Phelan Orders Wrestling Cleanup

Syracuse Herald – September 27, 1934

A demoralized group of Syracuse wrestling and boxing officials were awaiting further word from the offices of the New York State Athletic Commission today, following an unexpected investigation on the part of Gen. John J. Phelan, chairman of the sports board, here last night.

Swooping down on a wrestling show that was being staged at the Arena, Commissioner Phelan disqualified one matman performing on the card, warned two others, took Cornelius J. (Nick) Nugent, deputy commissioner, to task and finished it off by severely rebuking two Syracuse referees who had delayed sending in for renewal of their official licenses.

The state board intends to “clean up boxing and wrestling,” Phelan told a Herald representative at the ringside. “Punching, kicking and throwing one another out of the ring in the grappling exhibitions must stop. Likewise kidney blows and rabbit punches in boxing are out. The deputy commissioners have received instructions to this effect and the board members are going to see to it that the rules are enforced to the letter.”

General Phelan, it is believed, will devise a suspension for Little Beaver, Indian wrestler from Canada, who was disqualified on the orders of the commissioner after he struck Earl McCready with a closed fist and decked him several times during their 30-minute preliminary bout at last night’s program.

It took several minutes before General Phelan was able to convince Harry Wolford, Rochester resident, who was refereeing the wrestling show, he was chairman of the State Athletic Commission and had the right to do so.

The commissioner entered the arena in time to see Little Beaver deck and strike McCready. Rushing to the ringside, Phelan called on Wolford to disqualify the Indian. The referee, thinking he was merely an excited fan, waved him away. Meanwhile the crowd of 800 who were securing enjoyment out of the rough fray, booed and hissed the visitor.

The commissioner retired to a ringside seat, only to have Little Beaver duplicate the body punching a few minutes later and again Phelan hurried to the ring and called on the referee to stop the bout. Wolford paid little attention for a few minutes, then ordered the chairman of the boxing and wrestling board to sit down.

It was not until the 30-minute time limit had elapsed and the wrestlers had finished that Phelan was able to talk to referee Wolford and convince him who he was, that official action could be taken. Little Beaver was ordered disqualified and the bout awarded to McCready.

In the next bout, featuring Mayes McLain and Floyd Marshall, the commissioner allowed the pair to continue on to a fall, secured by Marshall, then took them aside and issued a warning to stop vigorous punching.

Commissioner Phelan expressed surprise to the sports writers that such rough tactics had been allowed and he conferred quietly for several minutes with Deputy Commissioner Nugent, ordering that the wrestling and boxing game be kept clean in the future.

Before leaving, Phelan took Jack Michaels and Dick Fazio, two Syracuse referees, aside and rebuked them for allowing their licenses to lapse. Both assured the commissioner they had forwarded their application, but he told them the checks had come after the licenses had lapsed and they would be obliged to wait, until the commission got around to the matter of renewals, possibly two or three weeks.

In the other battles on the bill, Eli Fischer tossed Joe DeVito after 20 minutes of grappling and Don George pinned Emil Dusek’s shoulders to the mat in 33 minutes.

DeVito came in as a substitute for Gino Garibaldi. The George-Dusek tussle was a remarkably clean exhibition of grappling and made a decided hit with Commissioner Phelan.

The athletic chairman, who came here from buffalo, departed early this morning to check on a wrestling show in Albany tonight.

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