EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTERS 11-15

 

Chapter 11 Gunboat Gave Greb The Nod

Chapter 12 Make It Inter-Resting

Chapter 13 A Warrior's Pilot

Chapter 14 The Angels Got Bib Gill first

Chapter 15 Not An Inhibition Between Them

 

 

EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTERS 11-15

Harry always planned on retiring after the Tiger Flowers fight page 140

Harry's sister Ira and his daughter Dorothy are interviewed. pages 142-148

He had his right eye removed 3 months after retirement. page 157

Dempsy asked Greb to be his sparring partner for Tunney fight. page 174

Jack Dempsy(sparring with Harry and avoiding a fight) pages 175,176

Greb did a four-round exhibition fight with Jack Johnson. page 175,176

Harry's concern for his looks and his nose. page 183

 

Harry always planned on retiring after the Tiger Flowers fight

When Joe Humphreys anuounced Flowers as the winner-the

judges, but not the referee, voting for him-the fans stormed the ring,

littering it with bottles, hats, paper and everything they could find

to throw, in protest. Jim Crowley, the referee, walked over to Greb.

"Tough, Harry," he said.- "A tough one to lose. It was your fight."

Tunney said, "Harry won by a substantial margin. It was an un-

jutistified decision."

William Muldoon said Greb had won, adding, "but the decision will

stand. If we (the New York Athletic Commission) reversed it, the

Negro people might think they were being discriminated against."

Before Greb entered the ring he had said that, no matter what the

outcome, this was his last fight. Now he was through forever with the

profession in which he had realized his boyhood dreams. Boxing had

been good to him. It had been tough, but it had been fun, too-lucra-

tive fun. He had see-sawed up and down the pugilistic ladder, losing

sometimes but winning most of the time. He hadn't cared a damn so

long as he had always given his best and he always gave his best.

A great champion, he had wanted to be succeeded by a great cham-

pion. But it hadn't turned out that way. Standing there in the Garden

ring for the last time as a fighter, he smiled pensively at the fans who

were protesting the injustice of the decision just handed down, and he

cried.

"The Tiger is all right," he sobbed. "I got nothin' against him. But

-but he's not a champion. He'll lose my title the first time he defends it

against anyone who can fight." (The next time Flowers defended his

title it was less than five months later-he lost it to Mickey Walker

in Chicago.)

 

Harry's sister Ira and his daughter Dorothy are interviewed

There were a lot of callers that morning last summer, but only one

of them had known Greb or had honorable intentions.

"I have not come to tell you any stories about Harry," said Henry

Bluestone, "but to tell you Ida Edwards has been up in arms ever

since Esquire ran an article of yours three years ago called The Wildest

Tiger. (Ida Edwards is one of Greb's three sisters. Closer to him than

anyone else in the family, she and her husband Elmer adopted his

daughter Dorothy following the boxer's death in 1926.)

"What's she angry about?" I asked.

"She didn't like some of the passages in that article, and neither

did I."

"But they're all true, and I can't see that they reflected discredit

to her brother, who had as much license as any other artist to display

his temperament on odd Fridays."

`~She's still huffy," Bluestone said, "and she has Harry's -tenacity.

But she's one of my oldest and dearest friends, as was Harry, and since

my sole interest is in seeing that you get an authentic story of his

career, I'll be glad to act as intermediary. She knows about your book

and is incensed because you haven't tried to see her."

"I`m more anxious to get her side of the story than she is to give it

to me," I said, "and as soon as I come to the place where what she has

to say will stand out I want to talk with her."

Four days before Ida Edwards and I got together last winter Henry

Bluestone was fatally stricken with a heart attack.

It was snowing when I left the William Penn with Ensign Donald

Wilhelm, fresh from two and a half years of action in the South

Pacific and hero medals on his chest as evidence. En route to the

Edwards home we stopped off at the Royal York apartment of Ralph

Richards for some turtle soup made, according to our host, from the

most intellectual turtle in Tyler county, West Virginia, and captured

by that state's most accomplished turtle feeler, same being a sanguin-

ary character named Uticy Bill, who pokes his hand down a hole and,

his hand still intact, pulls out a turtle.

As we were leaving, Mrs. Richards said, "Tell the cabby to take you

to 121 Mayflower Street. That's the Edwards home."

