Dream a Little Dream of…Boxing
The Sweet Science haunts my dreams.
A man and a woman were standing on a platform, waiting for a train. They didn’t strike me as a couple and I stood between them. We boarded and sat together. The side of the train facing us was open and we had an unobstructed view. The woman, who bore a remarkable resemblance to a middle-aged Julie Andrews, turned and asked if I knew of Al Bummy Davis’ twin brother. His name, too, was Al. Startled by this bit of unknown boxing lore, I answered in the negative.
“You know he was killed in the street outside a bar,” said Miss Andrews. (I won’t say “Ms.”—I’m not a lethargic bee.) I knew of Al’s sad fate, but I didn’t know of…Al’s.
Davis died in November 1945. He was in the notorious Brownsville section of Brooklyn, sitting at a bar he had previously owned, when four armed men walked in. Davis knocked one down before being shot three times. He ran after the others, but was shot a fourth and fatal time. He was just 25.
“That’s what happened to Bummy,” I said to Miss Andrews. “Are you telling me that’s what happened to…Bummy? Was his nickname also Bummy, by the way?”
“Yes,” she said. “And yes.”
Dreams are inherently weird, but this was rapidly devolving into an Abbot and Costello routine.
Knowing full well I’d regret my question, I asked Miss Andrews if…Bummy had also fought primarily at welterweight. Yes. Did he win his first 37 bouts in just two years, 22 by stoppage? He did. But I knew I had her. Was…Bummy also the only man to stop Tony Canzoneri? Was he, too, Canzoneri’s last opponent?
“No,” she said. Aha! “Well, in a way,” she said. “Al was the only one to knock him out, but Canzoneri fought him last.” Huh? Who are you all of a sudden, Gracie Allen?
Did…Al knock out Bob Montgomery in the first round? Yes. What about losses? Did his first loss come at the hands of Lou Ambers? Yes. Did he lose to Beau Jack, Henry Armstrong, and Rocky Graziano? Yes, yes, and yes. What about Fritzie Zivic? Did…Al lose to him? Yes. How many times? Twice.
Any difference whatsoever—I don’t care how minute, how insignificant—between Al and…Al?
“Al has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame,” Miss Andrews said.
The train pulled into La Cremaillere (a fancy French restaurant that’s in New York or Connecticut, depending on whom you ask). A waiter handed me ice water. Another hurried over and poured hot water into my glass.
“Quel luxe,” I smugly observed to Miss Andrews. “They want the water to be exactly the right temperature.”
“Not the water,” she sniffily observed. “The glass. They don’t want it too cold to the touch.”
Crestfallen, I drank deeply. I woke up, of course having to go to the bathroom.
No disrespect to Julie Andrews, but her story of the identically named Davis twins was preposterous. I wouldn’t have minded so much if my travel companion had been Brooklyn-accented Barbara Nichols, delectably clad as 21 Club cigarette girl Rita in Sweet Smell of Success. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded at all.
Memo to unconscious…