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Author Topic: Wilbur Snyder & his HOF chances Part 1 by Yohe
Steve Yohe
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Reading my WON today, I came upon a section on the Iowa HOF and the induction of Wilbur Snyder. It stated that Snyder was a major football star. That isn't true & it buged me, as things do. I worked on a Snyder paper & record a few years ago and gave it up. But the football comment made me want to post the football part of the story, but I've desided to just put up the unfinsh stuff I worked on. No harm...I thought. I like parts of it. So:

WILBUR SNYDER & HIS HOF CHANCES
Part one
By Steve Yohe


It seems to me that Wilbur Snyder has been on the Wrestling Observer Hall Of Fame Ballot from day one. From the beginning he has been described as a borderline candidate. In the first election (8-24-98), Snyder got 32% of the votes and he’s stayed in the same area ever sense. Some fans think he’s got no argument, while many feel he’s a no brainier. Next to Dick Murdoch he’s probably the most well known border-liner, and it’s been pointed out that he & Hans Schmidt are the two top stars of the 50’s left out of the HOF. (this was written over two years ago, before Schmidt was inducted,)

By the time I started watching pro wrestling in Los Angeles and reading the national magazines, Wilbur Snyder was a national star and someone I wanted to see. But his time in LA had passed. I don’t remember ever seeing him live, although he is listed on a few cards I went to in 64. I can’t explain this, because I was as crazy then as now, and a major national star like Snyder would have had my attention. Maybe the match was shot & not interesting or something…I don’t know but I don’t remember seeing him.

But Wilbur was all over the magazines of the time and I wouldn’t have questioned the fact that he was a major star. I remember the contest in the early WRESTLING REVIEW magazine that pronounced him the most popular babyface in the sport.

A time went by in the 60’s & 70’s, he fame faded & he just became a name from the past on cards out of Indiana. It didn’t seem like much was going on with Wilbur.

I’m considered a historian type fan and a long time WON reader & letter writer. I’ve played a small part in the shaping of it’s HOF. It’s been my thought that I should form a strong opinon on this issue & make a statement one way or another. Over the years, I’ve only voted for Snyder once, and that was because I was worried he was going to fall off the ballot before I could find the time to investigate Snyder’s legitimacy as a HOF.

This year, lacking a project, I decided to put together a Snyder Record and then write something about him and his HOF chances. This is that paper and a good enough record was completed. I must say a bunch of the major AWA, Indiana, and St Louis historians helped me. Many of them were very pro Snyder and thought anyone who saw his record would fall in line. I don’t know if that is the result.

Wilbur Snyder was born in Santa Monica on Sept. 15, 1929. He seemed to live in the city for much of his younger years. Santa Monica is a beach city in Los Angeles that has been know for being home to pro wrestlers in the area and many guys retire in the area. Over the years many pros have been connected to this area & it’s beaches. Guys like Freddie Blassie and Baron Leone were know to live there. Another well know resident was Sandor Szabo, who was active in the area both as a wrestler and in the office. I think Snyder, a good looking athlete with size and ability, was know by wrestling insiders of the period, probably Szabo or Vic Christy’s nephew Jerry Christy….and the boy was brought to the attention of local wrestling booking agent Johnny Doyle. The same story can be told about the early careers of Lou Thesz in St Louis and with Enrique Torres, also in Los Angeles. There was big money to be made with young locals who were good enough to be turned into wrestling stars.

Snyder first sport was football and that would have to come first before he’d start thinking of entering wrestling for a living. But I would think he’d have been in contact with wrestling insiders on the beaches & gyms of Santa Monica before football. It was a fun trade he could always fell back on and I think, by high school, he was being trained by someone. Sandor Szabo & Warren Bockwinkel take claim to this, but Bockwinkel may have come in to the picture a few years later. (Perhaps as late as Edmonton.)

Snyder played football at Van Nuys High School starting around 1944. He claimed to have lettered 4 times, so maybe it was a 4 year school. He also trained some as a gymnast. In bios it’s always claimed that his quarterback on the team was good friend Bob Waterfield. I know nothing about football, but I read some. In Waterfield’s bio, he does play at Van Nuys but by 1942 he’s playing for UCLA & stared against Georgia in the 1943 Rose Bowl. He spent time in the Army in 1943, but a bad knee sent him back to UCLA in 1944. He was drafted by the Cleveland Rams, who later moved to LA. So it doesn’t seem like Wilbur played with Waterfield (if the numbers are right) but he knew him and they were friends in the story.

Through High School, Snyder dated a Shirlee Ann Hanson and married her on July 3, 1948. It’s been said that it also was both’s graduation day. A claim, that she was also courted by Waterfield doesn’t ring right, but that was the family story. The two must have been in love because they stayed together the rest of their lives. Nothing I’ve read makes Wilbur seem like anything other than a dedicated family man.

In Sept. 1948, Snyder moved to the University Of Utah to play collage ball as an offensive tackle. Wilbur did not start and he did not letter. He dropped out of school after his junior year. Two of his teammates were Joe Tangaro and Guy Brunetti, both future pro wrestlers. Some reports having Snyder training as a wrestler after leaving school but we have no record of any matches.

Around Aug. 1952, Snyder got a try out with the Los Angeles Rams, using his quarterback friend Bob Waterfield as a reference. His name never made the roster & he never seemed to play in a game. On Sept. 4, 1952, he was sent to Edmonton by a coach to get experience playing in the Canadian Football League. He was listed as a tackle but all we know is he kicked 14 conversions in the playoffs as a place kicker. (Note: I have a B.A. in Physical Ed. but know very little about football.)

In December 1952, the LA Rams won their division but lost in the NFL title game to Detroit. It really doesn’t matter to this paper because Snyder was never on the team.

