Atlas Foundation Acts to Restore Yonkers Boxer’s Dignity

Boxing Champ Shamus O'Brien Brooklyn Eagle Feb. 15, 1916

Young Shamus O'Brien as pictured in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Feb. 15, 1916 with a story involving a complaint by Shamus against lightweight champion Benny Leonard alleging Leonard used illegal hard tape on his hands.
Young Shamus O'Brien as pictured in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Feb. 15, 1916 with a story involving a complaint by Shamus against lightweight champion Benny Leonard alleging Leonard used illegal hard tape on his hands. | Source

Yonkers Favorite Shamus O'Brien

John Joseph Hogan, IV

John Joseph Hogan IV, of Yonkers, N.Y., a great great grandson of Michael J. Hogan, AKA Shamus O'Brien. Look for him in the Golden Gloves.
John Joseph Hogan IV, of Yonkers, N.Y., a great great grandson of Michael J. Hogan, AKA Shamus O'Brien. Look for him in the Golden Gloves.

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Michael J. Hogan AKA Shamus O'Brien

More than 100 years ago a young, well-known Gaelic footballer, Michael J. Hogan of Ballinacourty, Dungarvan, Ireland, set sail on the RMS Umbria for the United States to seek his fortune. His fare, paid for by his uncle, Patrick Hogan, enabled him to venture far from the vestiges of food shortages and lingering famine to the promise of America.

Not long after his arrival in America Michael, who was born on Aug. 5, 1890, quickly settled in the city of Yonkers, where his uncle was employed by the Alexander Smith carpet factory. Then known as the "City of Gracious Living," Yonkers lies along the Hudson River on the northern border of New York City’s borough of the Bronx.

Waterford County Museum

According to a report by Eddie Cantwell, president of the Waterford County Museum in Dungarvan, Ireland, the young Irishman was "always scrapping.” Shortly after his arrival in Yonkers he learned to use his fists in a more profitable way by stepping into the ring at the Raven Athletic Club in New York City. Before long he was encouraged to make a further commitment to boxing by taking his fighting skills to an exhibition at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y. His long boxing career was under way.

Somewhere about this time Hogan assumed the boxing monicker of Shamus O’Brien. He began prize fighting regularly, most often as a lightweight. His appearance at Sing Sing in 1910 was only the first major step in a boxing career of more than 400 bouts, in many of which he was pitted against such giant competitors as the great undefeated lightweight champion Benny Leonard, welterweight champ and Hall of Famer Mickey Walker and featherweight champ Johnny Dundee. Shamus won two out of three contests against Walker in newspaper decisions.

The Fighting Hogans

In the same year, 1910, the rugged lightweight married Adelaide Saarup (variously, Searles or Searlis.) The couple had seven children, Gilbert and Adelaide, infant twins tragically lost in the infamous flu epidemic of the time; John, Edward, Michael (Mitch) and William, all of whom served in World War II, where William died fighting when his ship, the Gregory, was attacked by Japanese destroyers shortly after delivering a battalion of Marines to Sabo Island near Guadalcanal; Elena (Helen) Hogan Torpey (this writer's mother) and Mary (Mae) Hogan Dropauer. A tribute to The Fighting Hogans can be seen on my blog.

Michael (Shamus O'Brien) Hogan was the son of Michael Hogan and Ellen Meade Hogan, one of five children. He was just 6 years old when his father died, succumbing to injuries when his boat capsized in a storm during an effort to rescue survivors in the tragic sinking of the Moresby in Dungarvan Bay off the shores of Ballinacourty. Of the 25 persons aboard, there were only five survivors.

Trial Horse for Young Fighters

Shamus O’Brien’s long career took him to many venues in New York, Pennyslvania and elsewhere. The handsome young fighter came to be a trial horse for up-and-coming young fighters. In his latter years his battle-scarred face and cauliflowered ears gave evidence of his long career and many hard-fought contests.

