Joe Louis came off the floor in the first round to take James Braddock’s title by knocking him out in the eighth round of their world title fight in Chicago on June 22. Although Louis was clearly hurt by the right uppercut, he proceeded to take Braddock apart. Braddock did not give up his crown lightly. At the end of the seventh, Braddock’s manager wanted to call it a day, but Braddock with a split lip, a bad cut over his left eye, and his right eye swollen, vowed that if he did the fighter would never speak to him again. A little over one minute later it was all over when Louis caught him with an overhead right to the jaw.
Louis achieved what Jack Johnson the first black world heavyweight champion failed to do - acceptance by the American public. Louis went out of his way not to offend whites and not to speak out against racism, but did make mild appeals for equal opportunities. His spectacular talent, a vicious right jab, and a knock-out punch made him an idol and role model for young blacks.
When Len Hutton made his way from Yorkshire to Lord’s for the first Test against New Zealand he was being touted as the successor to Herbert Sutcliffe. Much was expected of him. The new England opener, though, was far from impressive. He was bowled for a duck by Jack Cowie in his first innings and scored only one run in his second innings before he again fell to the New Zealand fast bowler they called the Bull. Fortunately the England selectors decided to retain Hutton for the next test.
Their faith in the young man was vindicated at Old Trafford. Hutton never looked back. He hit 100 in 210 minutes to set up England’s 130 run victory.
Although he had a wide range of strokes, Hutton generally curbed his repertoire, cutting out the risky shots that would have put a solid opening innings for England in jeopardy. A shy man Hutton was forced to hold together many England innings after the war together with Denis Compton the Arsenal and England football player.
CRICKET - The lbw law was changed to prevent excessive use of the pads. A batsman could be out to a ball pitched outside the off stump instead of only between wicket and wicket
FOOTBALL - The highest number of paying spectators, 149,547 saw Scotland beat England 3 - 1 at Hampden on April 17.
The third World Cup, in France, was plagued by politics. Europe was in turmoil: Austria had been overrun by Germany in the Anschluss and their best players had been snapped up by the Fatherland, and there was civil war in Spain. Despite being begged by the French organisers, Britain still refused to send even one competing nation; Uruguay stayed at home beset with problems of professionalism and still sulking about 1930; Argentina would not forgive Fifa for not awarding them the tournament, so they stayed at home as well.
This provoked a riot outside the Argentine football federation offices in Buenos Aires that police had to break up. Interestingly, new faces appeared: Cuba, the Dutch East Indies and Poland. Italy had rebuilt their side in the four years since winning in 1934. Vittorio Pozza their genius manager brought them perfectly to their peak. The other two great sides in the competition were Brazil, fiery and brilliant, and Hungary, cool and precise. Italy, organised and masterful disposed of each of them in the semi-final and final respectively.
A boat trip to Australia in the 1930‘s was beyond the call of duty for most amateur tennis players. But most did not include Don Budge, who had set his sights on adding the Australian championships to his growing list of titles. He cruised past John Bromwich in the final and then turned his attention to the French championships. Rodrick Menzel provided little opposition in the final and by this stage Allison Danzig, a sportswriter of the New York Times began to write about Budge possibly achieving the ‘Grand Slam’ by winning the four major championships.
The pressure began to grow on Budge, but he did not show it when he became the first player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon without dropping a set. Bunny Austin was the cannon fodder for Budge in the final, winning only four games. And so to New York and Forest Hills.where Budge was well aware he was only one step away from history. His opponent in the final was Gene Mako his friend and doubles partner. Budge was tentative at first and after winning the first set 6 - 3 he lost the second 8 - 6. He then moved up a gear in the third set and eventually wrapped up the Grand Slam in convincing style.
BOXING - Benny Lynch of Scotland was stripped of his world title on June 29 for failing to make the weight in a world flyweight title fight in Paisley against Jackie Jurich of California. The two met later that afternoon as catchweights and Lynch floored Jurich six times and Ko’d him in the 12th round.
TELEVISION - It was a year of firsts with the FA Cup final, the Derby, the first rugby union international (England v Scotland) , and the first ice hockey match (Haringey v Streatham) all shown live.
