FAKE MATCHES KILLED WRESTLING SAYS AL SPINK IN HIS MEMOIRS
Recollections of Muldoon, the Solid Man, Whistler and All Those Once-Famous Masters of the Mat
BY AL SPINK, FAMOUS SPORTING WRITER
Originally Published In The Reno Evening Gazette, Saturday, March 8, 1919, Page 3.
The wrestling matches of today are funny affairs.
The match between Frank A. Gotch of Humboldt, Iowa, and George Hackenschmidt of Dorpat, Russia, which took place in Chicago on September 4, 1912, (Editors’ Note: It was 1911.) you might say ended real wrestling in this country.
The gate receipts were $87.053, and the immense crowd which paid in this money got nothing for its pains but a view of Gotch throwing the Russian around as you would a dishrag.
For his pains in losing, Hackenschmidt received $13,500, and his manager, Jack Curley, got $29,937 for his share.
Gotch, the winner, got $31,500 and fifty per cent of the moving picture profits.
The Russian claimed that his awful defeat was due to an injury to his left knee, which he had sustained several days before while in training, although the night before the match he had declared himself in first-class condition.
The Public Stung Once
Just before and ever since the fake match in Chicago, wrestling has been in had the country over, but it goes on as usual although the interest taken in the sport by those who followed it in its palmy days amounts to little.
Once stung, the public is slow to return to any pastime that is in bad repute. And it may be a long while before the wrestling game is put back on a winning basis.
There was a time, however, when America went wrestling mad.
It was in the ‘70s that the game of Greco-Roman wrestling was first introduced to this country.
It was brought here in 1875 by Prof. Theodore Bauer, who a little while before had electrified the people of France by appearing as "The Masked Wrestler of Paris" and throwing all men who dared face him.
Bauer Throws Gerichten
I call to mind this Bauer person as the most beautifully formed man I had ever laid eyes on. In height he was a little over six feet, and he weighed a little over 200 pounds. His limbs were as smooth as a woman’s, not a hump or bunch of muscle showing anywhere.
Arrivng in New York early in 1875, and finding no man there willing to wrestle him, Bauer hurried on to San Francisco.
There Prof. Louis Gerichten was the boxing and gymnastic instructor of the Olympic Athletic Club, as well as the fencing and wrestling instructor of the various turnvereins of the big Coast city.
All California considered him invincible, but in a jiffy Bauer was his master, throwing him easily in the first two rounds of the scheduled three.
This match launched Greco-Roman wrestling in this country.
Brought From Australia
To secure an opponent willing and able to hold his own against so great a wrestler as Bauer, the Olympic Club sent to Australia for Prof. William Miller.
This Australian was a great, powerful, all-around athlete, wrestler and master-at-arms.
When he met Bauer all California was hopeful, but while the match lasted longer than its predecessor, Bauer again proved victorious.
The match created a furor all over the country, and every large city brought forward a wrestler ready and anxious to test speed and strength with the Frenchman.
There was plenty of material ready for development and it came from all over.
Muldoon, the Solid Man
Among those who sprang into prominence at this time were William Muldoon, a member of the Broadway squad of policemen in New York City. He became famous in a few weeks by throwing all opponents easily in the police tournaments held in the metropolis.
Sporting writers called him “the noblest Roman of them all," and he was, perhaps, the finest-formed man ever seen in an American arena.
He was so handsome that when Modjeska, the Russian actress, laid eyes-on him she fell in love with him and immediately employed him to take the part of Charles the Wrestler in the play of "As You Like It," in which she was then appearing.
Whistler and Muldoon
Contemporaneous with Muldoon was Clarence Whistler, a wild Westerner, the only man then living fit and able to give Muldoon an argument.
Whistler when off the stage carried a gun and a bowie knife, and he would brandish these before Muldoon and threaten to kill him if he did not wrestle lightly.
Muldoon by nature was the stronger of the two, for he was always in condition, while Whistler was seldom outside the influence of liquor.
But Muldoon feared Whistler as he did the devil, and, although the firm of Muldoon and Whistler coined money Muldoon was always uncomfortable while the partnership lasted.
Of the champions who at the time became jealous of the success of Whistler and Muldoon were such later famous wrestlers as T. Bauer, the Russian giant; Matsada Sorakichi, the Japanese champion; Andre Christol, the little French giant; Duncan C. Ross, the Scotch wrestling; Tom Connor, Endland’s champion collar-and-elbow wrestler, and Edwin Bibby, the English Champion at Greco-Roman.
I saw all these men wrestle at various times, but Muldoon was always the master.
Of the entire company of great wrestlers at that time there was not one to compare with Muldoon in splendid looks, in wonderful stature and magnificent muscle and strength.
Behind the Scenes
Bauer came nearest to him, but it was only in height that Bauer possessed an advantage. I recall a bout in which the two were the principals, and I thought they were doing their level best, but happening behind the scenes between falls I heard Bauer say to Muldoon:
“If you want me to go on, Mul, you’ll have to throw me lighter than you did then. If you don’t, I’ll never go on with you again.”
Then, for the first time, I discovered that the entire game of wrestling was rotten. Later, I learned more about it, but this was my first awakening.
Of all the wrestlers in the world I had looked on as being worthy of esteem and confidence, Muldoon appeared in my eyes the worthiest and squarest of the lot. And now even that dream was shattered.
I could go on forever telling of fake matches, but space will not permit. It is enough to say that there is a fine field for wrestling in this country if it could only be carried on in an honest and sportsmanlike manner. But that appears out of the question.
Time was when the wrestler was a great man in his peculiar field of sport. When the (illegible) animated merry England wrestling was never omitted from the program of the semi-occasional jousting.
Nero had his wrestler, and there was the same kind of sport in the time of King David.
Fifty years of France, Russia, Norway, Japan, China and other countries had added wrestling to their form of general athletics and created champions who came to this country and challenged our wrestling champions.
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