as city'' marshal of Henrietta Tex., for his ability to handle men without gun play. Old timers cannot recall a single instance during his more than a year in office when he was forced to use his gun on a bad man. Cattle rustlers, skylarking cowboys and drunkards were Rickard's principal "customers." He received no stipulated salary for the job, but made his money in fees.

It was while serving as city marshal that Rickard married his first wife, Leona . They had one child, a boy. The child died early and is buried beside his mother in the Henrietta cemetery.

Was Married Three Times.

Time almost obscured all trace of Rickard's first marriage , and it was not generally known that he was married three, times. Rickard never talked about his, private life. Life as city marshal grew dull for Tex. One winter night Rickard was sitting around the stove in a Henrietta saloon : when a cowboy came in with a letter from Jim Roberts, a former Texas cow hand who wrote glowingly of life in the Klondike. Roberts told about flour selling for $1 a pound.

Rickard started north early in 1895 with Willie Slack, a young man with the wanderlust. It was on the trip north from Seattle that Rickard got his nickname of "Tex" from a sailor who asked him where he was from. The pair landed at Juneau broke and with only a few scanty possessions early in the spring of 1895. From Juneau they drifted from place to place.

Partner In Two Claims.

In July 1896 when the first Klondike strike was made, Rickard was a bartender at Circle City, 300 miles below on the Yukon. Rickard finally got his outfit together and hit the trail to Dawson. He had no dogs and had to pull his own sled. The weather was 50 below zero and the snow waist deep in the drifts. There were only one or two houses and a dozen or so tents when Rickard arrived in Dawson. It grew overnight into a tawdry frontier town and Rickard rode the crest of the boom into his first big money.

He staked out two claims – No 3 with Jack Dodson and No. 4 with Al Mayo on Bonanza creek. Both claims were "strikes" but along with his good fortune came his first bit, mistake. He sold his interest in No. 3 for $17,000, but in so doing lost a fortune. His successors reaped $300.000 out of No. 3. He sold his interest in No. 4 for $40,000. Little more than a year after he reached Alaska, Rickard, only 26, had amassed his first fortune. With a stake of almost $10,000 he opened his first gambling venture, the famous Northern saloon and gambling palace in Dawson City.

Stripped by Rival Gamblers.

Rickard's policy of playing "square" even with gamblers led to his downfall. The other gambling houses in Dawson closed earlier than the Northern, and the faro dealers and card sharps from those places would come to Rickard’s place to play their winnings. Rickard played them 50-50 and they broke him in less than a year. But Rickard made his fame as a square shooter and it never deserted him Although fortunes came andwent. “Rickard’s Square” became a byword among gamblers in the far frozen north and later a byword among millionaires.

Rickard’s next job was sawing wood at $15 per cord at Rampart city and it was there he met Rex Beach, fresh from college, in 1898. Rickard and Beach did not become close friends in those days as many persons thought.

“I liked Rickard but we were not close friends” Beach said. “ I was a 9 o’clock boy and he was a midnight son”. In the spring of 1899 both stampeded to Nome. He had $210, I was told. I was practically broke. He started the Northern Saloon ( named after his first place at Dawson ) and sold a quarter interest for $21,000. I still went to bed early. He prospered in Nome and was very well liked. I got to know him better in Tonopah Nev. Several years later.

Ole Elliott and Kid Highly became Rickard’s partners in his second Gambling hall and saloon in Nome. Rickard's reputation helped business and for four years the place earned about $100,000 a year. Tex conducted a bank on the side for the men who would straggle into his saloon from the cold with their nuggets, and say: "Keep my stuff, Tex," and walk away without bothering for a receipt. The bitter Alaskan winters made the thin-blooded westerner suffer and Tex left Alaska for California. "I'm going where a fellow can keep
warm," he said.



THE LIFE OF TEX RICKARD
Chapter 3



After spending almost eight years in Alaska Tex Rickard left for California In 1902 to enjoy wealth acquired in the Nome gambling venture. Romance again entered the career of Rickard shortly after he reached San Francisco where he married his second wife, Miss Mae Meyers in 1902. She was often referred to as his first wife. One child was born to them, Bessie, and she died in 1907. The second Mrs. Rickard died in New York, October 30. 1925 of pneumonia. The facts about Richard's first marriage to Leona Rittick in May, 1894, were never made public and are worth retelling even at this point. Rickard and his young sweetheart eloped from Henrietta, Tex., where Rickard was serving as city marshal at the tine, and were married at Fort Worth, Texas.

The bride's father, Dr. S. G. Rittick, bitterly opposed the marriage but forgave them afterwards .The first Mrs. Rickard became ill and a few months after she was pronounced incurable, a son was born. He was named George L. Rickard, Jr. Three weeks later his mother died. The baby died a few days later. The two tragedies brought a change into Rickard's life and influenced him in making his decision to go to Alaska.

Just how much money Rickard left Alaska with will always remain in doubt. Some say it was a half million, while others say it was no more than $100,000. At any rate part of this fortune was wiped out in the purchase of claims which failed to yield gold after he left the Yukon. He flourished as a gambler around Seattle and San Francisco for a time, but in 1903 headed for the Nevada Goldfields and settled in the town of Goldfields at the time the boom hit that lonely spot in the western desert.

One of Rickards dreams came true at Goldfield when he built the finest brick mansion in Nevada – a palace in the desert. The house cost $75,000. One years water bill was $1,300. The bricks used to build the structure were imported.

Many stories have been told about Rickard’s “cold steel nerve” but Jack Curley, the wrestling promoter, contributes one of the best illustrating the fearless Rickard of his younger days. It happened in Reilly's saloon in a nearby Rival city of Goldfield. "Rickard walked in the saloon with a friend to get a drink," Curley recounted. "Larry Sullivan was drunk at the bar. He was one of
the meanest men in the goldfields. He had a record of seven notches on his gun. He hated Rickard and began looking for trouble the minute Tex came in”.

