International Boxing Hall of Fame

Max Baer

"The Livermore Larupper"

CLICK HERE Max Baer's complete record from boxrec.com

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Statistics
Real name Maximilian Adelbert Baer
Nickname(s) Livermore Larupper
Rated at Heavyweight
Nationality American
Birth date February 11, 1909(1909-02-11)
Birth place Omaha, Nebraska
Death date November 21, 1959 (aged 50)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 84
Wins 72
Wins by KO 53
Losses 12
Draws 0
No contests 0

Maximilian Adelbert "Madcap Maxie" Baer (February 11, 1909 November 21, 1959) was an American boxer of the 1930s, one-time Heavyweight Champion of the World, actor and entertainer.

 Early life

Maximilian Adalbert Baer was born on February 11, 1909 in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Jacob Baer (1875�1938) who was of French and Jewish ancestry and Dora Bales (1877�1938) who was of German and Scots-Irish ancestry. His eldest sister was Frances May Baer (1905�1991), his younger sister was Bernice Jeanette Baer (1911�1987), his younger brother was boxer-turned-actor Jacob Henry Baer, better known as Buddy Baer (1915�1986) and his adopted brother was August "Augie" Baer.

Jacob Baer came from a long line of butchers. His father Achille or Aschill Baer {1831�1900} operated butcher shops in the frontier towns of Cheyenne in Wyoming Territory and Red Jacket, Michigan, before moving his family to Denver, Colorado. Achille/Aschill and his wife Frances "Fanny" Fischl {1852�1925} had 7 sons and 2 daughters. Their sons, including Max's father Jacob, were named for the tribes of Israel and the children's early education was in Jewish schools. [Brumbelow, Joseph, S. "Buddy Baer - Autobiography" 2003].

Jacob met Dora Bales when he was an employee of the Swift Meatpacking Company's plant in South Omaha, Nebraska, where Dora's father, John Bales, was also employed. Dora and Jacob married on Christmas Eve of 1904. Max's sister Frances was born in the Fall of 1905. Family legend has it Max made his lusty, 10-pound appearance during a brutal Nebraska snowstorm on February 11, 1909. In late summer of 1910 when Max was six months old, Swift & Company transferred the family by passenger train to Denver, Colorado where Jacob would enter a management position. The Baers lived in Denver, where Bernice and Buddy were born, from 1911-15. They spent a short time in Kaylor, New Mexico, where Jacob took charge of a packing house. There were no schools in Kaylor so Bernice was sent away to boarding school in Denver. The family was so upset at being split up they moved back to Denver, staying until 1919. The Gradon Mercantile Company soon offered Jacob a job in Durango, Colorado, and off the family went. [Brumbelow, Joseph, S. "Buddy Baer - Autobiography" 2003]. In May 1922, tired of the harsh Colorado winters, which aggravated Frances' rheumatic fever and Jacob's high blood pressure,[1] the Baers piled into a just-purchased automobile and began the long drive to the milder climes of the West Coast, where Dora's sister lived in Alameda, California, across the Bay from San Francisco. [Brumbelow, Joseph, S. "Buddy Baer - Autobiography" 2003] They drove more than 1,000 miles along unpaved roads. Jacob's expertise in the butcher business led to numerous job offers around the San Francisco Bay Area. While living in Hayward, Max took his first job as a delivery boy for John Lee Wilbur. Wilbur ran a grocery store on B Street and bought meat from Jacob. The Baers lived in the Northern California towns of Hayward, San Leandro and Galt [Brumbelow, Joseph, S. "Buddy Baer - Autobiography" 2003] before moving to Livermore in 1926. Livermore was true cowboy country, surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of rolling hills and rangeland which supported large cattle herds that provided fresh meat to the rapidly burgeoning towns nearby. In 1928, Jacob bought the Twin Oaks Ranch in Murray Township where he raised over 2,000 hogs, and which he worked with daughter Frances' husband, Louis Santucci. [Brumbelow, Joseph, S. "Buddy Baer - Autobiography" 2003] Baer often credited working as a butcher boy, carrying heavy carcasses of meat, sledge-hammering cows with one blow, and working at a gravel pit, for developing his powerful shoulders.

Professional boxing career

Baer turned professional in 1929, progressing steadily through the Pacific Coast ranks. A ring tragedy little more than a year later almost caused Baer to drop out of boxing for good.