While he never achieved a great won-loss record, Shamus had gained the well-deserved reputation of a “good fighter, win or lose.”

Shamus Fight Poster on Display

According to Cantwell, “Hogan’s life story could well be scripted for a film. Indeed, his career bears quite a remarkable resemblance to some of the more popular boxing films of recent years.” The Waterford County Museum in Dungarvan, Ireland, recently installed a 1913 Shamus O'Brien fight poster as part of its new Sports display.

Shamus fought for several years in the Irish section of New York City’s Harlem and had many fights at the Raven Athletic Club where he often trained. He also had trained occasionally in upstate New York in the town of Newburgh, where he worked as a bartender, according to his son, John. He had been employed in construction work and as an iron worker at times. Shamus was an honorary member of the National Sports Alliance and a member of the Raven Athletic Club and the Billy Gray Association. He hung up his gloves in 1928, but not before returning to Ireland to win the lightweight title in his native country.

'One of the Best Bouts Ever'

Termed by the press as "one of the best bouts ever" at the local sporting club, Shamus O’Brien floored his opponent, Young Sam Langford, midway through a 10-rounder. The copyrighted New York Times piece dated Jan. 3, 1912 stated that Sam, of Mount Vernon, N.Y, was "saved by the bell" in the fifth round, but came back strong to gain a draw in the match.

Many of Shamus’ early bouts, some reportedly bare-fisted, have gone unrecorded, but records show he battled lightweight champ Benny Leonard at least three times – at least once to a “no decision.” His son, John, who followed his father’s exploits closely, said Shamus could take a lot of punishment “but getting him to go down was rare.”

On April 13, 1959 Shamus O’Brien, suffering from heart disease and arteriosclerosis, died of pneumonia in St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers at the age of 68.

Funeral Wends Through Getty Square

Services were held by the Flynn Funeral Home on Ludlow Street in Yonkers. Hundreds of friends, family and admirers paid their respects to the “Yonkers Favorite” for three full days before a funeral cortege of dozens of cars slowly proceeded through Getty Square in Yonkers to St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Truman Avenue. Shamus had specifically requested the route through downtown Yonkers, where he was a familiar figure to local residents. He was a communicant of St. Peter’s Church, where a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated, and St. Joseph's Church, where he was married. St. Peter's is located at the corner of Riverdale Avenue and Ludlow Street. St. Joseph Church is on Ashburton Avenue, both in Yonkers.

Shamus O’Brien’s great great grandson, John Joseph Hogan IV, great grandson of Shamus’ son, John, is following in his famous relative’s footsteps. Young John is among a handful of Hogan kin still living in Yonkers and has been boxing under the auspices of the Yonkers Police Athletic League. He recently participated in the Long Island Amateur Boxing Championships and boxed in the 2011 Golden Gloves. John has inherited the fighting spirit of Shamus and considers himself an aggressive pressure fighter. He is the father of Valerie Isabella; father and daughter are among the last of the Ballinacourty Hogan’s living in Yonkers. The Hogan name is indelibly tattooed on his shoulder: ‘Hogan IV.’

Michael J. Hogan AKA Shamus O’Brien was this writer’s grandfather. My grandmother, Adelaide Hogan, was estranged from her husband throughout the nine years that I lived with her in Yonkers, from 1942 to 1951. Shamus and I occasionally met each other in Getty Square in those days when he would invariably take me into Nedick’s and dig deep into his pockets for some coins to buy his grandson an orange drink and a hot dog.

When one of my daughters discovered a boxing poster touting a match headlining Shamus O’Brien (opposed by Yorkville Lightweight champion Eddie Smith) my family pride led me to search for further information about him. As a result I have written about him in my blog and, along with other relatives, have attempted to put together a family tree. My growing curiosity led me to search for information about Shamus. It took me some time to find the location of his gravesite – at St. Joseph’s Cemetery – and to visit the Truman Avenue, Yonkers, location to pay my respects.

