SI Vault
Martin Kane
August 19, 1957
In history's weirdest title fight Floyd Patterson takes on a young businessman from Georgia named Pete Rademacher
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August 19, 1957

The Champ Meets A Veep

In history's weirdest title fight Floyd Patterson takes on a young businessman from Georgia named Pete Rademacher

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But he met Joe Gannon, an inspector for the Washington (D.C.) boxing commission. Gannon had a special distinction. He had fought Floyd Patterson in Patterson's maiden appearance at Madison Square Garden and had lost an eight-round decision. This made him one of the few who have gone the route with Patterson and has persuaded Gannon that Patterson, properly handled, is not invincible.

Gannon is a thoughtful man, not easily stirred by wild ideas, but he thought about Rademacher's preposterous notion until it seemed that his brain would burst with the magnificent romance of it all.

"I'll try it on Cus D'Amato," he said, after a few nights of fitful sleep, unable to shake himself loose from the notion's incubus hold. "He'll think it's crazy but he might go for it."

D'Amato is Patterson's manager. He dresses like a Broadway businessman who wants to look smartly conservative—Homburg, pinned collar, lavender shirt and dark blue suit. His white hair is cropped so close that it is hard to say whether he is a baldy or a crew-cut. ( Rademacher is something of each too, but in an earlier stage.) D'Amato can look stern or puckish and he can act both ways, too, sometimes at the same instant. If ever there was a man receptive to off-beat ideas it is Cus D'Amato. He is currently keeping an eye on a prot�g� of his, a goat of a race horse which is being trained by a pianist who has discovered something about finger exercises that he believes can be applied to training race horses. Well, more of this later, but only after post time. It could be a killing.

D'Amato, therefore, received Gannon with the pleasure old kings reserved for noted minstrels. Here was a guest to his taste. He thought about the idea, strolled about his gray-walled apartment-office, consulted the muses in his electrically vibrated relaxation chair, and announced that it was ridiculous.

"Not," he added, with the wariness that has won him the nickname of Cautious Cus, "that I am against it."

Gannon would have been in a hopeless position had it not been that Rademacher had already become acquainted with Melchior C. Jennings, Yale '40, scion of a Pittsburgh oil family, idealist and businessman who is known throughout Columbus, Ga. as Mike Jennings. Mike Jennings believes like a zealot that America was made great by practical idealism. In his early 20s he suddenly found himself the figurehead of the family oil business and resented every minute of obsequious suggestion that he sign this paper and issue that order without understanding what he was doing.

"They used to tell me," he says, "that their judgment was better than mine because it was such a complicated business and it took years to learn it. Meanwhile, all I had to do was to sign those papers."

A man could rot living a life like that and Jennings had no desire to rot. In time he chucked it all and established himself as proprietor of a small sporting goods store, which he called Field and Fireside, in Columbus, his wife's family home. Columbus is a town where a man like Jennings can mess around with bird dogs and enjoy himself while making a bit of money and thinking long, slow thoughts. His store is a southern-fried Abercrombie and Fitch (bass plugs, Ivy-style clothing, shotguns), a place in which to browse as well as buy. People come in and talk if they just happen to be passing that way. They buy what they think they need. Nobody shoves merchandise at them. The store is doing very well.

While Lieutenant Pete Rademacher, now out of the Army, was stationed at nearby Fort Benning, he met Jennings, like everyone else in that section, and in due course mentioned his dream. Jennings topped him by mentioning his dream.

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