Understanding Los Angeles pro wrestling promotions in the 50’s is like reading about organized crime. There seems to be two major promotional rivalries in Southern California but sides were always changing and power went back & forth. One side had the booking office owner Johnny Doyle, who was in control of the area by 1946 after buying out his old boss’s Ray Fabiani and Nick Lutze. He played a major part in the promotion of wrestling on TV and created major stars like Gorgeous George, Primo Carnera, Enrique Torres, and Baron Michele Leone. Under commission rules as booking agent he wasn’t supposed to run his own arena, just supply talent, but he did anyway. The other side was bossed by Cal Eaton who ran The Olympic Auditorium. Eaton, during the 50’s would develop political ties thru marrage and end up controlling the commission. With the Hollywood promoter Hugh Nichols, they battled for control of local wrestling. (it’s very complicated & I’m not going to pretend to understand the whole mess.)

Starting around 1947, Los Angeles wrestling started appearing on TV. With time there was TV wrestling on every night and a lot of the TV reached areas as far away as the Mississippi River. So, making a star in LA, was creating a national star that could be booked everywhere by Johnny Doyle. In 1947, Doyle was using AWA Champion Frank Sexton and local champion Enrique Torres, but soon after Lou Thesz becoming owner of St Louis, and Thesz saw the value of LA TV. So he made deals with Doyle, and he, with time, became the major champion in town and used LA talent in the mid-west.

On May 21, 1952, after a years build up, Johnny Doyle staged a huge promotion in LA’s Gilmore Field that put Lou Thesz NWA WC up against the local California champion Baron Michele Leone. Thesz won and unified the title in the state, but the real news was the match drawing 25,256 and a new gate record of $103,277. Los Angeles’ golden period, following the TV surge, had peaked and it would be down hill from there.

In Oct. 1952, Doyle made a deal with ABC TV to send wrestling tapes from the Olympic to 11 western states. By 1953 there was also shows from North Hollywood on KNEX on Saturday nights, going against Doyle. Doyle also had a Wilmington Bowl TV show on KLAC (Ch 13), which was later moved to Hollywood. At one time or another there was TV from just about every arena & it was on almost every night. On March 11, 1953, Doyle moved his office out of the Olympic Auditorium to Hollywood and the major war was on.

Wilbur Snyder signed a contract with Johnny Doyle’s booking agency in March 1953 and had his first match on March 14 in North Hollywood. On March 24 he wrestled a draw with his trainer Sandor Szabo in Wilmington. By this time he seems to be getting trained by the big star Szabo and Warren Bockwinkel. It should be noted that Warren Bockwinkel was one of Lou Thesz best friends and had close ties with the St Louis promotion.

The young good looking Snyder was given a major push from day one. In 1953 he beat local stars like Chris Zaharias, Joe Pazandak, The Great Bolo, Jack Mc Donald, Fred Blassie, Karl Davis, Red Berry, Gino Garibaldi, with his only major loss going to rival Mr Moto. He also forms a major tag team with Sandor Szabo.

Snyder was 6’2” and had good skills and could move. He was build as a scientific wrestler. His main gimmick was his football background and his crewcut. From what I’ve seen he had all the standard holds for that gimmick. Dropkicks, leapfrogs, flying headscissors, armdrags, flying hammerlocks, and ankle locks coming off the ropes. His finishing hold was an abdominal stretch which was really over and he was famous for it. Today, it’s never used right, but in the 50’s & 60’s it was a killer hold for babyfaces. I think Synder was a good worker and he showed good wrestling skills. But he wasn’t on the level of a Billy Robinson, Karl Gotch, or The Destroyer who made wrestling moves more entertaining. Mil Mascaras was a better wrestler but I think Synder had size that made his brawling look more realistic. He was as good or better than a lot of HOF’ers.

I don’t think he was an actual shooter, like a Hodge or Thesz. He may have wrestled some in school but I haven’t read that. But he was good enough so that Beyer couldn’t tell when I asked him about Snyder.

It also seems like Snyder was in the gym with Bockwinkel’s son Nick. Nick Bockwinkel would later wrestle using the same crew cut babyface gimmick. I always thought Nick was kind of a boring worker as a face, and didn’t really become a great wrestler until turning heel in the AWA.

In June 1953, Doyle booked him into Salt Lake City. After beating Moto, Snyder was given a try out NWA Title match against Lou Thesz. He lost a 2/3 fall match but it drew 6,000 fans and turned away another 3,000. Thesz went away happy with Bockwinkel’s young wrestler and plans were made to book Snyder into a major opponent for Lou and the NWA title.

On March 29, 1953, local LA promoter Nick Lutze went to the NWA convention to complain about Johnny Doyle and Cal Eaton having an monopoly. The NWA did nothing about the problem, so Lutze then went tothe local FBI with his claims. His blackballing complains later leads to the investigation of the NWA by the federal government.

In June 1953, Doyle moves his Wednesday network TV show to San Diego and goes up against Eaton’s Olympic Wednesday cards.

On Aug. 25, Snyder returns to Edmonton to play football. He seems to be mainly a kicker and hits 31 straight convertions, a CFL record (which wasn’t called the CFL in 1953). On the team with him were Gene Kiniski (#50) and Joe Blanchard. Wilber’s number was 63. He is only paid $8,000 for the season and so quit the sport to wrestle full time.

During the season he wrestles in Edmonton feuding with Sockeye Jack Mc Donald. Warren Bockwinkel is also in the area.

On Sept. 4, Cal Eaton joins the NWA and went head to head with Doyle at NWA convention in Chicago. Eaton seems to win but the war continues back in LA. On Sept. 24, Eaton closes down The Olympic Auditorium, saying there was no reason to book cards against the free TV shows coming from San Diego. NWA President Sam Muchnick then flew to LA to mediate a new agreement.

Snyder returns to Los Angeles in December 1953 to work full time with the same push. On Jan. 11, 1954, Snyder wins the International TV title from Mr Moto in Hollywood. On Jan. 18, 1954 he and Szabo take the International TV Tag Tile from Bud Curtis and Hans Schnabel.

