Tex Rickard

Last updated
Tex Rickard
Tex Rickard.jpg
Tex Rickard
Born
George Lewis Rickard

(1870-01-02)January 2, 1870
DiedJanuary 6, 1929(1929-01-06) (aged 59)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
OccupationGambler, bartender, boxing promoter
Years active1896–1929
Known for Rebuilt Madison Square Garden
First to promote boxing to large audiences
Spouse(s)Leona Bittick (1894–1895; her death)
Edith Mae Haig (1902–1925; her death)
Maxine Hodges (1926–1929; his death)
Children3
Tex Rickard in 1916 Tex Rickard in 1916.jpg
Tex Rickard in 1916

George Lewis "Tex" Rickard (January 2, 1870 – January 6, 1929) was an American boxing promoter, founder of the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL), and builder of the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden in New York City. During the 1920s, Tex Rickard was the leading promoter of the day, and he has been compared to P. T. Barnum and Don King. Sports journalist Frank Deford has written that Rickard "first recognized the potential of the star system." [1] Rickard also operated several saloons, hotels, and casinos, all named Northern and located in Alaska, Nevada, and Canada.

Contents

Early years

Rickard was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His youth was spent in Sherman, Texas, where his parents had moved when he was four. His father died and his mother then moved to Henrietta, Texas while he was still a young boy. [2] Rickard became a cowboy at the age of 11, after the death of his father. [3] [4] At the age of 23, he was elected marshal of Henrietta, Texas. [5] He acquired the nickname "Tex" at this time. [2] [5] On July 2, 1894, Rickard married Leona Bittick, the daughter of a Henrietta physician. On February 3, 1895, their son, Curtis L. Rickard, was born. Leona Rickard died on March 11, 1895, and Curtis Rickard died on May 4, 1895. [6]

Alaska

In November 1895, Rickard went to Alaska, drawn by the discovery of gold there. [5] Thus he was in the region when he learned of the nearby Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Along with most of the other residents of Circle City, Alaska, he hurried to the Klondike, where he and his partner, Harry Ash, staked claims. [5] They eventually sold their holdings for nearly $60,000. [5] They then opened the Northern, [5] a saloon, hotel, and gambling hall in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. [7] [8] Rickard lost everything—including his share of the Northern—through gambling. [5] While working as a poker dealer and bartender at the Monte Carlo saloon and gambling hall, he and Wilson Mizner began promoting boxing matches. [5] In spring 1899, with only $35, [4] Rickard (and many others) left to chase the gold strikes in Nome, Alaska. [5] While in Nome, he met Wyatt Earp who was a boxing fan and had officiated a number of matches during his life, including the infamous match between Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey in San Francisco on December 2, 1896. The two became lifelong friends, though for a brief period of time, they were competing saloon owners in Nome, where Rickard owned the Northern hotel and bar. [9] [10] In 1902, Rickard married Edith Mae Haig of Sacramento, California. They had one daughter, Bessie, who died in 1907. Edith Rickard died on October 30, 1925, at her home in New York City. [11]

Nevada

By 1906, Rickard was running the Northern saloon and casino in Goldfield, Nevada. [4] [12] In Goldfield, he promoted professional boxing match between Joe Gans and Battling Nelson. The gate receipt of $69,715 set a record. [6] A year later, Rickard opened the Northern Hotel in Ely, Nevada. [13] Rickard also organized the Ely Athletic club and was the owner of several mining properties in the Ely area. [14]

In December 1909, Rickard and John Gleason won the right to stage the world heavyweight championship fight between James J. Jeffries and Jack Johnson. [15] Rickard planned to hold the fight on July 4, 1910, in San Francisco, however opposition from Governor James Gillett and Attorney General Ulysses S. Webb caused Rickard to move it to Reno, Nevada. [16] Rickard and Gleason made a profit of about $120,000 on the fight, which was won by Johnson. [17]

South America

On February 18, 1911, Rickard announced that he was "through with the business of prize fighting" and set sail for Argentina. [18] There, he acquired between 270,000 and 327,000 acres in Paraguay to start a cattle ranch. [6] Rickard managed the ranch for the Farquhar syndicate, whose land holdings in South America total over 5 million acres. At its peak, the ranch consisted of about 1 million acres and had between 20,000 and 50,000 head of cattle. [6] [19] In 1913, Rickard's ranch was involved in a political controversy between Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. Two of his employees were killed by Bolivian soldiers stationed in the disputed territory. That same year, Rickard accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on part of the Roosevelt–Rondon Scientific Expedition. The cattle business failed by the end of 1915 and Rickard's loss was stated to be about $1 million. [6]