'Yonkers Favorite'

It was devastating to me to discover that Shamus O’Brien’s grave sat alone among hundreds of graves with no markings whatsoever. His plot is merely a patch of grass between two gravestones. The “Yonkers Favorite,” the pride of the City of Gracious Living of the early 20th century lay in his grave unnoticed -- forgotten by all. The shouts, the cheers, the victories, the defeats and the memories of bygone days now silent, now gone.

Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation

In my revery, I sought the help of the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, a New York-based community service organization that provides financial, legal and emotional support to individuals and organizations in need. The Foundation was founded in 1997 by boxing trainer and commentator, Teddy Atlas, to honor the memory of his father whose practice and good deeds are legend in Staten Island. Since its inception, the Foundation has worked to ease the burden of the less fortunate by helping to preserve the dignity of deserving people.

Immediately recognizing the plight of Shamus O’Brien, the Atlas Foundation has stepped in to right the wrong that took place so many years ago. The Foundation has moved to restore the dignity of this bygone boxer by acting to obtain a tombstone that will properly mark his grave and restore the dignity he deserves. The organization has initiated efforts to coordinate plans with other interested parties, including the Ring 8 Veteran Boxers Association of New York, to conduct an appropriate memorial.

Shamus O'Brien Memorial Fund

The Foundation has established a Shamus O’Brien Memorial Fund to allow friends, family, boxing fans and proud Yonkers residents to contribute by sending their checks to the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, Shamus O'Brien Memorial Fund, 543 Cary Ave., Staten Island, NY 10310. It is my privilege to be among the first to contribute.

Boxing fans may also consider contributions to Ring 8 VBA, which also does a great deal to benefit and celebrate the boxing community and is also lending its support, expertise and talent to the restoration of dignity for Shamus O'Brien. Ring 8, The NYS Veteran Boxers Association, c/o The Waterfront Crabhouse, 2-03 Borden Ave., Long Island City, NY 11101.

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Update: Yonkers Dedicates Shamus O'Brien Tombstone

Dozens of friends, relatives and Yonkers officials braved 103-degree temperatures on Friday, July 22, 2011 to pay tribute to Michael J. Hogan, a native of Dungarvan, Ireland, who gained fame in his adopted city of Yonkers nearly 100 years ago as lightweight boxing champion Shamus O'Brien.

The tombstone dedication was officiated by Monsignor George Kuhn of St. Joseph's Church who offered prayers and blessed the stone.

Yonkers Mayor Philip A. Amicone and New York State Assemblyman Mike Spano were on hand to pay their respects to Shamus, who was well known during his fighting days -- which spanned 18 years from 1910 to 1928. Mayor Amicone further honored Michael J. Hogan in a formal Proclamation.

Many friends and relatives gathered together after the ceremony at Rory Dolan's Irish Pub in Yonkers.

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Author's Note:

The 1913 boxing poster below became available to me a few years ago after my daughter, Catherine, noticed it on the wall of Archie Moore's Restaurant at 188-1/2 Willow St., New Haven, Conn. The restaurant, which has been in business for more than a century, has no connection, surprisingly, with its namesake, the famous light middleweight. Of course, I rushed to the restaurant for dinner, anxiously inquiring of the owner, Bob Fuchs, how the poster featuring my grandfather happened to be displayed in the dining room. As it turned out, the owner's grandfather, "Irish Paddy," was one of the fighters in the preliminary fights.

Having retired from The Hour newspaper in 2000, I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here


Shamus O'Brien is pictured left, Eddie Smith seen at right.

