Associated Press – August 20, 1953
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana, only state which tries to control the quality of pro wrestling, has licensed four out-of-state booking office managers. Continue reading
Associated Press – August 20, 1953
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana, only state which tries to control the quality of pro wrestling, has licensed four out-of-state booking office managers. Continue reading
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – August 4, 1996
By John M. McGuire
Just call them the guys.
What they call themselves is the 1-2-3 Club. They’re a seasoned bunch. Continue reading
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – August 28, 1995
By Bob Broeg
When Sam Muchnick’s kids got around to honoring the old man the other night on his 90th birthday, they got a confirmation from a young man whose RSVP was most impressive. Hideaki Myaki came from Japan—at his expense.
Ichiban Myaki, a polite young entrepreneur, reflects the personal gate attraction of Sam the Man.
The latter is a jelly-bellied legend who ranks as one of my heroes. He’s still romantic enough—or stupid enough — to wish that he’d never had to give up a humdrum financial existence as a sportswriter for riches as an outstanding wrestling promoter.
Muchnick’s old newspaper, the Times, went out of business back in 1932 when it was bought by the rival Star. When the paper folded on a Thursday, Sam and his associates didn’t get paid for the week’s last two days.
Sam loved his six-season stint as a baseball writer most, but he also wrote a boxing-wrestling column called “In the Ring.”
At the no-gifts party the other night, which was crafted by daughter Kathy for nearly 300 at the Ritz-Carlton, attorney friend Godfrey Padberg and Judge Joe Simione surprised Muchnick privately by giving him a photocopy of his first story in 1926 and his last in ‘32.
When Muchnick graduated from good-natured wrestling public-relations lackey to promoter after World War II, aided by dear late wife Helen, he became a paragon of what hustling national colleagues didn’t have. That is, trust in each other.
For the next quarter-century, the National Wrestling Alliance burgeoned only because of the internationally respected man of integrity. That’s an amusing juxtaposition, in view of the fact that wrestling even then had showmanship that often made it merely an exhibition rather than a legitimate contest.
Three times the shogun of American wrestling traveled to Japan for the good of the NWA. The third time, he wanted to meet a Japanese kid who had become his pen pal. All he could tell his television hosts in Tokyo was the boy lived in Osaka.
Japanese TV did the rest. When Muchnick got to Osaka, young Myaki met him. No, he hadn’t heard the message, but a cousin at Okinawa had.
So dear Hidaeki was at ringside for a grinning greeting. And, as mentioned, he flew here 21 years later to honor a man who has more friends than just about any I’ve ever met.
Old friends and former champions Lou Thesz and Gene Kiniski came to honor him this time, but I’m sure many others would have. The man is, if you’ll pardon the expression, all wool and a yard wide.
Over the years, I’ve spent as much time teasing Sam the Man as praising him. I ribbed him about looking like a Soviet spy when he wore a homburg, and even sent him a tyrolean hat from Austria.
As I said the other night, proud to be given the chance many would have liked, I came not to praise Muchnick or to bury him, either, but to tease him.
Yet I couldn’t resist expressing my love for the old patron saint of the press box, a prince of a person, a man of all seasons with friends ranging from priests to rabbis, hoodlums to heroes, jockeys to judges.
When the Missouri state legislature recently honored him by resolution, one of the several “whereas” ranged his “associates” from Al Capone to Mae West, from Frank Lane—whom he’d once beat in a handball match—to the president he knew personally, Harry S Truman.
Of all the good things about the grand gaffer of grunt-and- groan—he hates that label even as much as he does modern mat histrionics—the greatest is his legacy from dear Helen.
He has two sons he didn’t want to become promoters—Dick, the doctor, and Danny, the certified public accountant— and that dashing daughter — Kathy Muchnick Schneider, who can write as well as the old man.
After young Kate put together that shiny shindig, for which the doctor and the CPA honored her, Sam the Man Muchnick acknowledged a mistake. “Kathy wanted to be a promoter,” Sam the Man said. “I should have let her.”
