The Minneapolis Journal – December 3, 1905
The present vogue for wrestling, which became marked last year and which is exceedingly strong this season, is sufficient reason for calling the interested public’s attention to this, the not least interesting fact about wrestlers today that, unlike prize fighters, they are a pretty abstemious lot when out of training as well as when in.
Tom Jenkins, the American heavyweight champion, winning back that title from Gotch, in Madison Square Garden, New York, last spring, does not know the taste of beer or any other intoxicant. Harvey Parker, the welterweight, has never drunk or smoked, and in addition, he forswears coffee. Leo Pardello, the premier Italian heavyweight in this country, only occasionally takes a glass of some light Italian wine. “Farmer” Burns, originally from Iowa, has consumed just as much liquor and smoked as much tobacco as has Parker. The “Cuban Wonder” (properly speaking, Clarence Bouldin), refuses invitations to be “one of the boys” a great deal oftener than he accepts. William J. Brown, for fourteen years wrestling partner of George Bothner, is every bit as careful in his living as Bothner himself, who admits that he takes a glass of beer once in a while, this being the extent practically of his indulgence in the divers excesses that usually wreck the prize fighter before he has reached 35 or 40, Fitzsimmons being a lone exception.
The names of many other wrestlers could be included in the list, with propriety and truth, but perhaps the most abstemious wrestler of them all is the king of them all – the “Russian Lion,” George Hackenschmidt.
“Hack’s” Exceedingly Abstemious Life.
It is a belief amounting almost to a superstition with Hackenschmidt that the moment he quits living in accordance with the moral law, to the best of his knowledge and ability, that moment his strength will desert him and he will become as weak as Samson when he was shorn of his locks by the treacherous Delilah.
Perhaps “Hack’s” observations of the demoralizing effects of “wine, women and song” on many men is responsible in part for the hold this belief has on him; perhaps his marked religious bent is more largely responsible. At any rate, before he does anything Hackenschmidt always carefully weighs what effect the act will have upon him morally, his attitude of mind being that anything which will weaken a man’s moral fiber will sooner or later do the same for his physical fiber.
The simplest of foods are good enough for Hackenschmidt 365 days in the year – and only once in a great while does he wash down a meal with a glass of beer, taken more for a tonic than a stimulant. He never smokes. He never stays out late with “the boys.” He is early to bed and early to rise. He holds that hard work is one of the best methods possible for keeping one’s self in trim, morally as well as physically, and he plans to have something for his hands to do every minute of the day. If he is not exercising, then he is giving time to his investments or discussing arrangements for matches with his manager, and when business cares are vanished, perhaps books of the sort that would delight the most straightened claim his attention. Where, indeed, is a man who lives more abstemiously?
Why the Wrestler’s Career Is a Long One.
To the average wrestler’s considerate care of himself may be credited his ability to stay in the game long after the average prize fighter has become “dead to the ring” by reason of excesses.
George Bothner, the world’s lightweight champion, is in his fortieth year, and as vigorous as ever. Tom Jenkins is 40 years young. Harvey Parker is two years his senior. “Farmer” Burns, who began his wrestling career at 35, the age when most prize fighters are decayed, is still in fine form at 50, his holding of the middleweight championship for years proving him to be so. Hackenschmidt is probably the youngest of the world’s leading wrestlers, he being in his 29th year – a boy in years, almost, when compared with the majority of the men he has met and thrown in his trip around the world.
Leaving all natural inclinations either for or against an abstemious life out of consideration, the wrestler must lead a far more careful life than the prize fighter if he ever hopes to make a name and a livelihood by his wrestling.
The wrestling season usually stretches from Oct. 1 to the last of April, leaving only five months in which there are no bouts. This means not only that the wrestler must be in training seven months out of the year, but a month or two as well before the opening of the season. Therefore, it is easy to grasp why, to all intents and purposes, this means training for practically the entire year, since nine months of simple living tend to form a habit that is not often broken in the two months that are open to indulgences from the standpoint of training.
