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  Tue, February 6, 1990



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Last bell for Whip
By JIM HUNT -- Toronto Sun

The Whip in 1956. -- Toronto Sun file photo

  The Whip, Teeder and King Krol.

They were a wonderful trio in Toronto in the late 1940s when the Leafs were Stanley Cup champions, the Argos winners of the Grey Cup, and the Whip world wrestling champion.

Teeder, of course, was Ted Kennedy, the captain and heart of the Leafs, the most famous team in hockey.

Joe Krol teamed up with Royal Copeland to lead the Argos to three consecutive Grey Cups with an all-Canadian lineup. No team since has dared challenge, let alone win, the national championship without at least half a dozen American imports on the roster.

The Whip was Whipper Billy Watson, who died Sunday in a Florida hospital after suffering a heart attack.

To a later generation of sports fans, Whipper was best known as the man who carried Timmy on his broad shoulders to the head table at the Sports Celebrities dinner. When he was struck by a car in 1971, an accident that almost took his life and ended his wrestling career, the Whip used his abundant supply of energy to work for charity.

Whipper, unlike so many sports stars, did more than just lend his name to a charitable cause. No one on any committee he served on worked half as hard as the Whipper.

It was impossible to say no when he asked for a donation, a plug in your paper or radio broadcast, or to take part in one of his charitable activities.

Bob Payne, now a columnist for the Sunday Sun, was working at CKEY in the 1970s. A city boy at heart, he had never been on a snowmobile in his life.

The Whip was organizing a ride for the Easter Seals and persuaded Payne to take part.

I asked Payne why he agreed. "When the Whip asks you to do something, you do it," Payne said.

The Whip won the world championship in 1947, beating Lou Thesz in St. Louis. The Toronto Star put the story on page one and that had as much as anything to do with legitimizing the sport.

The late Joe Perlove used to cover the "rassles," as he used to call them, for the Star. What went on in the ring and what appeared in the paper the next day had very little in common.

Perlove was one of the most entertaining writers ever to work in this town, and wrestling gave him the chance to let his imagination run wild.

After the bouts the newspapermen used to gather in promoter Frank Tunney's office to lift a glass or two. Wrestlers, who'd been mortal enemies a few minutes before in the ring, joined in the camaraderie.

There was one subject that was taboo. No one even questioned that wrestling wasn't as much on the level as hockey or football.

We knew it was more showbiz than sports. Who really cared? Certainly not the Whip, the man who, more than anyone else, made wrestling accepted in this town.

So long Whip. Thanks for the memories of a golden age in this town.

For my money, you belong with Teeder and the football King as guys who made the sports beat a pleasure to work when we were all an awful lot younger.

RELATED LINKS

  • Whipper Billy Watson story archive