Promoting the Manly Art of Scrambling Ears

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/February 24, 1926

At 6 A. M. every morning, Mr. Jim Mullen begins meeting the incoming trains at the different Chicago stations, bouncing from one to the other with astonishing rapidity, to greet the wayfaring representatives of the manly art of scrambling ears.

It is claimed for Mr. Jim Mullen that he has a record of having met two trains arriving at identically the same time, and at different stations. I do not quite understand by what process of legerdemain Mr. Mullen accomplished the feat, but I do not doubt it.

Perhaps there are two Mr. Jim Mullens. I feel sure that there must be more than one, because I have never been in Chicago that I did not see a Mr. Jim Mullen, or a Mr. Harry Hochstadter, which really amounts to the same thing. Mr. Mullen and Mr. Harry Hochstadter, who was christened Heine and adopted the Harry to catch the Irish trade, are partners.

They conduct a gymnasium in the Loop which is the headquarters for the visiting firemen in the manly art of scrambling ears. They both have keys to the cash register, but the master key is by mutual agreement in the custody of Mr. Society Hogan, their social secretary, and the register is opened only in the presence of competent witnesses. Thus Mr. Jim Mullen and Mr. Hochstadter get along very well together, and make money.

They are arranging to open a new gymnasium, which will be the largest in the middle West. This is against the coming to Chicago of legalized boxing, when it is expected the city will require extensive quarters for the exponents of the manly art.

For years Mr. Jim Mullen has been the leading pugilistic entrepreneur of these parts – in fact, about the only one. He is the best known and undoubtedly the most capable of the midwestern promoters, and I am inclined to think that when the pulling and hauling ceases around Chicago after the boxing law comes in, Mr. Jim Mullen will be found among the fittest surviving the early struggles.

To begin with, Mr. Jim Mullen knows what it’s all about. He is thoroughly familiar with every angle of the boxing game. He knows every boxer and every manager of any importance in the country. He has extended favors in one form or another to most of them. Few boxers or managers would think of passing through Chicago without pausing to say hello to Jim Mullen.

He is a boxing big leaguer, at heart. He has all the gambling instinct of a Tex Rickard in the matter of making matches, and he is a real showman. Moreover, he has a real interest in the boxing game, aside from any potential profit to himself. He has been keeping the game alive around Chicago for some years by promoting bouts in East Chicago at a financial loss.

His arena is too far from the Loop to draw well, but Mr. Jim Mullen has gone on putting on real shows weekly just the same with the idea of keeping up interest in boxing until the game is legalized. He had much to do with the passing of the law by the last legislature which gives the cities of Illinois local option in the matter of boxing.

Mr. Jim Mullen is thick-set red-faced man with iron gray hair, who looks as if he might have been cut out for a priest. He was formerly an iron worker. I have this on the authority of Mr. Harry Hochstadter, who is a well known sports writer in addition to being Mr. Mullen’s partner.

Mr. Jim Mullen is either in the late forties, or up in the early fifties. He is always in good humor, even when he sees Mr. Harry Hochstadter bearing down upon the cash register alone. He knows that Mr. Hochstadter must have his own, and the master key.

I presume that Mr. Jim Mullen must sleep somewhere some time, but I often wonder when, and where. He is always around. He certainly does not sleep in the daytime, after the custom of Mr. Nate Lewis, and he cannot sleep at night, because you see him here and there. I am almost convinced that there is more than one Mr. Jim Mullen.

His word is accepted throughout the Manly Art of Scrambling Ears. His telegrams on matches hold as well as written contracts. He has no trouble in getting bouts for his little East Chicago arena, putting on stars who know they cannot get a great deal of money, but who like to favor Mr. John Mullen.

Oddly enough, Mr. Jim Mullen has an even greater weakness than boxing in sport. It is football. He is an out-and-out football bug, especially on Midwestern football which he holds is the best football in the world.

He attends all the football games around Chicago. He followed the Illinois team to Pennsylvania last year, and then remained in the East to see other games. He went back to Chicago convinced that the football of that section is far ahead of the football of the East.

I have an idea that when the boxing bill becomes a law in Chicago, Mr. Jim Mullen will bob up with a big arena, and will be promoting the biggest shows in that city. He is saying very little about the matter now, and does not even admit that he will be in the field. I am informed by others, however, that he is well prepared to do business on a large scale when the time comes.

He will have one tremendous advantage on his competitors in his personal acquaintance among the boxers and the managers, and their confidence in Mr. Jim Mullen’s integrity and ability, although it may surprise you to learn that a man can enjoy a reputation for such in The Art of Scrambling Ears.

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