See, as I always insist, Sam, you’re only a chauvinistic pig.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – June 11, 1995
By Dave Dorr
Sam Muchnick is standing in the kitchen of his 18th-floor Clayton condominium, thumbing through a stack of folders swollen with hundreds of photos he’s collected. He can’t find what he’s looking for.
“I’m running out of space,” he says, perplexed. He shrugs his shoulders.
All around him, in almost every room, the walls are filled with plaques, pictures, mementos. They allow Muchnick, now 89, to keep a close connection to his past.
Here’s Muchnick in 1929, the sports writer from the old St. Louis Times, in Bradenton, Fla., then the site of Cardinals spring training, in a Redbirds uniform taking infield practice at third base.
Here’s Muchnick in a 1979 photo, displaying a 1945 edition of his wrestling publication “In The Ring.” The lead story announces the fact that Ed Virag and Roy Dunn will be the opponents in the feature match at Kiel Auditorium on the first card that Muchnick promoted.
“Here’s Frankie Frisch, my favorite ballplayer. Here’s Pepper Martin, shaving in the morning. This is in Honolulu. That’s Lou Thesz, the wrestler, and his former wife. Here’s Jack Buck. This is Mel Price, the congressman, and me in Florida for spring training arguing about something. That’s me there. Here’s Gabby Street. Oh, and here’s Jesse Haines. . . . ”
A plaque replicates a letter from President Harry S Truman on White House stationary, dated Sept. 10, 1948: “Dear Sam. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your courtesy in this matter. I hope to see you that evening.”
The story behind the plaque: Truman was a U.S. senator from Missouri when Muchnick first met him in St. Louis.
Their paths crossed occasionally, and they came to know each other fairly well.
In 1945, Truman’s plane had stopped at Scott Air Force Base to refuel. As it turned out, Muchnick was stationed in the base public relations office. An honor guard was formed to greet the president.
Muchnick was standing near the generals when the plane rolled to a stop, the door opened and Truman walked out to the steps. Looking down, Truman scanned the waiting group and spotted a familiar face. “Hi, Sam!” said Truman, waving. Muchnick beamed—and felt the eyes of every jealous general riveted on him.
By 1948, Muchnick’s career as a professional wrestling promoter was beginning to take wing. He’d scheduled an event at Kiel Auditorium on a night that Truman wanted to speak during the presidential campaign race with Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, the Republican nominee. A Democratic National Committee official asked Muchnick if he could resolve the conflict by moving his event to another day. Muchnick thought about it and replied, “Well, I’ve got a show. But for the president, I’ll change it.” And Truman responded with a letter of thanks.
When Muchnick retired in 1982, St. Louis saluted him for almost five decades as a wrestling promoter and the place he’d achieved in the area’s sports spectrum. Former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl proclaimed Jan. 1, 1982, as Sam Muchnick Day. His wrestling shows at Kiel and at The Arena were a fixture for 37 years, beginning in 1945. They drew huge crowds. In 1959, Wrestling At The Chase, a televised event, made its debut. It was still going strong when Muchnick retired. He is a St. Louis sports icon.
Muchnick and pro wrestling were joined at the hip. He became pro wrestling’s caretaker. In large part because of his integrity, pro wrestling flourished in America. Wrestlers and those who did business with Muchnick alike knew him down to his bones for his honesty.
He befriended many, wrestlers included. They continued to remember his friendship.
One former wrestler, Gene Kiniski, calls Muchnick every Saturday from Blaine, Wash., where he lives. Dick and
Pauline Esser, who were Muchnick’s ticket agents for 40 years at their outlets at the Arcade Building and Adams Hat Store, bequeathed $49,000 to him.
Muchnick says, “When I asked them why, they told me, ‘We made our money working for you and we’re going to give you some of it.’ ”
While he made his name as a wrestling promoter, it was sportswriting that was his passion. He found it seductive. He traded a salary of $1,900 a year as a postal clerk in l926 to join the sports staff at the St. Louis Times for $20 a week. He was 20 years old.
To Muchnick, that job was the real deal, like finding himself alone in a stretch limo with Babe Ruth. Muchnick stayed at the St. Louis Times until 1932, when it merged with the St. Louis Star. Offered a position by the new management, he rejected it because it would have meant bumping a friend from the staff. Muchnick left and found his way into promotion.
