• FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Play Ball!"

    Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii PlayedThe following is an excerpt from Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played by Arthur Suehiro. Crammed full of archival photos and images of memorabilia, this ode to the Termite Palace is a treasure trove of facts and photos. Honolulu Stadium, torn down in 1976, was more than just a classic American ballpark—it was the heart and soul of a community. From the first kick-off in 1926 to the final out in '75, the Stadium was Honolulu's premier gathering place. Art Suehiro's book captures it all, from barefoot football to big league stars, stock car racing to polo matches, Boy Scout Makahiki pageants to Elvis Presley's concert.

    In this excerpt, Art introduces Chapter Three, covering Hawaii's love affair with baseball and the great players who came to town.

    It’s a little-known fact of baseball lore—that the Father of Modern Baseball lies buried in a weathered graveyard less than three miles from Honolulu Stadium. He was Alexander Joy Cartwright—sportsman, adventurer, bon vivant—an American pioneer who charted baseball’s field of play and forged its first real team, the New York Knickerbockers, then carried the game from coast to coast—and beyond. Cartwright put ashore at Honolulu Harbor in 1849 and quickly became a familiar figure throughout the kingdom, sharing his newfangled sport with planters’ sons and native Hawaiians alike.

    Though Cartwright, who died in 1892, never ran the Stadium’s base paths himself, his legacy would shape the arena throughout its historic half-century. Baseball was king at the Stadium, from the heart-stopping home runs of the Great Bambino and the Yankee Clipper to the final-season heroics of the Hawaii Islanders. Like other fabled shrines at Ebbets and Wrigley and the Polo Grounds, Honolulu Stadium was a classic showcase for the national pastime.

    Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played - program Exhibition game poster, 1935. From the collection of Lillian Noda Yajima.

    Baseball, in fact, played a leading role in the Stadium’s debut. In 1925, sports entrepreneur J. Ashman Beaven was managing the long-established Honolulu Baseball League, whose teams did battle at Moiliili Field, the comfortable old park at the corner of King and Isenberg. The Territory of Hawaii was still every bit a plantation oligarchy then—with a steady stream of immigrants arriving to work the fields of sugar and pineapple. In this divided society, teams were naturally organized by nationality, an arrangement that provided cultural exchange and a healthy way to compete for ethnic bragging rights—not to mention rabid fan support.

    In May 1925, following an organizational conflict within the Honolulu Baseball League, Beaven launched a brand-new circuit, the Hawaii Baseball League (HBL), taking with him six defecting teams—the Asahi (Japanese), Braves (Portuguese), Wanderers (haole), Filipinos, Hawaiians and Chinese Tigers.

    This new league continued to use Moiliili Field until the spring of 1927, when it moved across the street to spanking-new Honolulu Stadium, while the old Honolulu Baseball League moved its games to Makiki Field.

    On a perfect baseball Sunday in May, the Hawaii Baseball League christened the Stadium’s newly-built grandstand with lively opening ceremonies and a hard-fought game. The team to beat that year was the Asahi, the 22-year-old powerhouse defending back-to-back titles won in ’25 and ’26. Over the next three decades, the complexion of the HBL changed as other franchise teams came and went, particularly during the war years. Among them: the Rural Red Sox, Fil-Americans, SubPac Marines, 7th Army Air Force, Navy Sub Base, Hawaiis and Waikiki Surfers. In 1939 the HBL marked the game’s centennial by introducing the annual Cartwright Series, a tournament of the league’s top four teams held in honor of Alexander Joy Cartwright.

    The league even enjoyed a farm system of sorts, with promising players groomed in junior circuits like the AJA (Americans of Japanese Ancestry) League, Portuguese League, Filipino League, Chinese League, Winter League, American Legion and Commercial League.

    A case in point: the Chinese Baseball League in the late ’30s, which included teams named Chungshans, Chinese Amateurs, Rural Chinese, Honolulu Chinese and Quality Dairy. At the end of each season, the loop’s top players were selected by committee to form the next HBL Chinese Tigers team.

