Monday, April 1, 2019

Joe Perlove and 'Perlovese'

Pic is circa 1940 from Maple Leaf Gardens book by Stan Obodiac 1981
l. to r. Ralph Allen, Johnny Fitzgerald, French Angel, Joe Perlove, and Hal Walker. Frank Tunney is at far right.

In Toronto from the late 1930's through the early 1960's the wrestling coverage in the Star was mostly written by sports reporter Joe Perlove. He would rate high on a list of great Toronto sportswriters, of which we have had many notables.

His father had emigrated from Russia in 1902 and Joe was born in Toronto in 1905. He attended Jarvis Collegiate then the University of Toronto where he 'majored in squash and snooker.'

In 1937 he was hired by the Toronto Star. He would be known variously as 'The Colonel', 'Perly', or 'Pal Joey' and while his specialty was horse-racing he covered other sports including hockey, baseball, boxing, and wrestling. He had a rambling style that they called 'Perlovese'. He once told an editor 'Don't try to correct it. Because when it's wrong it's right.'

His wrestling roundups were a thing of beauty, humorous but not deprecating, filled with 'Perlovese'. You could fill a book with them.

Some random outtakes of  'Perlovese' from over the years

'Should the good citizens of Montreal bump into Yvon Robert within the next couple of days they will probably notice that his left arm protrudes at least a foot out of the end of it's sleeve. Do not be alarmed messieurs, his sleeve hasn't shrunk. Neither is he having glandular trouble. It's just the result of his bone-bending encounter with Ed Don George at the Maple Leaf Gardens last night.

In the semi-final Juan Humberto scuffled quietly with Ed Don George for 30 minutes. The trouble with this bout was that there was too much wrestling. These fellows actually applied holds and things.'

Kirch(emeyer) pitched Thesz out of the ring and appeared to like the sound Thesz made landing on the cement. So he kicked him down again.'

'In the main heat of Frank Tunney's unrationed beef soiree at the Gardens'

'You would think that after seven years of viewing wrestling matches no matter how quizzically. I would have been a witness to every sort of windup even the most mentally acrobatic script writer or the most ingenious of grapplers could devise. You would think that. And so did I.

Schnozzie Durante always cries 'Ev'rybody wants to get into the act.' That's the way it was at the Gardens 'rassles' last night where the customers worked as hard as the participants, only without benefit of emolument, except in emotional factors.'

'Cowboy Hi Lee, a fair sort of rodeo performer without a horse, will have to admit that Whipper Billy Watson is the champion steer-bulldogger without a steer he ever did see.

The Masked Marvel is -uh- the Masked Marvel. Yeah, yeah, I know it was the final-final final between Whipper Billy Watson and the M.M., but the fact remains that the M.M. remains the M.M. For at least another week. Honest kids, the Whipper tried. Now, now, no tears. The Whipper didn't lost. It's just that he didn't winned. It was a tie. No screaming please. That's about all you get in the NHL nowadays. And at higher prices yet.'

'Always thought the only sport wherein the winner winds up flat on his nose is pole-vaulting. The Mills brothers, Al and Tiny put the lie to that week after week. Never saw a couple of guys wind up so often with their contours planted deep down in the canvas and still retain their laurels'

'Francis Martin Tunney, No. 1 boxing and wrestling promoter in these parts, and in some sections of London, is ordinarily a mild-mannered man. But last night at the rassles Frances Martin, demure in a brown Italian silk suit, had sparks shooting from his eyeballs and slight trace of flames coming out of his ears.'

'If you're a good guy fan in the rassling business you need 11 hearts to last through the evening.

Just before the main mat attraction at the Gardens last night was about to get off the pad, a dust covered weather beaten, storm-tossed wind whipped courier arrived in front of announcer Jerry Hiff and thrust him a missive. Hiff sniffed, appeared miffed. One whiff had told him this missive had been near the persons of Don Leo Jonathon and Big Ed Miller. He was right. It was a challenge from that gruesome twosome.'

'The fans saw more wrestling in the 40 minutes and 48 seconds the match lasted than they've seen in the last 3,207 tag team match combined. During the bout Frank Tunney had to telephone Lou Thesz 'for some new holds.' (on a Whipper-Rocca bout)

'Well that settles it. D Kenneth 'Tiger' Tasker, one-time wrestler and now a wrestling referee, is definitely blind-and also a little hard of hearing. It has been suspected in many circles that he is somewhat astigmatic with a touch of myopia. But after his performance last night when he counted out Johnny Valentine and presented victory to the Sheik, that is the cotton-pickin' end.'

He was close with Frank Tunney attending the 'clambakes' held at the King Edward hotel where much of the wrestling and boxing business went down. Tunney had a good relationship with many of the writers in the city, some of whom would be fixtures around the wrestling office. The sports coverage in those days was huge compared to later era's. Wrestling was covered daily in some form. Ads, writeups, photos, news, results.  Frank Ayerst who worked for the Star was Tunney's publicist for many years. The main photo above is all writers, save for Angel and Tunney.

There was also a crossover between Wrestling and horse-racing going back to pre-Tunney promoter Jack Corcoran who was heavy into the racing game. Others around the office including close friend to Perlove boxing promoter Jack 'Deacon' Allen, either owned horses or were frequently involved in some way.

His last wrestling recap was in Dec 1964, the occasion was Tunney's first Sunday card held during the Christmas break. 'Mainly Mr Tunney's humanitarianism emerges because he is getting many fathers out of the house. Ah there's the essence. A stroke of genius. Fathers by the hundreds, he hopes, will heap enconiums and other such like huzzas on his graying head. For after three straight days of home and mother and kids with noisy Christmas presents, father has to be tickled dizzy to flee into the night. Even to see the Sheik.'

When Perlove died in 1966 at the age of 60 the tributes poured in from all over the sporting world. Conn Smythe owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs said 'Joe was a great friend and a wonderful guy...The world was Joe Perlove's stage. He could have been a great actor. He was a ball of fun, always cheerful and anyone who knew him is a lot better off because of it.'

Milt Dunnell wrote 'Truthfully, Perlove disliked the actual pursuit of news while the betting windows were open. It interfered with more vital things. Before the races: Yes. After the races: Yes. During the races: No.'

Globe writer Scott Young wrote that 'Any newspaperman would be proud to have said about him what was said about (Perlove) at his funeral at Beth Sholom Synagogue. But Joe would have led the laughing in some places because he never took himself that seriously.'

Jim Hunt remembered Perlove as 'one of the most entertaining writers ever to work in this town,” adding, “Wrestling gave him the chance to let his imagination run wild.'

They dedicated a journalism award and named the annual Jockey Club dinners in his name (ran to 1976) as well as a trophy for Canada's top jockey. The Joe Perlove scholarship is still awarded at Ryerson.