It was the Edwards home, all right, but not J. Elmer Edwards,

husband of Ida Greb Edwards. By the time we made this discovery our

cab was out of sight. It was Sunday night and the snow and wind, as

if we were contesting their authority, were lashing us into hitherto

unsurpassed unhappiness. The soup from that intellectual turtle, plus

the strong water poured by our host, did nothing but impede progress

as we skidded backwards going uphill and aimed at trees' sliding down-

hill. We were an hour overdue when we arrived at 6444 Jackson Street,

where Mrs. Richards should have sent us in the first place, and we were

snowmen with florid complexions. More strong water was essential and

Ida Edwards, looking very young for the mother of two grown daugh-

ters (Audrey, her own, and Dorothy Greb Edwards Wohlfarth by

adoption) was not slow on the draw.

"Poor Henry (Bluestone) was too young to go," I said. "He had

wanted to bring us together in an effort to eliminate any possible

friction."

"A very wonderful friend," Ida said. "We used to loaf by the hour

at his place." (Spalding's Drug Store.)

She didn't say anything for a moment. Then very gently she asked,

"What kind of book are you writing about our Harry?"

"Somewhat spicy. He was not exactly a celibate, you know."

"I know, and I'm not squeamish about his affairs with girls. But he

didn't run around with them during his marriage. I wouldn't want

anything to reflect on Dorothy's children. It was only after the death

of our Harry's wife that he really attained fame. I. should like to see

what you have ~

"The type is locked up and I haven't any carbon copies or proofs.

You'll probably 0bject to some of the passages, but they have been

used, as much as anything else, as vehicles to point up Harry's great-

ness. No other fighter could do what he did and remain at the top of

his profession so long."

There was a large hand colored photograph of Greb on the wall of

the comfortable home he had built in Pittsburgh's beautiful East

liberty. It accentuated his powerful legs.

"They're what pulled him through those awfully hard fights," Ida

said.

A headlight flashed against the window and a car, bulky under

clinging snow, stopped at the front entrance.

"There she is," Ida said, "always late."

It was Greb's daughter Dorothy, and her husband, Phillip Wohl-

farth, Jr. The only other time I had seen her was twenty years ago.

Harry Keck and I had just returned from Madison Square Garden

after covering her father's third fight with Tiger Flowers. He had lost

-not in our or the referee's but in the judges' eyes. We knew it was

his last fight. It was a tough one to lose and we had gone to his

Claridge Hotel suite to console him. Dorothy was standing near the

elevator when we got off. She didn't know us, but her childish intuition

told her we were her father's friends.

"Do you remember, Dorothy?" Ida Edwards said she had brought

Dorothy to New York.

"I vaguely remember being there, but nothing more," Dorothy said.

"I remember the dress you wore," I said. "It was red and it fared at

the bottom."

"That cute little red velvet. dress," Ida said with a bonbon in her

heart. "I had forgotten but now I remember."

A former Pittsburgh model, there is a sweep around Dorothy's eyes

that makes her look like her father's twin. Though the mother of two

children-Harry Greb Wohlfarth Jr., aged six, and Suzanne, aged

four she has the firm figure of a college freshman and is definitely

Hollywood material.

"I barery remember Father," she said.

You don't remember the time he paddled you at his Manhasset,

Long Island, training camp?" Ida asked.

"No."

Dorothy was four at the time. Photographers had seen her flitting

around the grounds and when they learned her identity they nabbed

her and posed her for three hours. Peevish from the ordeal, she refused

to go to her father when he tried to show her off to friends.

"She came to me instead," Ida said. "Our Harry paddled her and

he had to fight me."

When Greb was ten years old he had mapped the course of his

future.

"In fact," Ida said, her eyes warm with sisterly love, her voice soft

and cultured, "he had already put himself on a pinnacle. He would

scurry down into Father's basement, stand on a box, strike a fighting

stance and proclaim himself the world's champion."

At the age of ten he didn't bother to designate which one of the

eight recognized weight divisions of which he was world's champion.

He simply proclaimed himself the world's champion.

Gene Tunney, who of the name fighters fought him more than any-

one else, would find no fault with Greb's all-encompassing designation.

"In my eyes," he said, "Harry was the world's champion."

Greb was a pigeon fancier and he kept a cote on the roof of his

father's home.

"He ran away when he was fourteen," Ida said, refuting the fa

miliar story that his father had asked him to leave after Greb had

returned home one night and admitted having engaged in a ring en-

counter. "Eight months later I got word to him that Father was going

to sell the pigeons. He hurried home and pursuaded Father not to sell

them-and usually when Father came to a decision it was final. He

stayed home six or eight months and then he left again."

