In 1888, Cupid Childs played 4 games for the Phillies, before he was released (remarkably, 4 games was enough for him to get a Philly baseball card made). He then traveled out to Kalamazoo, Michigan to try out for the Kalamazoo Kazoos. (I am not making that team name up. In 1895, they changed their name to the Kalamazoo Celery Eaters.) Anyways, his SABR page tells us what happened when the portly Childs arrived for his tryout, which they got from a newspaper account at the time.
“Childs is the most curiously built man in the baseball business: he is about as wide as he is long and weighs about as much as Jeffries, yet there are few men in the league who can get over the ground faster than the ‘dumpling.’ He started in the business as a professional with the Kalamazoo club in the Tristate league in 1888 and his work was so good that year that he graduated into fast company, where he has been ever since. When he reported to the Kalamazoo club he came in on a ‘side-door Pullman’ and presented himself to the management of the ‘Celery Eaters’ and asked for a trial. The manager thought he was joking after looking at his short length and broad girth, telling him he would make a better fat man in a side show than a ball player. Showing them he was anxious for a trial he was told to go to the grounds and practice with the rest of the team. A search was made for a uniform that would fit him, but none could be found, the only thing of that nature large enough for him being a pair of divided skirts, which he put on, cutting them off at the knees. His appearance with this costume on can be imagined and was so ludicrous that it threatened to break up the practice. However, as soon as he got out on the diamond and began to practice they began to open eyes and wonder. Such stops and throws were made as they never saw before and with such ease and grace that all were at once convinced he was a wonder. The management signed him on the spot and at a good salary, a move they never regretted, as his playing was the sensation of league all the season.”
We’re back after a brief hiatus. Things have been crazy, as I’ve taken on a 40-hour a week part time gig for Comcast for the Olympics. Posting will be fairly sporadic for a few weeks, then we’ll hit the ground running hard in September with football, and October of course marks our 2nd annual “Relive the World Series Spectacular.” This year we’ll be doing the ’29 Series between the A’s and the Cubs. Contributor Michael Collazo penned this piece about a former Philly boxer who took gold in Atlanta in ’96.
David Reid, a soft-spoken kid from North Philly, was a highlight of the 1996 Olympic Games – even though Muhammad Ali, changing sports TV marketing and a bomb upstaged what could have made him a star.
Lots of boxing’s past stars used the Olympics to become household names. Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya come to mind. By 1996, TV storylines — from Ali’s torch lighting to more family-friendly gymnastics, basketball and track & field coverage — hogged up NBC primetime, not boxing. Remember too on July 27, a scary bombing at Centennial Olympic Park marred what was supposed to an America’s love-in at the Atlanta Games.
On top of all that, Team USA Boxing had put up a disappointing showing. While Cuba – Team USA’s natural boxing rival – were on its way to scoring four gold and three silver medals, the local team was struggling to finish with just five bronze medals. Trenton’s Terrance Cauthen, who trained at Joe Frazier’s Gym on his way to Atlanta, scored one of those bronze medals at 130 lbs. On August 2th, two highly touted fighters you may know took crushing defeats. Future pro Light-heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver – AKA Mason “The Line” Dixon from the film Rocky Balboa – lost handily in his semi-final bout. And before he had a “Money Team,” a 19-year-old Floyd Mayweather lost a controversial, one-point decision to Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov – a fighter who was eight years older than Floyd and in his third Summer Olympics.
So on August 3rd, Reid, Team USA’s light middleweight (160 lbs.) representative, entered his gold medal fight against Cuba’s Alfredo Duvergel as the last hope. Reid’s advantage was a familiar face in his corner. As a middle-school kid, Reid had met Team USA’s lead coach Al Mitchell at Athletic Rec Center on 26th and Master Streets. Ever since, Reid trained and followed the instructions of Mitchell – all the way to the Olympics and beyond.
Early on Duvergel, a southpaw, used his counter-punching to control the first two rounds. Reid was stunned in Round 2, taking an Olympic-style standing eight-count. Entering Round 3, computerized scorecards showed Reid trailing 15-5. It felt like 1948 all over again – the last time a US boxing team had not scored a gold medal. Then before Round 3, Coach Mitchell gave Reid some advice.
“I told him ‘Hey, you can’t win,’” Mitchell told NBC’s Beasley Reece. “’The only way you can win is meet him with the right hand, go for the knock out – meet him.’”
And meet him he did. Reid threw a shrewd right, hitting Duvergel square and flooring the frontrunner. The referee counted to ten then waived off the fight. Reid’s jumping for joy was classic. He had won the gold.
“I’ve finally fulfilled my dreams now,” Reid said after the fight. “I look at myself – another Roy Jones, Ali…ah man.”
Reid’s highpoint was Atlanta. He essentially fought through an entire amateur and pro career with one bad, droopy eye. His poor vision cut his pro career short. Reid’s highest profile fight was his overwhelming loss to Tito Trinidad in 2000. Today, there are stories of Reid staying close to Coach Mitchell now in Michigan, broke and slowed by his illnesses.
But to Philly fans, Reid should always remember that elated gold medal winner jumping for joy.
David Reid should always be a star to us.
North Philly native and former Syracuse University classmate of Donovan McNabb, Michael Collazo is Group Sales Manager for Prudential Center in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @MCollazo215.