    The Commercial League, meanwhile, generated its own brand of excitement, matching up teams from a handful of Honolulu utilities and sugar companies. In 1937, at the league’s peak, these teams were the perennial champion Mutual Telephone—affectionately dubbed the “Hello Lads” in the local press—Shell Oil (the “Super Shells”), Oahu Sugar, Hawaiian Electric and Honolulu Rapid Transit (the “Rapid Transits”). Mutual Telephone won yet another Commercial League title that year, closing out a fifth straight undefeated season.

    Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played - Babe Ruth A Stadium photo op (left to right): promoter Herb Hunter, who organized the exhibition tour that brought Babe Ruth to town in October 1933, the Babe and territorial Governor Lawrence Judd. Photo Credit: Hawaii State Archives.

    But the HBL remained Hawaii’s biggest and longest-running league. Some of its finest moments came during exhibition games featuring visiting major leaguers. In 1934, the fabled Connie Mack managed a touring Who’s Who of the sport, including Lou Gehrig, Jim Foxx and the immortal Babe Ruth. The “Sultan of Swat” was no stranger to the Stadium, having played in exhibition games the previous year in both Honolulu and Hilo.

    Island baseball mania reached a fever pitch during the war years. Ironically, World War II first brought a demolition scare to the Stadium, as Civil Defense officials and the Army Corps of Engineers announce d plans to tear it down and build bomb shelters for Moiliili residents. But all that changed when Oahu’s military bases became home to some of the game’s biggest stars. Joe DiMaggio and Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Vander Meer—these and many others played for service teams before packed houses at Honolulu Stadium. The banner year was 1944, when big-time ball came to town in the form of exhibition games staged to sell war bonds. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants played at Honolulu Stadium, and again the following day at Schofield Barracks’ Chickamauga Park.

    The standing-room-only war bonds games were only a warm-up for the landmark year that was 1944. Out at Hickam Field, Brigadier General William Flood was steamed about his 7th Army Airforce team’s anemic standings in the HBL. So Flood began pulling rank, rounding up some of baseball’s best players from their duty posts around the country. Besides DiMaggio, Flood’s “draftees” included the St. Louis Browns’ Bob Dillinger, the Cincinnati Reds’ Mike McCormick and Ferris Fain of the San Francisco Seals. In DiMaggio’s first game—on June 4 against a Navy SubBase team boasting its own major leaguers—the Yankee Clipper electrified the record crowd of 30,000 with a 435-foot home run over the Stadium’s Isenberg wall.

    Later that summer, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey was on hand for a rematch of these two service teams, one which saw DiMaggio and the 7th AAF—known as the Hickam Bombers—whip the Submariners, 21-1. Fresh from his great victory at Midway, the enraged Halsey immediately embarked on a new campaign, pulling his own considerable rank to corral major leaguers from naval bases nationwide. In short order, the SubBase team found itself shored up by the likes of Pee Wee Reese, the New York Yankees’ Rizzuto, the Cincinnati Reds’ Vander Meer, Virgil “Fireball” Trucks of the Detroit Tigers and Joltin’ Joe’s younger brother, Dom DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox. And though the 7th AAF team rolled on to capture the ’44 HBL championship and the Cartwright Series, the Navy avenged those losses in that fall’s Army-Navy Pacific Ocean Area Championship Series. SubBase won this special, best-of-seven challenge in four straight games before sell-out Stadium crowds that included an ecstatic Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

    When the war ended the following year, so did Honolulu’s big-league bonanza. While a few stars played the Stadium in ’45—most notably Stan Musial—the others were on their way back to the “bigs.” But major leaguers continued to appear in Stadium exhibition games throughout the postwar years. The New York Giants came to town in 1953, followed in the fall of ’54 by the Lopat All-Stars—a group headed by Yankee southpaw Eddie Lopat and including Eddie Matthews, Don Newcombe, Billy Martin and Roy Campanella. Honolulu came alive in ’55 when the Yankees arrived to take on the HBL Rural Red Sox. Under the watchful eye of colorful, contentious Casey Stengel, the New York roster that year included Mickey Mantle (inset, opposite page), Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Don Larsen. And autumn 1956 brought the high-flying Brooklyn Dodgers, led by Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson.

