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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He wanted to go down and regroup, but not only did the spectators block his fall, they also propped Casey up—and then bounced him back toward Sullivan. Casey was a helpless target, and he could see, in his daze, John L. winding up for the knockout.

Then, inexplicably, just like that, Sullivan dropped his dukes and idly watched Casey fly past him, still propelled by the push from the crowd. Sullivan put his hands on his hips and glared at the spectators.

"John L. Sullivan doesn't need any help when he's in the ring," he bellowed. The offenders shrank back.

His rebuke complete, Sullivan turned to finish off Casey. But the moment was lost; Casey had shaken his head clear. When John L. swung, Casey hopped aside, as if he were getting away from a high inside pitch, and with everything left in him, he ducked and came up throwing, like a shortstop pegging to first. Whoosh. Into the champion's soft underbelly. Sullivan gasped. His chin was wide open, but Casey went for the tummy again. And again. The champion doubled over, and only then did Casey aim his left hand—the one that still had its knuckles intact—for Sullivan's chin. Bam! John L. crumpled to his knees and then pitched forward, spitting out blood and ale, spilling his beans.

"Start the goddam count, Nuf Ced!" Fox screamed.

Sullivan peeked up. He didn't know how Casey's hands ached. So, he just waved Nuf Ced away and sank back onto the infield grass, into his own blood and guts. The Great John L. was beaten. "Congratulations, sonny," he said. "Now you can tell the whole world you was the first sonuvab.... You was the first man ever to beat the Great John L."

"Gimme my $10,000, and I'll never tell a soul on God's green earth," Casey said.

"Don't matter none. That viper Fox'll put it in the Gazette."

Fox stepped forward to Sullivan. "Not if you fight Kilrain, I won't, Johnny," he said.

"Yeah now?" said Sullivan, the possibilities dawning on him, and he looked all around at the crowd. "Any sonuvabitch here see John L. Sullivan get beat tonight?"

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