STANLEY KETCHEL, THE “MICHIGAN ASSASSIN”: THE FIRST POLISH-AMERICAN SPORTS CHAMPION
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Sport may seem trivial, but it can reveal much about the absorption of immigrants into the ways of life of the United States in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. Usually, the first generations of immigrants were uninterested in sport “careers”. It was their American-born sons and grandsons, eager to blend into their native surroundings, who took up these amusements and made them their own; and the more they did so, the more they came to be, and to feel themselves “Americans” of European background rather than transplanted Europeans. Moreover, since success in athletics did not require the advantages of breeding, education, or status enjoyed by the Yankee elite, professional sport frequently offered the descendants of immigrants their first opportunities to succeed and receive acclaim from the wider society. The paper focuses on Stanley Ketchel, the best middleweight boxer and the first Polish-American sports champion. Yet in spite of his undeniable sporting renown, one accolade Ketchel seems never to have won was acceptance as a genuine “ethnic hero” of Polonia.
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