    As the ’50s drew to a close, the old Hawaii Baseball League was on the wane. For more than three decades, the HBL had provided local players the opportunity to pursue their sport in Hawaii, in Japan and on the mainland. And all the while, it was paving the way for national-caliber professional baseball. In 1961 Salt Lake City’s Nick Morgan bought the defunct Sacramento Solons of the venerable Pacific Coast League (PCL) and moved it to Honolulu. So began the franchise that would take Island sports into the modern era: the Hawaii Islanders.

    Only a step below the majors, the Triple-A PCL—which dated all the way back to 1903—represented a dynamic new brand of regular baseball for Hawaii. When Morgan’s franchise faltered early on, it was rescued by a hui of community leaders headed by financier Chinn Ho and kamaaina sportsman Francis I‘i Brown. Throughout the 1960s and into the arena’s swan-song ’70s, the Islanders would write a special chapter in the Honolulu Stadium story.

    Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played - ticket stubs Hawaii Islanders ticket stubs. From the collection of Wanda Kimura.

    Snapshots of the Islander era are vivid and varied: Home run king Carlos Bernier hammering four-baggers over the right field wall. Freddie Valentine stealing second in a heartbeat. The irrepressible Bo Belinsky and his dazzling companion, buxom starlet Diana Dors. Ray “Jabbo” Jablonski and “Toothpick” Willie Kirkland, Walt “No-Neck” Williams and Rac (short for Rachel) Slider.

    And on the sidelines: the staccato serenades of organist Rolly Wray, and Harry Kalas calling the play-by-play on KGU. Tycoon Henry J. Kaiser in his nightly front-and-center grandstand perch, and the measured tones of Fred Antone crackling over the P.A. system. The fan called Caruso who warbled in full voice, and the fan called Shoe Shine Willie who heckled him with equal passion.

    The Islanders marked their debut season with a ragtag group of players cadged mostly from the Kansas City Athletics. (Over the years, the franchise was part of several major league farm systems: the California Angels, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres.) In 1961, they tied for sixth in the eight-team PCL, then improved to a winning record in ’62. By the following year, Hawaii was leading the league in fan support, if not team standings, with more than 250,000 in paid attendance.

    The team’s first title came after a decade. Under savvy g.m. Jack Quinn and manager Chuck Tanner, the 1970 Islanders won the PCL’s Southern Division pennant with a 98-48 record, the best win-loss percentage in professional baseball. And though they dropped the league championship to Tommy Lasorda’s Spokane Indians in a four-game sweep, the Islanders had arrived. Tanner’s reward was a post as manager of the Chicago White Sox, while Honolulu Stadium posted a record season attendance of more than 467,000. In the team’s first 10 years, nearly 2.3 million people had flocked into the Stadium, making the Hawaii Islanders the biggest draw in baseball outside the major leagues.

    All those fans waited patiently for another five years to see the Islanders capture the PCL crown. It was, appropriately enough, their Honolulu Stadium finale; the team was slated to open the next season at the new, state-of-the-art arena nearing completion at Halawa. The end of Stadium baseball came on September 8, 1975, before 7,731 frenzied fans—when the Islanders clinched a best-of-seven series over the Salt Lake City Gulls with an 8-0 shoutout by fastballer Dave Wehrmeister.

    The Islanders did move on to Aloha Stadium in ’76 and in fact won another PCL championship—their last. Unable to draw the same die-hard crowds to Halawa, the franchise was finally moved after the ’87 season. For the Hawaii Islanders, the Honolulu Stadium years were the glory years—win or lose. All told, in the franchise’s first 15 seasons, the Stadium’s turnstiles had spun more than 3.6 million times for Islander games—the best showing in the minor leagues. In a tradition sparked by Alexander Joy Cartwright more than a century before, the old Stadium had earned Hawaii an indelible spot in the history of baseball.

    Honolulu Stadium: Where Hawaii Played
    by Arthur Suehiro
    Softcover, 164 pages


  • FOOD FRIDAY: A Porky Pair from From Kau Kau to Cuisine

    From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and NowFrom Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by Arnold Hiura, featuring Derek Kurisu of KTA SuperStores and Jason Takemura of Pagoda Floating Restaurant and Hukilau Honolulu, is a unique culinary guide drawing out the connections between old, plantation-era favorites and new, innovative modern cuisine. While food historian Arnold provides a background to what, why and how we eat in Hawaii, Derek and Jason team up to present 30 pairs of recipes. Each pair matches a “Then” dish from Derek—a classic plantation or traditional local-style favorite—with a “Now” dish from Jason—a reinterpretation of Derek’s version or a new creation drawn from the same ingredients or cooking style.

