Monthly Archives: April 2015

Boxing, Basketball and Hockey Too

This Saturday, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in the most-anticipated boxing match in decades. The welterweights have long been considered the two best fighters in the world, and though boxing has certainly been in decline, the money for this bout is staggering. As champion, Mayweather will receive a 60-40 share of the purse that could net him as much as $180 million, win or lose. Pacquiao will have to get buy on a mere $120 million or so.

Something as simple as a broken finger from a bad bounce could have derailed the whole fight, but despite all the money on the line, Pacquiao, in the days leading up to his last fight in October, and as recently as early March while training for Mayweather, was playing basketball for the team he owns in his native Philippines.

Beginning around 1924, Boston fighter Jimmy Maloney was a fairly successful heavyweight who fought against future champions Jack Sharkey (also of Boston) and Primo Carnera. In fact, Maloney was the first American boxer to beat Carnera during the Italian fighter’s first trip to the United States in 1930.

Art Ross had been known to step into the ring on occasion during his days as a hockey player, and as coach and GM of the Bruins, he allowed Maloney to hit the ice with his team in December of 1932 in a novel training technique that Pacquiao has emulated somewhat.


Maloney lost his next fight to Jose Santa on January 19, 1933, and certainly didn’t earn anything close to $120 million. He had a new manager by the end of 1933 – and probably wasn’t playing much more hockey – but lost what appears to be his last bout to Johnny Risko on January 9, 1934. Before the end of the year, Maloney was out of the fight game and working as a policeman in Miami. He later worked as a referee for boxing and wrestling matches. From what I can find on the internet, Maloney had a career record of 51-18-2 with 26 wins (and nine of his losses) by knockout. He died at the age of 68 on August 1, 1971.

Maloney Cop

Stanley Cup Anniversaries

This will come as little solace to Maple Leaf fans after, really, one of the worst seasons in franchise history. It’s now 48 years and counting since the team’s last Stanley Cup victory, and, yes, the fact that they haven’t even reached the Finals in that time, and have never really been a serious contender, makes it that much worse. But consider these various anniversaries the Stanley Cup marks this season:

Old Stanley Cup TINY100 years: It’s been that long since Vancouver won its one and only Stanley Cup in 1915, when the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association crushed the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association in three straight games in their best-of-five series. But even that isn’t the longest Stanley Cup drought for a current NHL city. Winnipeg hasn’t won the big prize since 1902 – 113 years ago! – when the Victorias defeated the Toronto Wellingtons in January that year, before losing a challenge to the Montreal Hockey Club (aka the Montreal AAA) that March. They may be extreme long shots even to get out of the first round now, but at least the Jets and Canucks gave themselves a chance to end their cities’ Cup droughts this year. So did Ottawa, with an amazing 23-4-4 finish to clinch a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season … although it’s looking pretty unlikely that Senators will bring the Stanley Cup back to the Canadian capital for the first time in 88 years dating back to 1927.

Old Stanley Cup TINY75 years: When the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1940, it marked their third championship in what was then the 14-year history of the franchise. It would be 54 years before they won it again in 1994, setting an NHL futility streak the Leafs seem to be aiming for. The Rangers haven’t won the Cup again in the 21 years since then, which means they’ve only won it once in 75 years! (Maybe twice by June.) Hey, Leafs fans, when you think of it that way, Toronto’s won the Cup 10 times in that stretch.

Old Stanley Cup TINY45 years: It had a lot to do with a format that guaranteed an expansion team a place in the Finals, but the St. Louis Blues played for the Stanley Cup in each of their first three seasons in the NHL. They were swept in all three series, and since their last appearance in 1970, the Blues have never really come close. So, which is worse Leafs fans? No Stanley Cup wins since the last one in 1967, or none EVER since entering the NHL in 1967? (And the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres haven’t won it either since they entered the NHL 45 years ago – which is pretty close to 48.)

Old Stanley Cup TINY40 years: They’ve come close a few times (as recently as 2010), but this year marks four decades since Philadelphia’s last Stanley Cup victory in 1975. In the grand scheme of things, how much worse is 48 years than 40?

Old Stanley Cup TINY25 years: After winning for the fifth time in a span of seven years during the team’s 11-year NHL history, it’s now been 25 years since the Edmonton Oilers won their last Stanley Cup in 1990. If you’re about my age, the Flyers drought and this one have got to make you feel old! At least fans in Edmonton will have Connor McDavid to make them feel better.

