Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling (1938) - #MargeryMillerWelles (Part II)

See Also: (Part I) by MMW

A founding author of Sports Illustrated, my grandma has been 
nominated to join the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

Margery Miller Welles -my grandma- witnessed one of the 
most important sporting events in American history in 1938 at age 15 when 
her father took her to Yankee Stadium to watch Joe Louis fight Max Schmeling. 
For her Wellesley College thesis she wrote a bio of Joe titled, 
"Joe Louis: American" which was published before she graduated in 1945 and 
reviewed by Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer and Eleanor Roosevelt


An excerpt from Joe Louis: American:

[…]Below them was the ring. A lighted white square surrounded by darkness, it looked like a huge diamond set in black velvet. Now and then someone would light a cigarette, and the flame of the match would glow briefly, like a firefly, and be gone.
          Then everyone grew quiet. The silent was so profound that each of the seventy thousand might have been praying. The ring was clear. It was precisely ten o'clock, time for the main bout to begin. […]
          A cheer began at the edges of the crowd where Louis first appeared, and kept pace with him as he advanced toward the ring, growing from a shout to a roar, and from a roar to a bedlam. It beat against the sides of the stadium, ebbed back toward the ring, and then, when Louis climbed into the lighted square, it surged up around him and continued for minutes. When Schmeling climbed the ring-steps it was still filling the stadium, and was reinforced by another, briefer cheer for the German.

Photo of Margery Miller Welles taken around  the same time 
she sawJoe Louis defeat Max Schmeling (1938)
          Louis sat hunched forward on a stool in his corner, a blue satin robe falling away from this shoulders. He looked ahead into the darkness. There was no emotion on his face, no sign of either fear or courage. Schmeling turned his back to the ring and jumped lightly up and down on his toes several times. […]
          Louis, awaiting the gong, had lost his serenity. He looked lean, in spite of his town hundred pounds, and, perhaps for the first time in his career, he looked eager, even anxious.
          "Joe, remember Hitler sent him. Hitler sent him!" shrieked a voice from the outfield.
          At the bell they strode swiftly to the center of the ring, and Louis crouched a little, looking like a great tan cat. As he circled Schmeling slowly, seventy thousand people held their breath. Louis began to crowd in. Schmeling sent out a right hand punch which missed. Then the fury in Louis burst forth. He pounced on the German, and Schmeling, his face paper white, stumbled backward. Louis was on him again. He darted out a straight left, then with a twist of the wrist turned it into a cruel left hook. After that the punches came so fast no one could count them.
          "Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe!" The cry began with the Negroes in the stands and soon spread throught the stadium.
          Schmeling went down three times. When he got up the third time, his legs were sand and his hands hung useless at his sides. He looked like a grotesque drunk who could neither think nor act. It was then that the referee ended the fight and raised Louis' hand in victory after town minutes and four seconds of fighting.
          "Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe!" The crowd now came near to having only one voice. It howled and shrieked. It stood on its chairs and tore its hats to bits. It jumped up and down in its frenzy. "Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe!." It drowned out the formal announcement of Louis' victory. Seventy thousand people had gone insane.



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