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Chasing ghosts in Philadelphia.

Mike CassellContributor ISeptember 3, 2009

Chasing ghosts in Philadelphia.

By Mike Cassell

John Disanto of Phillyboxinghistory.com has a mission. He spends countless hours investigating the history of Philadelphia area boxers. He compiles facts and figures and displays the results on his website. It is tedious research that is incredibly fascinating to read, but extremely time consuming to produce, and truth be told, It isn’t exactly a money making venture, it is more a labor of love. As Disanto investigated the pugilistic past of the fighting city of Philadelphia, he discovered that some of Philadelphia’s most talented fighters who left and indelible mark in life, were forgotten and lying in unmarked graves. Ring hero’s, who defied the physical laws of athletics and displayed the aura of supermen, had not even a marker on their final resting place. To Disanto, this was a wrong he needed to right. Like a detective following clues, talking to witnesses, Disanto slowly unravels and dissects the lives of these warriors. Chasing ghosts through the pages of forgotten history, Phillyboxinghistory.com unveils the truth for all who want to learn. 

Defining Cool

In the early part of the century, the Northeast area of Philadelphia was largely undeveloped and owned by the ancestors of early settlers in the United States. Names such as Disston, Holme and Morrell divided the land surrounding a handful of small villages that sprung up around William H Gatzmer’s railway. The area became industrialized with small mills and factories popping up along the Delaware River in sections like Tacony, in which a large amount of Italian and Irish immigrants gravitated to.  The mills needed cheap labor, and had the land to provide affordable housing.  As the 20’s were winding down, depression and uncertainty was in the air. A young Irish Catholic light welterweight named Eddie Cool “The Tacony Flash” made his pro debut on Thanksgiving Day 1928 at the ripe young age of 15, shortly after his father died of alcoholism. Maybe he fought for money after his father’s death, or to get out of the tanning mills, or maybe it was just the excitement of what they used to call “the sporting life”. The truth may never be known, but one thing that is known and documented is that this kid was a natural fighter. He was truly a student of the sweet science. A very slick, laterally moving, counter puncher who rarely went backwards and always stepped up. The other fact that is documented in police records and from the mouth of Cool himself is that he was fall down, pass out drunk. Cool’s damaging lifestyle ended his life early, be she still succeeded in being one of the most dangerous fighters of his era compiling a record of 95 – 25 – 15, (139 fights). He only had about 15 knockouts. You can do the “rounds fought” math on that one yourself.

Cool tangled with world class fighters multiple times less than 30 days apart. Fighters like Buster Brown, Al Rowe, Chino Alvarez and Lightweight World Champion Lou Ambers, who Cool fought and beat by split decision, but Ambers didn’t have his title on the line. Sadly, with alcoholism pulling him down, Cool was washed up at 27 and dead at 35. Disanto discovered through the course of his investigations that the local hero, like many other great fighters in the Philadelphia area, was resting with no marker on their grave. In fact, since 2005 John Disanto with the help of donors, have placed a stone on the graves of former Philly fighters Tyrone Everett, Gypsy Joe Harris, and Garnett “Sugar” Hart. He has made it a mission to see one on the grave of Eddie Cool in 2009. Disanto and Phillyboxinghistory.com remind us what boxing can be at its best. All these men, at their athletic best, were simply spectacular. At many times in their career, they had their “dare to be great” situation. It was their day or night to step up and be counted; it was an opportunity to step out of groove of classism, racism and in Eddie Cool’s case alcoholism.

They were just men, who were born, who lived, and died. But while they fought, they reminded us, even if only for a brief period, the endurance of the mortal heart, and the potential of the human spirit. Through their triumph and struggle, they reveal to us what we as men can accomplish. A stone marking their final destination is the least we can do to remind the world that they are still here, inspiring all of us to reach our full potential as human beings. This noble deed by Disanto and Phillyboxinghistory.com is a direct byproduct of the trail they left behind, and truly gives our cities motto “The City of Brotherly Love” some context.

CONTRIBUTE TO THE GRAVESTONE FUND

Send an e-mail to the link below.  Include your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address & your favorite Philly fighter. 
Send check or money order to:

"Fairhill Street Productions, LLC / Gravestone Fund" - P.O. Box 428, Sewell, NJ, 08080

(Note: Fairhill Street Productions, LLC is the parent company of PhillyBoxingHistory.com)

E-mail: johndisanto@phillyboxinghistory.com

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