"He tried to insult Rickard by every conceivable way, but Rickard kept his head and ignored him. Finally Sullivan whipped out his gun. And Sullivan had reputation for never bluffing. All eyes were turned on Rickard. Tex turned around casually and faced Sullivan. The gun was leveled at Rickard's lowest vest button. With the swiftness of a panther Rickard's hand shot out and grabbed the gun. He twisted Sullivan's wrist and broke his grip on the gun. Then he stepped back and tossed the gun into a far corner and the crowd stood dumbfounded.. Tex turned to the bar and lifted his glass to his lips as if nothing had happened. Then he walked out.

A panic hit Goldfield in 1907 and business fell off at the Northern. Rickard sold out and opened the Palace Bar nearby. It was a failure. Then he opened his fourth Northern in Rawhide, where a new boom had started. Again Rickard caught the flow of easy money. Fire destroyed the Northern at Rawhide and it was his last gambling house. Something happened at Goldfield in 1906 which definitely changed the career of the man who up to this time had been a cowboy, Marshal, miner, bartender and owner of gambling houses.

The big business men of Goldfield wanted to attract attention to their flourishing little desert city. Rickard was selected as the man to put Goldfield on the map. Here again conflicting- stories are told about how Rickard became engaged in the promotion of his first fight. John Mateer, a reporter from. Santiago, where he served under Col. Roosevelt, was said to have sold the idea of staging a big fight in Goldfield to Rickard.

Anyway Rickard took his first trip to New York City and saw his first ring battle. He occupied a ringside seat in old Madison Square garden and saw Terry McGovern and Jimmy Britt, famous lightweights, fight a draw. When he got back to goldfield, Rickard wired Joe Humphreys, who was later to become Rickard's announcer, an offer of $15.000 for a return bout between McGovern and Britt at Goldfield.


Chapter 4

Nelson And Gans
Stage battle At Goldfield, Nev.

Receipts Are $69,715, High Record To date
Tex Is photographed

THE LIFE OF TEX RICKARD.


"Just a nut who's gone crazy searching for gold," Joe Humphries remarked when he received Tex Rickard's telegram offering $15,000 for a return match between Terry McGovern and Jimmy Britt at Goldfield, Nev., Labor day. 1906. Humphries not only had never heard of Rickard, but when he went to look up Goldfield he couldn't find the boom town on the map. He never took the trouble to answer the wire.

Before Tex could make another move, luck played right into his hands. Billy Nolan, manager of Battling Nelson, the famous lightweight, picked up a copy of the Goldfield Sun in the lobby of a Salt Lake City hotel and read an "ad" placed in that paper by Jack Clifford, a fair lightweight of that time, who wanted an opponent for Labor day. Nolan wired the Goldfield paper for more details and the wire found its way to Rickard.

Bid for Joe Gans.

"That showed me that Nelson was open for a proposition," Rickard said in recalling the negotiations, "so I wired back that the Clifford bout was out, but that we'd give $15,000 for Nelson to meet Jos Gans." "Post $30.000 in escrow and Nelson will fight," Nolan answered. Gans, who was willing to meet Nelsonon any terms,' had agreed to a $10,000 purse. Rickard now had both fighters in line for the match, and thru subscriptions, he raised the money for their guarantees. Suspicious of Rickard's tactics, Nolan and Nelson hurried to Goldfield. and when they arrived, found $30,000 in $20 gold pieces stacked in the window of a wooden shack. Five thousand of that was out of Rickard's pocket.

Purse Record at Time

The purse of $30,000 was an unheard of sum in the boxing world .in those days, and was more than any heavyweight had ever received up to that time, including Sullivan, Corbett and Fitzsimmons. Both fighters started training in Goldfield and the bout began to attract considerable attention to the little desert mining town. Then Rickard began building his first fight arena, a crude affair half a mile from the main street. Despite the fact that voluntary labor was largely recruited to build the arena, it cost in the-neighborhood of $10,000.

Fight ,fans from all over the country poured into Goldfield long before the day of the fight. A San Francisco newspaper sent two staff men, Rube Goldberg and W. O. McGeehan, to cover the fight. McGeehan asked him to pose for his first newspaper photograph and Goldberg did the first sketch of him. Embarrassed, Rickard posed for the photograph behind a livery stable because he didn't want anyone to see him before the camera.

Record Gate Established.

The fight was held Sept. 3, 1906, and the receipts , of $69,715 established a new world's record.. Nelson received $22,500 and Gans, who won in the forty-second round on a foul, $11,000. The net profit was around $11,000, but Rickard did not receive all of this. The troubles and drawbacks which attended the promotion of every big bout Rickard put on made their appearance in his very first effort. Even the day before the fight, there was some doubt as to where It would be held. Billy Nolan, caused Rickard most of the trouble by threatening to leave him flat.

"I had the two roughest deputy sheriffs in town go to Nolan and tell him that he would never leave town in good health," Rickard related. "Then he dug up an old rule which stipulated the lightweight limit was 133 pounds. He insisted to the last that Gans make 133 pounds. The severe training weakened Gans and contributed to his later death. Gans barely made the weight."

Rickard Not Impressed.

Despite the stupendous success of the bout, Rickard did not attempt to promote another fight until four years later. , Although Rickard never did say so, it is understood from many sources that he was not impressed with he possibilities of the promotion of boxing matches. "I'll never promote another fight," Rickard is quoted as having said after the Gans-Nelson bout.