Return to boxing

In 1916, Rickard returned to the United States. [6] On February 3, Jess Willard agreed to Rickard's offer to fight Frank Moran in New York City. [20] The fight was held on March 17, 1916, at Madison Square Garden, then in its second incarnation, at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The $152,000 in gate receipts set a new record for an indoor event and the purse was the largest ever awarded for a no decision. [6]

Rickard promoted the July 4, 1919 fight between world heavyweight champion Jess Willard and Jack Dempsey in Toledo, Ohio. [21] The fight only drew 20,000 to 21,000 spectators (the area seated 80,000) and the total receipts were estimated to be $452,000. [22] After expenses, Rickard made a profit of $100,000. [6]

After the Willard–Dempsey fight, Rickard began bidding for a title match between Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. [23] The Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier fight took place on July 2, 1921, in a specially built arena in Jersey City, New Jersey. The bout, which drew a record crowd of 90,000, was the first-ever boxing fight to produce a million dollar gate (at a then record of $1,789,238) as well as the first world title fight to be carried over on radio. [24] [25] Rickard's profit on the fight was reported to be $550,000. [26]

On July 12, 1920, shortly after the Walker Law reestablished legal boxing in the state of New York, Rickard secured a ten-year lease of Madison Square Garden from its owner, the New York Life Insurance Company. [27] He promoted a number of championship as well as amateur boxing bouts at the Garden. His largest gate at the Garden came from the Jack Dempsey–Bill Brennan fight on December 14, 1920. The Benny Leonard–Ritchie Mitchell and Johnny WilsonMike O'Dowd fights also drew well. [28] In addition to boxing, Rickard hosted a number of other events, including six-day bicycle races, and constructed the world's largest indoor swimming pool at the Garden. [28]

On February 17, 1922, Rickard was indicted on charges of abducting and sexually assaulting four underage girls. He lost his license to make and promote boxing matches in New York State and gave up control of the Garden. [28] [29] Rickard was found not guilty on one of the indictments on March 29, 1922, and the others were dropped as a result. [30] After the trial, Rickard's attorney, Max Steuer, accused two workers of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children of demanding $50,000 from Rickard in exchange for the girls changing their testimony at trial; however, the district attorney could not find any evidence to corroborate this claim. [31] [32]

On May 12, 1923, Rickard promoted the first boxing card at Yankee Stadium. It drew 60,000 spectators (a then-record crowd for a boxing bout in New York state) and made $182,903.26, which was donated to Millicent Hearst's Milk Fund. [6] [33]

On September 14, 1923, Rickard promoted his second million dollar gate when around 100,000 people attended the Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Ángel Firpo fight at the Polo Grounds. [6]

In September 1924, Rickard promoted the fight between Luis Ángel Firpo and Harry Willis in Jersey City. The fight was attended by 60,000, but the paid attendance was only 48,500. [34] Rickard lost $5,005 on the bout. [35]

On March 19, 1925, Rickard was convicted of violating a federal law that prevented the interstate transportation of fight films. He faced jail time, but was instead fined $7,000. [36]

In 1926, Rickard promoted the Jack Dempsey–Gene Tunney fight at Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia. The bout attracted a world record crowd of 135,000 and brought in a record gate of $1.895 million. He also promoted the rematch, now known as The Long Count Fight, which was held on September 22, 1927, at Soldier Field in Chicago. This fight brought in the first $2 million gate ($2.658 million) and was the first of feature a $1 million purse. [6]

Madison Square Garden

On May 31, 1923, Rickard filed incorporation papers for the New Madison Square Garden Corporation, a company formed for the purpose of building and operating a new sports arena in New York City. [37] In 1924 he purchased a car barn block on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. [38] He acquired the rights to the name Madison Square Garden, as the building's owners planned on tearing it down and replacing it with an office building. Thomas W. Lamb was selected to design the new building. Destruction of the car barns began on January 9, 1925. [39] The new arena opened on November 28, 1925. The first event was the preliminaries for the annual six-day bicycle race. [40] It hosted its first major event on December 11, 1925, when a record indoor crowd of 20,000 attended the Paul Berlenbach-Jack Delaney fight. [41] The $148,155 gate broke the record for an indoor boxing event. [6]

In January 1926, Rickard purchased WWGL radio, which he moved to the Garden and renamed WMSG. [42]

Following the success of the New York Americans in the Garden's first year, the Madison Square Garden Corporation decided to establish a second team, this one controlled by the corporation itself. The new team was nicknamed "Tex's Rangers" and later became known as the New York Rangers. [43]

