Max Baer was one of the most dominant and charismatic heavyweight boxers of the 1930s. He was the world champion from 1934 to 1935, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest punchers of all time. He was also a colorful personality who appeared in movies and television shows, and was the father of actor Max Baer Jr., best known for his role as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies. But how did Max Baer die, and what were the circumstances surrounding his death? In this article, we will explore the life and career of Max Baer, and the events that led to his untimely demise.
Early Life and Boxing Career
Max Baer was born on February 11, 1909, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Jacob and Dora Baer, who were of German Jewish and Scottish descent, respectively. He had a sister, Frances, and two brothers, Buddy and Augie. His father was a butcher who moved the family to California in 1922, where he worked in the meat industry. Max Baer developed his strength and physique by carrying heavy carcasses of meat and working in a gravel pit.
Baer started boxing as an amateur in 1929, and turned professional in 1930. He quickly rose through the ranks with his powerful punches and knockout ability. He was also known for his flamboyant style and sense of humor, often wearing a Star of David on his trunks and clowning around in the ring. He had a record of 68 wins, 13 losses, and 51 knockouts in his career. Some of his most notable fights include:
- His 1933 victory over Max Schmeling, the German champion who was favored by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.
- His 1934 win over Primo Carnera, the Italian giant who was the reigning world heavyweight champion.
- His 1935 loss to James J. Braddock, the underdog challenger who was dubbed “The Cinderella Man”. Baer was overconfident and did not train properly for the fight, while Braddock was determined and motivated.
Movie and Television Career
After losing his title, Baer continued to box until 1941, but he also pursued a career in show business. He appeared in several movies, such as The Prizefighter and the Lady, The Navy Comes Through, Africa Screams, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops. He also starred in his own television show, The Max Baer Show, in 1950. He was a popular and charismatic figure who enjoyed the spotlight and the fame. He also had a reputation as a ladies’ man, and was romantically linked to several actresses, such as Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, and Mae West.
Cause of Death
On November 21, 1959, Baer was in Hollywood, California, where he was scheduled to referee a boxing match between Bobo Olson and Willie Pastrano. He had dinner with his brother Buddy and some friends at the Roosevelt Hotel, where he complained of chest pains. He decided to rest in his room, while Buddy went to the match. Around 10:30 p.m., Buddy called him to check on him, and Baer said he was feeling better. However, shortly after, he suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on the floor. He was found by a hotel maid, who called for help. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 50 years old.
The news of his death shocked and saddened the boxing world and his fans. He was widely mourned and honored as one of the greatest and most entertaining fighters of all time. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Sacramento, California, next to his parents. His epitaph reads: “A great fighter, a great entertainer, a great person”.
Max Baer left behind a lasting legacy in the sport of boxing and the world of entertainment. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, and is ranked as the 22nd greatest puncher of all time by The Ring magazine. He is also remembered for his humanitarian side, as he donated money to the families of two fighters who died after fighting him, Frankie Campbell and Ernie Schaaf. He also helped many young boxers and actors in their careers, such as Rocky Marciano and Clint Eastwood.
His son, Max Baer Jr., followed his footsteps in acting, and became famous for his role as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies. He also became a successful producer and director, and is currently working on a project to build a casino and hotel in Nevada, named after his father.
Max Baer was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. He was a champion, a star, a comedian, a lover, a father, and a friend. He was a legend who will never be forgotten.