Tracing Tracy Territory: Sore arms pack real punch
by Sam Matthews
Dec 07, 2012 | 2307 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A week or so ago, when I was buying a bottle of wine at Cost Plus World Market, Debbie Grubbs, who is one of the store’s mainstays, said she had something for me.

A few minutes later, she handed me a copy of a program for boxing matches at Tracy High School, dated March 19, 1947.

Debbie said she was going through some items that belonged to her parents, Haynes and Anna McClellan, and found the mimeographed program.

At the end of the listing of the bouts, Haynes was shown as the opponent of Richard Hastie in the heavyweight division. Both are now deceased.

And, as I quickly noted, on the front end of the list, for the 92-pound bout, the program read, “Ronald Crandall vs. Sam Matthews.”

There it was in black and white: verification of my very short, and hardly eventful, career as a boxer.

I was in my freshman year at Tracy High School, and they were rounding up boxers to compete in the annual Boys Block T matches, which in those days comprised a major springtime sports event that filled the school gym.

They especially needed boxers in the lightest weight class, the 92-pound Paperweight division.

Pat Ellis, Ronnie Crandall and I — three of the smallest kids in the freshman class — agreed to give it a try. We all weighed less than 100 pounds.

Standing 5 feet tall, I weighed in at 94 pounds, and Pat and Ronnie were at 92 pounds, the top weight for the Paperweight class.

If I wanted to compete with them, I had to lose two pounds. If I stayed where I was, I would have had to go up against Perry Smith in the 100-pound class. I knew from practice rounds that Perry would be tough. I quickly lost two pounds.

The Block T matches had a preliminary card one Friday night, and the finals the following week. I was up against Ronnie in the first round.

The gloves came up nearly to our elbows, as we whaled away, landing a punch only now and then.

Any decent punches were thrown in the opening round. The gloves seemed heavier in the second round, and our punches were fewer and softer.

In the third round, neither one of us could hardly lift our arms, but we staggered on to the final bell that ended the third round.

Ronnie was declared the winner. The Press sports writer called it “a close decision.”

As a loser, I had to fight Pat in a semifinal match Wednesday before the final Friday night matches. It was pretty much the same as going up against Ronnie, with both of us staggering toward the final bell.

This time, in what no doubt was another “close decision,” I was called the winner. I would fight Ronnie again in the Friday night finals.

I can still recall going into the ring in the opening fight of the final evening. My dad was seated nearby at a table as one of the timers for the matches, and he had a big grin on his face as he watched me enter the ring.

Ronnie had Rich McFadden, scheduled to fight later in the 148-pound bout, in his corner. Rich’s brother, Paige, a 156-pounder, was in mine. The McFadden brothers were tough guys, and their presence added some legitimacy to the bout featuring two small, skinny kids flailing away at each other.

So Ronnie and I went at it again, tossing fewer and fewer punches of less and less potency as the bout progressed through its three rounds. I can still recall my aching arms as the final bell sounded.

This time I was declared the winner, which no doubt was another “close decision.”

Following our bout that evening, the boxers in subsequent matches became larger and stronger with better boxing skills. The best boxers were in the middleweight matches.

The heavyweight match between Hastie and McClellan was similar in one way to our opening match: The two close friends — Dick talked Haynes into taking part — leaned on each other, completely exhausted, in the final round.

Bob Hoyt, who displayed real talent with his fists in defeating Wayne Whited in the 140-pound match, was declared winner of the trophy as the outstanding boxer.

Needless to say, the boxing match on March 19, 1947, was my last effort “in the ring.”

I really don’t remember Ronnie’s punches, but yes, I still do those aching arms.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234, or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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