Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dennis Gallagher "Any Style, Any Place, Anybody"

Rassle Champ of 1888 Hasn't Yielded His Throne 
   It took 89 years to pin Dennis Gallagher. Dinny Gallagher, the First Ward Irishman, was a magic name in the 1880's and '90's throughout the world. He was famous in Paris. He was the toast of London. He was a 165 pound Buffalo Irishman who met every heavyweight wrestling challenger in the world. And won...

 January 15, 1936 & September 10, 1951
Dennis Gallagher Demonstrating a Reversible
Half-Nelson Hold
   Dennis Gallagher would like to defend the world's wrestling championship he won 48 years ago and never relinquished. The Gallagher spirit is willing but the Gallagher body is weak. For Dennis is 71 now and although he looks a score years younger and still carries himself with all the poise of a true athlete, the verve has left his muscles. In fact when you look back at the record of the Buffalo champion, you wonder that he is still included in our list of active citizens. 
  Thirty three winters and summers he spent in the wrestling game when there was little taint of suspicion associated with the grapplers, when it was at it's peak and tough. He gave away tremendous odds in weight for at his best Dennis Gallagher tipped the scales at not more than 175 pounds. He met all comers and took the short end of the decision very seldom.
  Grayed, with bushy eyebrows, springy step, and enough physical power left to hold his own in some parts, Gallagher entertains few briefs for the present crop of rasslers. "The very best of today would not even be third raters back in the nineties," said Gallagher. "Frank Gotch who was of a later day than I, could lick three or four of the better men today in the same night. And there were some pretty fair wrestlers before Gotch's time. Today, they don't wrestle as we knew wrestling. They act. If I were 40 years, yes, even 30 years younger, I would like to climb under the ropes with some of our modern wrestlers. But.....well, just but. Why waste time in day dreaming."
     This splendidly developed young Buffalonian is now famed the country over. He was born 
   in this city in 1864. When a mere youngster he and his brother used to wrestle together. 
   Dennis's first public wrestling was in 1881. During the last six years he has met the most 
   famous wrestlers—Duncan Ross, Mervine Thompson, Dufur, Flagg, Andre, Christol,
   Martin and William Muldoon, the Jap, Sorakichi, Quigley and others. 
       He has never lost a match, excels in mixed wrestling, and stands ready today to wrestle
   a mixed match with any man in the world. He weighs 165 pounds, and with his compact, 
   clean muscles without one ounce of superfluous weight, is a picture of health and physical
   development. (1880s newspaper)
  Dennis, and if you were Irish you'll pronounce it Dinnis,  won the world's three style wrestling title from William Muldoon in Turn Verein Hall, Sacramento, in 1888. He added two styles in order to meet the challenges of foreign invaders, established himself as the king and never vacated his throne. The five methods were catch-as-catch-can, Graeco Roman, side hold and harness, collar and elbow and back hold. Dennis never lost his title because no man could ever beat him three out out of the five styles.
  He opened a concert hall where Kleinhan's Building now stands but sold out to Mike Eagan to tour Europe. Eagan later joined with Mike Shea. When the Academy of Music was in it's heyday in Buffalo He was invited to play the part of "Charles the Wrestler" in "As You Like It," a play starring Margeret Mather. It was the only "fixed" match he ever participated in, that with Orlando.    
   Dinny Gallagher, the First Ward Irishman, was a magic name in the 1880's and '90's throughout the world. He was famous in Paris. He was the toast of London. He was a 165 pound Irishman who met every heavyweight wrestling challenger in the world. And won. That was in the days when they wrestled. Dennis won every wrestling title the world knows. He won the catch-as-catch-can crown, Graeco Roman, side holds or Yankee style, square holds and back holds titles. "Any style, any place, anybody," Dinny used to say. I wrestled 'em all, not this play acting stuff.  "These actors today are Hippodromers, in my time I could have taken three or four of them the same night." Dinny wasn't boasting, 62 years ago he won two titles in two nights at Niagara Falls.
"Dinny" Gallagher

  Dennis weighed 162 then. The first night he threw Georges LaGrange, the French champion, in 15 seconds. The following night he wrestled the 300 pound strongman, Sebastian Miller, a German champion, and won. This took Dinny 15 minutes. "He was pretty hard to reach around," he explained a bit apologetically.  For all this he got $50. Today, men like Gorgeous George, the Great Togo and Lord Blears, average $50,000 to $70,000 a year. Dinny's fame was at it's peak when he wrestled for the Pelican Club, a noblemen's organization  in London, and for the jockey Club of Paris, in the famous Folies Bergere. There he defeated Antoni Perri, the Terrible Greek, and got $1,000. That was his biggest purse.
   At the sunset of his career in 1898, he lost a non title match with Ismaiel Yousouf, the Terrible Turk. Yousouf packed 380 pounds on his six foot seven inch frame, and caught Gallagher at a time when he hadn't fully recovered from an attack of blood poisoning. Dinny operated a tavern at Main and Clinton Streets. People jammed it just to get a look at him. Mothers named there sons after him. Young men followed him, imitated his style of clothes.
  It took 89 years to pin Dennis Gallagher who passed away on September 7, 1951. "When I go," he used to say, "I want a quiet funeral, nothing elaborate." On September 11, he had a quiet funeral, nothing elaborate. Then they took Old Dinny to quiet, tree shrouded Holy Cross Cemetery, where he took his first...and final pin fall.

OCTOBER 20 1883