Damon Runyon called Dan Parker "the most constantly brilliant of all sportswriters." In his 38 years as a columnist for The New York Daily Mirror, and, at the very end of his career, The New York Journal-American, Parker was a frequent crusader against corruption in boxing, wrestling, and other sports. He is credited with doing the most in print to expose the crooked International Boxing Club (IBC), which in the 1950s had a stranglehold on boxing promotion nationwide.
Parker, whose bulk was memorable (he stood 6'4" tall and weighed over 200 pounds), wrote about every sport from baseball to horse racing. He was noted for his humor as well as his compassion for losers or the unlucky, but he was relentless in his exposure of payoffs and fixes. At one time, he discovered that wrestling promoters were printing up cards based on the "winners" of matches that hadn't taken place yet. Parker reported the winners' names in advance of the matches, infuriating the promoters.
Parker showed not only a strong moral sense but great courage in writing about the underworld connections to boxing. His columns helped spark the investigations that resulted in the breakup of the IBC and the conviction of mobster Frankie Carbo and others. Apparently impervious to threats, Parker wrote as his conscience directed. "There's always been larceny in boxing," Parker told a Newsweek interviewer in 1964, "and when I've seen it, I've written it."
Parker was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1893. After graduating from high school, he worked first as a reporter, then city editor and sportswriter at The Waterbury American. He joined the staff of the Hearst chain's Daily Mirror in 1924 and, within two years, launched his column. He wrote for the Mirror until it folded in 1963 and, although the rest of the staff moved on, remained in the paper's defunct newsroom for another year filing columns for the Journal-American. He also wrote for The Ring, The Saturday Evening Post, and Sport, among other publications.
Parker was honored by his peers several times during his career. He won the Headliners' Award for sportswriting in 1949; received the New York Newspaper Guild's Page One award in 1951, 1956, and 1961; and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters award in 1960. He was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. In memory of his friend and fellow sportswriter, Parker established the Damon Runyon fund for cancer research. Parker died in 1967.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.