During the period he traveled with the Cardinals in his job as a baseball writer he met celebrities and did the towns where the Cards were playing.
There was a romance to reporting that captivated him, this guy who was born in the Ukraine in 1905 of Jewish parents and given the Hebrew name of Jeshua (Jesus) Muchnick. His mother, Rebecca, once danced for Czar Nicholas II, the last Romanov ruler of Russia.
When Muchnick’s father Saul, a factory worker, brought the family to St. Louis in 1911, he decided it wouldn’t be proper to introduce his son as Jesus Muchnick. “Let’s make you Sammy,” he said.
Life in St. Louis was not easy early on for young Sam. It was a hardscrabble existence; a lot of scuffed knuckles. The family lived for a while in the old Kerry Patch neighborhood, an enclave of many ethnic backgrounds including Irish, German, Jewish, Italian and Polish. The Muchnicks were in a third-floor flat on Franklin Avenue, moving down one floor when Saul’s paycheck increased. During the Depression, Sam contributed to the family finances by delivering vests to a tailor for $4 a week.
Now, he’s the oldest former major league baseball writer in St. Louis, and one of two oldest nationally living who practiced the craft. (Charlie Segar of Sun City West, Ariz., a staff member at the old New York Mirror, is 91.)
From Muchnick’s condo, he has an uninterrupted view of the Clayton skyline. But he’s not one to sit and stare out the windows. He stays on the move.
On Mondays, he lunches at Maggie O’Brien’s with the 1-2-3 Club, a group of St. Louis sports movers and shakers of which he was one of the founders. On Fridays, his lunch schedule takes him to English’s Bar and Restaurant in Belleville—and has since 1964.
Muchnick doesn’t cook. Since the death of his wife, Helen, in 1981, he has dined often in restaurants. Or his daughter, Kathie Schneider, will eat lunch with him at his condo several times a week. He has two sons, Dick, 45, a St. Louis physician; and Dan, 44, of Douglasville, Ga., a certified public accountant; and three grandchildren.
Muchnick underwent a two-way bypass in 1993. He has a balky knee but says, “As long as I walk straight I’m OK.” He still has a phenomenal memory for names and dates. Muchnick is a gentle man with a bewitching smile that grows wider whenever he reaches back to dredge up anecdotes of pranks for which he was responsible. You sense that the pranks were one of life’s basic pleasures for him, and that behind his smile there is more than he’s telling.
He was nothing if not a tease. On a recent afternoon, he sat in a booth at Layton’s in Clayton. This is the restaurant where he once had trapped a waitress by asking her for change.
“Sure,” she told him, and, wanting to be polite to an elderly man, she didn’t think before putting in the cash register a $3 bill Muchnick had given her. It bore President Bill Clinton’s picture and was signed by Truman Capote.
Muchnick saw her again on his recent visit and called to her. But she recognized him and, feigning fluster, said, “Oh, no you don’t!” Muchnick flashed her a cat-ate-the-canary smile, then began laughing.
More than any other role, it was Muchnick’s guardianship of wrestling that won him critical respect.
In 1948, Muchnick and several of his fellow promoters formed at Waterloo, Iowa, the National Wrestling Alliance as a means of guaranteeing themselves the high-profile wrestlers for shows. Muchnick was the organization’s president for 25 years.
He finds today’s version of pro wrestling reprehensible. He calls it “a carnival.” Others concur. Of Hulk Hogan, a current star who appears under the auspices of World Championship Wrestling, Lou Thesz says: “As an actor, I’ll give him a 10. As a wrestler, I’ll give him a 1 — or less.”
Speaking of the thespian tendencies of pro wrestling — current and former versions—Muchnick says that the fact that results of matches were prearranged didn’t bother fans at the old Kiel, especially women who jumped from their seats squealing and stuck hat pins into wrestlers they saw as villains. In fact, Muchnick went to newspapers in St. Louis in the early days of his promoting with hat in hand and a request: “I said I’ve got to be allowed a little showmanship or I won’t draw flies,” he recalls.
To the fans, wrestling was high drama. To Muchnick, the orchestration of matches was acceptable.
