You'll remember that when we last left the courtroom the IBC was just getting set to defend itself against the U.S. Government's charge of monopolizing championship fights. Last week the IBC defended itself, and it turned out to be quite a week. For one, the trial came to an end after only nine days of testimony, something of a record for an antitrust case (Judge Sylvester J. Ryan, however, isn't expected to announce his decision until late summer). For another thing, the small gathering attending the sessions in Manhattan's Foley Square courthouse was treated to the sight of James D. Norris, Arthur M. Wirtz and Truman K. Gibson Jr. testifying under oath. Finally, a dash of unexpected drama was added when the U.S. lawyers began to riffle through the private diary and documents of one of the IBC's own witnesses, Brig. General John Reed Kilpatrick, the chairman of the board of Madison Square Garden. The introduction of the Kilpatrick diary and documents was, in a sense, almost as much of a surprise to the Government as it was to the IBC. The U.S. had no idea that such a diary existed until two months ago when one of the Government lawyers caught up with a New Yorker profile on Kilpatrick which mentioned the fact that the general is a diarist.
The diary—and the documents it led to in Kilpatrick's files—substantiated what the Government already knew about the formation of the IBC monopoly, but substantiated it in intimate detail. They revealed the founders of the IBC, in 1949, as deeply concerned with the future of their large sports arenas in the dawning age of sports television—and almost equally-worried by the prospect of 1) somebody else getting a monopoly and 2) old-fashioned competition.
From a letter of Arthur Wirtz to General Kilpatrick, March 13, 1949 (Exhibit 263):
"Fights have not been a major promotion of ours in either Detroit or Chicago in the past....
May 13, 1956
"We would have been content to continue along these lines except for the development of television and the new coast-to-coast cable. The Friday on which you had the Pep vs. Saddler championship fight in the Garden, we were also running a fight in Detroit and in Chicago. We were caught completely unaware that the Pep vs. Saddler fight was being televised on a national hookup and it seriously affected our attendance because a great many people preferred to see your world's championship fight on television.
"Shortly before I came to Florida, Jim and I were reliably informed that Joe Louis was definitely going to retire and accept one of the substantial offers from interests closely aligned with radio and television, completely competitive to both the Garden and ourselves.
"...We had hoped that had you been able to come down this weekend, that we could acquaint you with the moves of the Tournament of Champions to stage two world's championship fights in the Polo Grounds this summer. We had the manager of one of these champions here in Florida and we feel that we have the inside track on this fight which would leave the Tournament of Champions with only one major fight for this summer.
"We have been approached with an interesting proposition from one of the top radio-television networks, but we are hesitant to consider the proposition because it might create a very competitive situation....
"...The policy of television companies in trying to control fights is a major threat to our business. Conditions might develop that certain attractions which are now held in our building could be televised from studios and our buildings lose the event completely. It is more apparent that we should work together now and keep the events for our buildings and not create a competitive situation which would be harmful to all...."
The general's diary also led to a sideline story about Joe Louis. The then aging champion, Kilpatrick recorded after an interview with Mike Jacobs' lawyer, Sol Strauss, was willing to take a retirement job with Jacobs' Twentieth Century Sporting Club at $25,000 or so per annum, but was inclined to think that his duties, for this amount, should be restricted to one day's work a year. Joe was quoted as saying: "I want to play golf." Louis was also quoted by Strauss, in Kilpatrick's notes, as asking for $100,000 ("under the table," in Kilpatrick's account) above and beyond the 40% of the gate he expected for a 1949 summer fight. In the course of his testimony, IBC Secretary Truman Gibson Jr., Louis' lawyer at the time (and presumably his business adviser), could not remember any discussion about "under the table" money.
When the Government finished with Gibson, the last IBC witness, there were few factual points in dispute. As Judge Ryan remarked, "I feel a very serious question of law is presented here. I feel that very few factual issues, if any, are presented. I think this case might almost have been tried upon a stipulated set of facts."
Norris, who took the stand before Gibson, had difficulty recalling details. Looking like an elegant Max Schmeling in a suit of banker's blue, he piously answered the questions put to him by Whitney North Seymour, the IBC counsel. The gist of Norris' testimony: boxing is a risky business; the IBC has put on only two outdoor championship bouts which were "financial successes." Furthermore, Norris contradicted Sam Becker, the Cincinnati promoter who had testified that Norris wanted $150,000 for permitting Becker to promote an Ezzard Charles-Joe Walcott fight (SI, May 7).
Judge Ryan listened to Norris carefully. On one occasion Seymour asked Norris why the IBC advanced loans to boxers and managers.
"Oh," said Norris, "to help boxers, to help their managers when they are in trouble, when they need a little money, and rather than have them go to a loan shark or possibly have to sell part of the contract of their fighter to someone that might not be acceptable in boxing, I have advanced money at different times to fighters."
Here Judge Ryan threw in a question: "To help them stay out of the clutches of those who might influence them, perhaps in throwing their fights, you give them money?"
Norris seemed startled. "I wouldn't say that, Your Honor," he said, "but I think it helps them."
In the cross-examination William Elkins, Government counsel, asked Norris if he recalled making a statement to Becker that "every time you turn your neck around you would have to make $25,000?"
"No, I do not," said Norris. "I don't know what that would mean."
Quipped Judge Ryan: "It means that you would be a very wealthy man if you were a pinwheel."
General Kilpatrick, who was the first witness called by the IBC, testified that the Garden had tried to break Jacobs' lease after he became too sick to promote actively. The method under consideration at the time: to have Jacobs "legally declared incompetent." The Garden didn't take this step because, as Kilpatrick said, the newspapermen were "more friendly toward [Jacobs] than toward us."
After the trial, the Government lawyers and the IBC lawyers stayed around to say goodby—temporarily. Norris and Wirtz were absent from court, but Kilpatrick was there. When asked what he thought of the diary's role, he spoke with satisfaction. "Why," said the general, "when the rest of them foundered on dates, I knew every one of them!"