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Young Griffo

San Antonio Daily Light
4 June 1900
A DEGENERATE YOUNG GRIFFO GONE BEYOND
HOPE OF REDEMPTION.
Dawson Labored All in Vain For Him.
He Threw Away Ten Thousand Dollars
by Taking One Drink of Sherry
Not Long Since. . .

“What do you think of a glass of Sherry that cost $10,000 ?’ said George Dawson one day recently, says the N.Y. Telegraph. “Not a cask or a barrel, But just one little glass—an ordinary drink, such as a man would take over a bar. Well, I know an incident of that kind. Strange as it may seem, there is a young man in Chicago today who not more than a mouth ago paid $10,000 for cue glass of sherry wine. It was young Griffo. Of course, he didn’t pass the money over in one bunch when he took the drink, but he might as well have done so, for he is out of pocket fully that much that I know of, and thousands of dollars besides. but it isn’t a long story and I’ll let my friend Whitbeck tell it.” John is the manager of George Williams’ restaurant and a personal friend of Dawson’s. When he was asked for the story he said:

“I think Dawson rather underestimates the amount that .Griffo paid for that one glass of sherry, but, then, Dawson is conservative, and likes to he on the safe side, even, when talking about prize fighers. It was like this: When Griffo came to life the second time and demonstrated by his bouts at the Chicago Athletic association that he was still a premier in his class, Dawson, who had his business interests in charge, was deluged with offers of matches for him. Not hard fights, but easy exhibitions with a sparring partner, and guaranteed purses ranging from $300 to $1,000. Every athletic club of note in the country wanted him.

“The peculiar conditions under which Griffo entered the ring made a big advertisement for him, and letters and telegrams poured in from all parts of the country. Right after his appearance with Young Kenny at Tattersall’s engagements had been booked for the time up to the end of April which would have netted him $10,000, and there was a chance for a lot of profitable dates between them. Then some fool friend of Griffo’s insisted on his taking a glass of sherry, and it was all off.

“All the sporting fraternity knows how he went to pieces, and how Dawson, in disgust, had to cancel all the $10,000 worth of engagements. No pugilist, aside from a heavyweight champion, ever had such an opportunity to reap such a golden harvest.

These $10,000 engagements were only a beginning. If he had kept sober, Griffo would have virtually coined money for two or three years to come. “But, to my friend, the most interesting part of the Griffo story is that relating to the experience of Dawson in trying to give him a new lease of life. It has been widely stated that Fitzsimmons was the man who induced Dawson to take Griffo out of the asylum at Dunning and give him a trial. This is not true. Fitzsimmons had nothing to do with it. Sometime last fall a veterinary surgeon — a man of high standing in his country came here from Australia on a visit. He is a devotee of the pugilistic art, and knew Dawson, Fitzsimmons and Griffo in the antipodes.

“Naturally he hunted up Dawson and renewed their acquaintance. In talking over old times he inquired for Griffo, and when told that he was hopelessly insane and in an asylum, he asked Dawson lo go with him and see the famous boxer. They went to Dunning and talked with Griffo, both of them coming away with the strong belief that Griffo was not so badly of as the doctors said. Later Dawson made another trip to Dunning, when Griffo, who appeared rational and in sound mind, said:

“For Heaven’s sake get me out of here. I’m not crazy, but I will be if I’m kept here with this mob of lunatics much longer.”

Dawson was impressed with Griffo’s statement, and having a warm spot in his heart for the boy, made arrangements to take him out .To secure his release a bond of $3,000 to indemnify the county for any damages the alleged crazy man might do while at liberty was demanded. Dawson and a friend of his, a business man with whom Dawson boards, signed the bond and Griffo was discharged. At that time George Connors was training the Carlisle Indian team at Carlisle, Pa., and Griffo was sent there to get in shape.

 

The managers of the team became dissatisfied because Connors gave so much time to Griffo, and released him out of a $1,200 position. This was the beginning count of a list of troubles. Connors came back to Chicago, bringing Griffo with him. ‘It will never do to turn him loose here in Chicago,’ said Dawson. ‘What the boy wants is the kindly restraint and influence of a home. He’s been a waif all his life, and perhaps a home will have a good effect on him.