    On this Food Friday, we present a pork-tastic pair: Classic Shoyu Pork from Derek and a modern spin on the manapua from Jason.

    From Kau Kau to Cuisine: Shoyu Pork and Pork Belly Bao Bun Sliders

    Shoyu Pork by George Yoshida and Derek Kurisu

    I remember my family receiving pork from the “buta kau kau man” who would come to neighborhood homes and pick up slop once or twice a week (see page 30). In return, he would periodically bring everybody a piece of pork as a way of saying thanks. That pork was so goodI really looked forward to it! To this day, I love local pork, which is leaner and more flavorful than Mainland pork. This is another recipe I learned from my buddy, George Yoshida. Here on the Big Island, a lot of our plantations grew sugar. But on the other islands, they grew a lot of pineapple. The flavor goes well with pork, so we often use it for cooking with ham or spare ribs. I like to use it for shoyu pork—with the shoyu, it makes a unique flavor and the juice helps tenderize the pork. -DK

    • 5 pounds pork belly (or boneless pork shoulder roast, cut in half)
    • 1 cup shoyu
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup pineapple juice
    • 5 slices fresh ginger

    In a deep pot, cover pork with water and boil for 1 hour. Discard water and rinse pork. Slice pork into 2-inch pieces and, in the same pot, combine with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer, about 45 minutes, until tender.

    Serves 8 to 10.


    Braised Pork Belly Bao Bun “Sliders” by Jason Takemura

    Growing up in Hawai‘i, everybody loves to eat manapua. They’re sort of like SPAM® musubi—the kind of grab-and-go food perfect for a snack or quick meal. Instead of serving plain manapua in the restaurant, we put this spin on the classic Island favorite. We started with some of the Asian ingredients and flavors that I learned at Chai’s and adapted them to our needs and tastes. The secret is our braised pork, which goes really well with the bao buns. Sliders are really popular these days—no need to cut them in half or anything, they’re all individual servings. -JT

    • 2 pounds pork belly, skin removed
    • Pork Marinade (recipe follows)
    • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    • 2 teaspoons sriracha (or other hot sauce )
    • ½ cup Kim Chee, chopped (see recipe, page 154)
    • 1 cup thinly sliced won bok
    • ½ cup finely julienned Fuji apple
    • ½ cup julienned green onions (reserve bottoms and stems for marinade)
    • 12 fresh bao buns, steamed and warmed

    Pork Marinade

    • 1½ cups shoyu
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ½ cup water
    • 2 pieces star anise
    • 1 3-inch piece ginger
    • 4 stalks green onion, white part only
    • 5 cloves garlic, whole
    • Pinch crushed red chili flakes

    Cut pork belly into a 2-inch by 2-inch by 8-inch block. Combine marinade ingredients and marinate pork overnight (8 to 12 hours), turning the pork over every 4 hours.

    Preheat oven to 325˚F. Transfer pork and marinade into an oven-safe pan. Cover pan with foil. Place in the oven and braise for 3 hours. Remove from oven, remove foil and allow to cool, with the braising liquid, before refrigerating until ready to use. Remove cold pork from the liquid and slice crosswise ¼-inch thick. Reserve braising liquid.

    In a sauce pan, heat sliced pork belly in the reserved braising liquid. Mix hoisin and sriracha together and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix won bok, apples and chopped kim chee together. Spread 1 teaspoon of hoisin-sriracha sauce in each warm, softened bao bun. Place 2 to 3 slices of pork per bun, topped with the kim chee slaw. Garnish with green onions.

    Makes 12 sliders.

    For more delicious pairings like this one, pick up a copy of From Kau Kau to Cuisine at our online store or your local bookshop. Go grind!