Some other anniversaries of note:

90 years: The Stanley Cup victory by the Victoria Cougars in 1925 means it’s now been that long since the last non-NHL team won the Cup.

80 years: The Stanley Cup victory by the Montreal Maroons in 1935 is the last victory by an NHL team that no longer exists.

50 years: Montreal’s seventh-game victory over Chicago on May 1, 1965, marked the first time in hockey history that the Stanley Cup Finals stretched beyond April.

Mini Cup
43 years: Me, with the mini-Cup I’ve had since 1972. It was part of a
whole set of mini NHL trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Blue Jays & Babe Ruth

I attended the Blue Jays’ home opener on Monday, running my streak to 39-for-39 in franchise history. (Even when they were rained out in 1980, I skipped my last class to attend the 4 pm first game two days later.) Of all the books I’ve worked on, my favorite would be when we did the Toronto Blue Jays Official 25th Anniversary Commemorative Book at Dan Diamond & Associates. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago.

Our book came out about the same time that HBO released 61*, which was directed by Billy Crystal. He talked a lot about what a thrill it was for him to tell this story of his childhood heroes. Well, Billy Crystal got to worship Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford when he was a kid … but I’ve been watching for the ENTIRE HISTORY of the team I cheer for. Still, for this story, I’m borrowing from Billy’s team … though from a lot earlier than he remembers.

Recently, I came across Mark Truelove’s web site which displays digitally colourized historical Canadian photographs. It’s AMAZING. My only criticism is there aren’t enough pictures! (I imagine that’s because it takes time for him to do them so well.) The picture below is one of two on Mark’s site featuring Babe Ruth, and it got me wondering what he was doing on stage at the Pantages Theater in Vancouver on November 29, 1926.

Babe Pantages
On stage with Babe Ruth in Vancouver is mayor L.D. Taylor as catcher and
Chief of Police Long as umpire. For a larger image, see Mark’s web site.
For another original shot of Ruth on stage, see the Vancouver Archives

Babe Ruth had had a terrible season by his standards in 1925. That was the year of “The Bellyache Heard ’Round the World” when he arrived at spring training horribly overweight and eventually spent several weeks in hospital with a stomach ailment that has never really been explained. Back in shape for 1926, Ruth rebounded to hit .372 with 47 homers and 146 RBIs.

The Yankees won the American League pennant in 1926, but Ruth made the final out in game seven of the World Series against St. Louis when he was caught trying to steal second base. At the time, this actually seemed to increase his popularity! (Ruth also hit four home runs in the series, including three in game four alone, when he may or may not have promised to hit one for hospitalized 11-year-old Johnny Sylvester, which didn’t hurt his popularity either!) After the series, Ruth went on a short barnstorming baseball tour before hitting the western vaudeville circuit.

On August 31, 1926, Ruth had signed a $100,000 contract with Alexander Pantages. Others had been bidding for his services too, but Pantages, via a long-distance telephone call from Los Angeles, blew them all away with the largest offer in the history of vaudeville. It was generally reported, then and now, that the deal was for 12 weeks, though some stories that fall claimed it was a 15-week tour. Either way, it was a ton of money for a player who’d just earned $52,500 for the six-month baseball season. (Ruth would hold out for $100,000 a year for two years prior to the 1927 campaign, and eventually signed for $70,000.)

Medicine Hat

Ruth’s Pantages tour opened in Minneapolis on October 30, 1926 and made its way west, winding up in California in February of 1927. He seems to have spent several days in most of the cities he visited. Basically, Ruth went on stage, recited a somewhat fictionalized story of his life, talked baseball, demonstrated his swing, and invited boys up with him for autographs. Bill Oram, writing in The Salt Lake City Tribune on July 11, 2011, quotes some of Ruth’s patter from his visit to the Utah capital in late January:

“Mr. Dunn made a pitcher out of me,” Babe Ruth relayed to his hungry audience. He was baseball’s best left-hander early in his career, and that started with the minor-league Baltimore Orioles under the watchful eye of manager Jack Dunn.