“A lot of people knocked it,” he says. But “I’d say 75 percent of it was OK because I knew the best wrestlers were winning. You can’t help it if two wrestlers get into the ring and make a deal among themselves.”
In retrospect, Muchnick’s life has had a certain elegance. His wide circle of acquaintances ranged from Al Capone to Mae West to Frank Lane, yet he’d give anything for one more interview with The Babe. Muchnick once got the best of Lane, who in 1956 became general manager of the Cardinals. In the late 1920s, when a greyhound track called the Madison Kennel Club was thriving on the East Side, Muchnick was challenged by Lane, then a race judge at the club, to a game of handball with a new suit as the stakes.
The match took place after the races at 2 a.m. at the National Gym, located at Sixth and Pine. Muchnick, describing himself as an ordinary player, won 21-20. Lane bought him a $150 suit—top of the line in fashion circles in those days.
Muchnick did his baseball writing in a bygone era when journalism didn’t question or analyze as it now does. Still, the evolution of professional sports in America distresses Muchnick, who says, “The president of the United States is paid $200,000 a year and a .214 hitter is paid $750,000. Can’t understand that.”
During the 232-day baseball strike, Muchnick was asked what he thought about the owners. His answer: “I said they were the stupidest promoters in the world. And what about today’s players? They charge for autographs.”
Muchnick can remember Ruth, in a white linen suit, walking out of old Sportsman’s Park and sitting down on a tree stump signing autographs for an hour for kids who were waiting for him. “Can you imagine ballplayers doing that today?” asks Muchnick, who always has had robust opinions—and the last word.
When arguing with his wife once, in exasperation at his know-it-all hidebound stubbornness, she blurted, “Who do you think you are, Jesus. …?” Muchnick didn’t so much as blink. He replied, “Yes, I am.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – August 18, 1988
By Bob Broeg
When President Harry S Truman stopped off at Scott Air Force Base while heading home to Independence, Mo., after World War II,military brass lined the landing strip, eager to meet and to shake hands with the man whose use of the atomic bomb had ended the bloodbath.
Truman stood at the door of the presidential plane, waving his hat in a friendly salute. To begin his greetings, he spied a dumpy, smiling sergeant standing at attention among the non-coms and said, “Hi, Sam.”
Sam Muchnick, now 83, remains one of the friendliest faces on both sides of the river. The sportswriter-promoter-good will man-good guy symbolizes the nice things that can happen to a temperate man who always has seemed to rise above life’s rat race.
At noon Friday in Belleville, barkeep-restaurateur Jack English will throw his annual, informal birthday lunch for Muchnick. As usual, politicians, newspapermen, old coaches and former athletes will pay their respect to good ol’ “Tham” the lisping man.
It’s a big year for Muchnick, if not for his beloved Cardinals, the club he covered in the pennant-winning seasons of 1930 and ‘31. He was a wrestling promoter for nearly 40 years and president of the National Wrestling Alliance for 25.
As a result, directors of the Missouri Athletic Club voted to extend to him a special meritorious-service award at the club’s annual sports dinner, moved up to Nov. 2 from January.
The dinner will be a private party, highlighted by the announcement of a man or woman sports personality of the year.awerlabw Muchnick’s appeal crosses economic and ecumenical borders. A Soviet-born Jew, Sam is closer to Catholic priests than to rabbis.
Sam still pines for the love of his life, Helen, 15 years younger, who died seven-plus years ago. Her death occurred 11 months before he sold his wrestling promotion.
His last crowd was a capacity 19,821 — “paid,” he emphasized—on New Year’s night 1982.
Although he hangs his hat in a fashionable Brentwood condominium, he skirts loneliness by spending more time on the street than a Fuller Brush salesman. He’s a generous host and a good guest.
The kiss-and-makeup style engendered by Muchnick, a Central High graduate, was never more evident than when he headed the National Wrestling Alliance for a quarter-century. The alliance covered 40 states, four countries (Canada, Mexico, Japan and Australia) and had European agreements.
