When the sob sister of The Call is told to go out and cover the Call Athletic Union dance and bring back an impressionistic description of Benny Leonard and Al McCoy, she necessarily wonders what the taciturn city editor wants. After pondering deeply for some half hour, she concludes that she must go and gaze—perhaps talk to a couple of burly brutes who have flung reputation to the winds and who have broken their old mothers’ hearts, and then come back to the office and write a highly moral tale to warn all youngsters with pugilistic leaning to desist.
Getting to the hall where the dance is, she hunts vainly around for a sweatered individual with a protruding jaw. During the vain search the band strikes up “The Star-Spangled Banner” and two prize fighters enter.
“Now for my impressionistic description.” And the interview was on.
Benny Leonard, the world’s greatest lightweight, is of medium height, well-groomed and a gentleman. He does not say, “Pleased tuh meet chah. Dis ain’t de foist ‘ime I was interviewed.”
“As soon as I get out of the ring,” said Mr. Leonard, “I try to do my best to refute that idea of what a fighter is. My mother did not much want me to go into the game, but I was crazy about it. For her sake, I wear good clothes, study and try to be all that she wants me to be. I wish that you would write this interview all about her. I’d like to have everybody know just wha’ a wonderful mother she always has been to me. She’s made me whatever I am. And it’s been for her sake mostly that I made good, so that I could give her nice home and a little car and all the money she wants.”
And when you consider that Benny Leonard, beginning as a printer’s apprentice at $4 a week, now has an income of $50,000 a year, it can be seen that he has attained his wish.
“But I’m crazy about the game. I clip out all the newspaper stories about the fights I’m in, and keep them in a scrap book. Then when I’m old, I can get it out and think what a good time I’ve had.
Al McCoy, on the contrary, does not like the work. “In three months,” he said, “I’m going to give it up. I’ve got a wife and champion baby, and a farm. So I want to settle down and be a farmer up in Maine. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time, especially for the kid’s sake. She’s two and a half; her name’s Beatrice, and fighting the way I am, we have to move from one place to another, and I never see enough of her.
“And the, too, people are always judging you by your profession. They all think that you’re a regular abysmal brute—and really, I’m just as gentle as a lamb.
“Y’ever read Jack London’s “The Game?” Great, isn’t it? He knew the fighting game, all right. I’ve got all of his books at home, and in three months’ time, I’ll be sitting back and reading them. Too bad we lost him.”
These wisps of conversation, snatched between dances, give a poor idea of the two fighters. But they are men that the Socialist movement can be proud of. All the evening young fellows brought their blushing, curious girls up to shake hands with Benny or Al. All evening long they were pointed out and looked at, but they stood it bravely with an ease and courtesy that was natural, not forced. That last line sounds like Robert W. Champers’, but it’s straight stuff.
The dance was a great success. For a wonder, there was an orchestra without the predominating cornet. A protest is here made, and seconded by many Socialists who attend Saturday night dances, against the combination of piano, violin and cornet.
The floor was so crowded by 11 o’clock that one of the best dancers in the room slipped over some one’s foot and fell to the floor. It is comforting to those who slipped and sprawled many times to mention this little incident.
Between the dances the hall sounded as though there were a Harvard-Yale football game going on. The Young People’s Socialist League members from Newark made the most noise.