“Then he traded me the same day to another club for a batboy,” he embellished. “I was feeling pretty bad in the clubhouse that day when I thought it over. But I figured I could do Mr. Dunn a favor. I went to him and told him the ceiling was leaking in his clubhouse.”

The audience sat rapt.

Ruth paused for the punchline to his tale. “[Dunn] said, ‘You darn boob, that ain’t a leak. That’s the shower bath!’”

In an era when most people could only expect to see him in newsreels, Ruth charmed the crowds everywhere he went. In Vancouver, he had lunch with orphans at a Children’s Aid Society home and visited a disabled boy in hospital. This seems typical of most of his stops, and in some cities he even wrote a column (or, likely had it ghost-written) in local newspapers. Not everyone was enamored of his stage performance, however. Yankee biographers Jonathan Eig and Harvey Frommer both quote Ruth’s teammate Mark Koenig as calling his set, “boring as hell.” Sixteen-year-old Doris Bailey of Portland, Oregon (whose “Doris Diaries” have been published and appear online) thought Ruth was “not so much to rave about. Terribly conceited.”

Babe Posters

Towards the end of the tour, Ruth was arrested in San Diego on January 23 because it was said that by calling up boys on stage with him so that he could sign autographs he had violated California’s Child Labor Laws! Regardless, kids stormed the stage in Long Beach the following night, and Ruth was later acquitted of the charges.

Before leaving California, Ruth lingered a little longer to film the movie Babe Comes Home, in which he plays a ballplayer whose love of a woman is threatened by his addiction to chewing tobacco. Soon after filming, Ruth signed his new contract with the Yankees, and though he got off to a slow start in 1927, he went on to hit .356 with 60 home runs and 164 RBIs (Lou Gehrig hit .373 / 47 / 175 and was named MVP) as the “Murders Row” team went 110-44 en route to winning the World Series.

Shore vs. Orr

As many of you reading this are already aware, I have a biography called Art Ross: The Hockey Legend who Built the Bruins due out this fall with Dundurn. Several stories that have appeared on my web site already have been the result of items I came across while researching Art Ross. More will be coming in the months leading up to the release in September, but this is the first real “commercial” for the book.

In March of 1970, Eddie Shore was in New York to receive the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to hockey in the United States. He was presented with the award at Toots Shor’s Restaurant on the evening of March 9, 1970, but had held court with reporters at the Madison Square Garden press lounge during the afternoon. Shore was asked about the current star of the Bruins defense, Bobby Orr.

Orr painting
Paintings by Darrin Egan. Visit him on Facebook.

I haven’t had that much chance to see Orr play,” Shore admitted. “But when I first watched him as a junior, I said he would be outstanding. He’s obviously a fine skater but I think the best thing about him is his ability to adjust his own speed to anticipate the speed of the players whom he is giving a pass.

Those present wondered how Orr would have fared in Shore’s era, and somebody wondered if Shore had ever thought that a defenseman might win the NHL scoring title, as Orr was en route to doing.

Yes, I believe one might have,” Shore said with a sly grin. “But maybe I shouldn’t really be specific.” Tom Fitzgerald, writing in the Boston Globe, noted that it didn’t take much urging for Shore to elaborate.

Shore painting
Contact Darrin at:

Sure, I think I might have done it myself at least one year, but it would have cost me money. You see, when I carried the puck in, if I shot instead of passing, Art Ross had a standing fine of $500. It would have been too expensive.

Ross had been dead for nearly six years at this time, so he wasn’t there to comment. Still, he’d told a very different type of story to Lester Patrick’s sons, Lynn and Muzz, back in 1958, which was reported by Dave Anderson, then of the New York Journal-American:

When Leo Dandurand owned the Canadiens,” Ross explained, “he was in Chicago one night and we were there. So I invited him to sit down on the bench with me. After a while, I said to him: ‘Leo, would you like to see Shore score a goal?’ And he said: ‘What?’ So I asked him again. ‘Do you want to see Shore score a goal? I’ve got a signal.’ Without waiting for him to answer, I caught Shore’s eye and gave him the signal.

Ross pointed his right forefinger, then rotated it clockwise; all the time holding his hand near his hip so as not to be conspicuous. Then he continued:

“Shore got the puck, took off, and wham! Goal! So Dandurand looked at me and said: ‘Can you do that anytime you want?’ ‘Sure,’ I told him, ‘and not only that, he’ll keep doing it until I tell him to stop.’ So, I caught Eddie’s eye again and give him a wave. That was the signal to stop. I didn’t want to overdo a good thing.