Occasionally Greb wrote Ida from Philadelphia but said little about

himself. He didn't tell her that he was fighting such renowned boxers

as Mike Gibbons and, though still a kid, whipping them.

"He told me later," she said, "he had been so badly injured in a

bout that he was sick for six months. He hadn't any money and he was

too proud to tell Father. A baker who was a boxing enthusiast took

him into his home and cared for him."

Ida went to Philadelphia with her brother after he had become so

famous crowds were following him.

"Our Harry would take no interest in them," she said, "and made a

bee-line for the home of the man who had befriended him."

I had heard about the baker. The story was that after Greb had

scaled the fistic heights he had showered the old man with gifts and

affection. But Ida knew nothing about this phase.

"I don't even remember that wonderful man's name'" she said.

The legend of Greb's tremendous stamina, his never-tiring physique

no matter how fast or long or punishing the going, is not completely

born out by Ida.

"He would be exhausted following hard fights or long, gruelling

preparatory workouts," she said.

Conversely, she remembers so vividly a night in Steubenville, Ohio,

a quarter of a century ago. For some unknown reason Greb had been

left alone in his dressing room before being called into the ring.

"When Red Mason and Elmer and I returned," she said, "our

Harry was lying unconsciuos on the floor. He had been chloroformed,

obviously by gamblers betting against him."

Elmer and Mason held him by the feet while they pushed the rest of

him out of a window and swung him to and fro until he was revived.

"Still groggy," she said, "he cut to ribbons a man nearly twice his

size.

Then there wis the night in Pittsburgh when he was boxing Soldier

Jones, the Canadian army's hard-hitting heavyweight. Jones kept his

right hand cocked against his right shoulder. He was awkward looking

as a trotting cow, but a good hitter and he always gave Greb trouble.

"Our Harry was down six times in two rounds," Ida said. "I sat at

ringside and was frantic. It's frightening to see your brother taking

all that punishment. The spectators were stunned. You could have

heard a pin drop; Walter Monahan, a city patrolman, was kneeling

and saying his rosary. Red Mason was so excited he mistook Elmer,

who was helping him in the corner, for our Harry and dashed a bucket

of water into his face at the end of the second round. (Ed. note-The

story I heard was that Elmer needed the water more than Greb had

and Mason knew it.)

"Our Harry recovered quickly in his corner and he tore out of it so

savagely when the bell started the third that Jones tried to dive

through the ropes. Our Harry grabbed him by the loose trunks,

yanked him back in and gave him a terrible beating. Sure he had lost,

our Harry cried disconsolately after the fight, refusing to believe he

had won until early editions of the morning newspapers told of his

decisive victory over Jones."

The re-living of that exciting evening out of the past wore Elmer

down to a yawning frazzle. It was his bedtime anyway. There had been

no casualties. So Ensign Wilhelm and I left with Dorothy and her hus-

band who volunteered to drop us off at the Pittsburgh Playhouse,

where Cuddy DeMarco and his wife Ruth were waiting. It was still

snowing, the flakes big and fluffy, the temperature mild. It was thrill-

ing sitting there beside the smart daughter of my favorite pugilist.

I said, "Dorothy, you know Cuddy, of course."

"Oh yes. Everybody in Pittsburgh knows Cuddy. I understand he

sells everything from diapers to airplanes. But every time I see him

he says, `Well, well, Dorothy, I haven't seen you since you were a

little tyke.'

Dorothy said she had seen him fairly recently and that "I haven.'t

been a little tyke for several years."

At the Playhouse the DeMarcos were occupyrng a table near the

entrance.

"Cuddy," I said, "you remember Dorothy Greb Edwards."

"Certainly," Cuddy said, rising snappily and bowing deeply.

"How are you, Dorothy? You were just a little tyke the last time I

saw you."

Dorothy said, "It was less than two years ago, Cuddy."

Cuddy said, "Dorothy, my dear girl, it has been longer."

I don't remember the outcome of this friendly discussion, since -it

continued until Ida's parting hospitable gesture had looped me, spin-

ning me into a non-retentive mental state.

 

He had his right eye removed 3 months after retirement.