On Jan. 11, 1954, Johnny Doyle sells his Los Angeles booking office and arenas to Cal Eaton and Mike Hirsh for $27,000. He then moves to NYC to work with old boss Toots Mondt.

Synder continues to win with victorys over John Tolos, Dud Curtis, Moto, Lord Blears, Tom Rice and Joe Pazandak. On March 8, he & Szabo lost the tag title to Lord Blears & Lord Layton.. They must have won it back soon after because the record has then losing it again to the Great Bolo and Tom Rice on April 5.

In early 1954, CBS was running a Saturday afternoon network TV show out the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Forgotten now, it was a big deal with national stars like Rogers, Longson, and Rocca being brought in to LA just for the show and it seems to have been shown in every market. On Saturday afternoons, fans would be admitted free and only one warm up match took place before the main event.

On March 27, 1954, Wilbur Snyder challenged Lou Thesz for the NWA world title on this CBS network TV show. The match went to a 60 minute draw after they split the first two falls. Thesz looked like a loser as the bell saved him. The great showing made Synder a national star and Thesz/Snyder became a hot main event across NWA territorys.

On April 19, 1954 in Hollywood, Szabo & Snyder lost the tag title back to Great Bolo (Al Lovelock) & Tom Rice.

On May 24, Snyder went to El Paso Texas to wrestle another draw with Lou Thesz. In LA Synder teamed up with the also young Bobo Brazil to contend for the tag title.

On July 31, he wrestled another draw with Thesz in Sault Lake City, drawing 4,876.

In September, Johnny Doyle, unhappy on the East Coast, returned to LA, and began to running outlaw promotions in South Gate, Las Vegas, & Salt Lake City. So the war wasn’t over.

Wilbur began wrestling his old football teammate Gene Kiniski during this time period. In singles matches Snyder was 5-0 vs Gene. On Sept. 9, 1954, Snyder and Bobo Brazil defeated Kiniski & Lord Blears for the vacant International TV Tag Title in Hollywood. Snyder/Brazil lost the title at The Olympic on Oct. 13 to Kiniski & John Tolos. It drew 3,500 in a building that held 10,400.

One of the major or, better yet, the major hold backs in Snyder’s credibility as a HOF’er is the criticism that he couldn’t draw, and it was my goal to prove that wrong. At least if I’m going to give my endorsement. He has to be shown to be a major draw.

On Nov. 1, 1954, Wilbur Snyder got his big rematch in LA with Lou Thesz. It took place in Hollywood. It was another draw, which sounds good for Wilbur….but it only drew 3,500. The number bothers me, but maybe it was on TV.

Los Angles has never been know as a territory with good payoffs. Guys were in the area to get recognition via TV (in the 60’s, wrestlers worked LA to get booked in Japan). To make real money, a star had to tour the rest of the nation. It was this way with Primo Carnara, Gorgious George, Enrique Torres, & Baron Leone….and Snyder had to do the same.

A lot of bios on Snyder has him going to Chicago next, but the record shows him in St Louis mainly because of the build up with Thesz on L. A. TV, that was watched all over the mid-west. So in Jan. 1955, Snyder ends up in St Louis working for Sam Muchnick and Lou Thesz. Perhaps Snyder was always working for St Louis, when you realize he was trained by Bockwinkel and pushed into match with Thesz. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Muchnick/Thesz had bought him into the Los Angeles company to get TV exposure & develop stars. Enrique Torres was pushed the same way in 1949 & Thesz was farmed out to LA before being made a St Louis hometown star in 1936.

Synder reached St Louis on Jan. 7 went he beat Dutch Hefner in 2:24. The next night he beat Mike Paidousis in 2:03. By this time, St Louis had it’s own local TV show. On January 15, 1955, Thesz was booked to defend his NWA title vs Bill Miller on the TV show, but Miller no showed for some reason, and Muchnick offered the young Snyder as a substitute. Thesz couldn’t talk his way out of it, and the match ended up another 37 minute draw where Thesz put Wilbur over like he was about to lose.

Snyder then returned to Los Angeles for the big blow off Thesz match at The Olympic Auditorium. In this title match, Thesz defeated Snyder and kept his title. This match drew a sellout 10,400 and is a highlight for Wilbur’s career.

With that, Wilbur Snyder’s time in his hometown of Los Angeles ends. He rarely wrestles there after the Thesz match. As far as drawing goes, he seems to have done well. The time period in LA during the 53 & 54 push of Snyder is considered a “down” period. Some claim that it was Thesz’s blow off of Leone in the big unification match that did the damage. I think it was too much TV and the war between Doyle and Eaton. Snyder seems to have been a plus and everything seemed fine with the development young star.

Going back to Johnny Doyle, in Jan. 1955 he resigns from the NWA. On Feb. 25, he is interviewed by FBI investigator Stanley Disney about violations of antitrust laws by the NWA. Doyle gives up facts and names, telling them who else might talk. Doyle is interviewed again on April 24. He gives them the name of Chicago promoter Fred Kohler. Perhaps because Kohler had refused to send Doyle talent for his TV show. Kohler then agrees on May 19 to open his records to the FBI. In June, Sam Muchnick travels to Washington DC & promises to remove all roadblocks to the investigation. June 17 has the Justice department officially announcing the investigation to the public. Muchnick & the NWA claims they are willing to cooperate in any way and is awarded a hearing. There Muchnick blames Johnny Doyle as the culprit behind all their troubles.

In Oct 1955, the California State Assembly Subcommittee begins an investigation of boxing & wrestling in the state. Doyle testifies against Cal Eaton. Eaton is connected with boxing matchmaker Babe McCoy who has fixed matches and had major underworld associates. Eaton with wife Aileen protest that the subcommittee was just “character assassination (Oct. 19). Wrestling gets off with just a reprimand for stealing purses and skimming gates. Boxing gets it worst when it is connected with gangster Micky Cohen.

