Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Storyby Jim Duggan
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Offering professional wrestling fans a ringside seat into his adventurous life, WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Jim Duggan recounts for the first time key moments and legendary bouts both inside and outside the ring. Known to millions of enthusiasts as a charismatic patriotwith an American flag in his right hand and his signature two-by-four in his leftDuggan here reflects on his early life as a student-athlete on the Southern Methodist University football squad. Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, Duggan shares how an injury-plagued rookie season curtailed his football ambitions and paved the way for a brighter career in professional wrestling. Rising to fame in the Cold War–era 1980s, Duggan immediately put himself at odds with anti-American “heels” and engaged in legendary feuds with some of the most legendary names in the sport, including the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Andre the Giant. In this who’s who of top-tier wrestling, Duggan reveals not only the high points of championship bouts but also the low points that occurred far away from the TV cameras and screaming fans, including his fight against kidney cancer during the prime of his career. With each page peppered with Duggan’s charming wit, fans will find much to enjoy and discover about the man they once knew only as “Hacksaw.”
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The Jim Duggan Story
By Jim Duggan, Scott E. Williams
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Jim Duggan and Scott E. Williams
All rights reserved.
It all started on January 14, 1954, on a cold winter's night, in a little town in upstate New York. That night, James Edward Duggan Jr. joined a proud, working-class family that was headed by the two folks who would be my biggest influences and heroes — James and Celia Duggan.
My dad, James Edward Duggan Sr., had a career as a police officer that ultimately spanned 44 years. For the last 24 years of that career, he was the police chief of Glens Falls, New York, the town where I grew up.
Glens Falls was a very ethnic community — the French lived in the west, and the Italians were all up in the north end. The Irish, which included our family, lived in the east end of town near Saint Mary's Academy, where my dad had been a member of one of the school's first graduating classes. That was after the school relocated into a large building on Warren Street to accommodate growing student populations.
Ours was an industrial town, with a paper mill to the south of our home and a railroad to the north.
Dad worked two jobs, as a police officer and at a freight company, providing for his family and earning the money that would put my sisters through school, while Mom ran the house, with us kids. I was the fourth child in the family — I grew up with three older sisters, Mary Ann, Angel, and Sheila.
My mom, Celia, was born in Georgia and raised in Vero Beach, Florida. Later, she moved up to New York and married my dad. Believe it or not, it was a big scandal, because he was Catholic and she was Baptist.
Growing up was a great time — I often refer to it as "Mayberry," a place where our street had curbs, sidewalks, and trees, where we could play touch football and Red Rover. All the kids on both sides of Keenan Street, where my family lived, knew each other. It was just a great atmosphere, growing up. I know so many guys who had hard-luck stories from their childhoods, and some of them break my heart, but I had a great upbringing. We never had an awful lot, but we never were in need, or want, of anything. When one of us kids got a bike, it might be a used bike, but we never thought twice about it. I think we all knew, on some level, how hard our parents were working to make a home for us and to get us what we needed.
Even if there had been a problem in the neighborhood, my sisters were going to keep anything from ever hurting me. I still joke with them about it, how, since I was the youngest and the only boy, those girls carried me around like I was the Christ child — my feet never touched the ground! I was probably a little spoiled, to tell you the truth. Of course, they had a little fun with me, too. Our family had plenty of pictures of me as a small child, with my long hair, dressed up in the doll clothes my sisters had put on me.
We also had our share of pranksters in the neighborhood. On the far end of our block was an old abandoned place that kind of looked like the house from The Addams Family. The first time I was able to ride my tricycle all the way around the block, I got to the far end, when a gorilla jumped out of the bushes at me and let loose a really loud growl.
I screamed, "Aaaaahh!"
I started pedaling my little trike as hard as I could, screaming the whole way. Of course, there were at least 20 kids playing on our block at any given time, and they were out on my front porch when I rode up to the house, screaming, "It's a gorilla!"
Next thing you know, it was like a scene out of Frankenstein, with the whole neighborhood after this guy with pitchforks and torches. I ran into our house and all the way upstairs, where my dad was sleeping, screaming, "It's a gorilla! It's a gorilla!"
My mom came up, and Dad was trying to calm me down, but also asking me what happened.
"Were his clothes on?"
"Yeah, Dad," I said, "but it could be a circus gorilla."
They caught the guy, a young guy who lived down the road named Jim Beam (yes, just like the whiskey). My sisters read him the riot act.
"You go upstairs right now and apologize to him! You scared the devil out of him!"
I was in my room, with my feet dangling off the bed, and I had finally calmed down a little, when my door opened ... and here came the gorilla!
The guy pulled the mask off to show me he was just kidding around, saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute!"
I was just 13 or 14 when my dad became the police chief of Glens Falls. Of course, that meant that when I was a kid, I wasn't gonna be able to get away with anything. If I threw snowballs at someone, I could run and hide, but by the time I got to my house, the police cars would already be there, out in front.
"That's Duggan's kid, right there!"