    From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now
    by Arnold Hiura, featuring Derek Kurisu and Jason Takemura
    Hardcover, 196 pages


  • FROM THE ARCHIVES: "The Scars Are Real"

    The following is an excerpt from the 2012 release, Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling! by Edmund C. Francis with Larry Fleece. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Gentleman Ed Francis’ 50th State Big Time Wrestling, a wild and wacky extravaganza, took Hawai‘i by storm and dominated local sports entertainment. In Gentleman Ed Francis Presents..., Gentleman Ed himself reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of building his Aloha State wrestling empire and the ups-and-downs of managing an enterprise built on big men boasting larger-than-life personalities. With his wrestler-announcer-referee-promoter partner Lord Tally Ho Blears at his side, Francis built a huge fan following for his wrestlers— Hard-Boiled Haggerty, Tosh Togo, Handsome Johnny Barend, Andre the Giant, Freddie Blassie, Nick Bockwinkel, Neff Maiava, The Missing Link, Mad Dog Mayne and scores of others—all captured here in over 100 images chronicling two decades of Island wrestling mania.

    In this excerpt from Chapter 10, "The Scars Are Real," Gentleman Ed addresses that age-old question: "Is wrestling for real?"

    Ask any of our great wrestlers who took the ring in Hawaii.

    The number one line of questioning we would always get, in Hawaii and around the country, even from our most loyal and avid fans was: Isn’t it all fake? Isn’t it just a big, phony show?

    My answer involves looking at some of the things my wrestling colleagues and I went through in the ring on a daily basis. After looking at the real life of a working professional wrestler, you tell me whether you think it’s all a big put-on.

    Let’s start with a typical day for a pro wrest-ler. On most days when I was wrestling around the country, my evening’s match might have been 200 to 300 miles away from my home base. I’d pack my bag and hit the road, trying to time it so that I’d arrive at the arena a couple of hours before the show.

    CollectorCards_EdAs a “star” when I was the World Junior Heavyweight Champ, I had some big responsibilities. Promoters and wrestlers alike depended on me to draw a large crowd, so that we could all have a good payday. I, of course, needed to leave the arena with the least amount of damage to my reputation and to my body. You get hurt, you’re done.

    The promoter had his own agenda. Even if I was destined as the “champ” to win the match, the promoter might want to make sure that his guy wouldn’t be made to look foolish in the process. After all, his guy is the “baby face” and the local big shot in that territory. You have to leave him with his dignity.

    In planning our “high spots” for a match with my opponent—often a complete stranger—I’d try to lay down a few very simple ground rules. The primary one: no pile drivers. You can’t trust a guy with your spinal cord, especially when you never know if his ego could suddenly cause him to go rogue on the champ.

    With the game plan set and the prelims over, it’s time to enter the ring. Our ring was like concrete with a thin matte cover. The rings we wrestled in had no springs like they do now to absorb the shock of a body slam, and the matte cover was a disgusting patchwork of filth. There was resin, sweat and blood that saturated the cover, left over from the previous week’s boxing matches, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

    As a result, many wrestlers contracted an eye disease called trachoma, and some would even lose their eyesight from it. Years on the horribly unsanitary mats for Strangler Ed White and Cowboy Luttrell left them both legally blind. Luttrell ultimately ran the promotion in Florida and, whenever I visited his office, he and Ed White would be playing cards. White had to hold the cards an inch from his nose to be able to see them.

    Next on the agenda for the night: time to give the fans some excitement. The title of “champ” didn’t mean I was the good guy. On the contrary, most of the time I was the heel—the villain.

    I enter the ring, strut around and maybe give a defiant finger to the crowd. My posturing triggers 5,000, maybe even 10,000 angry fans to start screaming: “Kill the bastard!” “Tear his head off!“ “Put a hurt on him!” And, of course, many other things not remotely fit for print.

    The bell rings and the match is underway. It’s a one-fall, 60-minute time limit.

    For maybe the first 25 or 30 minutes, my opponent is getting the best of me. The fans are happy, screaming their approval. But then the tide turns. I get a headlock on my opponent and start punching him in the head. He might secretly produce a razor blade that he’s had hidden in his wrist band, or even in his mouth, and he privately uses it on his forehead. Now blood is running down his face. The fans are going wild.

    I turn away from the referee, reach into my trunks and pull out my brass knuckles. I hit my bloodied opponent again, then put the brass knuckles back inside my trunks. The fans see what I’ve done and their yelling builds to a crescendo of boos.

    As the match draws to a conclusion, the promoter has assembled the evening’s other wrestlers outside the locker room. They know the drill, all too well. They have to be ready to run down to protect me when the match is over.

