Monday, April 21, 2014

Swapping Sports Stories at Easter: How I Met Jack Dempsey

For Easter my wife and I visited her sister in San Jose and had dinner there with sis, her husband and other relatives.  One of these was a doctor from Vallejo.  We soon learned we were both Giants fans and watched the former play the San Diego Padres on a large screen television.  The Giants won 4-3 and we were gratified.

During the game, however, we began swapping real-life sports stories; I told him about how I won a 49er football in an auction, the ball being autographed by all the 49er greats (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice and many others).

He told me how he and three friends found Barry Bonds alone after a game, with few people around, and asked him to autograph their baseballs.  Bonds refused them three times, saying he was "too busy."  So they found that Bonds is, in real life, something of an A-hole.

Then I remembered another story from my distant past, the day I met boxing great Jack Dempsey.  I was in New York City in August of 1974, during the same week that Nixon resigned the presidency.  I was there for training as an employee of the big accounting firm, Peat, Marwick and Mitchell (now KPMG).  At lunch one of my colleagues told me we should eat at Jack Dempsey's restaurant.  While there, the colleague told me how his parents had brought him there years ago and he had actually met Jack Dempsey.  Suddenly, he gasped and said, "There he is!"

Jack Dempsey, now an aged man, was sitting all alone in a restaurant booth reading a newspaper.  We went over and said hello, and Mr. Dempsey autographed a paper menu for each of us.  I believe I still have that menu.  When I returned home to Scottsdale, Arizona, where I then lived, I told my father, who was aghast that I had met his childhood hero.  My father had met him once too, in 1929, if I remember correctly.

Jack Dempsey died in 1983, but he was once the Heavyweight Champion of the World, from 1919 through 1926 -- and I met him.

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