« AnteriorContinuar »
Ruef Board of Supervisors at San Francisco, which had been begun by the payment by prizefight promoters, through Abe Ruef, of $500 to each of the Supervisors, for exclusive privileges to conduct prizefights at San Francisco.310
When the 1911 session convened, an attempt was made to secure the passage of a drastic anti-prizefight
310 Of this corruption the official report of the Causes of Municipal Corruption at San Francisco, which led up to the so-called Graft Prosecution, issued by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, says:
.“As might be expected of a community which gilds its socalled social evils with the accessibility and attractiveness of its French restaurants, San Francisco still licenses prize fighting. This is done through the medium of its limited-round boxing permits. The words 'limited' and 'boxing' are a sham that deceives no one, and encounters are openly advertised as for the various prizefighting championships either local or for the world. The 'knockout,' inducing unconsciousness, is a frequent termination of the encounter, while the limit'-often twenty rounds, extending over nearly two hours—finds the contestants seriously beaten up and the audience in a frenzy of brutal excitement. This gladiatorial brutality is apparently the sole reason for the continuance of the fights, as there are few persons who are induced by the example of the prize ring to take up the sport for physical development or athletic competition.
“The first crime in which the Ruef-Schmitz Board of Supervisors participated as a whole, was in the creation of a monopoly of these fight permits for a body of promoters known as the Prize Fight Trust. These men paid Ruef a large sum of money for the exclusive right to the permits, and Ruef in turn distributed a part of the money to the members of the Board. The price was high, as in the case of the French restaurants, for there was a strong feeling in the community against the continuance of the 'fight game,' primarily because of its essential barbarity, and secondarily because, being prohibited in most of the other large cities of America, San Francisco became the rendezvous of a large proportion of the pugilists and their following of trainers and rough sporting men of the entire country.
“We have found no indications in the prize ring graft which connect it up with the higher financiers, or the landlord, as in the case of gambling and the social evil, but it appears that the business is as firmly established and as regularly organized as either of the former. The 'People of the State of California,' the plaintiff in all these cases, or the ‘Prosecution,' as they were nicknamed, by focusing the public attention on their character through these indictments and raids, were placing all three of these institutions in jeopardy. The cry that the prosecution was 'hurting business' became the watchword of all those who profit by the tenderloin enterprises, both high and low, as well as others in more innocent employments who were led to imagine they would be better off it the city's vices were left to run 'wide open.'
law311 which would prevent such exhibitions as the Jeffries-Johnson affair. Bills to that end were introduced. Immediately men not popularly regarded as opposed to the exploitation of prizefighting, also introduced antiprizefight bills. They started arguments as to which was the best bill. They were still arguing when the 1911 session adjourned without any anti-prizefight bill having been acted upon.
An attempt was made in 1912 to have such a measure put on the ballot by petition. But the necessary number of signers was not obtained in time. The 1913 session opened with the situation, so far as anti-prizefight legislation was concerned, precisely where it had been two years before.
Assemblyman Brown312 of San Mateo in the Lower House, and Senator Brown313 of Los Angeles in the Upper, introduced bills to outlaw prizefighting and restore sparring matches to the realms of legitimate
311 See “Story of the California Legislature of 1911,” page 171. 312 Assembly Bill 880. 313 Senate Bill 735.
314 The professional gambler and the professional exploiter of sports insist always that interference with their activities will mean the ruin of sport. The gambler and the exploiter has a curious way of mistaking himself for a sportsman. Thus, the chief argument advanced at previous sessions against the passage of anti-racetrack gambling legislation was that such laws would make horseracing impossible. But, as a matter of fact, when the gambler had been finally banished from the track, legitimate horseracing became practical. The races at the State Fair at Sacramento in 1912, at which poolselling and bookmaking were barred, were, for example, a notable success. Of_them, and the changed conditions at the track, the Sacramento Bee said:
"Especially notable was the fact that respectable women by thousands were seen at the fair grounds from day to day, a large proportion of them viewing all the races and displaying a keen interest in other features of the program; taking their lunches at the Park, spending money liberally and mani
The Assembly bill made prizefighting, or the sending or accepting of a challenge for a prizefight, or the training of a principal for a prizefight, or permitting the use of land or building for a prizefight, a felony. To make a bet on, or to be present at a prizefight, was also made a felony.
The Senate bill made all those connected with, and responsible for, a prizefight guilty of misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than
festing much enthusiasm over the entertainment provided for all visitors.
“But no less remarkable was the absence of pickpockets; of the prostitutes, procuresses, pimps, and other male parasites; touts, tinhorn gamblers, blacklegs, bunco men, swindlers and professional criminals, and blackguards of other descriptionssuch as formerly infested State and District Fairs when poolselling and other forms of gambling on races were permitted."