Other ventures

Rickard sought to repeat the success of the Madison Square Garden by building seven "Madison Square Gardens" around the country. [44] In 1927, a group led by Rickard signed a 25-year lease for a sports arena at the new North Station facility in Boston. [45] The Boston Garden opened on November 17, 1928. [46]

In 1929, Rickard and George R. K. Carter opened the Miami Beach Kennel Club greyhound track. They also planned a number of other ventures, including a jai-alai grounds adjacent to the kennel club and a horse track on an island in Biscayne Bay. [47] Rickard also hoped to someday to build a hotel and casino that would rival those in Monte Carlo. [6]

Personal life

Rickard met Maxine Hodges, a former actress 33 years his junior at the Dempsey–Firpo fight. The couple married on October 7, 1926, in Lewisburg, West Virginia. On June 7, 1927, the couple's daughter, Maxine Texas Rickard, was born. [6]

The grave of Tex Rickard in Woodlawn Cemetery George (Tex) Rickard Tombstone in Woodlawn Cemetery.JPG
The grave of Tex Rickard in Woodlawn Cemetery

On December 26, 1928, Rickard left New York for Miami Beach, Florida, where he was completing arrangements for a fight between Jack Sharkey and Young Stribling and attending the opening of the Miami Beach Kennel Club. On New Year's Eve, Rickard was stricken with appendicitis and was operated on. [48] Rickard died on January 6, 1929, due to complications from his appendectomy. [2] He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY.

Investigations into the untimely and suspicious nature of the death of not one but two wives remain unsolved.

Related Research Articles

Jack Dempsey American boxer

William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey, nicknamed Kid Blackie, and The Manassa Mauler, was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate. He pioneered the live broadcast of sporting events in general, and boxing matches in particular.

Luis Ángel Firpo Argentine boxer

Luis Ángel Firpo was an Argentine boxer. Born in Junín, Argentina, he was nicknamed The Wild Bull of the Pampas.

Boxing in the 1920s was an exceptionally popular international sport. Many fights during this era, some 20 years away or so from the television era, were social events with many thousands in attendance, both men and women.

Jack Sharkey Lithuanian-American boxer

Jack Sharkey was a Lithuanian-American world heavyweight boxing champion.

Jess Willard American boxer

Jess Myron Willard was an American world heavyweight boxing champion billed as the Pottawatomie Giant who knocked out Jack Johnson in April 1915 for the heavyweight title. Willard was known for size rather than skill, and though held the championship for more than four years, he defended it rarely and was in person reserved. In 1919, when he was 37 years of age he lost the title in an extremely one sided loss by declining to come out for the fourth round against Jack Dempsey, who became a more celebrated champion. Soon after the bout Willard began accusing Dempsey of using something with the effect of a knuckle duster. Dempsey did not grant Willard a return match, and at 42 years old he was KO'd, following which he retired from boxing, although for the rest of his life continued claiming Dempsey had cheated. Ferdie Pacheco expressed the opinion in a book that the surviving photographs of Willard's face during the Dempsey fight indicate fractures to Willard's facial bones suggesting a metal implement, and show he was bleeding heavily. The matter has never been resolved, with contemporaneous ringside sports journalist reporting by the NYT that Willard spat out at least one tooth and was "a fountain of blood" increasingly discounted in favor of a view that he had only a cut lip and a little bruising.

Harry Wills American boxer

Harry Wills was a heavyweight boxer who three times held the World Colored Heavyweight Championship. Many boxing historians consider Wills the most egregious victim of the "color line" drawn by white heavyweight champions. Wills fought for over twenty years (1911–1932), and was ranked as the number one challenger for the throne, but was denied the opportunity to fight for the title. Of all the black contenders between the heavyweight championship reigns of Jack Johnson and Joe Louis, Wills came closest to securing a title shot.

Gunboat Smith American boxer

Edward "Gunboat" Smith was an Irish American boxer, film actor and later a boxing referee. Smith's career record reads like a veritable Who's Who of the early 20th century boxing scene, facing 12 different Hall of Famers a combined total of 23 times. Among the all-time greats he faced were the legendary Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb, Sam Langford, and Georges Carpentier.

Madison Square Garden Bowl was the name of an outdoor arena in the New York City borough of Queens. Built in 1932, the arena hosted circuses and boxing matches. Its seating capacity was 72,000 spectators on wood bleachers. The idea of the stadium came from boxing promotor Tex Rickard who died before it was completed.

Bill Brennan (boxer) American boxer

Bill Brennan was an American boxer who fought and lost to World Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey in a well attended title fight that ended in a twelfth-round knockout on December 14, 1920, in Madison Square Garden. He lost to Dempsey for the first time in a non-title fight on February 5, 1918, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a sixth-round technical knockout.

