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At the Cafe Royal, which about the time the Club was founded had become a favorite restaurant of Edward VII, Oscar Wilde and Lily Langtry, members arrived the other night in dinner jackets at 7:15. They had drinks in the Pompadour Room and a half hour later moved into the candlelit Brasserie Room for dinner. The menu: smoked salmon, lobster cocktail or cantaloupe; green turtle or cream of tomato soup; steak, kidney and grouse pie (the favorite), charcoal-grilled fillet of beef or breast of chicken; National Sporting Club ice, fresh fruit salad and double cream; cheese and coffee. Prix fixe: 25 shillings, plus 15 guineas annual dues. Champagne and bets came extra.
At 9 sharp the members transferred to a large, rectangular, pinkish room with a balcony—the Louis XVI Suite. About 50 men in business suits, marking them as uncles of fighters or cousins of waiters, occupied the balcony. The Club members took seats at small tables set on the main floor around a boxing ring.
During the next two hours, today's Corinthians watched five bouts, signaling from time to time to white-coated waiters when a glass turned up empty. Talk was subdued but now and then a voice would rise in volume to utter something like: "I'll lay you a pound the colored boy doesn't last this round." Twice excitement overcame the Corinthians. They clapped and shouted. Each time the master of ceremonies warned them: "Gentlemen! Gentlemen! You know we do not applaud during a fight."
An especially exciting bout, won by Oliver Paul of Nigeria over Teddy Barker of Swindon, so delighted the members that they responded with a shower of "nobbins"—coins and bills tossed into the ring. And when game loser Pat McCoy of Ireland left the ring after the fourth fight (against Bola Lawal of Nigeria), his blood-smeared gloves were stuffed with pound notes. In addition to this largesse the boxers earned between �15 and �125, depending on their reputations.
None had reputations like others who have fought for the National Sporting Club: Sam Langford, Terrible Terry McGovern, Kid Lewis, Kid McCoy, Peter Jackson, Tommy Ryan. In the opinion of the 10th Marquess of Queensberry (the eighth Marquess composed modern boxing's rules and was a visitor to the Club), "the greatest heavyweight battle ever staged in any ring" was a Club affair between Peter Jackson and Frank Slavin. When Jackson was declared the winner after 10 rounds "the ordinarily staid members so far forgot themselves as to burst out into a veritable bedlam of cheering." In 1916 the 22-year-old Prince of Wales (now the 61-year-old Duke of Windsor) so far forgot himself as to climb into the ring to congratulate winners, the first time royalty had visited the Club.
Today 20% of the members are Americans—among them Rear Admiral Tully Shelley—and Britons include Lord Selsdon, the Earl of Middleton, Sir Leslie Joseph and naturally enough the present Marquess of Queensberry.
After the fights, the members drifted back to the long Pompadour Room bar to drink, talk boxing and pay bets. A member who could not pay immediately was expected to send his check to the Club secretary, using not the name but the number of the member he owed. Thus, the British right of privacy is preserved. At any rate it is acknowledged and that, of course, is what really counts.
About midnight the Corinthians began to leave the bar. They ambled out into the cool of the evening and waited as their cars—Humbers, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys—purred along Regent Street to pick them up. In two weeks they would be back again for more beef, more brandy, more boxing.
THE ELEGANT A'S
A motley of has-beens and hopefuls, stiff-legged veterans and raw recruits, the Kansas City Athletics were picked to finish a horrible last in the American League. Instead, they have made certain of finishing an elegant sixth and, in the process, have had more than a little to say about the pennant. During the latter days of the season, they have buzzed the league leaders like gadflies, at one time or another knocking the Yankees and White Sox out of first place and all but extinguishing the last flickering hope of the Boston Red Sox.