SI Vault
Frank Deford
July 18, 1988
AMAZING FINISH! Mighty Casey Fans Slugger Didn't Arrive Till Seventh Inning Beautiful, Evil Woman Seen In His Company WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT Sun Still Shining Bright At Undisclosed U.S. Site
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July 18, 1988

Huge Commotion In Mudville

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"I'll take anything he wants at 20 to 1," Sullivan snapped.

Immediately, Casey yanked the $500 bill out of his pocket and waved it. "You're on, John L.," he said. "For this." The crowd gasped as one.

Nuf Ced closed the bar, and the entire ensemble traipsed over to the South End Grounds, where they staked out a ring between the pitcher's box and first base. There was a good moon and enough city light.

"You sure you wanna go through with this, Casey?" Fox asked, helping him off with his coat. "I had Paddy Ryan fight him in '82, and he said it was like a telegraph pole went through him the first time Sullivan hit him."

"That was '82. I seen Sullivan last night," Casey said. "He's fat as a hog, and he's drunk a lotta ale tonight. Besides, my girl left me, and I'm mean."

"Up to scratch," Nuf Ced cried out, and the two fighters stepped forward to a line Nuf Ced had drawn in the dirt. The spectators stood about in a square, already screaming.

"Four rounds," Nuf Ced said. Pit-too. "No biting, scratching, gouging, tripping or wrestling."

Both men nodded. Sullivan spit on his hands. Nuf Ced raised his arm. Sullivan knew what to expect. But Casey had figured it out, too. He didn't even look at Sullivan. He kept his eyes on Nuf Ced, and the instant his arm moved, Casey ducked. Good thing. The air was shattered by the force of John L.'s blow.

Casey came up, in one motion banging his right to the big fellow's big belly, and then his left. By the time Casey was standing full up, Sullivan was holding his stomach. So Casey stepped in and, with all his might, pounded his right to the champion's meaty face. And with that, barely 10 seconds into the fight, Casey had hit a home run. The Great John L. buckled and fell.

The crowd fell into utter silence, shocked. Blood trickled from the corner of Sullivan's mouth, but he wouldn't dab at it, any more than Casey would grab his throbbing knuckles. Instead, the two men just glared at each other, until finally Sullivan began to rise on the count of eight. He got up like a bull elephant, slowly at first, but once he had lifted his great bulk off the ground and leaned forward, he possessed a momentum that no sleek creature could achieve. He pounded the few steps toward Casey. It would have been easy for Casey to step aside, except he was backed up against the crowd—John L.'s crowd—and the loyal spectators blocked Casey's movement. He tried to duck, but as he'd seen in Nantasket, Sullivan, for all his corpulence, still had some agility. John L. caught Casey flush with an uppercut. Casey staggered back, his face exploding, his brains rattling about.

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