Chapter 5




Tex Rickard made his dramatic reentry into the fight game in 1910, four years after he had astounded the boxing world by successfully staging his first fight between Joe Gans and Battling Nelson in the little desert mining town of Goldfield, Nev. During the intervening years Rickard devoted his time to mining speculation, He was employed by a syndicate to buy up mining claims from individuals who were unable to meet their mortgages when, late in 1909, he was summoned to Duluth by Thomas, F. Cole, copper king on a business proposition involving holdings in which they were interested.

The entire country at this time was excited about the possibility of James J. Jeffries, the retired undefeated heavyweight champion, returning to the ring in an effort to recapture the title for the white race from Jack Johnson, negro titleholder. After they completed their business transactions, Cole remembering Rickard’s successful promotion of the Gans-Nelson match, said:

"Why don't you go after the Johnson-Jeffries match, Tex?"

Every big promoter in the country was bidding for the bout and Rickard explained that he wasn't in a financial position to compete against them. "Go after that fight Tex," Cole replied. "If it's only money that you need, why you can count on me for as much as you want. Outbid every promoter by $20,000, if necessary, to get the match."

Rickard made his decision on the train going-back to Ely, Nev., and wired Cole that he had decided to take him up on his offer and go after the match. "I knew I would have to act fast," Rickard said afterwards, "as the big western promoters had already started East to Sign Johnson."

On his way to New York Rickard read in a Chicago newspaper that Johnson was playing a vaudeville engagement at a Pittsburgh theatre. Rickard decided to change his plans and gambled on getting to Pittsburgh before Saturday night when Johnson was due to close his engagement. The move proved to be one of the smartest ever made by Rickard and gave him the inside track to getting Johnson's signature. Rickard arrived in Pittsburgh Saturday night and, instead of going to the theatre to look for Johnson, called at the boarding house where the negro was living. Johnson was not there, but the landlady informed him that Mrs.Johnson was in.

"Tell her Mr. Rickard from the West wants to see her," Rickard said. When Mrs Johnson, who was a white woman, came down, Rickard attempted to enlist her aid in getting Johnson to sign with him. "I'll buy you the best sealskin coat I can find if you'll get Jack to sign with me to meet Jeffries," Tex told her.

She agreed and when she arrived in New York City Rickard presented her with a $100 sealskin coat as he had promised. She used her influence, which was no little, in persuading Johnson to cast his lot with Rickard. Rickard met Johnson in a black and tan cabaret in Harlem to talk business. The negro champion was serving champagne and entertaining his crowd of friends as though he were a millionaire.

The negotiations hadn't progressed very far when Johnson said: "Look here, Mr. Tex, I needs dough." Rickard pulled out his wallet and gave Johnson $2,500 without batting an eye. Rickard's tactics made a hit with the negro. "I likes yo way o' doing things,' Johnson said. "We is playing ball together."

Boxing was illegal in New York at that time and the bids for the bout had to be opened in Hoboken, N. J, across the river. Led by James J, Coffroth, now President of the Jockey Club who was the foremost promoter of that day, a large group of promoters and newspaper men crossed the river in a ferry for the formal signing of Johnson.

When the bids were opened in the ferry house, each had a check attached. One read $60,000 another $70,000 and then Rickard's offer was opened. It read: "$101,000." Johnson's famous golden smile broke out in all its splendor.Then Rickard's played his trump card by tossing twenty yellow backed $1,000 bills on the table. It was similar to the trick he had used in placingthe $30,000 in $20 gold pieces in the window of a shack for Battling Nelson and his manager to see, when they arrived in Goldfield.

"Stop everything," Johnson interrupted. "This party's all ovah. I'm fighting for Mr. Tex." For the second time Rickard was ridiculed by smart boxing men. "The man is absolutely crazy," Coffroth said. "He'll go broke and sink a lot of others with him. The bout can't possibly draw over a hundred thousand dollars."

Rickard began preparation for the bout and had no difficulty getting Jeffries' signature after the syndicate with which he had previously signed failed to get Johnson. San Francisco was selected as the site for the bout and after Tex had spent $35,000 on the arena and other preparations, the Governor of California decided he would not permit "the fight to take place in that state.

Losing no time, Rickard closed all arrangements for transferring the fight to Reno, Nev., where it was held in a broiling sun July 4, 1910.
Like all of his big fights there was one drawback after another before the bout actually took place. The Jeffries crowd created no end of trouble in their wrangling over the referee. Rickard was finally agreed on as a compromise and he was the third man in the ring. It was the only professional fight he ever refereed.

The gate was $270,755, the largest up to that time. The moving pictures of the fight netted more than $300.000. Johnson received $70,600 and Jeffries $50,000. Rickard's profit exceeded $100,000 after he had paid all the bills and reimbursed Cole for the money he had loaned him. Jeffries proved the original "hollow shell" and was no match for the big negro who knocked out the hitherto unbeaten champion in the fifteenth round.


Chapter 6

Rickard Always Ready To Take A chance


“I always took a chance” Tex Rickard said one time in discussing his career. This was true not only in his boxing promotion but of all his business ventures as well. It was known by almost everyone along Broadway that Tex was a ”sucker” for get rich quick schemes, inventions and wild gambles. After the Johnson – Jeffries fight Rickard was severely criticized for promoting a heavyweight championship between a whit man and a negro. Race riots broke out in many large cities and many lives lost. It is understood that Rickard took this to heart and vowed never again to promote a mixed bout for the heavyweight championship and he never broke his vow.

Rickard’s stand on mixed heavyweight title bouts enabled Gene Tunney to get his chance at Jack Dempsey and win the championship. Rickard selected Philadelphia over New York as the site for the first Dempsey – Tunney bout rather than accede to the demands of the ew York State Athletic Commission and match Harry Wills, the negro contender, as the challenger in place of Tunney.