 Frankie Campbell

Baer fought Frankie Campbell (real name Francisco Camilli, whose brother was Brooklyn Dodgers star Dolph Camilli) on August 25, 1930, in San Francisco in a ring built over home plate at San Francisco's Recreation Park to fight for the unofficial title of Pacific Coast champion. In the 2nd round of the fight, Campbell clipped Baer and Baer slipped to the canvas. Campbell went toward his corner and waved to the crowd. He thought Baer was getting the count. Baer got up and flew at Campbell, landing a looping right at Campbell's turned head which sent him to the canvas. After the round, Campbell said to his trainer "something feels like it snapped in my head." But Campbell went on to handily win rounds 3 and 4. As Baer rose for the 5th round, Tillie "Kid" Herman, Baer's former friend and trainer, who had literally switched camps overnight and was now in Campbell's corner, savagely taunted and jeered Baer. In a rage and determined to end the bout with a knockout, Baer soon had Campbell against the ropes. As he hammered him with punch after punch, the ropes were the only thing to hold Campbell up. Tillie Herman, as Campbell's chief second, had the privilege of throwing in the towel, but did not. Referee Toby Irwin seemed oblivious to what was occurring. When Irwin finally stopped the fight, Campbell collapsed to the canvas. It is reported that Baer's own seconds administered to Campbell, and that Baer was by his side until an ambulance arrived 30 minutes later. Baer "visited the stricken fighter's bedside," where he offered Frankie's wife Ellie the hand that hit her husband. "She took that hand and the two stood speechless for a moment. "It was unfortunate, I'm awfully sorry." said Baer. "It even might have been you, mightn't it?.'" Ellie replied.[2][3]

At noon the next day, with a lit candle laced between his crossed fingers, and his wife and mother beside him, Frankie Campbell was pronounced dead. Upon the surgeon's announcement of Campbell's death, Baer broke down and sobbed inconsolably. Brain specialist Dr. Tilton E. Tillman "declared death had been caused by a succession of blows on the jaw and not by any struck on the rear of the head," and that Campbell's brain had been "knocked completely loose from his skull." [Oakland Tribune - September 26,1930]

The incident earned Max the reputation as a "killer" in the ring. Campbell's death was used for promotional purposes to make Baer seem dangerous. This publicity was further sensationalized by Baer's return bout with Ernie Schaaf, who had bested Baer in a decision during Max's Eastern debut bout at Madison Square Garden on September 19, 1930. An Associated Press article in the September 9, 1932 Sports section of the New York Times describes the end of the return bout as follows: "Two seconds before the fight ended Schaaf was knocked flat on his face, completely knocked out. He was dragged to his corner and his seconds worked over for him for three minutes before restoring him to his senses...Baer smashed a heavy right to the jaw that shook Schaaf to his heels, to start the last round, then walked into the Boston fighter, throwing both hands to the head and body. Baer drove three hard rights to the jaw that staggered Schaaf. Baer beat Schaaf around the ring and into the ropes with a savage attack to the head and body. Just before the round ended Baer dropped Schaaf to the canvas, but the bell sounded as Schaaf hit the floor." Schaaf was never quite the same after that bout. He complained frequently of headaches[citation needed], and his ring performance was mercurial in succeeding bouts. Five months after the Baer fight, on February 11, 1933, Schaaf died in the ring after taking a left jab from the Italian behemoth Primo Carnera. Carnera was vilified as a "man killer", and two sports writers (Grantland Rice and Jimmy Cannon) claimed that Schaaf had died as a result of damage previously inflicted by Baer. The majority of sports editors noted,[4] however, that an autopsy later revealed Schaaf had meningitis, a swelling of the brain, and was still recovering from a severe case of influenza when he touched gloves with Carnera. Schaaf's obituary stated that "just before his bout with Carnera, Schaaf went into reclusion in a religious retreat near Boston to recuperate from an attack of influenza" which produced the meningitis.[5][2]

The death of Campbell and accusations over Schaaf's demise profoundly affected Baer, even though he was ostensibly indestructible and remained a devastating force in the ring. According to his son, actor/director Max Baer Jr. (who was born seven years after the incident):

My father cried about what happened to Frankie Campbell. He had nightmares. In reality, my father was one of the kindest, gentlest men you would ever hope to meet. He treated boxing the way today's professional wrestlers do wrestling: part sport, mostly showmanship. He never deliberately hurt anyone.[6]

In the case of Frankie Campbell, Baer was charged with manslaughter. Baer was eventually acquitted of all charges, but the California State Boxing Commission still banned him from any in-ring activity within the state for the next year. Baer gave purses from succeeding bouts to Campbell's family, but lost four of his next six fights. He fared better when Jack Dempsey took him under his wing.

