Provided by J Michael Kenyon through WRESTLING AS WE LIKED IT.
"Saw Frank Gotch As The Superlative"
Ring Wrestling, December, 1968
by George A. Barton (Minnesota Boxing Commissioner)
Copied without permission.
Minneapolis, Minn.-- The years roll along. Sixty of them have passed
into the limbo of time. But talk about Frank Gotch's big victory over
George Hackenschmidt in Chicago in 1908 does not abate.
There is much wrestling in the United States. There are some fine
grapplers the world over. But there has been no duplicate of the
I read with great interest the Ring Wrestling story by David
Willoughby, in which he aspersed Gotch's victory and played up
Hackenschmidt beyond all his just dues.
I was very glad to see Ring Wrestling break into the Willoughby opus
and defend Gotch, as he should have been defended.
I take strong exception to Hackenschmidt's accusing Gotch of gouging,
heeling, kneeing, butting and kicking and using his knuckles to blind
him in their first bout.
I can speak with authority in taking exception to these charges because
as sports editor of The Minneapolis Daily News I was at ringside and
reported the match for the Cloverleaf Newspapers, Minneapolis and St.
Paul Daily News and Omaha Daily News. I was only 25 years old and am
now 83. The match was held in April, 1908, at the Dexter Park
Pavilion, located in Chicago's stockyards district. The match was
promoted by W.W. Wittig, of Minneapolis, a theatrical man, a close
friend of mine.
I know that Gotch did not resort to any foul tactics but won on his
The bout was dull because both men were on their feet for two hours and
three minutes, neither being able to put the other down on the mat.
After they had tussled and tugged for 123 minutes, Gotch finally got
behind Hackenschmidt, grabbed him around the waist and slammed him down
on the mat.
Before Gotch could press his advantage, Hackenschmidt said to referee
Ed Smith, sports editor of the Chicago American, "Give Gotch the fall-I
During that era all matches were decided on a best two out of three
Hackenschmidt refused to return to the ring for the second fall,
thereby forfeiting the match to Gotch.
Wittig pleaded with Hackenschmidt to come out for the second fall, but
the Russian Lion replied: "No, Mr. Wittig, and wrestler who can keep me
on my feet for two hours and throw me down like that, deserves to win.
I resign, and tell the referee to declare Gotch the winner."
Hackenschmidt was a vain person and could not bear the humiliation of
defeat by having his shoulders pinned to the mat.
Before the match, Hackenschmidt told me he would defeat Gotch in two
straight falls in 15 minutes or less, just as he had done to Tom
Jenkins, Gotch's predecessor as champion of America. I gathered from
Hack's attitude that he held Gotch in contempt.
He told me in Minneapolis a month before the bout when I promoted a
match between him and Henry Ordemann, that he would beat Gotch quickly,
in two straight falls.
I also reported the second match between Gotch and Hackenschmidt at
Comiskey Park on Labor Day, 1911, when Gotch defeated him in straight
falls in less than 30 minutes. Gotch used his famous "Gotch step-over
toe-hold" applied to Hack's right leg in gaining each fall.
In interviews after the match Hackenschmidt said he had injured his
right knee in a workout two weeks before the match and requested the
promoters to postpone the bout for at least a month. The promoters,
Jack Curley, Joe Coffey, Ed Smith and I.H. Herk, talked him out of it,
saying the weather in October would not be suitable for an outdoor
match, Hack insisted.
Hackenschmidt knew Gotch had broken the legs of several opponents who
resisted Frank's dangerous "step-over toe-hold" which explains why he
did not fight to escape from this deadly grip and risk permanent
injury. The return bout drew $87,000, a record for a wrestling match
which stood for many years.
Frank Gotch and I were close friends from 1906 until his death in 1918
at the age of 43. I promoted a number of bouts featuring him in
I began promoting wrestling matches as a sideline in 1906, and Gotch
was one of the first noted wrestlers who worked for me. I continued to
promote wrestling matches in Minneapolis until the early 30's when my
work as executive sports editor of The Minneapolis Tribune which
published morning, evening and Sunday, became so heavy I had to give it
up. I turned the promotional activities over to the late Tony Stecher,
brother of Joe, former World Heavyweight Champion.
Among the noted wrestlers who worked under my promotion for more than a
quarter of a century, in addition to Gotch, were: Hackenschmidt,
Stanislaus Zbyszko, Yussiff Mahmout,
Ivan Padubny, Hjalmar Lundin, Constant Le Marin, Ivan Linow, John Freberg,
Henry Ordemann, Dr. B. F. Roller, Fred Beall, Charley Olson,
Charley Cutler, Yankee Rogers, Jess Westergaard,
Hans Steinke, Jimmy Londos,
Bill Demetral, Ed Strangler Lewis,
Joe Stecher, Earl Caddock,
John Pesek, Martin Plestina, George Bothner, Walter Miller, Chris Jordan,
Johnny Meyers, Bull Montana, Mike Yokel, Wainow Ketonen and Ralph Parcuat.
Having seen all of these wrestling greats in action, I hail Gotch as
the greatest of all time.
From the time Frank won the world championship from Hackenschmidt in
1908, until his death in 1918, Gotch never lost a fall, much less a
match, defeating in straight falls such as Hack, Stan Zbyszko and
Mahmout. He toured the United States and Canada meeting all comers,
agreeing to throw them inside of 15 minutes or forfeit $100.00. Very
I regard the modern crop of wrestlers as showmen whose tactics in the
ring are ludicrous. Strangely enough, the public enjoys their
roughhouse methods, as attest to the big crowds they draw in cities
large and small. The fans adore violence, not science.
Great wrestlers come and go, fighting desperately to approach the Gotch
standard, and never quite making it.
It is to be hoped that, once and for all, aspersions on Frank as the
mat's all-time paragon are discontinued.