Now? The alliance is gone, and wrestling, always a circus, has degenerated into a chamber of horrors. Said the revolted Muchnick, “I think Lou Thesz could beat Hulk Hogan right now, and Lou’s 72.”
If there’s one thing I like about Muchnick,s it’s his ranking journalism as second only to medicine among the professions. “Without the newspaper,” he has said more than once, “crooked politicians could run amok at all levels, local and national.”
Muchnick got into the newspaper game unusually. A $1,900-a-year postal clerk, he entered a nationally syndicated contest to pick the All-Star teams that had considerable appeal from the ‘20s and into the ‘30s. For finishing third in 1925 — “I still think Frank Frisch should have been at third base rather than Ozzie Bluege”—he received $25 from the Post-Dispatch and an invitation to write what he thought the Cardinals and Browns needed for ‘26.
For the Redbirds, Sam listed a right fielder and a pitcher as a top need. They got both, Billy Southworth and Grover Cleveland Alexander, and their first pennant. By then, at the recommendation of Post-Dispatch sports editor John Edward Wray, Muchnick had sought and gained a sportswriting job at the old St. Louis Times.
“At a pay cut to 20 bucks a week,” he recalled, grinning. When the Times went under in the Depression summer of 1932, Muchnick rejected a chance to go to New York and, also, turned down a job from old boss Sid Keener, then at the merged Star-Times. There, he would have had to take a friend’s job.
So as a combination boxing-wrestling columnist, he wound up in public relations for promoter Tom Packs. Ultimately, he promoted successfully on his own, including the most recent boxing championship bout in St. Louis, welterweight Don Jordan over St. Louis’ Virgil Akins in 1959.
But here I am running out of space without having told how Sam met Al Capone; how he beat Frank Lane in handball for a suit of clothes; how friend Ray Steele beat King Levinsky in a 35-second mixed wrestling-boxing match; and how Sam chickened out on a chance to play left field for the Cardinals in an exhibition game in ‘29 so he could drink Prohibition beer with a couple of pitchers; and how he loved to pull pranks on comic Lou Costello and others.
But maybe I’d be stepping on Muchnick’s lines when he accepts the meritorious award from the MAC.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – August 21, 1990
By Tom Wheatley
On Wednesday, Sam Muchnick turns 85 lovable years old. It’s impossible to estimate how much good will Mr. Wrestling has kicked up since entering this earthly ring on Aug. 22, 1905, in the Ukraine.
Sam’s enthusiasm preceded Day One, which is how he came to be born in the Soviet Union instead of St. Louis. “My mother had gone back to the Ukraine to visit her sister, and I came two months early,” Sam said. “I was a seven- month baby.”
With that head start, he grew up to be a gentleman and a scholarly promoter. He ran pro wrestling and boxing shows here for 50 years, minus three years when he and former Cardinal Terry Moore helped the Army keep Panama free in World War II.
Pro grappling in the post-Cyndi Lauper era has degenerated into a pay-per-view cable spectacle. Under Sam, the body slams and pile drivers were more humanistic. He liked wrestlers and wrestling fans.
In sports today, owners and promoters seem to want all they can grab. Ticket-gouging is more common than all the eye-gouging ever done by George “The Animal” Steele.
Sam’s Promotional Lesson No. 1: The customer is always No. 1.
“If I saw an usher idling at a show, I’d say, ‘Hey, take care of these people,’ ” Sam said. “Taking care of the customers is the most important thing in promotions. I didn’t believe in gouging fans. If I ran any pro sport today, the first thing I’d do is cut prices.”
Sam is a reformed sportswriter. He was clerking for the post office in 1926 when he caught the eye of Post-Dispatch sports editor Ed Wray.
“They had a contest where Babe Ruth picked his All-Star team and you had to try to pick it along with him,” Sam said. “I finished second.
One guy had all the same picks. I missed one. I had Frankie Frisch on third base and Babe had Ossie Bluege.”
As runner-up, Sam got to write an article for the Post on what the Cards and Browns must do to win in ‘26.
“I said the Browns didn’t have a chance,” Sam said, “but if the Cards could get a right fielder and another pitcher, they would win. Later on, they got Billy Southworth to play right, and then they got Grover Cleveland Alexander from the Cubs to pitch.
