According to one newspaper's account, on a night late in his career, Kramer had finally had enough: "Old Champ Kramer can stand for riders teaming against him, but when it is upheld by the race officials, it is a little more than the venerable citizen of East Orange can stand and still exert perfect control over his well-known dignity. Last night it appeared as though everybody was against Kramer, and the old boy resented it in an astonishing manner. Dignity or no dignity, Kramer stepped up to Goullet and parked a right smart left hook on Alf's jaw, and other blows followed...[Finally] the belligerents were separated."
Goullet, now 93, plays down such incidents. "Oh sure, we all sometimes got in mix-ups of some kind or another," he says. "Of course, the press would always blow it up. But they liked Frank Kramer. He got most of the good press, and he deserved it."
The best-known rider at the turn of the century was little Major Taylor, one of the first black athletes to break the color barrier in professional sports—nearly 50 years before Jackie Robinson. It was the Major who, flashing a big roll of bills he had just won at a Philadelphia race in 1899, influenced Kramer to turn professional. Judging from the fierce rivalry that quickly developed between the two, Taylor's bankroll had goaded Kramer, who subsequently never missed the opportunity to compete against the "colored champion."
If Kramer's wholesome image was tarnished in any way, it was by his reputed prejudice against the Major—which, however, given the times, may have made him more, rather than less, popular with the fans.
Kramer was defeated by Taylor only once in the U.S. professional championship—in 1900, the first year Big Steve rode as a pro. According to one newspaper account, "Major Taylor was then at the zenith of his power, and it was the colored star, with his French sprint and cunning tactics, who took the mantle, not the East Orange speed merchant."
But Kramer would hold the title for the next 16 years. His durability was attributed not only to his Spartan life-style, but also to his meticulous study of the sport. He employed a trainer to help condition him and to administer daily massages. He made a study of sprint-racing tactics. And he went into the factories to learn every detail of bicycle construction and mechanics.
"I would say," observes Neville, "that Kramer was an intelligent, single-minded individual. He didn't enjoy defeat. He made himself a star. He set very high standards for himself, so high that my uncle said he was starting to crack a little toward the end—his nerves, you know.
"But Big Steve always had a grandeur, a star quality about him, that gave the sport some class. He lived for the bike the way Caruso lived to sing. The same kind of people that went to the opera came to see Frank. In my opinion, when Kramer quit the bike game, it folded up."
And in truth, in the eight years after Kramer's farewell, Chapman was never able to find another star of his stature. Kramer remained in Chapman's organization as a chief judge. After his retirement, his presence at the major velodromes contributed to the continued success of those facilities until they abruptly went out of business in the early 1930s.
The 30,000-seat New York Velodrome at 225th and Broadway in the Bronx burned to the ground on Aug. 4, 1930. At the end of that season the lease ran out on the Newark Velodrome. With Chapman more interested in his Georgia plantation and the Depression worsening, there was little incentive to rebuild, and the sport went into a nose dive from which it couldn't recover.