I told Ida that in an earlier chapter I had castigated newspapermen

for writing so many inaccurate stories about Greb, citing as the most

ridiculous of all the one about fighting much of his career after the

removal of a blind eye (the right) and the substitution of a glass one

for it

All of us used to wonder how they dreamed that one up," she said.

you know, of course, it wasn't until three months after his retirement

from the ring in 1926 that he had his right eye removed."

Some of the misinformation that crept into the stories was not

entirely the fault of their authors. Greb usually knew in advance when

reporters were going to interview him.

He would watch for them," Ida said, "and when he saw them he

would yell. to Elmer or to .me to bring him a drink and a cigarette. He

would be smoking and drinking when they arrived and their stock

question was usually, `How on earth can you dissipate this way and

beat great fighters like Tunney ?"

Greb would shrug his shoulders, empty the glass and order another

slug. The reporters didn't know it was just plain unadulterated ginger-

ale and that he didn't inhale the cigarette smoke, and when they got

back to their offices they burned up their typewriters with some of the

most readable misinformation ever to reach the nation's press.

"Some of it was awful," Ida sAid. `Very few reporters knew our

Harry personally and some of the stuff their colleagues turned out

made us wonder if they had ever seen him in the flesh or known anyone

who had."

 

Dempsy asked Greb to be his sparring partner for Tunney fight

In Atlantic City where he was training for his first Tunney fight in.

1926, Jack Dempsey offered Greb a thousand dollars a day to put him

in condition for the bout. Greb, who had retired from the ring two

months before, turned it down.

"1 would feel like a burglar takin' Jack's money," he said. "Nobody

can get him in good enough condition to whip Gene."

 

Jack Dempsy(sparring with Harry and avoiding a fight)

"I worked all of his title fights,"I said,"except two -Gibbons in

Shelby and yours in Chicago and I've met him ,but I don't know him."

A wonderful fellow,"Tunney said."You'll talk with him before fin

ishing your book,of course."

"I want to, "I said,and changed the subject without saying why I

wasn't going to. The reasonis simple. He and Greb were matched by

Charley Murray of Buffalo,but the match was called off and Greb sort

of blamed the old Mauler. Dempsey is noted for his long memory

for faces and I seem to recall being with Greb when they met one day .

Greb glanced up. "Hey,bum,"he said roguishly,`when you gonna fig

ht me? "I've been alittle jittery ever since and saw no reason for

agitating this condition by being identified as a chum of the man who

even in jest had the temerity to call the great Dempsy a bum.

When Dempsey and Greb were in their prime Dempsey weighing

around 185, Greb someplace between 15O-155-specuIation was rife

as to the outcome if they had fought each other. Both were rough-

housers who eschewed boxing rules. Dempsey followers contended he

would have caught up with the f!ashy Greb and flattened him some

time after the tenth, when he would have begun to tire. Greb followers

nearly choked with laughter at such reasoning, maintaining that he

didn't really shift into high until after the tenth.

With justifiable sisterly pride, Ida Edwards said, ~Our Harry

would have whipped Dempsey." Whether or not Dempsey felt that

way, Jack Kearns, his manager, did. In the trainng ring he had seen

Greb open a long gash over one of Dempsey's eyes and cuff him around

with gay abandon. Not once but every time they worked together, he

had seen Greb outspeed, outspeed and outthink his meal ticket and on

at least two occasions Kearns had stopped the uneven proceedings and

thrown Greb out of the ring for being too rough.

 

Greb did a four-round exhibition fight with Jack Johnson.

When Greb was coming up and Jack Johnson was going down they

boxed a four round exhibition in Kid Howards gymnasium in

Chicago.

"It was a pleasure workin' with you, Jack," Greb said, and Johnson,

the first Negro to hold the heavyweight championship, said, "Its al

most impossible to set you up for a punch. You're the fastest man I

ever boxed."

 

Harry's concern for his looks and his nose.

For the first time in most of his adolescent and all of his

adult life, he was at peace with the world he had known. Only Ida

Edwards knew of an immediate preliminary plan. She had wanted to

be with him. "No, kid," he said, "you stay home. I'll be back in two

days." Gay in spirit and vibrantly healthy, he boarded a train with-

out telling anyone else where he was going.

"But when I come back," he whispered waggishly into Mr. Al-

Albacker's ear, "I'll be beautiful - again and everybody'll be saying,

`Look, there goes Barrymore!"

Three days later, October 22 1926, he was dead in an Atlantic

City hospital, the result of hemorrages following an operation on the

nose it had taken a million punches to misshape.




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