Anomalous as it may seem in view of all that has gone before, it is nevertheless a fact that whenever a wrestler, retiring from the mat, finds himself unprepared against the coming of the invariable rainy day, he usually lets his name be placed in gilt or electric light letters over the door of a grog shop. But even in this demoralizing atmosphere he nearly always clings to the abstemious life. A favorite story among wrestlers tells of a retired wrestler, a saloonkeeper, who not only practiced the simple life, but also insisted on preaching it to his customers, with the result that he drove all trade away and soon went into the sheriff’s hands.
Earnings of Wrestlers.
If every wrestler were as careful to save a portion of his earnings as Hackenschmidt is, there would be no occasion for any of them to embark in the liquor business when approaching old age makes them useless on the mat.
From the time he began his wrestling career at the age of 20, Hackenschmidt has put aside a part of his earnings in every bout. He is doing this with a steady purpose in- mind – it is his ambition to save up enough money to furnish an income sufficient to provide his father’s family, as well as himself, with the necessary comforts of life after he has retired from the mat.
I has never been the “Russian Lion’s” intention to stick to wrestling. When he discovered that he could wrestle well, he decided to put his new found gift to use until such time as he could secure the competence that he saw he would probably never be able to amass thru following civil engineering, for which he had been educated in a St. Petersburg university. This competence secured beyond peradventure of a doubt, that day will see Hackenschmidt retire – provided, of course, that he is in the same frame of mind then as now.
Hackenschmidt’s American friends estimate that he is worth at present about $100,000, in spite of the circumstances that his expenses as a wrestler have been exceptionally heavy, and he is by no means niggardly with the dollar, altho not garishly lavish with it, after the manner of the champion pugilist. At the Madison Square Garden bout, with Jenkins, last spring, Hackenschmidt’s share of the receipts was nearly $4,000.
Of course, Hackenschmidt’s earning powers are exceptional, but even a wrestler of average ability need not starve. It is no unusual thing for a man now to the professional ranks to clear as much as $2,000 in a season of from three to eight contests. Before the present vogue for wrestling, Bothner’s season used to net him all the way from $3,000 to $8,000 and $9,000; nowadays, the monetary returns are much greater, of course. But tho the money comes hard – isn’t it hard work to lead the abstemious life the year around? – it goes easily from the hands of the average wrestler and the evening of life finds him almost as poor in this world’s goods as when he left off working in a rolling mill, as did Tom Jenkins, or farming, as did Burns, for the mat.
Causes of Present Popularity,
The popularity of wrestling is attested by the presence in this country of August Foust, the heavyweight champion of Germany, Greco-Roman style, and Andrew Avory, the French Greco-Roman heavyweight. Foust, realizing that his opportunity is here as long as the vogue for wrestling lasts, is preparing to take up his residence with us, while Avory is here for an extended, tour thru the states and Canada. Hackenschmidt’s success last winter opened the eyes of the continental wrestlers to the new world’s monetary possibilities for them to an extent not known since the days of Muldoon and his immediate successor, Ernest Roeber.
One of the causes of the wrestling vogue is undoubtedly to be found in the status of pugilism before the law. It is an outlawed sport in most states therefore, the public turns to the mat for the excitement it craves thru physical contests. Then, too, more laymen understand the points of wrestling than ever before in the history of the sport. This is the unanimous opinion of wrestlers and physical culture “professors,” and the attendance at bouts and the evident ability of the average spectator to follow a contest and appreciate its most subtle points would seem to back up the statement.
I is a fact that there seems to be a decided fad on the part of a great many persons to learn something of the art of wrestling thru actual experience. As a result, the physical culture schools and gymnasiums are filled with business men and others, being instructed in the different holds and footwork of catch-as-catch-can. Even men who have been partial to physical culture exercises since the beginning of its vogue are taking up wrestling. Well they may, for no other form of physical effort is so likely to develop all-around physical well-being as wrestling, which impartially bestows on its amateur devotee muscular speed, strength and endurance – three qualities that are greatly needed in these days of strenuous living.
A Cleaner Sport.
On the whole, wrestling is a cleaner sport than it has been for years, tho some fake bouts are undoubtedly pulled off still. Here, then, is another cause of its recrudescence, with prices for seats at the big matches ranging from $1 for the poorest to $20 for ring-side seats. In view of these figures it is not to be wondered at that there is a rush on the part of the best amateurs all over this country and Canada, where the art has also got its second wind, to join the ranks of the professionals and secure some of the golden shower for themselves.