About a year after the Johnson-Jeffries fight Rickard took another of his long shots. He signed a contract with a syndicate of French and English capitalists to go to South America as the general manager of the Paraguay land and Cattle Company. It ended with Rickard in the possession of a lot of land and no cash. Rickard acquired title to 327,000 acres of his own in this region and retained it until his death. He held on to it in the belief that some day it would be worth a fortune.

He returned to the United States in 1916, promoted his third fight and entered the boxing game for good. Jess Willard the Kansas cowboy had wrested the heavyweight championship from Jack Johnson at Havana in 1915 and New York was clamouring for a chance to see the white champion in action. As in the case of his first two bouts Rickard again had to obtain financial backing to go through with a bout.The story was told that he went into a banker’s office without preparation and put up such a good front that the banker advanced him $25,000 on his word. Samuel McCracken also aided Rickard financially .

Frank Moran was selected as the challenger and Rickard signed him first for a guarantee of $15,000. Willard signed for a guarantee of $30,000. Rickard rented the old Madison Square garden and held the bout there. The match attracted a gate of $150,000, a new indoor record. Willard retained his title, but the bout was only significant in that it embarked Rickard upon his career as a promoter in New York city. It was probably the worst heavyweight title bout ever held.

Rickard now made up his mind to remain in the fight game for better or for worse. Up until this time he could not be termed a bona fide boxing promoter. Trouble came thick and fast for Tex once he became a full fledged promoter. Those days from 1910 to 1920 were some of the most hectic of his career.

"I began to think everybody in the world was a crook," Rickard said in recalling those days. Politicians came out openly and demanded their "cuts" on every fight. The complimentary list ran into thousands. Gunmen got jobs as ushers and insulted the customers. Every underhand method known was used to put him out of business.

In the end. Rickard won out: the old garden became a paying proposition instead of a "white elephant" and Rickard was established in New York .


Chapter 7


Jack Kearns "sold" Jack Dempsey to Rickard. The promoter thought Dempsey was too small. He liked big men. When and where Rickard and Dempsey first met is not clear. Dempsey said the other day he met Rickard at Goldfield in 1911 But it is doubtful If Rickard was in Goldfield at that time. Anyway, Rickard began to hear of Dempsey around 1918. Rickard did not say, "there's the next champion and the greatest drawing card." Kearns, then Dempsey's manager, was the only one who said that.

Dempsey was matched with Fred Fulton, the Minnesota plasterer. They met at Harrison, N. J., and Dempsey scored one of the quickest knockouts on record. The fight was over in 17 seconds.
Now Kearns started his campaign for a Dempsey-Willard match. Jack Curley, who had promoted the Dempsey-Fulton match, was too busy 'with other things to listen to Kearns. Finally Kearns got Rickard interested.

Hit Upon Toledo

Rickard wanted the bout in New York City, but decision bouts were illegal. Ad Thatcher, Toledo promoter, persuaded Rickard that Toledo, accessible to most of the big midwestern cities, was the logical place. Rickard signed Willard for a $100,000 guarantee, the largest purse offered up to that time. There was a disagreement as to what Dempsey should receive. Kearns thought it should be as much as Willard's end.

Finally it was agreed that thirteen newspapermen at the conference would decide Dempsey's guarantee. Each one wrote what he thought Dempsey was worth. The average was $27,500 and that was what Dempsey signed for. Dempsey's size (he weighed around 180 in those days) continued to perplex Rickard even after the fighters started training for the bout. Willard weighed 245. "Kid, you look awful small to me," Rickard said to Dempsey, "do you really think you can lick him?"

The fight was held July 4, 1919. The Giant Willard was slashed to pieces by the Tigerish Dempsey. Willard was counted out in the first round, but the bell sounded before the referee completed his count. Dempsey, who had left the ring, was brought back and he hammered Willard to submission in the next round. Willard's seconds tossed in the sponge when the bell rang for the third round as Willard was too weak to assume a fighting position. He was led from the ring a pitiable sight, his face hammered to a gory pulp.

The receipts of the bout were $452, 522, and Rickard made a profit of about $100,000 after he had paid all expenses. Rickard and Dempsey rode to fame together. Kearns played a major role at the start, but he later drifted out of the picture when he split with Dempsey. It is doubtful if either Rickard or Dempsey would have been as successful without the other.

All But Two

Rickard promoted all but two of Dempsey's fights for the title. Floyd Fitzsimmons promoted the Dempsey-Miske fight at Benton Harbor, Mich., in 1920. 'The Dempsey-Gibbons fight was promoted by a group of Montana men at Shelby, Mont., In 1923. After Dempsey's split with Kearns late in 1923, Dempsey turned to Rickard as his adviser. Before the Sharkey fight, Dempsey
asked Rickard to become his manager, but Tex turned him down, saying: "I'll help you and advise you, Jack, but I can't become your manager." Nevertheless, Rickard was frequently accused of managing Dempsey, Jack Sharkey openly charged Rickard with being Dempsey's manager shortly before the promoter's death. Rickard merely laughed at Sharkey's accusations and said:
"It's good publicity."


Chapter 8


The first "Battle of the Century" was staged at Boyle's Thirty Acres, Jersey City, on July 2, 1921, between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. It was Rickard's first, spectacular success and the first boxing contest that ever drew over a million dollars. The bout attracted a crowd of 90,000 and a gate of $1,628,238. Rickard paid Dempsey $500,000 and Carpentier $200,000.