    Meanwhile, in the ring, for the final punctuation point to the match, I pick up my opponent, slam him to the mat and cover him. One, two, three! I jump up and raise my hand in victory.

    The fans, who just spent the past hour going hoarse rooting for the other guy, all go crazy with anger. On more nights than I can count, some fans would jump up on the ring apron, trying to get at me. I would end up having to punch some of them off the apron just to protect myself.

    That’s when the other wrestlers run to ringside to help protect me. Together we fight our way back to the locker room, shoving, pushing, swinging and punching through the sea of angry fans who have closed around us.

    Blood sport: Injuries—sometimes serious—are a way of life for professional wrestlers. Photos courtesy George Beppu. All rights reserved. Blood sport: Injuries—sometimes serious—are a way of life for professional wrestlers. Photos courtesy George Beppu. All rights reserved.

    At a match in Toronto, I was running to get to the relative safety of the locker room, but the crowd was right on top of me. I knew they’d be able to trap me before I’d made it to safety, so I had to do something drastic. I whipped around and hit the first face in the crowd, the one closest to me.

    The fan dropped like a sack of rice.

    When he went down, it distracted the crowd just long enough for me to slip into the locker room. But the fans weren’t going to give up and go away that easily. They started pounding on the locker room door, trying to break it down to get at me.

    Now I was mad.

    I swung open the door and pulled one of the fans inside. We swung at each other, and I hit him so hard I broke his jaw. How do I know? The next week, the same guy was right back at the matches … with his jaw wired shut.

    It was all in a night’s work for a working wrestler.

    I had an endless succession of back injuries and bulging discs, attended to by chiropractors in every city in the U.S. Those back problems ultimately resulted in two major surgeries.

    Many nights when I was wrestling I’d lie on a wood bench in the locker room to try to get a little relief from the searing pain in my back. Then I’d hear them call my name for the main event that night. I’d take a deep breath and struggle to pull myself off the bench and into a standing position. I’d gingerly pull on my jacket, or whatever I was wearing that night into the ring, and I’d slowly head out the locker room door into the arena.

    But every night that I crossed the threshold of that door and into the arena, something strange would happen. The people were all on their feet, screaming for the match to begin, screaming my name. I could see all their faces.

    It was at that moment, when my face met the fans, that I straightened up, walked into the ring and the pain disappeared. I went the distance in the match, gave the fans their money’s worth, then went back to the locker room and into the shower, and the pain came flooding back, coursing through my spine.

    Call it “fan adrenalin,” call it mind tricks, call it a crazy way to make a living—but, somehow, some way, the sheer will to perform for me and all the wrestlers led us to conquer the pain at least temporarily, long enough for us to survive our minutes in the ring.

    Believe it or not, with all the pain I experienced, I’m one of the lucky ones. The physical toll that the sport of wrestling took on all the competitors was relentless.

    The great wrestler Fred Blassie wrestled through the pain with serious kidney problems. When the pain got to be too much, Blassie finally went to the hospital, where doctors told him they wanted to remove one of his kidneys. Blassie called me looking for some advice, so I headed down to the hospital to be with him.

    When I walked into his hospital room, Blassie was in such pain that he was up out of bed, jumping and writhing around the room, screaming in agony. I called for the doctors to give him some kind of injection or painkiller to give the poor guy a little relief from the pain.

    Left to right: Freddie Blassie, Hard-Boiled Haggerty and Ripper Collins use Civc Auditorium folding chairs as weapons in a tag team match that strays outside the ring. Photo Courtesy George Beppu. All rights reserved. Left to right: Freddie Blassie, Hard-Boiled Haggerty and Ripper Collins use Civc Auditorium folding chairs as weapons in a tag team match that strays outside the ring. Photo Courtesy George Beppu. All rights reserved.

    They took Blassie into surgery and removed one of his kidneys. It was a safe bet that his troubles were either brought on, or at least made worse, by years and years of brutal abuse to his internal organs inside the ropes.