They all knew me, so I was never able to get away with anything. Believe it or not, it wasn't really an issue, because I was a very, very straight kid, who didn't get into a lot of trouble. I was a Boy Scout, and I shoveled my neighbors' snowed-in driveways every winter.
That might be where some of the patriotic side of my wrestling persona comes from. I was always proud to be an American, and anyone who knows me can tell you I've always been a big John Wayne fan — always loved "The Duke." Of course, The Quiet Man, where John Wayne played an Irish-born boxer who returns home, was a big favorite in our Irish American household. For all I know, someone from my family might be in there — watch that movie, and you'll hear a song called "The Wild Colonial Boy," which was about an outlaw and contained the lyric, "And Jack Duggan was his name!"
Even though the Hacksaw Duggan that everyone knows looks like a far cry from that straight kid, the way my folks raised me has stayed with me. To this day, I always try to be polite and courteous to folks, wherever I am. It's just the way I was raised.
Once, when I was 16 and had just gotten my driver's license, a Glens Falls cop stopped me for speeding. He told me he was taking me to the station, so I could talk to the captain.
I wanted to tell him, "But I already know the captain! Just give me the ticket!"
But I didn't. Of course, the officer and I knew each other. Glens Falls wasn't that big a town, and they only had 40 to 50 men on the force. I knew every one of them.
The officer took me to Captain Emerson, who told him to take me to Chief Duggan. We went into my dad's office, and my dad went off!
He barked, "Why'd you bring him here to me? Next time, give him a ticket, like you'd give anyone else a ticket!"
When the officer left, my dad turned to me and said, "Don't worry, I had to say all that for his benefit."
He knew these guys were trying to get one over on him, to see if he'd show favoritism to his son. He wasn't gonna let that happen, but as soon as they left, he changed right back into the supportive father I'd always been blessed with. He was comforting to me, because he saw I was devastated by the thought that I'd disappointed him.
My dad ran a tight ship — in his department, there were no sideburns below the ears and no mustaches over the lips. When the department was buying new cars and the officers asked for air conditioning, my dad said, "You know, we need air conditioning here about one month out of the year. Besides, ride around with your windows up, and you won't hear screams for help, you won't hear glass break."
As you might guess, he had a little heat with the union.
My sisters all graduated from Saint Mary's, and I went there until 10th grade. I played football, and when I wasn't playing, I was watching football pretty much every waking moment. I was a big Green Bay Packers fan, and loved Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, and Ray Nitschke.
But I gotta say, while I've had favorite players over the years, my biggest hero, my role model, was always my dad. I still remember him coming home, back when he was a detective, and he'd have this .38 snub nose, which I thought was really neat. To this day, I have a nice handgun collection, and I remember how my dad would talk about how important it was to be safe with any weapon. I started young, because I could basically get my ammunition for free, and Dad taught me how to shoot at the police firing range.
For me, football was big ever since I was a young kid. Back then, the practice field for the Saint Mary's football team was less than two miles from my house. Every day, the players would carry their cleats in their arms as they ran down to Maple Street and crossed the railroad tracks. All of us kids would wait for them and then carry their cleats and run with them the rest of the way. When I was little, that was a big deal for me, to be able to carry a player's cleats! Mrs. McKee, our next-door neighbor, would leave her garden hose running so the players could get a drink, if they needed one ... but sometimes one coach would catch them and start yelling at them, "Hey! Get out of there! No one said you could drink!"
I was a big kid for my age, and I really loved football. My dad knew I might have a future, but Saint Mary's Academy was a very small school. Glens Falls High School was a major high school, and he pulled me out of Saint Mary's so that I would benefit from the bigger sports programs at Glens Falls High.
It really caused a big stir, because we all went to Saint Mary's Church, and I was going to be the first Duggan kid not to graduate from the academy there. My dad was a faithful Irish Catholic, and he and my mom had raised all us kids Irish Catholic. Dad was almost the perfect stereotype of the Irish cop, except that he didn't drink or smoke. He was a real straight shooter, and we were always at church, every single Sunday.
Playing at Glens Falls High meant getting more exposure and playing for a bigger team. There I met a football coach who would become one of my first mentors in athletics, Putt LaMay. He was a great coach, and when they built a new, fancy-dan stadium many years later in Glens Falls, they named it after him.
You'd never recognize me back then, because I was a real straight-arrow kid with very short hair, and when I first got to Glens Falls High, I stuck out like a sore thumb. At Saint Mary's, we had always worn uniforms, so I walked into Glens Falls High wearing a sports coat and tie. I got some funny looks!
All through school, I was never too hard to figure out. I had my family, my girlfriend (Tina Hopkins), and I played football, and if you didn't like it, we'd fight! Of course, it was a different time, and no one went to jail for that kind of thing back in the early 1970s.
My first year, I played football and then basketball in the fall, and in the spring, I ran for the track team. In my junior year, I joined the wrestling team. Everyone kept telling me how much bigger I was than anyone else in the school — at 16, I weighed 250 pounds. I had no idea about amateur wrestling technique, but we had a very good coach named Bob Carty. My first year, I won my section, but lost the first match of the state tournament. My senior year, I fared much better.