“So Griffo, the Dunning outcast, was taken into the private circle of the business man’s home, and coddled and petted and cared for by the family. Why, that man’s wife — a woman of social standing — even took Griffo to the theatre with her. It was distasteful to her, but she thought it might make him understand that he had friends if he would behave himself.

Everything went well for a time. He got two or three profitable engagements through Dawson’s influence, and had several hundred dollars to his credit. Not a dollar was taken out of his earnings except for actual expenses. Dawson and his business friend were encouraged, and began to think that they had really reformed the Australian pugilist.

“But suddenly they were rudely undeceived. One day, just after a profitable engagement had been made for Griffo’s second, appearance at Tattersalls he turned up missing. The levee was hunted over but no trace of him could be found. Late that night hackman who know where Dawson lived drove up to the house with the information that Griffo was making a ruction in a south side saloon. It was then after midnight, but Dawson and his friend dressed, went to the extreme south side and found the fighter in a wild stale of intoxication.

He objected to going home and they had to make him by force. At the house they had to remove his clothes by main force, and even then he refused to got to bed, declaring he would go down town in his night gown. Finally, in despair Dawson and his friend gave him back his clothes and told him to get out of the house and keep out.

“The next morning Griffo was heard from at the Harrison street station, abjectly contrite. Dawson was appealed to take him out, but said it would be no good. It seems, however, that the clever showing made in the ring by the Australian had pleased a number of the older members of the C. A. A. and these men requested as a personal favor that Dawson make one more trial to reform the outcast. George Dawson was never known to stand out very long against any charitable movement so, persuaded against his will, he went to Harrison street and secured Griffo’s release. It was then he heard the story of that fatal glass of sherry.

“‘Blime me bloody heyes “ said Griffo “Hime a bloody, bloomin fool. Gawge, and if you’ll take me out this time I’ll never touch another bloody drop.”

“George took him out and inside of a week he was out on a debauch again. It would take a page to tell all the tricks he played on Dawson and the latter’s friend, at whose house he had been sheltered. One day, for instance, he went down early in the morning and drew $23. Two hours later he showed up decidedly drunk and minus his overcoat. An effort was made to induce him to go home and sober up, when he surprised his backers with a request for car fare. He had spent every cent of the $25 in two hours and pawned his overcoat beside.

“I never put in such a time in my Life said Dawson, “and I do not want any more of it.”

“When it was decided that Griffo was beyond redemption, and that it was idle to waste time on him, Dawson had $400 to his credit. What to do with his money was a conundrum. To give it to Griffo was like throwing it in a sewer. At the same time neither Dawson nor his friend wanted lo keep It. They had not taken a cent from him for their work in his behalf, and didn’t want any pay. But there was George Connors, who had lost $1,200 position through trying to train the degenerate fighter. ‘Whose more entitled to the money than Connors?’ queried Dawson. “Nobody on earth,” said his friends, and the $400 was turned over to Connors.

“Griffo is a degenerate of the worst type. It is absolutely impossible to keep him in a respectable condition. Given $500 tonight he will be broke tomorrow, and no inducement, not even the guarantee of $10,000 for twenty minutes work with the gloves would make him forego a drinking bout with the lowest of levee characters. I wouldn’t go through what George Dawson has for all the money a sober Griffo could earn, and that’s a big pile.

“One of the most pathetic incidents in Griffo’s career was the receipt of a letter, when he was too drunk to appreciate its worth, from Johnson, of Sydney, New South Wales, the man who taught the fighter how to spar. This letter was written just after the reformation had reached Australia, and no words from a mother to her son could have been more loving or solicitous. Johnson, in homely, but burning language, besought Griffo to tread the straight and narrow path, told him how all his old time friends were rejoicing over the good news concerning him and admonished him to remain under the guardianship of George Dawson, who was his ‘best and truest friend.’ “

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