So Long, 1933

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/January 1, 1934

Now what of sport of 1933? Well, you remember the old story of the young man who was bankrolled by his pals to go to a far city to play the noble game of faro. He was an expert player, the game was reported thriving in the alien sector, and they expected nice dividends from their investment.

Not hearing from the young man for some time after his departure, the pals wired him one day:

“How is the game?”

Back came the terse replay:

“Game good, send more money.”

That is about the way it was with sport in 1933.

Artistically, sport was even more successful than usual in 1933. Financially, it was a flop. With the ides of December, the professional promoters, at least, were absolutely convinced that the big money days of sport are definitely over, something they had commenced to suspect several years ago.

And yet o’er an amateur field that had been darkened by gloom spread a new glow. I here refer to college football, which took a sound leathering at the box offices in 1932. The stadiums began filling up again in 1933, with crowds of 80,000 on several suspicious occasions.

East and West.

To my mind, the highlight of the year was the winning of the National League pennant and the world’s series by the New York Giants under “Memphis Bill” Terry. This was a case where the rank outsider came dashing home the winner. It was the most spectacular baseball event in years, yet many empty seats yawned at New York and in Washington.

Drama, and perhaps a touch of tragedy, was provided by Mrs. Helen Wills Moody, one of the greatest woman tennis players this country has ever produced, when she walked off the tennis courts, suddenly and without warning, while in competition against Mrs. Helen Jacobs, leaving her title to her sister Californian.

Mrs. Moody was ill—has been ill ever since, in fact. Physically, she was unequal to the task she imposed upon herself. She was rather more severely criticized in some quarters than I thought she deserved, and that was the tragedy in the passing of a great champion.

Notre Dame Drama

Another tremendously dramatic event of the year was the astounding victory of Notre Dame over Army’s unbeaten football horde before a huge crowd in New York. Notre Dame’s team went through one of the most disastrous football seasons in its history. Yet by a tremendous rally in the final quarter Notre Dame emerged victorious, though it seems that wasn’t enough to save the job of “Hunk” Anderson, its head coach successor to the football immortal, Knute Rockne, for soon afterwards Anderson was evicted, and Layden, one of Rockne’s celebrated “Four Horsemen,” takes over the job. 

Another stirring chapter in football events of 1933 was the rise of Princeton, after a dolorous gridiron period that extended over several years. Under a bustling new football coach, “Fritz” Christler, the Nassau Tigers wound up undisputed champions of the collegiate East.

They could have had the invitation from Stanford for the Rose Bowl game that went to Columbia but Princeton has an agreement with Yale that prevents post-season games. Thus Columbia received the distinction of being the first New York City team to be invited to the Rose Bowl. It was beaten only by Princeton during the season. Stanford ended the championship regime of University of Southern California on the West Coast. It had commenced to look as if Howard Jones’ men were permanent champs.

The boxing game remains very sad. Primo Carnera won the heavyweight championship of the world by flattening Jack Sharkey, who got the title from Max Schmeling. Before the Carnera-Sharkey fight, Jack Dempsey, the old Manassa Mauler, came to New York and promoted a battle between Max Schmeling and Max Baer. Taking that match was one of the few managerial errors ever credited to Joe Jacobs, manager of the German. He could have grabbed Sharkey instead, and would have regained the title, as Sharkey seems to be all washed up.

Baer Real Contender

Baer knocked out Schmeling, and became the foremost contender for the big title, but he immediately stopped fighting and went into the movies. Madison Square Garden has a contract on Carnera, the champion. Baer says he will not fight Carnera unless Jack Dempsey has “a piece” of the promotion.

The Garden says it doesn’t care for any partners.

Barney Rosa, a young Chicago Hebrew, won the lightweight title from Tony Canzoneri, and successfully defended it against Tony later on. Jimmy MacLarnin became the welterweight champion by beating Young Corbett III, and then hung up his gloves for a long, long recess. Vincent Dundee arrived at the middleweight title, on a pretty fair claim thereon. Freddie Miller disputes the featherweight title with Kid Chocolate and Kid Chocolate was knocked out by Canzoneri in an overweight match.

But nowhere did these various events attract any considerable attention—or money. Especially money. Baer and Schmeling drew the top gate of the year, $200,000, yet the promoters failed to make any profit, while Carnera and Sharkey turned up one of the lowest heavyweight championship “takes” in years, though the show made upwards of $35,000.

The indoor boxing receipts fell off woefully all over the country. The public definitely soured on the boxing game. Whether or not it will ever come back remains to be seen. There are very few drawing cards in the game, and these drawing cards rarely appear. Most of the big arenas that were thrown up in various cities throughout the country on the flood tide of interest in boxing have been bankrupt for some time.

Professional football continued its steady growth during 1933. The “exhibition” form of wrestling, which thrived enormously for a time, continued to draw, but not like it did in the beginning. And in general, sport probably had less to kick about than any other field dependent upon public patronage for its livelihood.

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