I ended up with 10 varsity letters — four in football, three in track, two in wrestling, and one in basketball.
Even though I played a lot of sports, I really focused on football, because I knew of the scholarship possibilities, and by this point, my dad was getting older. He was past the point where he could work all day as a cop, then work a shift at the freight yard, and then get by on a few hours of sleep before doing it all again. I knew that if I wasn't playing football, I'd probably be working in the paper mill.
I played many different positions, but my favorite was offensive line. I always thought of myself as the cavalry, as in, "They're trying to get the quarterback, but I'm gonna save him! Get off him!"
One of the hardest things about playing football for me was keeping my grades up enough to remain eligible. I just wasn't a great student; I struggled to keep a C average. A lot of that was that I just didn't like to study; it's not like I had a learning disability. But I did it. I stayed in school and stayed eligible the whole time.
And here's something you might find surprising about the ol' Hacksaw — I was in the chess club! I was actually pretty good, too, although I don't play as much now as I used to. Somewhere in one of my scrapbooks is a newspaper clipping about my signing with Southern Methodist University, with the headline "Chess-playing giant joins SMU." They had me photographed on one of those giant carpet chessboards with the big, life-sized pieces.
My senior year, my football team ended up playing an undefeated season and heading to Albany, to play Shaker High School, which was a giant, compared to our little school from upstate. And we won!
I guess it's my Irish blood, but I've always been an emotional guy — I laugh big when I laugh, I pray, I swear, and I cry when I'm sad. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, which is why I'm such a bad card player. As I left the stadium after that last, big game, the tears just started coming down.
My senior year was a good year in wrestling for me, too. I won conference in my weight class (unlimited, for guys who weighed more than 215 — and, remember, I weighed about 250), and that year, I became the first guy from Glens Falls to win a state championship in any weight class. The finals were close — I won state by one point. It was a three-day tournament in Syracuse, and while my parents were there for the whole thing, I noticed that every day, as I kept winning, more and more folks from Glens Falls showed up.
I could hear them, in the stands, cheering for "Moose Duggan!"
To this day, if I'm out somewhere and hear, "Hey, Moose," I know it's someone from Glens Falls. It was just a nickname that stuck — when I signed to play college football at SMU, in Dallas, the Glens Falls paper's headline was "The Moose Is Loose in Texas."CHAPTER 2
Being a "double threat" in football and wrestling in 1972 really increased my value to colleges, and I got enough letters from schools that I made seven recruiting trips, which would be unheard of today because of changes to the NCAA rules about recruitment. I eventually settled on Southern Methodist.
SMU was actually my first recruiting trip. The school sent its offensive line coach, Bob Cuthbert, up to Glens Falls, where most folks had never seen anything like him. He was walking around this little town in upstate New York with a big Stetson hat and cowboy boots — he was a walking cliché of Texas.
Coach Cuthbert stayed a few days and watched me practice, and he and my mom hit it off right away. When I went to visit SMU, I had never even been on an airplane before, had never really been far from home, at all. It was like a whole new world.
When I landed in Dallas, I got off the plane wearing my trusty sports coat and tie. Cuthbert was waiting for me at the airport with the student who was going to be my host while I was there — a little SMU quarterback named Tully Blanchard. Unfortunately, the partying that would appeal to a lot of kids was not for the straight-arrow kid I was back then.
They told me, "We're gonna go out, get some beer, get some girls."
I said, "Well, I got my girlfriend at home, and I don't drink beer."
I could see them looking at me, like, "What the hell is going on with this guy?"
I guess it worked out — they dropped me off at the hotel and then went off to party without me!
By the time I was choosing a school, I had also visited Ohio State, Penn State, Kentucky, Syracuse, Rhode Island, the University of New Mexico, and Iowa State. The trips were designed to impress students, and I got to meet Woody Hayes at Ohio State and Joe Paterno at Penn State. The recruiters found me pretty easy to deal with, because just like at SMU, I wasn't looking to be taken out for a big, fancy-dan night out. All they had to do was drop me off at my room until it was time to go to the school for the big sales pitch.
At Ohio State, the offensive line coach took me onto the stadium field, had me standing right in the big "O" for "Ohio State."
"Okay," he said, getting louder and more worked up as he went. "It's the fourth quarter! There's a minute left, and we've got the ball!"
Excerpted from Hacksaw by Jim Duggan, Scott E. Williams. Copyright © 2012 Jim Duggan and Scott E. Williams. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Hacksaw Jim Duggan was one of the nation’s most popular professional wrestlers in the 1980s. He lives in Lugoff, South Carolina. Scott E. Williams is the author of two previous books, including Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore. He lives in Dickinson, Texas.
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I had the pleasure of meeting Hacksaw in person and was struck by how sincere he really is. This book opens his world to his fans. An incredible story it is hard to putdown. There is drama, commedy, and action all roled into one. I truly enjoyed this tour through the life and times of Hacksaw.