In his office now Tunney picked up a sheaf of business papers and began a discussion of his association with the McCandless Corporation, a holding company that controls a number of rubber manufacturers, and of his frequent trips across the country to attend board meetings. He mentioned names like the Pittston Co., Eversharp and Brown Co. Suddenly Tunney paused and looked sharply at his right hand. Its fingers were cramped around the papers in a rigid cluster.
"I've had trouble with my hands for several years," he said. "It's a disease that contracts the tendons in the palms."
He leaned forward, flipped a switch on the office intercom and spoke into it. "Will you write out the name of my disease for this gentleman?"
A moment later his secretary came into the office with a filing card, across which was typed the phrase "Dupuytren's contracture."
"I've had several operations on my hands," Tunney went on, "and they're opening up pretty well, except for the little finger on my right hand. My doctor has assured me the disease did not result from boxing. It may be hereditary. I gave up golf, but it hasn't caused me any real inconvenience. Yet there were times when it was embarrassing for me to shake hands. Someone would be brought over to meet the former heavyweight champion of the world, and all I could offer him was a dead fish."
"What about your clubs, Gene?" his visitor asked.
Once more Tunney flipped the switch and spoke into the office intercom. "My clubs are listed in Who's Who, aren't they?" He nodded at his secretary's reply, then turned to the bookcase embedded in the wall behind him. He ran a finger along a row of books. Shakespeare...Whitman...The Ring Record Book...the Bible...business directories...Who's Who in America.
A brief check turned up the Metropolitan Club, The Brook, Banshees, Saints & Sinners, Augusta National, Burning Tree and Blind Brook. "Aren't you a member of the New York Athletic Club, too?"
"No, no," Gene said, his tanned face brightening as something came back to him that he hadn't thought about for a long time. "When I was the heavyweight champion, one of my close friends was Henry W. Putnam Jr. He was an outstanding member of the New York AC. Lived there, in fact.
"So Putnam decided that I must become a member too. He submitted my name, and it was approved by the membership committee. Suddenly there was a terrific uproar. Most of the members objected to me on the grounds that I was a professional athlete. The issue was clearly drawn: amateur versus professional. I even got a telephone call from Father Duffy, asking me to withdraw. By this time I was more than willing to forget about it, but it had become an affair of honor with my friend."