The NWA investigation ends with the membership signing a consent decree. The NWA dissolves & all rules cancel, then it was reformed under terms of the court order in Oct. 1956. Many members do not return to the NWA, one of them is Southern California. The Antitrust Division closes the case on Jan. 4, 1957. (want more…read Tim Hornbaker’s landmark book.)

On Feb. 15, 1955, with no buildup, Snyder wrestled Buddy Rogers in Cleveland and beat him for the Eastern Title, which can be traced back to the old Bowser AWA WC…if you try hard enough. Snyder then defends the title against Killer Kowalski in Cleveland, and only draws 1,921 (!!!!). He wrestles a draw with Rogers on March 1 in Cleveland and another draw in Peoria on March 7. On March 10, Snyder defeat Rogers in a non-title match in Columbus via decision. On March 15, Wilbur lost via DQ to Buddy in Cleveland & that must have been a title change because I don’t think Rogers & Snyder ever wrestle again…in their careers. All this seems very strange to me, but I’ve been unable to get Cleveland newspapers to figure it out. I don’t know what he drew but getting wins over Rogers is a big plus…if it happened.

With the build up done, Snyder got his rematch with Thesz in St Louis on March 4, 1955. At the 43:00 mark, Snyder hit Lou with a flying tackle knocking him out of the ring. Twice the hot contender punched the heel champion as he was trying to climb back into the ring. Referee Bill Thom tried to pull Snyder off and got punched by Wilbur for his trouble. Manager Ed “Strangler” Lewis then jumped into the ring demanding a DQ….and he got KO’ed by the kid. When Thom got to his feet, he stopped the match & gave the win to the champion on a disqualification. The card drew 9,701. I see that as good but it’s not a sellout in St Louis.

This set up an St Louis rematch for March 25. It was billed as a 2/3 fall match with a 90 minute time limit. Snyder won the first fall in 47:07 & Thesz took the 2nd in 12:06. The time limit then ran out and the match was called a draw. The match only drew 6,343, which sounds disappointing but the newspaper blamed the weather. It does bother me. This is a major highlight in his career & 6,343? If that was the only disappointment or rare, I’d just forget it….but we’ll see more later.

A third match with Thesz in St Louis was booked for April 24, 1955. This time with no time limit. Thesz won 2/3 fall with a crowd of 9,069. Ok… but not a sellout in an important match.

Snyder then toured the south and up into Indianapolis for the first time. St Louis had three main tours that started with Tom Pack in the 1920’s. One was the route taken by Snyder. Memphis, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Evansville, before a return to St Louis. At times you could throw in Kansas City & St Joseph. There also was a Texas tour and a trip into Canada. In June & July, Wilbur was in the Montreal territory.

There he had two draws with Pat O’Connor and lost a match with Don Leo Jonathan that I think was a Montreal world title match (July 6). He also had a match with Antonino Rocca and beat Gorgeous George via DQ in Ottawa on July 12.

From September to the end of the year, he worked in Texas. He wrestled Thesz a few time and did a number of non-clean jobs to Texas champion Pepper Gomez, and Duke Keomuka…who everyone had to “job to” going thru Texas. On Oct. 21, 1955, he and Ray Gunkel beat Keomuka & Danny Savich for the Texas Tag Title. He & Gunkel losted to Keomuka & Tiny Mills on Dec. 5, 1955. Around Christmass he return to LA for a two week vacation while having two matches with Johnny Valentine (a draw & a loss) in Hollywood.

On Feb. 3, 1956, he lost a match to Killer Kowalski in St Louis and it was then that he moved to Chicago to work for Fred Kohler and his P.R. man Jim Barnett. Snyder had been working for almost three years sense he signed a contract in Los Angeles…. maybe it expired.

On Feb. 4, 1956, Synder had a match with Thesz in his future home, Indianapolis, that drew 11,500 and a gate of $15,000. They met again in Chicago on March 2 & Snyder lost by DQ.

Kohler used the same storyline with champ Thesz in Chicago that was used in St Louis & LA. On Jan. 28, 1956, Snyder replaced a no showing Shiek in a TV title match with Lou Thesz. Lou would only take the match if it had a 30 minute time limit and he was able to hang on for a time limit draw.

During this period, Snyder beat guys like Hans Schmidt, Hans Herman, Bill Miller, The Sheik and one of his main rivals Angelo Poffo. He returned to Montreal for three matches with Montreal WC Killer Kowalski ..a March 14 DQ win…a April 4 DQ ..& a UTC loss on April 11.

He worked in Indianapolis during his period with wins over Poffo and had his first match ever with Dick The Bruiser (a March 20 draw).

On April 7, 1956, Snyder subbed for no showing Jim Melby in a TV US title match against Chicago’s biggest star Verne Gagne. Snyder beat Gagne for the title in 19:40. Seems to have been a one fall match. The U.S. title had been created by Fred Kohler for his star Gagne and it had been pushed like a world title for a few years. Fans accepted this title as being major. The title change is considered one of Snyder’s biggest wins and he would always be associated with the US title in the years that followed.

A Chicago rematch on May 4 with Gagne ended in a draw, as did a May 22 match in Minneapolis Other he defended against were Schmidt, The Bruiser, The Crusher, The Sheik & Poffo.

A third Chicago match with NWA champion Thesz took place on July 6. It was a draw & drew 8,853.

One of his biggest match was an outdoor show in Milwaukee’s County Stadium against Verne Gagne. Snyder lost via DQ, but kept his US title. The card drew 16,069 and $33,689. That’s a major number but you wonder if it was Gagne who was the draw.

Snyder lost the US title to Hans Schmidt on Sept. 15, 1956 via COR. 7 days later he lost to Gagne in Milwaukee clean drawing 7,038.

