ARIPPLE of interest ran through the rowing world when it was first announced that the officials of the Canadian National Exhibition were thinking of adding a professional world’s championship sculling race to their already varied athletic programme. All over the globe, scullers and sweepsters are discussing it, but to judge by comment to date the enormous possibilities have not yet been fully visioned.
The materialization of this prospective event would have a greater effect on rowing as a whole than any other factor during this century. Naturally it would be of great interest to Canadians. And it would be fitting that it should take place in Canada, for our invigorating climate produced one of the greatest, if not the greatest, exponents of the art of single sculling the world has ever known—-Ned Hanlan. Other splendid sons have brought to their homeland the highest honors in the sport also.
In the palmy days of sculling, the shell-racing game took second place to no other sport. At that time a triumvirate of sensational figures held the world’s sporting interest—John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy; Ned Hanlan, ace of scullers; and Nancy Hanks, the trotting mare. All over this continent and in Australia and the Old Country, sculling matches drew huge crowds. Towns and cities closed for the day to allow the residents to see their idols in action. When Jake Gaudaur, Orillia’s world’s champion, defended his title in Vancouver against R. N. (Bob) Johnston, a log boom was utilized to make a rectangular course on the harbor and the Canadian Pacific liners had to skirt the course for over a quarter of a mile to dock at their berths.
Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic fans lined the banks of the Thames River to witness the first defeat of the sculling wizard, Hanlan, at the hands of the towering Australian, Bill Beach. In this race both men sculled themselves out, but the challenger, urged by the screams of the crowd, drew just one more stroke from his exhausted frame and coasted across the line, a victor.
Probably the outstanding single episode which showed how great was the interest of the sporting public in sculling and boxing occurred in San Francisco, when John L. Sullivan and Ned Hanlan put the Standing Room Only sign on the doors of the Coast City’s largest arena on the occasion of their hundred-yard sprinting match, which was won by the champion of the squared circle.
With the intense interest in sculling and the attendant publicity, the amateur game flourished. How long is it since thirteen or fourteen men went to the line for a Canadian title sculling race? Yet that was a common occurrence in those days. Dozens of little towns had their favorite son who travelled afar in the pursuit of glory, and the papers were filled with challenges. I doubt if
anyone will deny my statement that a return of professional sculling would bring in its wake a revival of interest in the amateur game.
Canada’s Splendid Rowing Record
CANADA has no reason to hang her head as far as amateur sculling is concerned. She has earned a proud standing through the exploits of Lou Scholes during a past decade, and those of Joe Wright, Jack Guest and Bobby Pearce during the last few’ years. Nevertheless, is there as much rowing done as there should be? towing is a Britisher’s sport. Its roots lie deep in the of the Thames River. The same spirit that built B}SfcúPÍre ted her sons to engage in this sport that reqtKíf^e highest standards of courage, self-denial Jn ffifc case of crew rowing, teamwork. Instead of a few clubs in our big dties and a few hundred active parthere shouk! be i^^cUil^ and thousands of young mw<ferivin$ tfi^heneft&fa^hc game offers to its devotees. 1 repeat professional
popularity would bring tnW*results Jn its :
For years the professional sidl^iiipwtng has occupied a small place in the public mind. Only iw England aí Australia has there been any active interest^*!« botl these countries the old amateur rules prevail; men professionals by accident of birth. It is hard for people on this continent to realize that the present world’s champion. Teddy Phelps, could not have rowed amateur if he had wanted to. He was l»rn the son of a famous boatbuilding family on the Thames, and as such was a professional.
It is only when a world’s title is at stake that enthusiasm flares up for a brief period. When Bert Barry raced Major Goodsell six years ago for the latter’s championship in Vancouver, the event attracted great attention. Newspapers all over the world featured it. The finish of the three-mile course was lined for half a mile on both sides by launches, while behind the slim cedar racing shells steamed two ocean liners packed with spectators, whose throats matched the roar from the crowds that lined the mountainous slopes on either side. Thousands braved wind and rain to see Teddy Phelps wrest the title from Barry. But it was an isolated occasion. Only too often, years pass between races.
Proposed Race at Toronto
WE HAVE SEEN what Elwood Hughes, Canada’s little Napoleon of sport promotion, has done with professional swimming at the Canadian National Exhibition. He can do the same for sculling. The sport has no guiding hand such as is furnished for boxing by commissions, and I personally consider Hughes the ideal man to wield the balance of power for the benefit of the sport. An annual event at the world’s largest annual exhibition for the world’s title would give him that position. Under his guidance, there would be developed a new crop of professional scullers and the attendant interest on the amateur side would grow.
It is known that Elwood Hughes Iras in mind a fourcornered race with Bobby Pearce, Teddy Phelps, Bert Barry and Major Goodsell as the contestants. That field would make the event the greatest of the century, if not of all time. On account of the necessity of rowing the professional distance of three miles with two turns, it would be necessary to match the men in heats of two. That would give the sporting public a spectacle of triple magnitude. The two heats and the final would each bring together two men fully qualified under the old order to meet for the championship of the world. It is understandable that some leading authorities on sport are confident that the event would be the greatest sporting exhibition of 1933.
Bobby Pearce is unanimously rated as one of the
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greatest amateurs of all time. There is no major event save the United States National Championship in which the smiling Australian-Canadian has not entered and outclassed the field. The Australian threemile and mile amateur titles, the historic Diamond Sculls, the Olympic championship twice, and the Canadian and British Empire crowns he has taken with graceful ease. His ardent admirers, and they are many, are confident that his power and skill would sweep even two former professional champions and the present titleholder into defeat.