This bout marked the advent; of the first real ballyhoo. It was Jack Kearns who first started talking millions to Rickard but it was Rickard who carried through Kearn's idea. When Kearns asked $300,000 for Dempsey's share of the gate during the early stages of negotiations for the bout, Rickard said: "You're crazy." Kearns finally convinced Rickard that the match properly steamed up would draw more than a million. Then when Rickard made the match, the public thought the promoter was "crazy" and riding to a financial crash.

Rickard began building up the bout by bringing Carpentier, who then held the light-heavyweight champion of Europe to this country, to meet Battling Levinsky, recognized on this side as the world's light -heavyweight champion. Carpentier won by a technical knockout, over the battered veteran and acquired the world's light heavyweight title.

The "Orchid Man"

As part of the ballyhoo Carpentier returned to France before he came back to this country to start training at Manhasset, Long Island. His training camp was located on a farm amidst the estates of rich New Yorkers. Louis Sherry, the millionaire candy man,.lived across the road from Carpentier's camp. Carpentier did his road work through the picturesque parks of these wealthy aristocrats, rode in their yachts and lived up to his reputation as "The Orchid Man of France."

The public was admitted to his workout only two afternoons a week. The reason the public was barred was to prevent it from finding out that Carpentier was no match for the tigerish Dempsey. If they had seen the Frenchman, there would have been no fight. While Carpentier was supposed to have been .perfecting secret punches behind closed gates, he was lolling around in a silk dressing gown practicing dance steps.

It was reported that Rickard went to Dempsey before the fight and asked him to "carry Carpentier along for a few rounds," but it was never admitted by either the promoter or the champion, The knowledge of Rickard's character goes to show that once the money is in the box office, he doesn't care what happens in the ring and it is doubtful if he actually requested Dempsey to allow the Frenchman to make a good showing.

There was considerable ill feeling against Dempsey at that time because of his war record and the champion was worked up to the point wanted to annihilate Carpentier. Rickard built an immense wooden bowl on a barren tract of land on the outskirts of New Jersey for the bout. It later became known as Boyle's Acres because of the ground on which it was built. When construction was started on the arena, it was predicted that the structure would never be filled. Rickard worked day and night supervising the work and when completed it was his pride and joy.

But Rickard's powers of showmanship prevailed and the largest crowd in the history up to that time packed every available inch of
the arena to see the crude, unshaven, hated Dempsey, batter down "The Orchid Man of France" in four rounds,

The Dempsey-Carpentier bout ushered in the golden era of boxing and was the forerunner to Rickard's subsequent $2,000,000 gate. Dempsey was guaranteed $300,000 for the Carpentier bout, but actually received half a million, his percentage swelling the figure. Carpentier sum of $200,000 as the loser was then larger than any other single purse received by a boxer up to that time.
Besides the financial angle, the Dempsey - Carpentier bout was notable for the fact that it attracted the socially prominent to a prize fight in large numbers of the first time. It was the first large cosmopolitan fight crowd, in which millionaires rubbed elbows with the rank and file of boxing followers.

Trouble Over Movies

Shortly after the Dempsey – Carpentier bout Rickard got into trouble with the government over the transportation of the moving pictures of the fight from New Jersey to New York. Despite a warning from the government, the films were shown in Broadway movie houses. The case dragged through the courtt, but Rickard wan finally convicted and fined $7,000. In August, 1920, the New York Stale Legislature passed the Walker boxing bill, allowing decisions and 15-round bouts in New York State. Rickard's influence was instrumental in the passage of the bill legalizing boxing in New York State.

Rickard took hold of the old Madison Square Garden July 13, 1920, and on August 4 organized the Madison Square Garden Sporting club. Thirteen days later the first decision contest was held in. New York State after a lapse of almost 20 years. He did not attempt to promote any big bouts in the old Garden, but he succeeded in placing the business on a paying basis for the first time in years.

After the Dempsey- Carpentier bout Rickard saw that there was no one for Dempsey to fight and he began looking around for another opponent to pit against the champion in the "Second Battle of the Century." About this time he saw the crude South American, Luis Firpo in action and he immediately began laying his plans to smoke up Firpo for a bout with Dempsey.

"There's a fellow who'd draw another million dollar gate if I could get him in the ring with Dempsey." Rickard said.


Chapter 9


It was during the period between the "Battle of the Century" and the Dempsey-Firpo fight that Tex Rickard achieved general recognition as the greatest of modern promoters. During the two years that intervened between those epic fights, Tex was constantly in the limelight, recognized now as dictator by the pugilistic fraternity but still to win the financial backing which a little later was to make him a millionaire as well. The development, of another opponent for Jack Dempsey was Rickard's chief concern during the year 1922. The big South American, Luis Angel Firpo, having been decided upon, the problem then became two-fold. Firpo had to be "bally-hooed" as no heavyweight contender save Carpentier ever had been, and he had to be brought along carefully with a skillful selection of opponents, so that he might not accidentally be knocked as flat as his native pampas.

"The Wild Bull," a towering, unkempt, illiterate, shaggy-haired creature, swept aside all the chosen opposition with a wave of his mighty right hand, Firpo's tactics were to rush grimacing from his corner and hurl his whole tremendous bulk upon his opponent behind a crushing right hand blow. It was obvious that the South American was what is known In ring parlance as "a sucker for a left hook."

But Tex saw to it that the skilled left-hookers were kept well away from Firpo, whose awkwardness and lack of defense were minimized by the "ballyhoo" artists, who played up the savage, destructive rush of "The Wild Bull of the Pampas."

Leased Polo Ground

Now it was time for Rickard to Invade New York with his first big heavy-weight fight in that city. The Moran-Willard affair paled to insignificance beside the Dempsey - Firpo spectacle. Tex leased the Polo Grounds and sent an army of carpenters to carpet the vast expanse of playing field with an unbroken stretch of pine seats. The success of the "Battle of the Century" assured the success of this fight from a financial point of view. Everyone interested in boxing had to have a ringside seat, and Tex saw to it that there were plenty of tickets labeled ringside.

