Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled The Real McCoy

Another classic from Lardner, "The Life and Loves of the Real McCoy":

The hotel manager and the detective stood looking down at the man on the bed, who had killed himself during the night. “Norman Selby, it says on the note, and Selby was how he checked in,” the manager said. “Wasn’t that his right name?”

“It was his right name,” the detective said. “But he was also McCoy. The real McCoy.”

Kid McCoy lived by violence, by trickery, and by women. He fought 200 fights, and was beaten in only six of them. He married eight women—one of them three times—and shot another to death. For the murder, he paid a light price, lightly. There was vanity in him, and guile, and wit, and cruelty, and some larceny, and a great capacity for enjoying himself. Above all, there was self-satisfaction. At no time in his life—not when he was world’s welterweight champion (with a strong claim to the middleweight title, as well), nor when he was a bankrupt, nor a jailbird, nor a Broadway favorite, nor a suspected jewel thief, nor a semi-professional adulterer, nor a mellow old pensioner, owing his job to a friend—at no time did he do or say anything that displeased himself. No one knows why, on an April night in 1940, he suddenly lost his contentment with Norman Selby, alias Charles (Kid) McCoy, and wiped it all out with one impatient gesture.

The Kid wasn’t sick, or broke, when he checked in alone at Detroit’s Tuller Hotel that night. He had work. He was 66 years old, but in good shape, still with a lot of gray but curly hair over his fair-skinned, boyish face, and still nearly as neat, trim, and supple of body as ever. Registering with the night clerk, he had left a call for 10 the next morning. It was when he failed to answer the call that the manager went up with a passkey, and found him dead. An overdose of sleeping pills had put him out, and away. There were two or three notes in the room. In one of them, he asked the paymaster at the Ford Motor Company, where he’d been working, to turn over such wages as were due him to his eighth and final wife. In the longest note, the Kid said, in part:

“To whom it may concern—For the last eight years, I have wanted to help humanity, especially the youngsters who do not know nature’s laws. That is, the proper carriage of the body, the right way to eat, etc. . . . To all my dear friends, I wish you all the best of luck. Sorry I could not endure this world’s madness. The best to all. (signed) Norman Selby. P.S. In my pocket you will find $17.75″

Share This Story

Get our newsletter