Max Schmeling

In June 1933, Baer fought and defeated (by a technical knock out) the German heavyweight Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium. Baer's trunks displayed an embroidered Star of David,[7] which Max swore to wear in every bout thereafter. He dominated the rugged fighter from Germany into the tenth round when the referee stopped the match. Because Baer defeated Schmeling, German dictator Adolf Hitler's favorite, and because Baer had a half-Jewish father, he became popular among Jews, those who identified with Jews, and those who despised the Nazis' racial policies.

Cinderella Man

On June 13, 1935, one of the greatest upsets in boxing history transpired in Long Island City, New York, as Baer fought down-and-out boxer James J. Braddock. Baer hardly trained for the bout. Braddock, on the other hand, was training hard. "I'm training for a fight. Not a boxing contest or a clownin' contest or a dance." he said. "Whether it goes one round or three rounds or 10 rounds, it will be a fight and a fight all the way." "When you've been through what I've had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet." "He might come at me with a cannon and a blackjack and he would still be a picnic compared to what I've had to face."

Baer, ever the showman "brought gales of laughter from the crowd with his antics" the night he stepped between the ropes to meet Braddock. As Braddock "slipped the blue bathrobe from his pink back, he was the sentimental favorite of a Bowl crowd of 30,000, most of whom had bet their money 8-to-1 against him." Max "undoubtedly paid the penalty for underestimating his challenger beforehand and wasting too much time clowning." At the end of 15 "dull, uninspired" rounds during which "Baer didn't throw 10 genuine punches of any sort" and Braddock was described as "a plodder" the most "colorless bout in a decade" ended with Braddock emerging the victor, outpointing Baer 8 rounds to 6 in the "most astounding upset since John L. Sullivan went down before the thrusts of Gentleman Jim Corbett back in the gay nineties." Braddock took heavy hits from Baer, but kept coming at Baer until he wore Max down. At the end of the bout, Max hugged and congratulated Jim, then the judges gave Braddock the title in a unanimous decision. When asked why he threw away the title, Max's response was matter of fact. "'No alibi,'" he said cheerfully. "Jim fought a good fight and I hope he's more appreciative of the title than I was." The fight has since become a boxing legend.

Career Statistics

Max Baer boxed in 84 professional fights from 1929 to 1941. In all, his record was 72-12-0. 53 of those fights were knockouts, making him a member of the exclusive group of boxers to have won 50 or more bouts by knockout. Baer defeated the likes of Ernie Schaaf, Walter Cobb, Kingfish Levinsky, Max Schmeling, Tony Galento, Ben Foord and Tommy Farr. He was Heavyweight Champion of the World from June 14, 1934, when he knocked out the massive, 125-kg (275-pound) Primo Carnera, to June 13, 1935, until his reign ended in the aforementioned Braddock fight.

Baer fought Lou Nova in the first televised heavyweight prizefight, on June 1, 1939, on WNBT-TV in New York. His last match, in 1941, was another loss to Nova. Baer and his brother, Buddy, both lost fights to Joe Louis, Buddy's two losses to Louis coming in world title fights. In the second round of their 1935 fight, Joe knocked Max down to one knee, the first time Baer had ever been knocked to the canvas in his career. A sizzling left hook in the fourth round brought Max to his knee again, and the referee called the bout soon after.[8]

Baer was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1968, the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1984 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995. The 1998 Holiday Issue of Ring ranked Baer # 20 in "The 50 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time." In Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers (published in 2003), Baer is ranked number 22.

Acting

Baer's motion picture debut was in The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) opposite Myrna Loy and Walter Huston. In this MGM movie he played Steven "Steve" Morgan, a bartender that the Professor, played by Huston, begins training for the ring. Steve wins a fight, then marries Belle Mercer, played by Loy. He starts seriously training, but it turns out he has a huge ego and an eye for a women. Featured were Baer's upcoming opponent, Primo Carnera, as himself, whom Steve challenges for the championship, and Jack Dempsey, as himself, former heavyweight champion, acting as the referee.

On March 29, 1934, The Prizefighter and the Lady was officially banned from playing in Germany at the behest of Joseph Goebbels, then Adolf Hitler's minister of Propaganda and Public Entertainment, even though it received favorable reviews in local newspapers as well as in Nazi publications. When contacted for comment at Lake Tahoe, Baer said, "They didn't ban the picture because I have Jewish blood. They banned it because I knocked out Max Schmeling."