Sidney Terris was a top rated American lightweight boxing contender from the lower East Side of Manhattan. He excelled as an amateur, winning fifty straight bouts and taking Metropolitan, New York State, National AAU, and both National and International titles.

Jack Curley

Jack Curley, born Jacques Armand Schuel, was a sports promoter of the early 1900s. He managed several high-profile boxing events around the turn-of-the-century and he also established professional wrestling as a viable business in the big city, and he eventually built the New York City office into an industry power while negotiating an agreement between the nation's most powerful regional territories.

Floyd Johnson American boxer

Floyd Johnson, nicknamed "The Auburn Bulldog", was an American heavyweight boxer who was known for his stiff punch. His (incomplete) boxing record comes out to: 38 wins, 13 losses, and 11 draws. In 1923, he was considered a leading contender, and described in Time magazine as "possibly the fifth-best heavyweight in the ring." His manager was Alec Greggains. After his boxing career ended, he went into promotion in White Center, Washington. and served as a deputy sheriff in King County, Washington in the mid-1920s.

Boyles Thirty Acres Arena in New Jersey, United States

Boyle's Thirty Acres was a large wooden bowl arena in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was built specifically for the world heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey of the United States and Georges Carpentier of France on July 2, 1921. It held approximately 80,000 fans and was built at a cost of $250,000. It was situated around Montgomery Street and Cornelison Avenue, on a plot of marshland owned by John F. Boyle.

Joseph Humphreys

Joseph "Joe" Edward Humphreys was an American boxing official and announcer. He was one of the most popular fight announcers from the turn of the 20th century up until the 1930s. In his near 50-year career, Humphreys was estimated to have announced over 20,000 boxing matches and officiated many of the top prize fights of the era as the longtime official ring announcer at the old Madison Square Garden from 1925 up to his death in 1936.

Madison Square Garden (1925) Arena in New York, United States

Madison Square Garden was an indoor arena in New York City, the third bearing that name. It was built in 1925 and closed in 1968, and was located on the west side of Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets in Manhattan, on the site of the city's trolley-car barns. It was the first Garden that was not located near Madison Square. MSG III was the home of the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League and the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association, and also hosted numerous boxing matches, the Millrose Games, concerts, and other events.

Madison Square Garden (1890) Former arena in Manhattan, New York

Madison Square Garden (1890–1926) was an indoor arena in New York City, the second by that name, and the second and last to be located at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Opened in 1890 at the cost of about $500,000, it replaced the first Madison Square Garden, and hosted numerous events, including boxing matches, orchestral performances, light operas and romantic comedies, the annual French Ball, both the Barnum and the Ringling circuses, and the 1924 Democratic National Convention, which nominated John W. Davis after 103 ballots. The building closed in 1925, and was replaced by the third Madison Square Garden at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street, which was the first to be located away from Madison Square.

Mike Jacobs (boxing)

Michael Strauss Jacobs was a boxing promoter, arguably the most powerful in the sport from the mid-1930s until his effective retirement in 1946. He was posthumously elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Frank G. Menke American newspaper reporter, author, and sports historian

Frank Grant Menke was an American newspaper reporter, author, and sports historian. He wrote for the Hearst Newspapers from 1912 to 1932 and his articles appeared daily in 300 newspapers across the country. He was billed by the Hearst syndicate as "America's Foremost Sport Writer". He later devoted much of his effort to his work as an author of books on sports history. Two of his works, The All Sports Record Book and The Encyclopedia of Sports, became known as authoritative reference works that were revised and reissued for several decades.

Dempsey is a 1983 television film based on the life of the heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey that starred Treat Williams and Sally Kellerman.

Jack Dempsey versus Georges Carpentier was a boxing fight between world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and world light-heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier, which was one of the fights named the "Fight of the Century". The bout took place in the United States on Saturday, July 2, 1921, at Boyle's Thirty Acres in Jersey City, New Jersey.

