San Francisco – 1909: The Portola Club

November 15, 2016 at 9:45 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Jack Boyle’s life between the years of 1908 and 1914 is a bit of a mystery.  Despite having published an autobiographical essay in 1914 — “A Modern Opium Eater” — Boyle gave relatively few specifics regarding the years of his drug addiction.  The essay relates a few anecdotes, and mentions multiple jail terms, but is curiously stingy with specific places and dates.  In truth, the period between his fall from grace as a journalist and the publication of his early efforts in fiction six years later under the pseudonym No. 6606 is largely a blank.

However, bits and pieces of Boyle’s “lost” years do occasionally surface.  In “A Modern Opium Eater,” Jack shares this tidbit:  “After I abandoned newspaper work I dabbled in many semi-legitimate businesses.  I occupied myself with prize-fight promotion, gambling clubs and stock tricks, all verging on swindles …”  While certainly indicative of the downward spiral at the verge of which he was upon, this admission is still rather lacking in specifics.  But it ties in nicely with the following item from the April 24, 1909 edition of The San Francisco Call:


Of course, it’s difficult to prove definitively that the J.A. Boyle who served as the founding president of the Portola Club was the same disgraced journalist, John A. “Jack” Boyle.  But another aspect of the Call‘s article is very suggestive.  It identifies the club’s secretary as George W. Schilling … and when he had been sporting editor for The San Francisco Examiner, one of Jack Boyle’s employees was George W. Schilling.  (For further info on Boyle and Schilling, see the August 17, 2015 entry to this blog, “The Misadventures of Jack Boyle – circa 1907”.)   

So in the Spring of 1909, Jack Boyle was the president of a sporting club.  This seems a fairly wholesome pursuit for a shady opium addict … until you reflect on Boyle’s comment that he dabbled in prize-fight promotions which bordered on swindles.  It would seem that part of the reason the Portola Club came into being was to facilitate Jack Boyle’s schemes connected to the sport of boxing.

JBF  11/15/16


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The Misadventures of Jack Boyle – circa 1907

August 17, 2015 at 9:36 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

In September 1964, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED published an article spotlighting George “Judge” Schilling, a respected official from the world of horse racing.  Schilling began his career in racing as a teenager in the opening years of the 20th century, exercising horses at the Emeryville track in Oakland.  The article offers the following anecdote about Jack Boyle:

[Schilling] began writing [about] racing for the old San Francisco Examinercovering the meet at Emeryville and enjoying a nice leisurely life, until one night his editor, Jack Boyle, who later wrote the Boston Blackie stories, had one drink too many at the Press Club in the company of his rival editors.  The result was a bet on which [San Francisco] paper could get its final edition, with the chart of the last race, down to the bay first to meet the returning horseplayers as they arrived on the ferry.  Not until the next morning, all too late, did Boyle stop to think that his plant was by far the most distant of all from the ferry slip and hopelessly out of the running.  Schilling saved the day.  Instead of waiting for the official chartmaker, he called the race himself, into a telephone, and at the other end a printer rushed it into type even while he was speaking.  Schilling’s chart got to the ferry first; Jack Boyle won his bet; and Schilling was launched on a new career.

So, while Jack Boyle’s own career was frequently plagued by scandal, his ill-considered wager kick-started the career of one of the most famously scrupulous officials in the history of racing.

JBF 8/17/15

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