    The Samoan wrestler Peter Maivia—superstar Neff Maiava’s cousin—was similarly afflicted with kidney problems. Doctors also went in and removed one of Peter’s kidneys. Even though the medical care at that time could not definitively tell if the wrestlers’ kidney problems were a direct result of being punched and kicked in the ring, with both Blassie and Maiava I felt a huge sense of responsibility for their situations, and I footed all the medical bills for their surgeries and recoveries.

    So … pro wrestling’s all fake?

    Ask Maivia. Ask Blassie. Ask their doctors.

    Or ask Sonny Myers.

    Myers was a wrestling friend of mine, a tough shooter originally from Missouri. One night at our match in Waco, Texas, things got way out of control. Sonny was trying to get out of the ring and away from the crazed mob when two guys grabbed him and held him. Another fan pulled out a long, curved linoleum knife and sliced Sonny across his belly, right through his wrestling trunks.

    Sonny’s intestines spilled out into his hands.

    It was an absolute miracle that the knife wound didn’t cut into Sonny’s intestines. We rushed him to the ER—still holding his intestines—and the doctor was able to sew him up. Sonny was back in the ring wrestling within a few months. (In fact, Sonny had a long career in wrestling, and went on to train a host of young wrestlers, among them Hulk Hogan.)

    Fake? Ask a couple of wrestlers named Yukon Eric and Killer Kowalski.

    In the waning moments of a big match between the two of them, I was watching as Killer slammed Eric near the corner of the ring. Then Killer climbed up on the top ropes for the big finale. He leapt off the ropes, with the intent of appearing to land on Eric’s throat.

    But Killer missed his mark. Kowalski’s knee accidentally swiped the side of Eric’s head with such immense force that it popped Eric’s ear clean off. I watched, awestruck, as the ref grabbed the ear and put it in his pocket.

    Eric was rushed to the hospital, but the ear could not be reattached.

    (One sad footnote: Yukon Eric’s life ended tragically. Some years later, Eric returned home from a wrestling road trip to find that his wife had left him, and had taken all the furniture. He was despondent. Yukon Eric drove to his church, parked his car, put a gun to his head and shot himself dead.)

    So. Pro wrestling. All a big, phony show? Just silly, light entertainment? No consequences? All a big fake?

    You tell me.

    If this excerpt has got your blood up and you're looking for more hard-hitting inside stories, head to our online store to purchase your own copy of Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling!

  • SNEAK PEEK: Excerpts from Brother Noland's The Hawaiian Survival Handbook in HAWAI‘I Magazine

    The Hawaiian Survival Guide Excerpts in HAWAII MagazineHAWAI‘I Magazine has the exclusive scoop on a selection of excerpts from our upcoming release The Hawaiian Survival Handbook by celebrated musician and outdoorsman Brother Noland, with illustrations by Andrew J. Catanzariti.

    Here's what they had to say:

    Ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world, indeed, especially in Hawai‘i’s forests and offshore waters. Sure, hikers trekking our hundreds of miles of mountain and valley trails rarely need to worry about wild things leaping out in full attach mode. (Lions and tigers and bears? Not us!) And we’ve nary a poisonous species of flora or tick in our forests that’ll have you violently itching, scratching or curling up in pain. (Lyme disease is so mainland U.S.). Still, from sharks, eels and the occasional wild boar to rip tides, flash floods and leptospirosis, Hawai‘i does have its share of critters and conditions to beware of in our great outdoors. In the following exclusive excerpts from The Hawaiian Survival Handbook—an upcoming Hawai‘i-centric outdoor guide from HAWAI‘I Magazine sister company, Watermark Publishing—Native Hawaiian writer, outdoorsman, steward of Hawaiian culture and Nā Hokū Hanohano award-winning musician Brother Noland (nee Noland Conjugacion) shares survival techniques and skills handy for outdoor adventures in the Islands. Keep these near and be careful out there!

    HAWAII Magazine May/June 2014 issueTo see the excerpts, which range from "How to Avoid and Survive a Shark Attack" and "How to Deal with Eels" to "How to Read the Island Weather" and "How to Make Use of Native Plants," pick up a copy of the current (May/June 2014) issue on newsstands or download it for tablet today!

    Want to know more about The Hawaiian Survival Handbook? Read more and—pre-order it—at our online store. The hardcover handbook will be released in mid-summer, priced at $16.95.

Items 1 to 4 of 29 total

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. ...
  7. 8