But the big question in Rickard's mind, which he never admitted to anyone before the battle, was what would happen in the ring? Would Firpo's obvious inferiority cause the South American to prove a chopping block for Dempsey, and expose the promoter to the charge of having milked the public? Would this be the last of the "million dollar gates?" Tex, with his mind already roaming the future and envisioning not only "million dollar gates" but receipts running up to $2,000,000 and even $3,000,000, kept his fingers crossed and trusted in "Rickard luck" to bring him through this gamble.

The fight took place Sept. 14, 1923 and turned out to be the most spectacular within the memory of living man, the most smashing, destructive exhibition of savagery between heavyweights ever on record.

Thrill Upon Thrill

It lasted less than two rounds, but into that brief time was packed the drama of a whole cycle of fistiana. Thrill followed thrill until men around the ring literally became hysterical. Some collapsed and never saw the finish. Those in front stood up on their seals, which made it impossible for those behind to see the ring. Thousands who paid their way in never saw the fight, but everyone felt he had his moneys worth by having been a party to that five minutes of sheer hysteria .
-
Rickard was made greater than ever by the sheer chance that the fight turned out as it did. Firpo lumbered from his corner at the bell, caught Dempsey before the champion could get his hands up, and smashed home a looping overhand right which grazed Jacks temple. If the blow had landed on "the button," the night would nave been over. As it was, Dempsey sank to one knee, but recovered quickly, and Firpo was too clumsy to take advantage of his opening.

Then began a smashing series of knock-downs, with science forgotten. The mighty frame of Firpo was flattened to the canvas time after time, but always he clambered bewilderedly to his feet, and Dempsey smashed him down again. Firpo came up fighting, starting his punches before his hand left the canvas as he tottered upright. Occasionally, Jack slashed home to the "Wild Bull's" battered chops before Firpo was fairly on his feet, but rules were forgotten in the madness of that first three minutes.

Dempsey Through Ropes

The climax of the round came towards Its close, when a long sweeping right from Firpo, who had been doing some fighting on his own behalf, sent Dempsey staggering back upon the ropes. For an agonizing moment, the heavyweight champion of the world was balanced on the middle strand of rope, head and torso outside. Then he fell head-first into the welter of shouting newspapermen at the ringside. "Help me back, boys," stammered Jack, and help him they did, shoving the champion back to the ring where the "Wild Bull" pawed and snorted. Firpo fell upon Dempsey, crushed him to the ropes, hammered him with both hands, beating against the arms behind which Jack tried to protect his Jaw. The bell found the Argentine and the dazed champion in equally bad shape. Firpo was so exhausted he fell down in reaching his corner,

Won Between Rounds

Between rounds, the fight was won. Jack Kearns, in Dempsey's corner, ministered skillfully and speedily to his man. Smelling salts, a soothing massage, a quick whispered word or two and the champion was himself again. Firpo's seconds threw a half bucket of dirty water in the general direction of their man and stood gaping at him. The second round was a slaughter of the "Wild Bull." Dempsey was fighting mad, but "cold mad." He slashed viciously with left and-right hooks alternately, and Firpo went down as though pole-axed. When the glazed eyes finally closed and the great hairy limbs refused any longer to respond to the Argentine's game spirit, Luis Angel Firpo rolled over onto his back and was counted out, How many limes he went down will always be a subject for dispute. This fight grossed $ 1,118,602.80 and added greatly to Rickard's prestige. So generally approved was his handling of the battles of the heavyweight champion that he was able lo resist for three years thereafter insistent demands that Jack Dempsey fight again.


Chapter 10

Greatest Single Achievement
of Great Sportsman's Life
Stands in New York.



Tex Rickard did not promote another of his mammoth boxing spectacles for three years, but during the period from 1923-1926 he accomplished the greatest single achievement of his career. He built the new Madison Square garden, a $5,000,000 temple of sports, which will always remain as a monument to his genius. After Rickard placed the old garden on a paying basis, he began laying plans for the new garden. He met with opposition at every turn, but refused to give up his idea. He enlisted the aid of John Ringling, the Circus magnate, and it was thru Ringling that the aid of Wall street was finally enlisted.

Under Rickard's influence Wall street invested money in a sports corporation just as money is invested in a strictly business enterprise. The new garden, erected at Eighth avenue between Fiftieth and Fifty first streets, opened Dec. 11, 1925, when a capacity house saw Jack Delaney .fight Paul Berlenbach in one of their memorable light heavyweight battles.

It was one of the happiest days of Rickard's life when the doors of the new garden were thrown up. While the arena was under construction Rickard remained on the scene from morning until night. He climbed over the girders and watched it grow day by day. It has been said of him that he knew every foot of the building up and down and across. Rickard was often asked why he didn't name the arena Rickard stadium, since it no longer occupied a place at Madison Square, farther downtown.

"Oh, leave me out of It," he would say. "The garden's the only name for it."

Chain of Arenas.

One of the dreams Rickard had planned was wiped out by his death. He visioned a chain of sport arenas all over the country and had already started to realize his ambition by promoting a similar structure to New York's garden at Boston which opened late last year. After the unsuccessful Tunney-Heeney fight in July, 1927, stories appeared frequently in the newspapers that Rickard planned to retire or that he was to be ousted from his position of president and general manager of the garden corporation. In answer to these stories Rickard always said: "I expect to be president of Madison Square garden as long as I live."