AHR & Shore
Photo courtesy of Art Ross III

Could either Shore’s or Ross’s tale be true? It’s difficult to say. Sportswriters for a long time rarely let the facts get in the way of a good story, and there’s little reason to believe the subjects of those yarns were any better!

Canucks Go For Pucks at Gonzaga

During the late 1980s, when I was at my most interested in NCAA basketball, I had a fondness for Gonzaga University. Partly that was because Gonzaga grad John Stockton was starring alongside Karl Malone with the NBA’s Utah Jazz, whom I also liked at the time. Admittedly, though, a big part of it was that I just liked to say, “Gonzaga!”

A couple of years ago, Canadian star Kelly Olynyk (now with the Boston Celtics) led Gonzaga to the top seed in the West Region at the NCAA tournament. Sadly, after a 31-2 regular season, the Zags (their actual nickname is the Bulldogs) went out in the second round. This year, with Canadians Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga was 32-2 and were seeded second in the South. The Zags reached the “Elite Eight” for just the second time in school history, but were eliminated this past weekend by top-ranked Duke in the South Region Final and so failed to reach this weekend’s Final Four.

More than 75 years ago, Gonzaga used a Canadian connection to briefly become a West Coast hockey power. Coach and promoter Denny Edge ran Gonzaga’s hockey team. He was born in England, but raised in Regina, where he played junior hockey from 1918 to 1922, helping the Regina Pats reach the finals of the 1922 Memorial Cup. Edge played pro hockey in Los Angeles in 1926-27 and then managed the rink in Portland, Oregon until 1936 before moving to Spokane, Washington, to coach at Gonzaga.

Denny Edge wears the suit, Frank McCool wears the pads,
and Jerry Pettigrew stands on the right.

Edge tapped his home province of Saskatchewan for hockey players to take to Gonzaga – particularly the town of North Battleford. Future NHL goalie and executive Emile Francis was a young boy in North Battleford at the time and remembers the exodus of local talent. Jerry Pettigrew had led the North Battleford Beavers to the Allan Cup (Canadian amateur championship) Finals against Sudbury in the spring of 1937 before being recruited to Gonzaga that fall. Several other local boys made the trip with him and Gonzaga won the West Coast Amateur Hockey title in 1937–38. In their final game of the season they defeated the Big Ten champion University of Minnesota 5-1.

Edge added goalie Frank McCool of Calgary to the Gonzaga roster in 1938-39. McCool, later known as “Ulcers,” would famously win the Calder Trophy and the Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an NHL rookie in 1944–45 while guzzling milk between periods to calm his roiling stomach. In his first of two seasons at Gonzaga, McCool led the team to the Pacific Northwest Amateur championship, a second straight West Coast Amateur title, and the Pacific Coast Collegiate championship.

James “Stocky” Edwards of Battleford, Saskatchewan isn’t a name most hockey fans will know. He was one of Canada’s leading air aces of World War II, but before that, Edwards played hockey at St. Thomas College, a Catholic high school in Battleford. He was small, but determined and very competitive. Barbara and I have visited with Stocky and his wife Toni several times before and after she wrote The Desert Hawk. He and I have talked hockey a bit, and I also had the chance to speak with Emile Francis about him.

Jim Edwards is on the right with brothers Paul (center) and Edd Ballandine.

It had been decades since Francis faced Stocky (or had even seen him) when Stocky was finishing up at St. Thomas and Francis was a freshman at North Battleford Collegiate. Still, he remembered him as an excellent shooter who would cut hard for the net from the right wing. “He didn’t take the ‘overland route,’” said Francis, who added that the first time he played against Howie Meeker of the Toronto Maple Leafs he thought, “This guy reminds me of Jimmy Edwards.”

Edwards was good enough that Johnny Gottselig of the Chicago Blackhawks arranged for him to have a tryout with the team. He also attracted the interest of Denny Edge, who recruited him for Gonzaga. Excited as he was by the NHL attention, Edwards planned to further his education at the Spokane University … but decided to join the RCAF instead. Edwards went on to a career in the Air Force, while Denny Edge’s powerhouse hockey program at Gonzaga University became a forgotten casualty of the Second World War.