Baer acted in almost 20 movies, including Africa Screams (1949) with Abbott and Costello, and made several TV guest appearances. A clown in and out of the ring, Baer also appeared in a vaudeville act and on his own TV variety show. Baer appeared in Humphrey Bogart's final movie, The Harder They Fall (1956), opposite Mike Lane as Toro Moreno, a fictionalized version of Primo Carnera, whom Baer defeated for his heavyweight title. Budd Schulberg, who wrote the book from which the movie was made, portrayed the Baer character, "Buddy Brannen", as bloodthirsty, and the unfounded characterization was reprised in the movie Cinderella Man.

Baer additionally worked as a disc jockey for a Sacramento radio station, and for a while he was a wrestler. He also served as public relations director for a Sacramento automobile dealership and referee for boxing and wrestling matches.

Family

Baer married twice, actress Dorothy Dunbar (married July 8, 1931-divorced October 6, 1933) and Mary Ellen Sullivan (married June 29, 1935-his death 1959). With Sullivan, he had three children, actor Max Adelbert Baer Jr. (born 1937), James Manny Baer (born 1942) and Maudie Marian Baer (born 1944). During a separation from his first wife, Max had affairs with movie stars Jean Harlow, Mae West and Greta Garbo.

Baer never lived to enjoy the TV and movie success of his son, Max Baer Jr. (who played Jethro Bodine in the television series The Beverly Hillbillies). At the time of his death on November 21, 1959, Baer was scheduled to appear in some TV commercials, which he had planned to do in Los Angeles before returning to his home in Sacramento.

Since Max Baer Sr. was unable to defend himself from Ron Howard's unflattering portrayal in Cinderella Man, the task of rehabilitating his father's reputation has fallen to Max Baer Jr.[8]

Death

On Wednesday, November 18, 1959, Baer refereed a nationally televised 10-round boxing match in Phoenix. At the end of the match, to the applause of the crowd "Baer grasped the ropes and vaulted out of the ring." and "joined fight fans in a cocktail bar." The next day he was scheduled to appear in several television commercials in Hollywood, California. On his way, he stopped in Garden Grove, California, to keep a promise he had made thirteen years earlier to the then five-year old son of his ex-sparring partner, Curly Owens. Baer presented the now 18-year-old with a foreign sports car on his birthday, as he had said he would.[9]

Baer checked into the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel upon his arrival on the 19th. "Hotel employees said he looked fit but complained of a cold." As he was shaving, the morning of November 21st, he experienced chest pains. He called the front desk and asked for a doctor. The desk clerk said "a house doctor would be right up." "A house doctor?" he replied jokingly, "No, dummy, I need a people doctor." Dr. Edward S. Koziol "gave Max medication and a fire department rescue squad administered oxygen. Baer's chest pains subsided and he was showing signs of recovery when he was stricken with a second attack. A moment before he was joking with the doctor, declaring he had come through two similar but lighter attacks earlier in Sacramento, California. Just as I was talking to him, he slumped on his left side, turned blue and died within a matter of minutes. His last words were, 'Oh God, here I go.'" Max Baer was 50 years old.[9]

Funeral

Max Baer's funeral was one of the largest ever attended in Sacramento, where he had made his home for almost 30 years. "A crowd of more than 1,500, many with scarred eyebrows and smashed noses bade farewell." Among his mourners were "four former world champions," "politicians, people in wheel chairs and Cub Scouts." There were "men of wealth and distinction - and bums shuffling off skid road. They were women in mink stoles and diamonds - and women in cotton house dresses, and in slacks. They were babies in the arms of their young mothers - and elderly couples, helping each other's halting steps." "Hundreds of others, unable to get into the funeral home, crowded around the outside. Some chose vantage points on car roofs and nearby scaffolding." Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey were among his pallbearers. There were "tears in the eyes of 'Curly' Owens, his one-time sparring partner, as he took down Max's gloves from a big white floral arrangement." "The cemetery service was concluded by an American Legion firing squad, recognizing Baer's service in World War II." His obituary made the front page of the New York Times. He was laid to rest in a garden crypt in St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Sacramento.[9]

Legacy

There is a park named for Max Baer in Livermore, California, which he considered his home town, even though he was born in Omaha. There is also a park in Sacramento named after him. He was honored by the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

Selected filmography

Portrayed In:

  • "Cinderella Man" (2005) - which is a depiction disputed by his family

TV guest appearances