In the same strain, the Fresno Republican, in its issue of April 15, 1913, says of the opening of the light-harness racing season:
"The California light-harness racing season opened yesterday with a very successful meet. Numerous horses ran, there were good stakes, and the meet evidently aroused interest enough to justify its existence. It was held, of course, subject to the California law, which makes no objection to horseracing, but does prevent the racing being used as a mere pretext for gambling. This law as illustrated by the Pleasanton racing yesterday and by many other races all through the State does not in the least obstruct horseracing by trotting horses driven to harness.'
Of the 1913 Fresno County Fair the Republican, in its issue of October 5, says:
"No visitor of reasonably long memory can have attended the Fresno County Fair this year without noticing once more the contrast between the decent success of real merit in the fairs of to-day as compared with the indecent failures of former times. Here was a great fair of unprecedented attendance, unprecedented attractions, and unprecedented financial success, at which not a drink was sold, not a pool was sold, not a public bet placed, not a gambling or swindling device tolerated, and at which there was no disorder or roughness of any sort.
"It is so many years since the fairs of California, from the State Fair down to the smallest County Fair, were simply orgies of lawlessness. All the gambling that the widest open towns tolerated, plus a lot
more which was tolerated other time, was concentrated on fair week. Drunkenness and disorder were the rule. The only attractions seriously considered were the horseraces, and the chief interest in them was in the gambling to which they were an incident. Every attempt to improve its moral condition was met with the cry that any such improvement would kill the
$1,000 AND imprisonment in the county jail for not less than thirty days nor exceeding one year.
The bill specifically protected legitimate sparring matches and boxing exhibitions, provided that no fee of any sort should be charged for attendance at them, that the number of rounds should not be more than four of three minutes' duration each; that the gloves should not weigh less than eight ounces; that the principals should receive no compensation or reward other
fairs and make a financial failure, as well as deprive the towns of the large amount of money which these wide open features attracted. The quite evident fact that the fairs were then losing propositions and that the merchants of the towns where they were held were not making money from them did not affect the argument."
The San Francisco Bulletin, in its issue of October 11, 1913, comments on the advantage to legitimate racing of the banishment of the gambler from the track. The Bulletin says:
“That betting in the form of bookmaking is the curse of racing is never illustrated better than in the history of the sulky game in California. In the old days when the bookmaker played a conspicuous role a trotting or pacing race that was won in straight heats was a rarity. It had to be some big stake where the prize was alluring for the horses to 'try' in every heat. Otherwise the drivers were scoring or laying up heats after heats until the sun went down. Programs were often completed the next day on account of the dilly-dallying tactics of the drivers. The truth of the matter was that the drivers were not driving for the purses, they were driving for the bookmakers. There was more money in the boxes than in the secretary's office for the horsemen. Since California passed its anti-bookmaking laws what has been the result? There is no laying-up of heats. The drivers are out to make every post a winning post and the outcome is that the large majority of races are decided in straight heats. The public is not robbed by a bunch of unscrupulous bookmakers, who were nothing more than leeches upon society. Racing is now clean and free from taint and the public is protected, not skinned, as they were in the old days. And there seems to be just as much interest in the sport. Anyway, the fairs are making more money without bookmaking than they were with it."
In the same way as the racetrack gamblers used to do, the exploiters of prizefighting insist that interference with them means there can be no more boxing or sparring matches. Nothing is further from the truth.
It may be added, too, that the management of the PanamaPacific Exposition gives evidence of its belief that San Francisco must be "wide open” during the Exposition period if the Exposition is to be a success. Such a policy, if adhered to, will unquestionably prove as disastrous to the Exposition and the State as did bookmaking to legitimate horseracing and as does prizefight promoting to sparring contests.
than a trophy or medal, not to exceed in value the sum of thirty-five dollars.
These measures brought to Sacramento a lobby of prizefight promoters and gamblers, at least one of whom had been indicted at San Francisco in connection with the bribery of the Schmitz-Ruef Board of Supervisors. The hackneyed cry of “freak” was raised against the bills, and the usual course of discrediting them with the public through adverse publicity in the San Francisco press resorted to.
Whenever the measures came up in Assembly or Senate, every inch of the ground was contested. On the night of May 5, for example, the Senate was kept locked up for hours under call of the Senate, while the Senate bill was pending. The following night, May 6, the Assembly suffered the same experience when the Assembly measure was up for vote. The time of the Legislature consumed by the exploiters of prizefighting, the social evil, gambling and groggery, at the 1913 session, cost California many thousands of dollars.
At the committee hearings on the bills prominent San Francisco politicians and officials appeared to protest against their passage. Members of the San Francisco delegation in the Legislature made strong representation against them. Nevertheless, the Senate Public Morals Committee reported the Senate bill back with the recommendation that it be passed. The Assembly Public Morals Committee took the same action with the Assembly bill.
The Senate bill was returned to the Senate from committee on April 9. But more than two weeks passed