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SLIM PICKINGS FOR SPORTS FANS 100 YEARS AGO

Americans didn't open their sports sections on the morning of Jan. 1, 1900 -- there weren't any.

Sports news, what little there was, got mixed between insurance, business, fashion and other coverage a century ago in papers with tiny print, few pictures, no graphics and occasional cartoons.

With little mass communication, most sports coverage was local. The first college bowl game was two years away. The NFL, NBA and NHL didn't exist.

In The Buffalo Evening News at the turn of the century, the local sports news focused on boxing, bicycle racing and a basketball game in which the "German Y.M.C.A." beat Masten Park High School (now City Honors), 24-9.

In boxing, there was a report that the upcoming lightweight championship fight (for a $5,000 purse at the Broadway Athletic Club) between Jack O'Brien and champion Frank Erne "is in danger of falling through."

Nationally, the attention of boxing fans was focused on a New Year's Day fight, a scheduled 25-rounder between heavyweights Charles "Kid" McCoy and Peter Maher at the Coney Island Athletic Club in New York.

The News reported that betting on the fight "has changed at least three times during the last few weeks" and listed the amounts that had been wagered by well-known high rollers, including "Pittsburgh Phil," who put $1,000 on Maher at even money odds. (Maher was knocked out in the fifth round.)

In bicycle racing, the indoor season opened Dec. 30 at the Broadway Arsenal "with a programme of the usual varied attractions (including) . . . the best men from all the local clubs."

A column titled "The Sporting Outlook For the Year 1900" predicted "the game of golf will attract more attention than ever before."

Elsewhere, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch focused on a Dec. 31 baseball owners' meeting.

"The long expected break between the American League, formerly the Western League, and the National League has come at last," the paper said. "The American League held a secret meeting in Chicago on Sunday. When it was over, president Ban Johnson said: We have decided to break with the National League and throw up the national agreement."

The Washington Post had a feature on a cross-country run, "The opening local athletic event of the century."

The New York Times also had a running story.

"Just as the bells began ringing in the new year at midnight," it reported, "two lightly clad athletes began the first annual team relay race between the Shamrock Harriers and the Pastime AC from Getty Square, Yonkers, to the New York City Hall."

The Chicago Tribune reported on former Cubs manager Cap Anson declining to answer accusations about the team's financial affairs.

The San Francisco Chronicle covered handball and dog racing.

"Luxor and Cavalier conclusively proved themselves the best of the very high-class lot of hounds that ran at Union Park yesterday," the paper said. "Curtis & Son therefore carried off first and second money in the main event. This was not a surprise altogether."

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