With the opening of the new garden, there arrived a new era in boxing. Rickard Interested his backers In boxing and "The Six Hundred Millionaires" replaced the riffraff of the boxing world in the ringside seats at the weekly shows. On Friday nights at the garden celebrities occupied the prominent seats. Ermine coats and evening clothes replaced tattered sweaters and shiny suites.
Rickard, in short, lifted boxing out of the "Brick Alley" class.

Hardest Worker.

Until his death Rickard ever remained the hardest worker around the garden. He was to be found at his sports palace at all hours of the day and night. Many times he has been discovered wandering around the winding corridors alone late in the evenings, Sundays or other odd times. There seemed to be a common tie between Rickard and the garden. They understood each other perhaps as no human being ever understood Rickard.

The newspaper men were always welcome in Rickard's private office at any hour of the day. He was never to busy to talk to a newspaper man and he always had a story. Although Rickard never liked to talk about himself, he enjoyed telling of his early experiences in Texas, Alaska and Goldfield once he warmed up to his subject.

"Write about them fighters," he always said, "Don't write about, me"

It was thru Rickard’s foresight that hockey developed into one of the most popular indoor winter sports in New York city. The garden became a site for all other sports and spectacles and is seldom idle a night in the week. After 23 years of domestic felicity with his second wife, she died in October, 1925. A year later to Miss Maxine Elliott Hodges, a Chicago girl and former actress who at that time was 25. The marriage took place at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Rickard had known, her for eight years before the marriage.

Worshiped Daughter.

A daughter Maxine, was born to them In 1927. Rickard worshiped the baby and in his will left almost three-fourths of his fortune to, her. Rickard's $50,000 yacht was named after the girl.

It was during this period that Rickard was arrested and charged with an attack on four young girls In a West Forty-seventh street apartment. Rickard vigorously denied the charges and, when brought to trial, was acquitted by the Jury after 90 minutes deliberation. Kermit Roosevelt, a son of President, Roosevelt, was called as a character witness in the case and upheld Rickard's character. Asked if he knew Rickard once ran a gambling hall, Roosevelt answered: "I don't think a man who runs a gambling hall is of bad character any more than a person who runs a church is necessarily of good character."


Chapter 11


Tex Rickard knew what the public wanted and he gave it to them— that is, at a certain price and at Philadelphia and Chicago the price was millions. For one thing they wanted to see Jack Dempsey fight. Dempsey was idle for three years after his spectacular battle with Luis Firpo at the Polo Grounds and the public was starved to see him when Rickard began making preparations for the first Dempsey-Tunney bout.

While Dempsey was idle Tunney was building himself up as a contender for the title by defeating Georges Carpentier, Harry Greb,Tommy Gibbons, Bartley Madden, Johnny Risko and others. When Tunney was selected by Rickard, no one, least of all Rickard himself, thought the Marine had a chance to defeat Dempsey. Whereas Rickard has two colorful challenger's in Carpentier and Firpo for his first million dollar fights, he had only Dempsey for the first Tunney fight at Philadelphia. But that was enough. Everyone wanted to see Dempsey in action again.

The first Dempsey-Tunney fight was held on Sept. 24, 1926, and drew a crowd of 130,000 persons who paid $1,895,733.40 to sec Tunney win the heavyweight championship by taking a ten round decision from the old Manassa Mauler.

Tunney's Victory

Tunney staggered Dempsey with a right to the chin in the first round and by the end of the fifth round he had the fight well in hand. Tunney closed Dempsey's left eye and Dempsey was a pitiful sight when he left the ring. The next day Dempsey announced his retirement from the ring. Almost simultaneously there came a concerted demand for Dempsey to come back and early the next year Rickard announced that the winner of his heavyweight elimination tournament would meet Dempsey.

Jack Sharkey, of Boston, former sailor, won the elimination tournament and the right to meet Dempsey. They met at Yankee Stadium July 21,1927, and the result was the fourth million dollar gate in history. The gross receipts for the bout were $1,083,529, and the attendance 83,000. The first round almost saw the finish of Dempsey. Sharkey caught Dempsey on the chin with a vicious right cross and followed it up with a sweeping right which snapped the former champion's head back. But Dempsey weathered the storm and knocked out Sharkey in the seventh round.

The knockout caused a violent protest from Sharkey that he was fouled, but Referee Jack O'Sullivan ruled the punches legal. Midway in the seventh round Dempsey sent a right to the body. Sharkey turned his head to protest to the referee, and Dempsey ripped a left uppercut to the chin. Sharkey went down for the count clutching at his stomach. Now the way was paved for the second Dempsey-Tunney fight.

No Need for Ballyhoo

There was no need for any ballyhoo this time. Dempsey had proved he had regained his fighting edge against Sharkey and Tunney was now the champion. Rickard selected Chicago for the bout, following his policy of never staging two big fights in succession in the same place. The bout was held at Soldier's Field, Chicago, Sept. 22, 1927, and proved to be the greatest sporting spectacle of all time. A crowd of 145,000, the largest ever to sec a sporting event In the United States, paid $2,658,253.72 to see Tunney retain his title.

Statistics on Bout

Number of spectators 145,000
Paid attendance 135,000
Total receipts $2,658,253.72
Tunney's share $990,000
Dempsey's share $447,500
Federal Tax $265,866
State tax , $241,669
Rental of Soldiers Field $100,000
Additional expenses .... $150,000
Rickard's profit $551,154

It may be the last million dollar gate unless Dempsey attempts an other comeback. It will take years and years to find another Dempsey, and then who is there to promote such an attraction?
Dempsey almost won his title back in the seventh round when heknocked Tunney down with two sharp left hooks to the jaw and a right cross. Tunney was on the floor for fourteen seconds, but Referee Dave Barry failed to pick up the count until Dempsey had been waived to a neutral corner. When Tunney arose at nine, Dempsey was unable to catch him as the former retreated around the ring.

