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It worked, too. The next Saturday, Billy left his training camp and went to a nearby parish named St. Philomena's. He and Mary Louise had someone who had promised to marry them at the altar at 9:30 a.m., and an excited crowd had gathered. But the priests wouldn't buck Greenfield Jimmy, and, after a couple of hours of bickering, somebody came out and told the people there wouldn't be any June wedding this day.
Billy went back to prepare to fight the heavyweight champion. DiMaggio got three singles against the Brownies that afternoon.
The next time Billy left camp, a few days before the bout, he flew to Pittsburgh to see his mother. He probably didn't realize how close to the end she was, because she kept the news from him. "Listen, I've got to live a little longer," Maggie told everyone else in the family. "I can't worry Billy."
He couldn't bring her champagne this time. Instead, he brought her a beautiful diamond bracelet, and he gave it to her. "Maggie," he said, "this is for you." She was so sick, so weak, so in pain that she could barely work up a smile, but she thanked him the best she could. And then she pushed it back.
"Oh, it's so beautiful, Billy," she said. "But don't give it to me. Give it to Mary Louise." And Maggie told him then that he was to marry her, no matter what Greenfield Jimmy said, because he was her boy and a good boy and as good as any boy, and because he loved Mary Louise more than anyone else in the world.
Billy nodded. He kept his hand wrapped around the bracelet. He couldn't stay much longer. Just these few minutes had tired Maggie so. He kissed her and got ready to leave. "Maggie," Billy said, "I gotta go now, but the next time you see me, I'll be the heavyweight champion of the world."
Maggie smiled one more time. "No, son," she said, "the next time I see you will be in Paradise."
Tuesday, the 17th, the day before the fight, DiMaggio made it an even 30 in a row, going 1 for 4 against the Chisox across the river in the Bronx. That night, Billy slept hardly at all. And he always slept. Sometimes he would even lie down in the locker room while the undercard bouts were being fought and doze right off just minutes before he had to go into the ring. But this whole night he barely got 40 winks. And he wasn't even worrying about getting in the ring with Joe Louis. He was worrying about Maggie and Matt.
At the weigh-in the next morning Louis, who had trained down because of Conn's speed, came in at 199½. Conn tipped 169. That made Uncle Mike a bit nervous. It was already 17-5 for the champion in the betting, and this weight spread was making the bout look like homicide. Uncle Mike announced Conn's weight at a more cosmetic 174.
Conn went back to his hotel to rest, but the Ham and Cabbage Special had just got in, and all the fans, wearing leprechaun hats and carrying paper shamrocks and clay pipes, came over to see him, and when a bunch of them barged right into his room, Billy went outside and loafed with them.