Ward To The Wise

Detroit Free Press – May 4, 1936
By Charles P. Ward

BOSTON – Recent developments in the wrestling industry have left Herr Adam (Cousin of Tarzan) Weissmuller sitting on top of the world. When this was written, Herr Weissmuller had the world champion in his custody, a truly remarkable individual with a name so remarkably appropriate that it must have been chosen by herr Weissmuller himself with malice aforethought. In all the wrestling industry there is no one else who could have sense of humor enough to think up a name like Ali Baba for the Kurd, Turk, Syrian, Armenian, man or beast, who has become the beneficiary of the strange concatenation of circumstances that recently have upset the wrestling status quo.

Even before he put the nose ring on his strange son of nature, Herr Weissmuller was doing very well by himself indeed. He had the Arena Gardens in Detroit which he had built into a very profitable enterprise. He made matches for a minor wrestling circuit which used smaller grapplers than the outsize pachyderms that have been popular throughout the country since the recent wrestling renaissance began. He also had a finger in a skating rink financial pic, and a couple of other enterprises which brought the blue chips rolling into the Weissmuller coffers in a stream that must have been truly gratifying.

Herr Weissmuller was not always so well fixed. In fact, only a few years ago, he was probably worse off financially and had a darker outlook than anybody else in Detroit. He is the one person who started from a considerable distance behind scratch and then beat the depression and even worse. One day, five or six years ago, a friend led a stumble bug, Herr Weissmuller, into the sports offices of the various Detroit newspapers. Herr Weissmuller was led in because, blind, he couldn’t find the way unless somebody steered him. He explained that he had been a wrestler and had contracted an eye disease common to matmen. He had no means of earning a livelihood and he wanted to know if the sports editors would mention it once in a while if he decided to promote wrestling shows in Detroit.

“This wolf that they are always talking about as being at the door,” he explained, “is tough enough when you can see him. You ought to see how his howls can make your hair curl when you’re blind.”

The sports editors consented to give Herr Weissmuller all the help they thought his enterprise deserved, and that was all Herr Weissmuller asked. He went away and started the enterprise that eventually became the Arena Gardens establishment and took the first steps on the long road to success.

Herr Weissmuller had a couple of bad years before he got his business upon a sound basis. He was handicapped by his eye trouble. He not only was blind but in great pain most of the time. He not only could not see but many a night could not sleep. He sat up holding his hands to his throbbing head, sweating and saying to himself, “They say this thing won’t seem to bad if I hang on a couple of years and it became chronic. I wonder if I can stand it? I wonder if I can hold out.”

In those times Herr Weissmuller spent all of his profits on doctor bills and in traveling about the country to one specialist or another. When he heard of a doctor who had had any success in treating his disease he went to him.

There was a time when Herr Weissmuller made up his mind to have his eyes removed. He couldn’t stand the pain any more, he said, and since he had given up all hope of ever regaining his sight again, he decided to take the step that would end the scratching and burning and permit him to sleep.

Herr Weissmuller even told associates the day on which he would have the operation performed. But when that day arrived, he hesitated.

“The eyes don’t hurt so badly,” he said, “and I’ve heard of another doctor. I’m going to try him.”

Herr Weissmuller tried the other doctor and began to note improvement in his eyes. One day he discovered that he could see with his right eye once more. Weeks later the left eye began to improve. By slow stages he recovered. First he discarded the black glasses that he had worn so long. Then the glasses that had replaced them were tossed away. Eventually he was able to see as well as ever.

With the recovery of his sight Herr Weissmuller began to devote all of his attention to business. He made a lot of money even in the darkest days of the depression, but put most of it back into his business. He tried several times to resuscitate the prize fight industry in order to lessen the number of dark nights at the Gardens. When this failed he put in a roller rink and a costly pipe organ, and began to collect nightly profits.

His recent clash with the big eastern promoters is not Herr Weissmuller’s first battle since he began promoting; a few years ago he broke with Jack Reynolds and his powerful associations, but managed to remain in business.

But, despite his courage and canniness, Herr Weissmuller will have to be careful with his man-or-beast champion. He had better keep him off the street. Suppose Ray Steele or Jim Londos, or one of those other big guys, should pounce upon him on a crowded rue and pin him? He could claim the title and deprive Herr Weissmuller of much of the advantage he gained by working the hidden-champion trick with the aid of Herr Shikat. Of course, Herr Weissmuller could argue that that would not be a formal bout, but in the past there have been titular claims that have had less foundation than that.


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