Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pete Rademacher - 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist

Hi, it's me again, Kathy's co-worker from the Medina Library. One of my responsibilities is to fill a display cabinet in the Medina Library's Franklin Sylvester (local history) Room. My display for January, February and March is Pete Rademacher. Pete might not have been born and raised in Medina, but he sure brought a lot of history with him and continues to create it while living here.

Peter Rademacher with his daughter Susan

Pete grew up in the state of Washington. He began his college education at Yakima Valley Junior College, then graduated from Washington State University.

He met his wife, Margaret, while attending college and according to him he met her at a party and asked her out on a date. At the time she was seeing someone else, but they got to know each other, and the rest is history. During his college years he fought in the Golden Gloves in Seattle and won the Nationals in Boston.

In 1954, he and Margaret went to Fort Benning, Georgia where he had to complete his ROTC obligation. He was assigned to run a boxing program and was very successful. In the spring of 1956, he was instructed to begin training for the Olympics.  Not long after he began, Margaret was approached by a colonel's wife at the Officer's Club and asked if she was excited about her husband trying out for the Olympics. Imagine her surprise because Pete had promised to give up boxing after they were married. She must have forgiven him, because he made the 1956 Olympic team and was sent to Australia to compete in the Heavy Weight division.

Rademacher fought three opponents, Josef Nemec from Czechoslovakia, Dann Bekker from South Africa and Lev Mukhin from Russia. He won all 3 fights taking the Russian out in one round and earned his gold medal in heavy weight boxing. Pete also was given the honor of carrying the American flag in the Olympics' closing ceremony.

However, this is just the beginning of Pete Rademacher's time in history! When he came back he wanted to fight professionally and he did in a big way! Rademacher wanted to fight for the recently vacated Heavyweight Championship position. He would face World Champion Floyd Patterson. This would be the first Pro-Am fight ever! It was unheard of for an amateur to begin their professional career fighting a professional for the top spot. After contacting several managers and promoters and raising a $250,000 guarantee they signed the papers for the fight.

The fight was set for August 22, 1957 in Seattle. Rademacher started out well, hitting Patterson hard enough to buckle his knees in the second round. However, Rademacher didn't have the stamina that Patterson possessed and was taken down in the sixth round.

"I took the count sitting on my duff, I couldn't get up."

He continued to box for five more years and fought such fighters as Zora Foley, Brian London, Doug Jones, and Archie Moore. His last fight was April 4, 1962, in Honolulu against Bobo Olson. He retired after this fight with a record of 15-7-1.

Pete didn't leave boxing all together. He became a referee in the 1970's and in 1979 was the chief referee for the Cleveland Coliseum. In 1975, He was asked to be the referee for the Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner heavyweight championship, but was pulled out because Wepner's manager felt there was a conflict of interest due to the fact the Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, used to work with Rademacher during his boxing career.

One of the fights he did officiate was the  "Sugar" Ray Leonard and Art McKnight match in 1978.

Radamacher moved his wife and three daughters, Susan, Helen and Margo to Medina in 1963 after meeting a building contractor and going to work for him. He then began working for Kiefer McNeil and after awhile became president. One of the products they manufactured was the  material for Olympic swimming pool lanes. Pete was off to the Olympics again! This time representing the company in the 1976 Montreal games and the 1986 Los Angeles games. He retired in 1986.

In 1987, he became the American Cancer Society's director of [golf] tournaments and he raised more than one million dollars in 1989 and 1990.

In 1996, he and two of his daughters carried the Olympic torch through the streets of Cleveland.

Some of you might know Pete Rademacher because of his fun invention the "Radecycle". He thoroughly enjoyed driving his one wheel motorcycle in over 380 parades.

Pete came into the library and enjoyed seeing the display. I really recommend that everyone come and see this beautiful and historical display. It is an honor to be able to display it and know that Medina has such a treasure in Pete Rademacher.

Just a note about last weeks blog post. I had said the Family Tree software was not going to be available after 2017. However, I found out since then (thank you Pat!) that this is no longer correct. According to Ancestry they have sold their Mac and Windows Family Tree Maker to the company that makes their Mac version and they will be offering a Windows version of the software that will work with Ancestry. Details are on Dick Eastman's website - blog.eogn.com - posted on 2 February 2016.


Anonymous said...

Nicely done bio of a local legend!

Anonymous said...

So so cool. The fact that he came to the library to see your display is pretty awesome! (And it's a beautiful display!)