If Pearce can do that, he will have a reasonable claim for the honor of being the greatest oarsman of all time. It would be even more remarkable because no amateur has yet reached a position of major importance in professional sculling. Ten Eyck, rated the fastest amateur ever developed in America and an easy winner of the Diamond Sculls, was taken to a special camp and trained for the professional distance for six months, but never came within three minutes of good professional time. Personally, I think it is like asking a good furlong runner to do likewise at the mile, but if anybody can do it Pearce is the man. He has trained like a professional and has had experience at three-mile races in Australia.
A Popular Contender
MAJOR GOODSELL will probably be the most popular contestant. He has been described as a replica of Hanlan, both in personality and build. He only stands about five feet, nine inches, but his 160 pounds of weight are all in the right places. He has done more good for the game than any champion in years. He is the born salesman, and his dapper appearance and winning ways recall Toronto’s great idol. Australian born, he is now a resident of the United States and at present is coach of rowing at the University of California.
Goodsell’s record in sculling is remarkable. In his first race against Paddon for the title he fell out of his shell, only to climb back in and crowd the champion to a victory of less than a length— a feat of skill and courage that endeared him to the Australian public. His next race earned him the crown, which he defended three times before migrating to this continent. He journeyed all over the Pacific Coast giving exhibitions, played the lead in a rowing picture and presented a sculling act in vaudeville.
During his training for his race with Barry in 1927, I had the privilege and pleasure of pacing “The Major,” as we called him, although the apparent title is his Christian name. I appreciated then, for the first time, the difference between amateurs and professionals. He rowed one trial against a relay of three. For the first mile he gave a double shell that had been rowing with him for weeks, with a senior amateur sculler in the stroke seat, a start of several lengths and passed it. At the start of the second mile, George Kingsley, a former four-times winner of the North Pacific singles, took a good lead, only to be caught and passed. Eddie Snead, Vancouver's brilliant 140-pound sculler, then at the height of his career, was waiting for Goodsell at the start of the third mile and broke away one length ahead. “The Major” treated him in the same manner, dashing past him in the last quarter.
In his second race with Barry, the title passed on to that scion of a great English rowing family. Goodsell is only thirty-three and he must be considered. He lost to Phelps last September, but it was due to faulty conditioning. He had forty seconds lead at one time, but fell back after the turn and. although three lengths in the rear a quarter-mile from the finish, summoned reserve energy from somewhere and drove the semi-conscious champion to a win by a few feet.
Titles Should be Defended
BERT BARRY, nephew of England’s: great Ernest Barry, is the direct opposite j of the smiling Goodsell. No two men could ! show a greater contrast. Tall and angular. | he looks, save for a tan. like an office | worker. He appears less like a champion j than any I have ever met, but his record j speaks for him. Goodsell and Barry have ! only two points in common: they are both watermen by birth and training and two of the best sportsmen it has been my pleasure to meet. Barry was trained from boyhood j for his destiny, the bringing back of his uncle’s title to the family.
Since early in the eighteenth century there has been a race on the Thames which is open only to apprentices in their last year— the Doggett Coat and Badge. It calls for the highest degree of watermanship and speed as the course is over four miles long j on the choppy stretches, and it is up to each man to steer his own course through the barge-infested waters. Bill Barry, Bert's father, Ernest Barry, Bert Barry and Bert’s younger brother, Lou, have all won the world’s oldest race. Following his victory in the Doggett, Bert was matched with scullers all over England and in each case showed a clean pair of blades. Even the large handicaps he received at the Christmas races on the Tyne failed to stop him. and he came to Canada to meet Goodsell with a staggering reputation. He lost the first race, but turned the tables in the second. His admirers claim that a cramjjed arm lost him the title to Phelps, but he is still young and ready and fit, and is anxious to row again in Canada. It is an interesting fact that Toronto’s own “Young Joe” Wright says: “Watch Bert if he rows at the Exhibition. I’ve rowed alongside him.” Teddy Phelps, the present titleholder, is also a proud possessor of the Doggett Coat and Badge. Son of a long line of boatbuilders, Teddy has been brought up in a shell. Standing under six feet, he is nevertheless built along powerful lines and tips the scales at about 186 pounds. His race against Goodsell was the second time that he has successfully defended his title, having taken Barry’s measure in two races.
The fact that Phelps is the stumbling block in Elwood Hughes’ efforts to arrange this great spectacle has already been published. The champion refuses to march with the times and insists that he will not enter j heats, while his demand for a guarantee ! is ridiculous in the face of present conditions. To the interested spectator it would seem that his demands have to be met if the proposed races are to materialize.
I will venture a prediction. I am confident that the event would lx* a great success. It is common knowledge that Elwood Hughes is very much sold on its possibilities. 1 predict that the races will be staged irrespective of Phelps. When Elwood Hughes staged his first World’s Swimming Race, did he ask anybody’s permission? No.
I don’t think he will stand for Phelps acting in a manner detrimental to the best interests of the sport after the fairness of the C. N. E.’s offers. I think the C. N. E., on Elwood Hughes’ recommendation, will offer a prize for the world’s championship event on the waterfront course next September.
It will be a simple matter to get a fourth man if Phelps continues to refuse to "play ball.” England and Australia have numerous first-class professionals close to championship class, and one of the first-class American amateurs might be persuaded to take the jump. Of course, it would make a situation with two world’s champions, but Phelps’ claims would receive scant consideration from followers of the sport. In boxing and nearly all other sports a champion is deprived of his title if he refuses to defend it under reasonable conditions. Why should not a sculling champion be treated the same way?