END OF PART ONE

(I was going to go into the development of the Indianapolis territory under Johnny Doyle …and how Doyle fell back into using his creation Snyder and The Bruiser as his stars and how Snyder & Bruiser bought the promotion. I was also going to go into Snyder’s drawing ability thru the years and how he stagnates in Indiana. Also talk about Snyder association with various US title and the importance of him putting over Ray Stevens in S. F.. But I wasn’t writing well… and I thought the paper was going on forever…and no one would care… so I dumped it and moved to another project. Maybe I’ll do a Part two, but I can’t see it at this moment.—Steve Yohe)

[ 02-19-2014, 12:58 AM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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Crimson Mask from FL
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It's like I've said more than once---definitely a major national star, but (as we'll see if Yohe ever finishes the thing) only for about 10 years, and nobody much left remembers those 10 years. I think he remains on the fence HOF wise, at best.

So long from the Sunshine State!

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So long from the Sunshine State!

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Steve Yohe
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My conclusion, after going over everything, was going to be...I don't know. Either way, you can say your right. With such a weak finish, I saw no reason to waste more time on it. Couldn't find any great evidence that he was a HOF draw.

I thought it wasn't very good, but parts were interesting.

Even more so that Dick Murdoch, he is borderline. I think he'll always be on the list, but Murdoch will make it before him...if ever. I'm sure to those who were around in the 50's & early 60's or was from Indiana, he seems like a no brainer, but it doesn't seem like enough. I feel bad because the pro Snyder guys helped me on the record. Some of the newer type historians were much more negative than me.

My main interest in the story was doing something on Johnny Doyle. Most of the Doyle stuff is in Tim Hornbaker's NWA book but spread all over.

I don't think Snyder cared. Bobby Heenan said he worried more about his tennis game, than wrestling.--Steve Yohe

[ 12-01-2013, 12:13 PM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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Ken Viewer
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Fascinating read!

Ken

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Steve Yohe
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Even in the prime part of his career, I couldn't show him as a great draw. In St Louis he wasn't a major draw. Later on, he was used but it was like Sam liked using big names in the middle of his cards. Or maybe, the draw, Bruiser, got Snyder booked. Anyway Bruiser was the draw and Snyder seemed to be the guy in the office...kept strong in Tag matches in mid-card or semi position. I knew I would have to cover Indianapolis but lay off details on all the tag title story lines because it was the same thing over & over. And he got old at some point. None of the 50's superstars of the mid-west ever quit. Bobo Brazil, Bruiser, Crusher, Poffo, Gomez, & even Gagne (who made money selling a company of old stars) hung around for years until they turned into small time cliches. (It's a sad fact, in life, that ageing turns everyone into a cliche of what you once were...even Steve Yohe.)

I didn't see this as a fun project and I thought it was a dog (reading it today, it seems pretty good, but need work fixing something's.) And it wasn't going to lead to anything big. I was also getting tired of my own writing style. You get sick of yourself sometimes. So I dumped it.

But I could never prove Snyder was a great draw...there always was a "if" or a "but" or a "maybe" connected to everything...and after awhile you think maybe it was Wilbur himself...and that seems to be his HOF problem...unless you lived in Indianapolis in the 70's.--Steve Yohe

[ 02-19-2014, 01:04 AM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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Steve Ogilvie
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I found this interesting, although what really appealed was the Johnny Doyle stuff, and the complexities of the Los Angeles wrestling scene.

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"Mr 100%"

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clawmaster64
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Not sure if I ever sent these cards to Yohe.

1/12/55 Bowling Green, KY @ Armory
Southern Junior Heavyweight Champion Ray Piret beat Sonny Myers on a 3rd fall dq
1 Piret pinned Myers with a back slide
2 Myers beat Piret with a "neck-twister"
3 Myers was dq'ed for what the referee "termed an intentional blow to Piret's grin"
Wilbur Snyder beat Cyclone Anaya 2/3
1 Anaya pinned Snyder after a "kangaroo kick"
2 Snyder beat Anaya
3 Snyder beat Anaya

2/24/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Referee Joe Herman
Wilbur Snyder dcor Johnny Valentine in 3rd fall
1 Snyder beat Valentine in 22:26 with a "cobra twist"
2 Valentine beat Snyder with a sleeper hold
3 Both men were counted out of the ring
Pee Wee James & Tuffy McRea beat Major Tom Thumb Ivan The Terrible 2/3
George Drake beat Danny Ferrazo with a Boston Crab
Att: "twelve hundred wrestling fans"
Promoter: Leonard Thomas

4/26/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Referee Joe Herman of St. Louis
The Mask beat Wilbur Snyder on a 3rd fall dq
1 Snyder pinned The Mask in 11:20 "after a series of body blocks and drop kicks"
2 The Mask pinned Snyder in 3:34 after "head butts and several well placed rights and lefts"
3 Snyder was dq'ed for turning The Mask's mask around so The Mask could not see
Mae Weston beat Bonnie Watson 2/3
1 Watson pinned Weston in 11:06 "with a small package"
2 Weston pinned Watson in 12:13 after "a series of arm drags and whips"
3 Weston pinned Watson in 5:10 after Bonnie missed "an attempted dive" and landed "flat on her stomach"
Vic Holbrook beat Ralph Garibaldi via pin in 15:50

5/6/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Referee Joe Howard of Sikeston, MO
Masked Diablo Brothers beat Vic Holbrook & Wilbur Snyder on a 3rd fall dq, 2nd fall by COR
1 Snyder pinned Diablo Brother I in 17:53
2 Snyder was counted out of the ring in 8:30 after missing a flying tackle. Snyder suffered a knee injury so Holbrook had to start the 3rd fall alone.
3 Snyder was dq'ed after returning from the dressing room
Clyde Steeves drew Dutch Hefner when the 45 minute time limit expired in the 3rd fall
Amateur Wrestling Match, 6 minute Time Limit
Arthur Poorman beat Ralph Thomas in 5:31 with a body scissors and half nelson

