I insisted Max sign this statement before any
sparring took place in or out of the ring. --
Alan Lubke

Now for the Reader's Digest version . .

I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. Congressman O'Hara of my district notified me that by his test results, I ranked in the top 11 of his candidates for nomination to an appointment to the Air Force Academy. I and the ten others were to report to Offutt AFB in Omaha, NE for further screening and testing.

Arriving in Omaha from Minneapolis by Northwest Air, DC-6B, I secured my bag and waited for the shuttle bus to the Air Base. I noticed a well dressed, well groomed gentleman standing in the center of the small terminal. I could only think that this person was a hollywood actor by the style of his haircut. I had no idea who he was.

Bravely, I walked up to him and asked him point blank if I could have his autograph. I had a small piece of paper on which my mother had written a list of things to pack for the trip. I offered him the reverse side of the note.

He was very pleasant and asked my name. After he had written his note, I thanked him and walked away to glance at the paper. It was only then that I realized that he was indeed a Hollywood personality.

"Anyone who knew my father, even slightly, liked him," said Max Baer Jr. (see June 2005 FOXSport.com story below).

Amen!, say I.

-- Alan Lubke

I received notification by telegram in June of 1957 that I had been appointed to the Air Force Academy and was to report to Colorado Springs. Two weeks earlier, I had received an acceptance letter from the U.S. Military Academy. I decided to accept the appointment to West Point and declined the nomination to USAFA.

"The portrayal of my father in Cinderella Man couldn't have been more wrong and inaccurate," said Max Baer Jr. (story and pictures below)
The biggest thing 'Cinderella Man' got wrong

Frank Lotierzo / BoxingScene.com
Posted on FOXSports.com, June 7, 2005
© 2005 Fox Sports Interactive Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

The movie Cinderella Man, as most know by now, chronicles the story of heavyweight James J. Braddock's (Russell Crowe) rise during the Depression to capture the world heavyweight championship.

Braddock's upset win over champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko) was like winning the lottery 15 times - the 15 representing the rounds Braddock survived without getting knocked out by Baer's legendary right hand. Baer's right hand was then and is still considered by many boxing historians as one of the hardest single punches in boxing history.

Braddock was a man of great character and also a good light heavyweight and heavyweight fighter. However, after only losing twice in his first 36 bouts, his life spiraled downward after losing a decision to light heavyweight champ Tommy Loughran in July 1929. Three months after losing to Loughran, America was confronted with Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed (Oct. 29, 1929).

The film tells how Braddock lost everything when the market crashed, broke his hand, had his boxing license revoked and worked on the docks when there was work, which wasn't often. After failing to win the light heavyweight title against Loughran, Braddock started to lose. But lady luck touched Braddock after he lost a decision to Art Stillman. He went on a six-bout undefeated streak and got a shot at Baer's heavyweight title.

Braddock only won 14 of 36 fights after losing to Loughran before challenging Baer, resulting in him being a 10-to-1 underdog. Up until Braddock's title challenge of Baer, "Cinderella Man," the title taken from legendary journalist Damon Runyon's description of the fighter's comeback, is an accurate portrayal of the life and times of Braddock.

But Hollywood's attempt to turn Baer into a cruel and heartless villain is where the film really strays from reality.

The film portrays Baer as if he purposely killed two opponents, Frankie Campbell (see Web author's footnote at the bottom of this page) and Ernie Schaaf and then gloated about it afterward. But Baer didn't gloat and was forever tormented by the fact that two men he fought had died at his hands.

And Baer's son, Max Baer Jr., who starred in hit TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, is irate over his father's portrayal.

"The portrayal of my father in Cinderella Man couldn't have been more wrong and inaccurate," Baer Jr. said. "They turned a good-hearted, fun-loving, friendly and warm human being who hated boxing into Mr. T from Rocky III with no redeeming characteristics."

Baer Jr. said his father wept over the deaths of Campbell and Schaaf, and the incidents led him to start smoking, drinking and having nightmares. Campbell died as a result of a severe concussion of the brain after being stopped by Baer in the fifth round. And Baer Jr. said his father did an exhibition for Frankie Campbell's wife after that, raising over $10,000 for her. And Baer went on to lose four of his next five fights in the fight's aftermath.

Two years after fighting Campbell, Baer fought a rematch with Schaaf. Baer knocked Schaaf out with two seconds left in the fight but the bell saved him and he won by decision. Schaaf was out cold for three minutes however.

But Schaaf recovered, and six months later, as a 7-5 favorite, was stopped by Primo Carnera in the 13th round. He died four days after the Carnera fight, and Baer is blamed for his death in the movie. But what the movie leaves out is Schaaf was coming off two strong wins heading into his bout with Carnera. The autopsy showed that Schaaf died of cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and meningitis, brought on by a recent bout of the flu.

And for those of you willing to cut the filmmakers some dramatic slack as they crafted their movie villain, consider what Braddock himself said.

"You see, Max, he was a nice fellow, but never should've been a fighter," Braddock said in the 1972 book In This Corner. "I always said that Max should have been an actor instead of a fighter."

And Baer Jr. saw some of that in his father as well.

"Like Muhammad Ali, he was braggadocios by nature," Baer Jr. said. "But he was also trying to increase the revenue at the gate and like all people during the Depression: The money was the single most important thing."
The climatic scene of Cinderella Man is Braddock's title-winning bout over Baer in 1935. Braddock's 15-round unanimous decision as a 10-1 underdog was the biggest upset in a heavyweight title bout in boxing history - a record that stood until Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson as a 42-1 underdog in 1990.

Overall, Cinderella Man is an outstanding Hollywood production, but one with a dangerous depiction of a very real human being.

"Anyone who knew my father, even slightly, liked him," Baer Jr. said. "In making a good movie, being true to the main characters is absolutely mandatory. By the same token, taking the adversary and turning him into a hateful cartoon was unnecessary, especially when that person was a real human being with a real reputation.

"Before this movie, I thought a lot more of Ron Howard."

FOXSports.com: © 2005 Fox Sports Interactive Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

The real Max Baer (left) and then Craig Bierko
as Baer in "Cinderella Man". (Courtesy: Universal Pictures)
( / Special to FOXSports.com)

Frankie Campbell footnote - - See my page about Baer's fight with Frankie Campbell and the connection to the West Point Class of 1952. Click on FRANKIE CAMPBELL .

You can find this again from my  SUPER INDEX  at www.ojlubke.com. See "Baer, Max"