SI Vault
 
BROTHER JOHN WOULDN'T LET A BUM LEG HOBBLE HIM AS A FIGHTER OR FLYER
Ted Smiley
October 25, 1982
My brother John was afraid to enter the boxing tournament. He wasn't afraid of being hurt; God knows he'd lived with pain such as few have experienced and laughed it off. John was afraid he might hit someone too hard—hard enough to cause permanent injury.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 25, 1982

Brother John Wouldn't Let A Bum Leg Hobble Him As A Fighter Or Flyer

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

A deputation of officials was waiting for us when we came out of the dressing room. There was no way, they said, that they could allow a damn freak, a damn cripple to continue to box in the tournament. Somebody had made a stupid mistake in letting John enter. They couldn't risk his getting hurt, or hurting somebody else, like a real fighter. So how about withdrawing while everybody's good friends?

John refused. "I entered to win that $35," he said. "If you try to disqualify me, I'll go see Bill Lee about it." Lee was a sportswriter for The Hartford Courant and influential in the boxing world.

The officials put their heads together and came up with an acceptable solution. They would pay John $35—no, $50!—to withdraw. I would have taken the $50 without hesitation, but all John would take was the $35. Typical, too honest for his own good.

It still haunts me that the fight, the $35 and a large part of the $35 I subsequently earned by winning my division may have contributed to my brother's death. The money allowed him to finish the airplane in the attic. Finish it, lower it to the ground, truck it to an airfield hangar, put it together and fly it. It flew so well that he sold it for enough money to buy a larger, commercially made plane.

Hobbled on the ground, a cripple and always conscious of it, John felt at home in the air. Before turning to motorized aircraft he had made gliders, and together we had flown from hilltops.

He could never have been a commercial pilot. Bureaucrats rarely can see beyond the obvious, and John had a gimpy leg. Definitely against the rules. But the air was his medium, a medium that demands perfection. Something went wrong with John's commercially built airplane on May 30, 1934. The plane crashed and John, age 21, was killed. No one ever found out the how or the why of it, and no one who ever knew him has ceased to mourn him.

1 2 3 4