5/13/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Special Referee: Wild Bill Longson
Masked Diablo Brothers beat Vic Holbrook & Wilbur Snyder 2/3
1 One of the Diablo Brothers pinned Holbrook in 20:59
2 Snyder beat Diablo Brother II in 1:00 with a cobra twist
3 Diablo Brother I pinned Snyder in 2:20
Clyde Steeves beat Chris Zaharias 2/3
1 Zaharias pinned Steeves in 9:07 after a series of forearm blows
2 Steeves pinned Zaharias in 5:35 after a series of body slams
3 Steeves pinned Zaharias in 11:57
Amateur Match, 6 minute Time Limit
Jerry Hinton drew Jim Hickam, no fall scored

5/21/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Referee Charley Venator
Masked Diablo Brothers beat Vic Holbrook & Wilbur Snyder on a 2nd fall dq
1 The larger Diablo Brother pinned Snyder in 12:38
2 Holbrook & Snyder were dq'ed when they unmasked the larger Diablo Brother as Wee Willie Davis
Clyde Steeves drew Ricki Starr when 45 minute time limit expired in the 3rd fall
1 Steeves pinned Starr in 18:30
2 Starr pinned Steeves in 6:14
3 The 45 minute time limit expired before either man could score the winning fall
Amateur Wrestling
Charles Frierson drew Leon Allen 6:00
Promoter: Leonard Thomas
Notes: Special Saturday Night Card.

5/27/55 Cape Girardeau, MO @ Arena
Texas Death Match, Two Referees: Charley Venator & Joe Howard
Vic Holbrook & Wilbur Snyder beat Wee Willie Davis & Masked Diablo Brother 2/3 and unmasked the other Diablo Brother as Killer Karl Davis
1 Snyder beat Wee Willie Davis with a "cobra twist" in 12:22
2 Killer Karl Davis beat Holbrook in 11:04
3 Holbrook beat Killer Karl Davis in 5:31 with a "cobra twist"
Wild Bill Longson beat Clyde Steeves
Amateur Wrestling
Jerry Hinton beat Jim Hickam with a leg lock in 9:00
David Hill beat Ronald Moss

Found those in the google news archives.

[ 12-16-2013, 09:15 AM: Message edited by: clawmaster64 ]

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We bled inside each others wounds
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Ed Lock from Sydney, Aust
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Yohe:
I was going to go into the development of the Indianapolis territory under Johnny Doyle …and how Doyle fell back into using his creation Snyder and The Bruiser as his stars and how Snyder & Bruiser bought the promotion. I was also going to go into Snyder’s drawing ability thru the years and how he stagnates in Indiana. Also talk about Snyder association with various US title and the importance of him putting over Ray Stevens in S. F.. But I wasn’t writing well… and I thought the paper was going on forever…and no one would care… so I dumped it and moved to another project. Maybe I’ll do a Part two, but I can’t see it at this moment.—Steve Yohe

G'day Steve,

I really enjoyed reading your feature on Wilbur Snyder.

If ever you get the time and the inclination I'd love to read Part 2 but with the emphasis shifted to Johnny Doyle.

As you probably know, Jim Barnett always maintained that Dick the Bruiser and Wilbur Snyder never paid him and Doyle when they took over their Indianapolis promotion.

Cheers!

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Steve Yohe
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A lot of this will end up in my "Time Line project". Might be considered the part II, if I ever finish it. I'm thinking about it. The last few weeks I've been working on the beginning of TV in Chicago & the 1st NWA conventions.

I, kind of, figured out the Eagle/George double cross in Chicago.---Yohe

[ 12-17-2017, 03:31 PM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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BERT from NJ
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Yohe:
The last few weeks I've been working on the beginning of TV in Chicago & the 1st NWA conventions.

I, kind of, figured out the Eagle/George double cross in Chicago.---Yohe

Steve very interested in this so hope that serves as some sort of motivation! [Smile]

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"You're a little out of order yourself-You insulted him a little bit, you insulted him A LITTLE BIT"
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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
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50 years fan
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I SAW DOZENS OF SNYDER'S MATCHES DURING THE FIFTIES AND SIXTIES.
LOU THESZ,VERNE GAGNE AND ED CARPENTIER ARE THE ONES WHO WERE BETTER THAN SNYDER.
HE IS A NO-BRAINER HALL OF FAMER.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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But he isn't. I don't know how to calculate drawing power, so I can't really comment on whether he was or wasn't a big draw when he was a star, but the fact is that he did not remain a star, and you can't just ignore that. Same with Dr. Miller.

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Ken Viewer
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Steve posted:

...I, kind of, figured out the Eagle/George double cross in Chicago.---Yohe

Waiting to read your explanation of an event that never made sense to me. Care to break it out of your Timeline project and write about it separately?

Thanks.

Ken

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Tim Hornbaker
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Originally posted by Steve Yohe:
This set up an St Louis rematch for March 25. It was billed as a 2/3 fall match with a 90 minute time limit. Snyder won the first fall in 47:07 & Thesz took the 2nd in 12:06. The time limit then ran out and the match was called a draw. The match only drew 6,343, which sounds disappointing but the newspaper blamed the weather. It does bother me. This is a major highlight in his career & 6,343? If that was the only disappointment or rare, I’d just forget it….but we’ll see more later.

I was looking at the data surrounding this match today. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited: "St. Louis was suffering its coldest spring weather on record today after a 2.7 inch snowfall paralyzed traffic during yesterday's evening rush hour." - The temperature dropped to the low 20s with driving snow. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 26, 1955, p. 1.

Snyder-Thesz in St. Louis was a hot feud in 1955 and this would've been a sellout had the weather been better. Achieving 6,343 under these conditions is actually remarkable.

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Tim Hornbaker
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Originally posted by Steve Yohe:
On Feb. 15, 1955, with no buildup, Snyder wrestled Buddy Rogers in Cleveland and beat him for the Eastern Title

Snyder was appearing in headline matches (with no build-up in many cases) on the strength of his national TV appearances from Los Angeles. Diehard fans in Cleveland already knew who he was based on the cycling of California tapes, and Snyder's matches from months earlier were still being telecast.