Donated Tombstone for Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O'Brien

Donated Tombstone for Michael J. Hogan who fought as 'Yonkers Favorite' Shamus O'Brien. The green tombstone is in the shape of a shamrock and features a Celtic Cross and a pair of boxing gloves. His grave is located in St. Joseph Cemetery in Yonkers,
Donated Tombstone for Michael J. Hogan who fought as 'Yonkers Favorite' Shamus O'Brien. The green tombstone is in the shape of a shamrock and features a Celtic Cross and a pair of boxing gloves. His grave is located in St. Joseph Cemetery in Yonkers, | Source
Source

City of Yonkers Proclamation Honors Shamus O'Brien

John Hogan IV Following in Shamus O'Brien's Footsteps

An Aggressive John Hogan IV in Blue Shirt

The Great Benny Leonard Vs Lew Tendler

More by this Author


32 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

Oh dear..I have no idea except for Muhammad Ali and George Foreman...the reason is because they loved the media coverage so when you said Shamus, I thought uhhh who is he?

What a wonderful deed you have done. I salute you.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, msorensson. It is a labor of love.


Martin Torpey 6 years ago

Bill You have done a great deed.. Lets keep this going.. I will be up to see you soon.. Great grandson Martin Torpey


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, Marty. You've been a really great help. I'm looking forward to seeing you.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Amazing Sir! Amazing! Thank you. This is history.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, Micky Dee. I appreciate your nice comment.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

I never heard of him, but i found your article interesting. Thank You

Cheers


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Shamus O'Brien was an unsung hero, always exploring. He was well known and loved in Yonkers, N.Y., where my family lived for decades. He was a wonderful man as well. One story I heard about him when I was a boy was that after winning a bout on one occasion he donated his entire purse to charity -- despite that fact that he was not a man of means (to put it mildly.) Thanks for commenting.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Well done for trying to preserve a small part of history and human dignity


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

I had read about him on your blog. Reading this, I really wanted to cry. Well done, Mr. Torpey. You are a good man and my writing partner and I are both donating. My writing partner grew up near you and we will be in New York next week. A beautiful story.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, De Greek. Shamus O'Brien was a truly wonderful man. He deserves to be remembered for his achievements and for all he had done for Yonkers. His life was not an easy one. I only wish I had spent more time with him.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm very touched, lisadpreston. You and your writing partner have very big hearts and I am very happy to be acquainted with you through HubPages. Teddy Atlas is also a warm=hearted man who created his foundation in memory of his father. Teddy, a boxing trainer and commentator, is really down to earth and does a great deal personally and through his foundation to ease the burden of the poor. I am confident that your contribution, and mine, will be put to very good use. Thank you.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America

I enjoyed the article and the film clip. John Hogan IV is fast, has a lot of stamina, fights clean, and is a good sport. He could cause me to start to watch boxing!

Best wishes for your family and the restoration of the O'Brien gravesite and reputation. John IV is more about what boxing should be than a lot of fighters, in my opinion.

A book and a TV documentary about this would be great in future.


Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada

wow, this is amazing, and i do hope that his name and history will live one. Keep on writing such ueful and awesome pieces.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Not unlike my grandfather, Patty Inglish, John Hogan IV is a gentle, mild-mannered soul who wouldn't harm a fly outside of the ring. I'm glad you found the hub enjoyable, and I agree that a book and a TV documentary would worthwhile. As my friend Eddie Cantwell says, Shamus O'Brien's story parallels some of Hollywood's great films about prize fighters -- and not all that different from "Cinderella Man" based on the life of James Braddock. Thank you, Patty.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

You are very kind, Rebecca E. I'm very proud of Shamus O'Brien, and I am thrilled that Teddy Atlas and the Theodore A. Atlas Foundation cares so much about the plight of Shamus that they will spend their resources to restore the dignity he deserves. It sends a potent message to the entire boxing community.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

When reading hundreds of Hubs per day, you stumble upon a work that stops you in your tracks, it is like finding buried treasure. Thank you for the message in this Hub. Great work.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

There is much injustice in this world, LillyGrillzit, but fortunately there are people like Teddy Atlas who have big hearts who work every day to bring justice and comfort to the downtrodden. Nothing is more satisfying than to see an injustice made whole. Soon Shamus O'Brien can truly rest in peace.


