Blaustein, a trainer of champs, dies at 92 Guided area fighters more than 50 years

April 20, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Harry "Heinie" Blaustein, considered Baltimore's finest boxing trainer who guided Vince and Joe Dundee and Harry Jeffra to world titles, died yesterday in St. Agnes Hospital at the age of 92.

Blaustein, who also trained light heavyweight champion Archie Moore during the 1940s when he campaigned as a middleweight in Baltimore, and Red Burman, who challenged Joe Louis for the heavyweight crown in 1941, had spent the past six weeks in the hospital after suffering multiple injuries in an auto accident. The cause of death was listed as heart failure.

For more than half a century, Blaustein was both an expert boxing instructor and a masterful cornerman who could save a battered fighter from defeat by using all the tricks of the trade and his portable apothecary of cotton, tape, gauze and secret liquids and ointments to stem the bleeding.

"I don't tell nobody what I use," he once confided. "Everyone asks me, but it's special preparations my nephew, the pharmacist, prepares for me."

Blaustein's longest and most successful ring relationship was with Jeffra, who, after winning only one of 28 amateur bouts, went on to capture both the bantamweight and featherweight crowns.

As the late Jeffra once recalled: "I got thrown out of every gym in Baltimore until Heinie adopted me. He kept encouraging me while my mother kept saying, 'Quit fighting and get yourself a nice job.' "

With Blaustein in his corner, Jeffra made ring history of a unique nature at the Polo Grounds in New York, Sept. 23, 1937, when he challenged Sixto Escobar for the bantamweight title in the fourth and last fight on a night billed as "Carnival of Champions."

Ceferino Garcia, Lou Ambers and Marcel Thil also were defending their titles that night.

"I came prepared," Blaustein said. "I brought a pillow and blanket Jeffra could catch a nap.

"But he had a hard time sleeping. He kept waking up, and he didn't like what he was seeing," the trainer added. "First, they dragged in Thil after Fred Apostoli knocked him out. Then Garcia comes in looking like chopped liver after Barney Ross beat him to a pulp. Jeffra sat up and yelled at me: 'Hey, I'm in the wrong dressing room!' "

Jeffra finally climbed into the ring just before midnight. When referee Arthur Donovan Sr. raised his arm in triumph, it was 1 a.m.

"I guess you could say Jeffra was the only fighter who took two days to win a title," Blaustein said.

A native of Baltimore, Blaustein became friendly with a number of local fighters and soon gravitated to the gym where he learned the craft of training and being a "cut man" from veteran cornermen.

"There was no big money in boxing back then unless your name was Dempsey," he said. "If you were working with a preliminary fighter, if you got six bucks, that was a lot."

In the '20s, Blaustein became associated with the Dundee brothers, Vince, a middleweight, and Joe, a welterweight, who would become his first ring champions.

Blaustein remembered the night in 1925 when Joe Dundee was getting a thorough whipping at the Fifth Regiment Armory from a clever Philadelphia boxer named Alex Hart, who had won a 12-round bout in his hometown a year earlier.

Another loss to Hart would have ended Joe's title ambitions. When Dundee wobbled back to his corner in the 11th round, Blaustein realized it was an emergency situation.

He dipped into his black bag, lit a match and held it close to his groggy fighter's spine. Dundee came out of his stupor and staged a furious rally to earn a 15-round draw.

When Joe returned to the dressing room, he rubbed his sore back and noticed a blister, and a sheepish Blaustein had a confession to make.

Dundee won the welterweight title in 1927 with a 15-round decision over Pete Latzo, losing it two years later to Jackie Fields.

"Don't let anyone tell you Joe was a 'cheese champion,' " said Blaustein. "He was tough enough to out-gut one of the modern champs like Emile Griffith. If you knocked Joe down, he'd bounce right up and start swinging."

Blaustein was just as proud of his contenders who failed to win titles, and had a special affection for Burman, whom, he insisted, could have staged an upset the magnitude of Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson by knocking out Louis if he had followed his instructions.

"I'm not saying Red was in Joe's class," Blaustein said, recalling their championship match at Madison Square Garden in 1941 that ended in a fifth-round knockout by Louis. "But I'd get mad when they'd refer to Red as a member of the champ's 'Bum of the Month' club.

"Burman could punch and he staggered Louis early. He's got the champ hanging over the ropes, halfway out of the ring. All he needed was to give Louis a hard shove or plant his foot behind him, and he would have fallen into press row.

"If [referee] Donovan didn't catch it, we could have brought the heavyweight championship back to Baltimore. But Red was too clean a fighter."

Blaustein still was working with area boxers into his late '70s, but never discovered another champion.

He is survived by his wife, Minnie Keen, to whom he was married 50 years; a niece, Shirley Dogoloff; and three nephews, Arnold Lee Blaustein, Gilbert L. Barron and Seymour Blaustein, all of Baltimore.

Graveside services will be held at 4 p.m. today at Bnai Israel Congregation Cemetery in the 7300 block of Southern Ave.

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