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-
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"I barery remember Father," she said.
You don't remember the time he paddled you at his Manhasset,
Long Island, training camp?" Ida asked.
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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.