“They won the pennant, and Mr. Wray remembered that. He said, ‘You should be a sport writer, but my staff is filled.’ So I applied to Sid Keener, sports editor of the St. Louis Times.”
Lesson No. 2: Money is not No. 1.
Sam’s starting salary as a reporter was $20 a week. That was almost a 50 percent cut from his post office job, which paid $1,900 a year. Sam loved hobnobbing with newspaper types, such as Red Smith of the St. Louis Star. “Red was one of the greatest sport writers of all time,” Sam said, “but I scooped him once.”
Sam wrote that Bill Walker of the New York Giants had agreed to pitch batting practice for the Cards before the ‘31 World Series. Walker, from East St. Louis, was a top lefty. Smith’s boss told him by wire of Sam’s scoop.
Smith wired back: “Nothing to it. One of Muchnick’s pipedreams.”
Lesson No. 3: You can’t place a price on a good friendship.
When the Star merged with the Times in ‘32, Sam could have stayed. “They wanted me to replace a friend of mine, so I turned it down,” he said.
Tom Packs, a local wrestling promoter, heard that Sam was loose. “I was up to 50 bucks a week at the paper,” Sam said. “He offered me 60.”
After the war, Sam married his fiancee, Helen, and began promoting on his own. Wrestlers knew Sam’s word was better than any written contract.
Lesson No. 4: Be true in advertising.
It was Sam who coined the term “exhibitions” for his extravaganzas. “And if there were changes in the card, I’d immediately announce it, even if it hurt the gate,” Sam said. “The people pay to see a certain guy. If he isn’t there, you should say so.”
Sam dislikes the current order, or lack thereof, in pro wrestling. He banned fighting outside the ring and assaults on refs, and he hates matches drawn on racial lines.
Lesson No. 5: Hype has its limits.
It was Sam who revolutionized wrestling by restoring old wrestling holds and concocting new ones.
“Sure, you had to have a little showmanship,” he said. “The people wanted it. But the wrestlers prided themselves on their wrestling. They’d say, ‘This guy can go,’ or ‘This guy can’t go.’ Now, I don’t want to take a slap at it, but it’s just entirely different.”
Sam retired on Jan. 1, 1982, at age 76. His final show at The Arena drew more than 21,000 fans—”the paid crowd was 19,821,” he said—and 2,000 more were turned away.
Sam and Helen, who died in 1981, raised three children. One son is a doctor and the other is an accountant. Their daughter edits a magazine.
Sam had financial rewards, too. “I did all right,” said Sam, who lives in Clayton and is still spry. “I still get out and jump around a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of friends.”
And Mr. Wrestling won them with a soft touch, not a strong arm.
The Houston Post – July 21, 1973
Oklahoma’s Jack Brisco became the first man to win the world’s heavyweight wrestling title in a Houston ring since 1942 when he scored a sensational three fall victory over Harley Race in Sam Houston Coliseum Friday night.
The last time the title changed hands here Bobby Managoff beat Canada’s Yvon Robert in November of 1942. Before that, Bronko Nagurski defeated Louis Thesz here June, 1939.
Race had won the title from Dory Funk, Jr., in Kansas City on May 24, ending Funk’s four-year reign. Before Friday’s match, Race was given a new $10,000 gold belt by National Wrestling Alliance president Sam Muchnick, but Brisco’s win took the belt from Race before he had a chance to wear it.
Brisco was born in Oklahoma and went to high school in Blackwell, Oklahoma. He was all-state fullback, but also top wrestler in the state and when he went to OklahomaState, he passed up football to become National Intercollegiate champion, with an undefeated record.
Brisco led during the majority of the first fall. But the wily Race survived to slam Brisco to the mat and take the opening fall in just over 12 minutes.
Brisco threw everything he had into evening the score. He caught Race in his leg breaker, forcing the man who held the belt to submit.
When they came out for the final fall, Brisco set the pace. When Race threw Brisco into the ropes, expecting to toss him into the air for a back drop, they hit, with Brisco coming high. The move knocked Race down with Brisco on top and the fall was scored to the new National Wrestling Alliance champion.