On March 15, Wilbur lost via DQ to Buddy in Cleveland & that must have been a title change because I don’t think Rogers & Snyder ever wrestle again…in their careers.

Yes, this was a title change. Attendance was 2,931 at the Cleveland Arena.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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Better late than never.

quote:
On April 7, 1956, Snyder subbed for no showing Jim Melby
I hope that was BILL Melby.

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Steve Yohe
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Yohe: "This set up an St Louis rematch for March 25. It was billed as a 2/3 fall match with a 90 minute time limit. Snyder won the first fall in 47:07 & Thesz took the 2nd in 12:06. The time limit then ran out and the match was called a draw. The match only drew 6,343, which sounds disappointing but the newspaper blamed the weather. It does bother me. This is a major highlight in his career & 6,343? If that was the only disappointment or rare, I’d just forget it….but we’ll see more later.

Tim: "I was looking at the data surrounding this match today. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited: "St. Louis was suffering its coldest spring weather on record today after a 2.7 inch snowfall paralyzed traffic during yesterday's evening rush hour." - The temperature dropped to the low 20s with driving snow. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 26, 1955, p. 1.

Snyder-Thesz in St. Louis was a hot feud in 1955 and this would've been a sellout had the weather been better. Achieving 6,343 under these conditions is actually remarkable."

Yohe: I read the same thing you did. I was looking for proof that Snyder was a HOF draw. And I stand by that statement. It was build up on National TV out of Hollywood and build up in St Louis using LA TV. Led to one of the biggest moments of his career. It drew 6,343. I don't care if it was snowing...I can't prove he is a HOF draw from that number. You can say it would have been a sellout if the sun was out...I can't. I don't give credit from opinions of what might have happened. "Might have" isn't good enough. On top of that, none of the three matches sold out in St Louis. March 4 was 9,701 & April 22 was 9,069. It drew good but didn't sell out. This and a lot of other events surprises me about his career. I went into this project thinking I could prove his ability to draw but couldn't. I felt bad about it because I was around then & he was a star in my eyes....but I'm not going to be a fanboy about anything.

The above was something I worked on....and I stopped in the middle. I didn't think it was any good & the Indiana stuff was going to make it worse. I didn't edit the thing, because I don't consider it a finished project. Maybe I can use that excuse for the Jim Melby thing, but really we know I can't write or spell or remember names. I'm a failure. Maybe I shouldn't have posted it.

One of my main reasons for playing with this was getting the Johnny Doyle/Cal Eaton stuff on paper. Most of what I know come from Tim's NWA Book but I was trying to organize it to better understand what happen. So I should have added Tim's name to it....but it seems he didn't like it, so it's a good thing I didn't.

I'm continuing to organize all the Doyle/Eaton/FBI investigation stuff on my "Time Line" project. So I'll be getting a second shot at the topic. Most of it is a result of Tim's work. I have to do this...because the project's purpose is to cover all of wrestling's history....as if that was possible.---Steve Yohe

[ 05-07-2018, 12:25 AM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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Tim Hornbaker
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Steve, you did a great job putting together the essential information about Snyder. Nobody else was going to do it. For years, we've heard his name brought up prior to balloting with some people firmly behind his induction, while others are still yearning for proof that he was a "HOF draw." You did a great service by putting this info together.

My comments in this thread were essentially to join the conversation more than anything else.

Check your email.

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Cincinnati Kid
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I became familiar with Wilbur Snyder when the Barnett/Doyle Promotion out of Indianapolis started TV studio matches in Cincinnati in late 1958 and followed that up by holding cards at the Cincinnati Gardens beginning in early 1959. Back then, Snyder was meeting Angelo Poffo for the U.S. TV Title. That led to other matches for that title against Dick the Bruiser and Mitsu Arakawa.

Snyder also teamed with Yukon Eric in tag matches. One of those was against Poffo and his manager Bronko Lubich in the main event at the Gardens on March 7, 1959. That card drew 15,299 fans; the fourth-largest crowd for an event in Gardens' history.

Some may feel that Snyder was used in too many tag matches during his days in Indianapolis and he may have gained greater fame had he been in more singles competition. In looking back, perhaps the promotion could be blamed for that, but maybe Snyder enjoyed living with his family in the Indianapolis area, gaining co-ownership of that promotion and doing much of his wrestling there and in cities with-in a short drive. For some, having a long rein as a champion or traveling thousands of miles to take part in matches is just down the ladder of their priorities.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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And those are the ones who don't go into HOFs.

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Tim Hornbaker
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I'm seeing both points of view.

I'm still doing a bit of research on Snyder and not making a case either way.

But I have a question. Does Snyder's time as a booker-promoter for the WWA account for anything? The WWA was a pretty successful territory for a number of years and Snyder was a major facet in its success.

When you combine his success on a national level (1953-1965) (give or take), then his success as a wrestler on a regional level in the Midwest, AND his role as a promoter-booker for the WWA (17 or so years from 1965 to 1982)...are these combined factors considered HOF worthy?

The "HOF Draw" question about Snyder is something I can't prove. Nobody can. But that isn't the only qualifying factor.

Snyder WAS a national headliner for a period of years. He WAS a TV star. He WAS a world champion. He WAS a regional champion. He WAS owner of a successful territory. He headlined everywhere from Tampa to Montreal and from Toronto to Los Angeles.

He didn't run the regional circuit forever because he wanted to be close to his family. He settled in and ran his territory. Look at other wrestlers like Eddie Graham and Fritz Von Erich (Not comparing them directly), but once they settled in as an owner, how much traveling outside their respective areas did they do? Of course, some guys did more traveling than others, but Snyder was content remaining close to home in Indiana.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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But Eddie and Fritz remained stars. Can't ignore that.

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Tim Hornbaker
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Good point.

I'm sure Snyder retained a measure of star power in his home territory, correct? I know he took a backseat to Bruiser, and was embroiled in the tag team wars of the WWA, but local fans had to see him as a popular star of the organization...right?