Two Failures

During his career Rickard promoted only three financial failures and two of them came In 1928. His first setback was the Bryan Downey- Johnny Wilson middleweight title bout at Boyle's Thirty Acres. His next was the Jimmy McLarnin- Sammy Mandell lightweight title bout at the Polo Grounds early last year. Then came the disastrous Tunney-Heeney heavyweight title bout at Yankee Stadium last July. Rickard blamed the failure of the Tunney-Heeney bout to three things:

(1) Tunney's insistence on the July date ( Rickard maintained the bout should have been held in September).

(2) Federal tax of 25 per cent

(3) Radio broadcasting. The bout drew a gate of only $521,422.23 and Tunney's guarantee alone was $525,000. Heeney received
$100,000. The loss sustained by Madison Square Garden corporation was $155,719.

Tunney won on a technical knockout in the eleventh round and shortly afterwards announced his retirement. Rickard promoted 289 boxing bouts during his career. He promoted every big heavyweight bout from 1910 with the exception of the Willard-Johnson bout at Havana and the Dempsey- Gibbons bout.



Chapter 12


Crowds, not individuals, were the only ones who ever really knew Tex Rickard. He had countless friends, but few, if any of them, ever penetrated his calm, unruffled front. No sport, except golf, ever interested Rickard. He never got excited about any of the fights he ever staged. It was his custom to stand on the outskirts of the crowd and pay little attention to what was happening in the ring. He had a seat in the front at the Garden but no one ever recalled having seen him occupy it.

Rickard was never happier than when his eye could roam over the huge gatherings he attracted to his spectacles. He paid little attention to either of the two Dempsey –Tunney fights. "The Long Count" only concerned him in that it left the way open for another Dempsey-Tunney bout. Gambling was a passion with him, whether the stakes were high or low. He would sit all night in the Garden and hot 10 cents a bout on the amateur boxing matches. He enjoyed putting on an indoor golf course and would rather win a quarter from a boxing writer than $10,000 from a millionaire.

Knew Few Fighters.

He knew few fighters outside the heavyweight division. Once he was returning from St. Louis with a party of newspaper men after signing Gene Tunney to fight Dempsey. The train stopped at Terre Haute, Ind., and a young yellow haired boy climbed aboard. "Hello, Mr. Rickard," he greeted the promoter. "Hello , young feller, what you doing way out here?" : "oh, I live here."
"Yes, that's right. I forgot you did”

When the train pulled out Rickard turned to the newspaperman and asked. "Who's that kid that got on to talk to me.'He was informed that the kid was Bud Taylor, world's bantamweight champion, who had fought for Rickard several times. Rickard's two favorite fighters were James J. Jefferies and Jack Dempsey. He thought Jefferies was the best, but always placed Dempsey
on par with Jefferies because he liked Dempsey better as a man.

Liked Toledo Fight

He thought Jefferies and Dempsey would have attracted a gale of $5,000,000 if they had happened along at the same time. The Dempsey of Toledo fought the best fight he ever saw. It was one of the big surprise of his life when Dempsey battered Willard down in two rounds. Dempsey was the most crushing hitter I ever saw. Rickard said, but Jefferies could take more punishment .than any man I ever watched. He was impossible to hurt in his prime.

Rickard was a man of simple tastes. His favorite dish was corn beef and cabbage, with beef stew and steak a close second. He liked drink, but no one ever saw him drunk. He. preferred cocktails and highballs to straight liquor. He wore light colored suits most of the time. He carried a cane and hooked it over his right forearm When he was standing. When he was out in the open He frequently used it to point with. The most, distinctive part of his dress was his hat. He was seldom seen without a hat on his head. He wore light colored fedoras and turned the rim down. He bought them by the dozens.

Rickard was almost bald. He had a few straggling hairs on his dome which he combed in such a way it partially covered the bald part. He parted his hair almost down around his left ear. He was inveterate smoker. He chewed rather than smoked his cigars. Occasionally he chewed tobacco. His voice was low and sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying. He made mistakes in grammar. "Seed” for "saw" and “heared" for "heard", were his favorite slang expressions. He knew better, but once told newspapermen that they would have him saying "seed" and "heared" whether he said them or not so he always used them anyway. "I never seed anything like it in my life” was the way of expressing surprise.

He never got excited or lost his temper. He was mild, shy and inconspicuous. He was optimistic about his own ventures. He was any easy man to talk to. He had a lot of enemies. They knocked him. But he never paid any .attention to them. His lips were thin and straight. His eyes were cold bluish gray. They were deep set. He blinked them frequently.

Rickard’s private office was a rendezvous for newspapermen. There was nothing high-hat. or formal about Rickard. He was always natural. He wore his hat in his office and put his feet on his expensive mahogany desk which was built for President McKinley.

He was generous and often gave half dollars to urchins who lived in the Garden neighborhood. All the Garden employees called him a "regular guy." He gave Christmas present to all who worked for him. His motto was "Always pay your I. O.U.'s and keep your credit good.''

If he had lived Young Stribling probably would have become heavy weight champion. He believed in Stribling. There would have been nothing crooked about it. His confidence in Stribling would have meant a great deal to the Georgia boy. Rickard had no intention of retiring. He wanted to play a little, but he wan scheming to promote another one of his million dollar fights with Dempsey as one principal when he died.

He had an uncanny fear of the knife. This fear hastened his death. He refused to be operated on until it was too late. He had an acute
attack of appendicitis while he was working on the Carpentier -Dempsey fight. "I haven't got time to slop," he said, and had his appendix frozen. He would have liked his own funeral. he would have thought the many things written about him after he died, "were good publicity” He wouldn't have liked it. if anyone had made, him out a saint. There never will be another Rickard