References

  1. Deford, Frank (1971), Five Strides On The Banked Track, Little, Brown and Company, p. 110
  2. 1 2 3 "Rickard, George Lewis (1871-1929)". The Handbook of Texas Online.
  3. Bunk, Brian (April 13, 2015). "Tex Rickard and the Making of Modern Sports". We're History. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 Treanor, Vincent (February 14, 1911). "Tex Rickard Tells How He Won and Lost Big Fortunes During Checkered Career". The Pittsburg Press . Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "From the Klondike muck to Madison Square Gardens". The Hougen Group of Companies. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Aycock, Colleen & Scott, Mark (2012). Tex Rickard: Boxing's Greatest Promoter. McFarland & Company. ISBN   978-0-7864-6591-0.
  7. Gates, Michael (December 9, 2016). "Tex Rickard: From Dawson City to Madison Square Garden". Yukon News . Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  8. "George (Tex) Rickard". International Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  9. Barra, Alan (November 26, 1995). "When Referee Wyatt Earp Laid Down the Law". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  10. "Nome, Alaska, 1902". Life . October 15, 1965. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  11. "Wife of "Tex" Rickard Dead". The New York Times. October 30, 1925.
  12. O'Read, Effie (July 7, 1957). "Long Before It Was Finished, Ely Hotel Held a Grand Ball". Nevada State Journal . Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  13. Myrick, David F. (1992). Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California - Volume I: The Northern Roads. University of Nevada Press. p. 128. ISBN   9780874171938.
  14. ""Rickard's Luck" Shows in Mining". The White Pine News. December 25, 1906. p. 35. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  15. ""Tex" Rickard's Bid For Fight Accepted". The New York Times. December 3, 1909.
  16. "Reno to Get Fight; Suit Begins To-Day". The New York Times. June 17, 1910.
  17. "Jeffries Offended Followers at Reno". The New York Times. July 6, 1910.
  18. ""Tex" Rickard Departs for South America". San Francisco Call. February 19, 1911.
  19. "Paraguay a Fertile Pasture". The Boston Daily Globe. June 6, 1915.
  20. "Willard and Moran to Box Here Mar. 17". The New York Times. February 4, 1916.
  21. "Toledo Chosen as Scene of Willard-Dempsey Heavyweight Championship Bout". The New York Times. May 6, 1919.
  22. "Less Than $500,000 Rickard Now Says". The New York Times. July 9, 1919.
  23. "Rickard Bidding For Title Match". The New York Times. December 18, 1919.
  24. "Sport: Prizefighting's Million-Dollar Gates". Time.com. 8 March 1971. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  25. Wade Forrester. "On This Day In Sports". Onthisdayinsports.blogspot.mx. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  26. "Rickard's Profit of Fight $550,000". The Boston Daily Globe. July 4, 1921.
  27. "'Tex' Rickard Gets Madison Sq. Garden". The New York Times. July 13, 1920.
  28. 1 2 3 "Rickard Gives Up Control of the Garden". The New York Times. February 18, 1922.
  29. "Indict Tex Rickard on Girls' Charges". The New York Times. February 17, 1922.
  30. "Rickard Not Guilty; Verdict At 12:19 AM; Jury Out 91 Minutes". The New York Times. March 29, 1922.
  31. "$50,000 Bribe Plot Charged by Rickard". The New York Times. April 1, 1922.
  32. "Rickard Summoned to Bribe Inquiry". The New York Times. April 4, 1922.
  33. "Vast Crowd Shows Good Humor". The New York Times. May 13, 1923.
  34. "Rickard Displeased With the Big Bout". The New York Times. September 13, 1924.
  35. "Rickard Lost $5,005 on Wills-Firpo Bout". The New York Times. October 1, 1924.
  36. "Tex Rickard Fined $7,000". The Boston Daily Globe. March 30, 1925.
  37. "Rickard Files Papers". The New York Times. June 1, 1923.
  38. "Plan 2 Big Arenas for Sport Uptown". The New York Times. August 7, 1924.
  39. "New Rickard Arena Work is Under Way". The New York Times. January 10, 1925.
  40. "Madison Sq. Garden Opens in New Home". The New York Times. November 29, 1925.
  41. "Berlenbach Wins; Defeats Delaney". The New York Times. November 29, 1925.
  42. "Rickard to Radio Events at Garden". The New York Times. January 16, 1926.
  43. Fischler, Stan & Weinstock, Zachary (2016). Rangers vs. Islanders: Denis Potvin, Mark Messier, and Everything Else You Wanted to Know about New York's Greatest Hockey Rivalry. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN   978-1-6132-1932-4.
  44. "The Last Days of a Garden Where Memories Grew". The New York Times . April 16, 1995. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  45. "Coliseum Will Top New Boston Station". The Boston Daily Globe. November 16, 1927.
  46. "Routis is Defeated by Honeyboy Finnegan". The New York Times. November 18, 1928.
  47. "Miami Beach Mourns Passing of Rickard". The New York Times. January 8, 1929.
  48. "Rickard Stricken by Acute Appendicitis; Operated On in Miami Beach Hospital". The New York Times. January 2, 1929.