I honestly don't know. Like I said, I've been doing some research and haven't gotten to his WWA years as of yet. But his success between 1953 and 1965 can't be denied.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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Think he became more of an up and down the card guy. Like I said, like Dr. Miller. If they had maintained their images like Eddie and Fritz did, they would be HOF no brainers too. They were certainly as major, just not for as long.

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OSJ from NM by way of WA
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quote:
Originally posted by Tim Hornbaker:
I'm seeing both points of view.

I'm still doing a bit of research on Snyder and not making a case either way.

But I have a question. Does Snyder's time as a booker-promoter for the WWA account for anything? The WWA was a pretty successful territory for a number of years and Snyder was a major facet in its success.

When you combine his success on a national level (1953-1965) (give or take), then his success as a wrestler on a regional level in the Midwest, AND his role as a promoter-booker for the WWA (17 or so years from 1965 to 1982)...are these combined factors considered HOF worthy?

The "HOF Draw" question about Snyder is something I can't prove. Nobody can. But that isn't the only qualifying factor.

Snyder WAS a national headliner for a period of years. He WAS a TV star. He WAS a world champion. He WAS a regional champion. He WAS owner of a successful territory. He headlined everywhere from Tampa to Montreal and from Toronto to Los Angeles.

He didn't run the regional circuit forever because he wanted to be close to his family. He settled in and ran his territory. Look at other wrestlers like Eddie Graham and Fritz Von Erich (Not comparing them directly), but once they settled in as an owner, how much traveling outside their respective areas did they do? Of course, some guys did more traveling than others, but Snyder was content remaining close to home in Indiana.

Allow me to run in while admitting to doing no real original work on Snyder, just looking over the shoulders of you and Yohe and copying your notes. ;-)

You bring up an interesting point with the combined wrestler/booker/owner package of the man's entire career. Here's the thing I see, if I may use a baseball analogy, Snyder is Gil Hodges. For years Gil's fanboys have tried to put all the pieces of his career as a player and manager and genuine nice guy together to make a case for his induction into the HOF. Problem is there isn't any glue known to man that are going to make those pieces hold together in any meaningful way as there simply isn't any "there" there when you get right down to it. You have a beloved star who was great for a very short time, good for a good bit longer and beloved in his decline and then managerial career because of the fond memories people had of his prime. The real problem is that when you start to examine that prime, it really wasn't all that prime.

And that's the red flag I get with Snyder; when you look closely at the things that should show him as a HOF draw, the numbers aren't there. Let's take the St. Louis scenario where a sympathetic voice brings up the cold weather... Sorry, it's St. Louis; people in St. Louis just like folks in Chitown give no ***** about freezing temperatures, they're used to it and if there's an event they want to see, they'll go. I can't let Snyder off the hook for bad weather.

Was his stay-at-home career a success as a "star", no, not really, he moved up and down the card. As a owner/booker he was fine, but it's hard to say just how important his contributions were to the territory. We can definitely say that he didn't retain the aura of "elder statesman/star" that Fritz, Graham, or Gagne did.

Let me bounce back to the baseball analogy again, I was born in '57 and not (thank the gods) anywhere near Brooklyn, so I can be pretty objective about Gil Hodges. I didn't see him play, he retired when I was a little kid and so my memories of him are of that nice man who managed the Mets. That was in and of itself enough for me to do a lot of number crunching to see just how good a HOF candidate Hodges was, and the answer is: He isn't. In any meaningful analysis, where you would expect to see spikes that indicate greatness, they just aren't there. You have a situation where the idea of the great player and manager Gil Hodges has (to Brooklyn and LA fans) has become more of a reality than the actual man. Was he godlike with the glove at 1B like Willie McCovey? No, he was a lot closer to Norm Cash, good but rarely great. Should he be compared to the other great sluggers of his era like Willie, Mickey, and the Duke (to make it easy)? Only if you want to laugh at him, he belongs more in a group with guys like Joe Adcock, Frank Howard, and Rocky Colavito than he does with the greats.

How about that managerial career? Yes, there were some stellar performances by the Mets under his leadership. Exactly how much credit goes to a manager of a great team? Smart money tells you that a good manager will add 3-5 wins over the course of a season and a great manager might get you 5-8 wins over that same 162 games. So best case scenario isn't even going to add 10% to the "W" column.

Now back to Snyder... Is there anything, anything at all that we can point to that would indicate that his booking/presence popped the territory at all on any occasion? I'm asking this honestly, not rhetorically because I'm looking and not seeing anything. The best that I can see is that Snyder equates to Gil Hodges, looks really, really viable as a HOFr until you break things down and then he drops pretty quickly into the Hall of the Very Good. Tim, Yohe, CM; help me out if I'm missing something...

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Tim Hornbaker
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Good stuff. I enjoyed your analogies.

I do disagree when you say: "The real problem is that when you start to examine that prime, it really wasn't all that prime."

There is much more to Snyder's prime years than what has been posted in this thread. We can't only look at what happened in St. Louis (weather or not) and focus only on that. Snyder had tremendous success - popping houses in San Francisco, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and many other cities.

I'm working on a new biography on Snyder. As I told Steve in an email, my effort is not to "Put Snyder in the HOF." No, that's not my goal. If it eventually happens, fine. If it doesn't, okay. But I'd like for his complete story to be told.

There are aspects to Snyder as a wrestler that aren't generally known. Like how he worked successfully as a heel during times in his career. How he popped San Francisco with Ray Stevens. How much faith Fred Kohler had in him in Chicago. And his success for Barnett and Doyle.

Snyder's an interesting case - and it's not all for HOF recognition. He's an interesting case in wrestling history.

I wish some of the WWA guys could chime in and talk about Snyder's influence as a booker-promoter. I don't think we should discount his importance running the WWA.

[ 05-17-2018, 10:57 AM: Message edited by: Tim Hornbaker ]

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