T-60 Comes to Life

Damon Runyon

Intelligencer Journal/October 15, 1927

I have received many complaints of late because of the protracted silence of my well-known west coast operative, T-69 otherwise Mr. Hap O’Connor. Some of my readers have been wondering if something had happened to Mr. O’Connor, but a report about two feet long has just reached me from him, and it seems that he was merely slightly incapacitated for a time.

It seems that Mr. O’Connor wounded his typewriter finger opening a bottle. Mr. O’Connor preserves the one-touch method. This is no underhanded crack. Mr. O’Connor sustained his wound on board a Spanish ship in the harbor of Los Angeles. It seems that there are a lot of foreign vessels out there just now, and Mr. O’Connor, who is known as America’s Guest, called around among them.

“Yesterday I was in France, Italy, Spain and Germany,” writes Mr. O’Connor. “The day before I visited Sweden, England, Japan and South America. They sure treated me fine on these boats. The crew all talk to me in their own language, and I just shake my head yes, because I found out they are generally asking if I wish refreshments, which of course I do. It comes natural to me.

“My hands are calloused from handling glass on these boats. The Germans don’t drink cold beer and never have it cold for us visitors, so we have to bring our own ice. It is very inconvenient. Well, I suppose you want a report on the athletic activities of the Pacific Battle Fleet.”

Sailors at Football

I gather from Mr. O’Connor’s report that the Battle Fleet has opened its 1927 football season. It seems that they have just opened a new navy stadium at Point Firmin, San Pedro, which is Los Angeles Harbor, and Mr. O’Connor says that 15,000 bluejackets, marines and civilians saw two games free of charge.

“I guess this is the only place in the world where a fellow can spend Saturday afternoons in the Los Angeles harbor district without laying anything on the line,” says Mr. O’Connor.

“I would rather stay here and witness one of those bluejacket gridiron contests that take in one of them Dempsey-Tunney fights. As far as fights are concerned you can see plenty of that in one of these sailors football games.

“The sailors take to this pigskin game like they do when they are in the battle turrets aboardship firing them 14- and 16-inch salvos.

“I sat in the stands on the sunny side between two old navy war horses, Lieutenant Jack Kennedy and Lieutenant John Sharpe.

“Both of these old-timers sat puffing their old pipes watching the battleships California and Arizona do their stuff on one field and the battleships Mississippi and Colorado on the other.

Two Old-Timers Talk

“Kennedy and Sharpe got to talking about their old billet, the Great Lakes Training Station at Chicago, in which I guess they had about 30,000 men to look after in athletics.

“Kennedy and Sharpe tell me that during the World War, they refereed more than one thousand fights between the rookie sailors.

“And since the war, ten years ago, Kennedy has officiated in around a thousand more fights. Sharpe has retired from officiating in fights, but Kennedy is still very much in the ring and can be seen every now and then at the local fight stadium on the Pacific Coast.

“In today’s football game there were two players that, counting this season, are on their seventeenth year straight of navy football.

“They are Matty Gillis, right guard, of the battleship Mississippi, and Johnny Struckus, the flagship California’s fullback and captain.

“Both played an outstanding game in all four periods of the contest, both being responsible for their ships being on the long end of the score.

“Another old-timer who right now is the greatest open field runner in the west coast navy is Leo Fielding, the battleship Idaho’s big Indian fullback. Fielding is playing his twentieth year of navy football and is the most feared back in navy football circles.

Up-to-Date Stuff

“Jack Kennedy and John Sharpe said today that this sure is an up-to-date navy now. With hot and cold showers and nice green grass to play on, and all kinds of padding on your straight jacket.

“Jack says a fellow has to be a Houdini to get into one of these football suits nowadays, Kennedy and Sharpe said when they played football it was in brickyards, etc., and after one of them old-time navy football games a fellow was lucky to get out of bed the next Friday before the game.

“Football now is the navy’s major sport, pulling races next. I guess more money changes hands on a boat race than on a football game. But football in the navy seems to draw the biggest sailor crowd and hold ’em all afternoon.

“The west coast navy’s major football league consists of the following battleships: California, Colorado, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada.

“Then there is the Train Force or Fleet Base Force consisting of the hospital ship Relief, Procony, Medusa, and other smaller war craft.

“Then we have the Submarine divisions and the Naval Air Force teams and the Destroyer force elevens at San Diego.

“The winners of the battleship divisions play the San Diego naval district champions and then the fleet base force comes in. And the team that beats all of these is declared the Pacific fleet football champions.”

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