GOLF - Britain won the Walker Cup for the first time, beating the US 7½ to 4½ at St. Andrews after 16 years of trying.
An incurable wasting disease finally ended Lou Gehrig’s enormous contribution to the New York Yankees. Gehrig hit almost as far and as hard as Babe Ruth in an era when sluggers dominated the American League.
His illness finally forced him to retire on May 2, after he had played an incomparable 2.130 consecutive games for the Yankees in a sequence that stretched back to June 1, 1925. But despite losing Gehrig, there was still no stopping the Yankees. Inspired by the recently discovered Joe Di-Maggio, who was voted the American League’s Most Valued Player, they won their fourth consecutive World Series.
When Bobby Riggs , a 21 year-old Californian deliberately made less than a 100% effort in a pre-Wimbledon contest and lost the semi-final, little did the bookmakers realise that he had caused the odds on him winning the Men’s championship to lengthen considerably. It was with a wry smile that Bobby Riggs, having backed himself substantially, collected his winnings after a 2 - 6, 8 - 6, 3 - 6, 6 - 3, 6 - 2 victory against his doubles partner Ellwood Cooke in the final. Riggs completed his perfect record of winning all three men’s titles - singles, doubles and mixed-doubles in his only appearance at Wimbledon.
In the ladies competitions another Californian, Alice Marble was making her mark in a T-shirt and shorts. Doctors gave Marble little hope of playing again when they diagnosed tuberculosis after she collapsed on court in the French championships in 1934. But she returned to the sport two years later a fitter and faster player. Her fight back reached its zenith when she won the triple crown at Wimbledon. She crushed the German Hilde Sperling 6 - 0, 6 - 0 in the semi-final and beat the left-handed Kay Stammers 6 - 1, 6 - 1 in the final.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL - The NFL attracted one million spectators for the first time.
CRICKET - England experimented with an eight ball over. Wally Hammond became the first fielder to hold 100 catches in Tests in the second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford.
FOOTBALL - A crowd of 118,567 watched Rangers play Celtic at Ibrox on January 2. It was a league record for the British Isles and the first six-figure attendance for a league match in Britain.
In a conflict that touched everyone, an estimated 55 million people lost their lives. British sport was one of the first casualties, dealt a knock-out blow within days of the war being declared on September 3, 1939.
Two days before, Hedley Verity had taken seven for nine in six overs for Yorkshire at Hove, and Blackpool had moved to the top of the first division with three wins. But the war brought an immediate blanket ban on sport. The mood was sombre and people wondered if they would ever play again. Verity did not, he was killed in action in Italy..
However, when people began playing and watching sport again the ant-sport lobby launched their usual vociferous attack. The tone of the argument was exemplified by Sir Stafford Cripps, the leader of the House of Commons. “All wastage, all unnecessary expenditure is to be ended” he said. “Our motto can neither be ‘business as usual’ nor ‘pleasure as usual’
What the critics ignored was that an afternoon at the cinema or a day in the country used up as much money, petrol and manpower as sport. They also neglected to mention that sport provided relaxation for tired workers and entertainment for soldiers on leave. It took peoples minds off the horrors and provided a glimpse of normality. Above all, it lifted morale.
When the United States joined the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the same questions about whether sport should continue were asked as in Britain. And the answer was the same. F. D. Roosevelt was determined that the show must go on.
The draconian edicts were gradually repealed and as the country came out of its shell, so too did sport, which eventually played an important role in lifting the morale of battered Britain.
The Phoney War, seven months in 1940, when the two adversaries were entrenched behind defensive lines, helped sport emerge from the blackout. Not before table tennis had experimented with phosphorescent balls to be seen in decreased light and Wembley spent £300 painting its glass roof black so events could be
It was open season on sport, which was accused of wasting petrol, money and manpower. There was a demand for a total war effort. It was a call that did not go unheeded by sportsmen. When the World Speedway Championships at Wembley were cancelled soon after the outbreak of war many of the stars enlisted as dispatch riders.
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