A Special Note
This Sports Junkie article is #100, a very pleasant milestone. I would like to thank my good friend, Jim Saylor, for setting up my website for me when I first started my labor of love. I would also like to thank the Acorn Newspaper of Agoura Hills, California, for including my articles from the start in its fine publication. And most of all, I wish to thank the readers of my articles, via newspaper or my website, who e-mail me on a regular basis. It is most gratifying to receive a steady increase of your e-mails each week, so please keep ‘em comin’; I answer each and every one of them, and always will.
Story of the Week
Jack Johnson led a madcap existence that touched the heights, hit the depths, and lingered at intermediate points on the scale. One of the best boxers known to the ring, recognized by many as one of the outstanding heavyweight champions of all time, Jack Johnson lived in the lap of luxury but died bereft of riches.
Johnson, born in 1878, was at the height of his profession after the turn of the century. He had as many as half a dozen automobiles when they were a major luxury, could have started a jewelry store with his personal collection of diamonds, and shook hands with royalty the world over. Not shabby for a poor black kid from Galveston, Texas.
Jack Johnson’s early-century successes finally earned him a shot at the heavyweight title held by Tommy Burns in 1907. Burns shied away from that meeting, but Johnson pressed his challenge until he got the match with Burns in Sydney, Australia. He pounded Burns to such an extent that police stopped the fight in round 14, giving Johnson the title. Johnson then became the cause of the craze that swept the country to bring the title back to the white race.
Among the distinctions that came to him was that of having collected the largest purse ever paid a boxer to that time; he received $120,000, an incredible sum for 1910, when he knocked out James J. Jeffries in 14 rounds in Reno, Nevada. The fight drew an unprecedented $270,775 in receipts.
After that bout, Johnson came upon difficult times. He married a white woman, an act that further alienated him to white America at the time. After her suicide, he married yet another white woman, she being the indirect subject of the next paragraph.
He was involved in a sensational court trial which ended in his conviction on a charge of violation of the Mann Act, which made it unlawful to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. He fled justice, and roamed the world as a man without a country until his fortune was gone. He did come back to the U.S. after several years, and served a one-year jail sentence for his Mann Act violation, tried fighting again and failed, and made a precarious living by making personal appearances whenever possible.
The legendary Jack Johnson was killed in an automobile accident while returning to New York after a personal engagement on June 10, 1946. The treatment of Jack Johnson was a documented travesty of justice. Not unlike Ali in his flamboyance and charisma, Johnson fueled this injustice himself at a time when white America was not prepared for him, but that is certainly no excuse whatsoever for the tremendous racial prejudice Johnson endured.
The movie "The Great White Hope" did justice to the injustice of Jack Johnson; James Earl Jones portrayed Johnson marvelously and masterfully in this film, and I recommend it to all.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who holds the all-time major league career record for home runs hit by a catcher? Carlton Fisk hit 376, including his epic, dance-assisted, 12th. inning shot in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series for Boston.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who holds the career record for highest batting average in World Series competition with at least 50 official at-bats to qualify? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.