Bob J. 6 years ago

Very interesting read Bill.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, Bob. I am very proud of my grandfather's accomplishments, and it's wonderful to know that the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation cares so much about the boxing community and legacy and commemoration of fighters old and new.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

At long last Imnaged to get the time to read you hub. The great great grandson couldn't deny Shamus. You looks the spitting image. It is amazing that everybody knows the heavy weight boxer never the other groups. A hype about the heavy weights but very little lime light shed on the other groups. No fair, is it?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hub. I love all these stories about the families' ancestors.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's true, Hello, hello. The heavyweights get most of the press coverage. But Shamus O'Brien was very well known in his time around the New York area and, of course, in Yonkers. I'm glad you enjoyed his story. But his story won't be finished until he gets a gravestone and the recognition he has been denied for so long. Thank heaven for the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation. With its help Shamus will rest in peace.


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 6 years ago from London UK

You must be very proud of your grandfather, William. I see by your link to The Fighting Hogans that he spawned a wonderful family. I can see the physical resemblance to Shamus O'Brien in the photo of his great great grandson, young John Hogan.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, compu-smart. The resemblance is amazing. Young John Hogan looks to be the spitting image of his great great grandfather. Shamus O'Brien's sons, John, Michael ("Mitch") and William F. (who was killed in a battle at sea) all served in the Navy while Edward served in the Army Air Corps and flew P-51 escort planes in the UK. Shamus' daughter, Elena "Helen" Hogan Torpey, my mother, worked for the war effort as a "Rosie the Riveter" at Eastern Aircraft in Tarrytown, N.Y., while Mary "Mae" Hogan Dropauer's husband was a Marine who was wounded at Iwo Jima.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

Beautiful story beautifully told. I am not by any means a boxing fan but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this wonderful Hub.

Thanks for sharing this delightful piece of family history.

Love and peace

Tony


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I appreciate your very nice comment, tonymac04. I'm looking forward to the day -- very soon, I hope -- when my grandfather, "Yonkers Favorite" Shamus O'Brien, has his dignity restored for eternity.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Huuby is a boxing fan and so was my late father. Dad would have loved this extensive review. Excellent


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, ethel smith. I'm glad you found this story of my grandfather interesting. When my grandfather was boxing in the early 20th Century there was no television, no radio and only silent movies. Boxing was (as the late Ed Sullivan used to say) "really big." I'm sure your husband and your late father could tell you of some the big fights they heard on the radio or saw on TV. My cousin, John Hogan IV (Shamus O'Brien's great great grandson, really loves the sport. He truly is walking in Shamus' footsteps. We'll have some news to report soon on further developments relating to the Shamus O'Brien tombstone.


John Hogan 5 years ago

I am John Hogan III, father of john Hogan the 1V. I am sad to say and quite ashamed that i did not know that my Great Grandfather has lied in an unmarked grave all these years. I am glad to see he has received this beatiful headstone and I am looking forward to attending his memorial service on July 22, with my son to pay my respects to my Great Grandfather. Thank you for your article and all you have done.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's great to hear from you, John. It's sad that so many in our family have lost touch with one another since we all lived nearby in Yonkers. I was very friendly with your dad when we were kids. I remember well when "Jackie" visited me in the late '60s when I worked in New York City. Although I worked in the Empire State Building I wasn't very familiar with the city, but Jackie took me "out on the town." We came home together, however, and I was happy to visit with your family in Bronxville. I look forward to seeing you on July 22 when the city of Yonkers and Mayor Philip A. Amicone will join us in paying our respects to Michael J. Hogan AKA Shamus O'Brien. Shamus not only has a tombstone now, but it's a beautiful one donated by Artists Memorial Monuments of Staten Island through the good works of the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation and Ring 8 of the Veteran Boxers Association of New York. You can be very proud of your son, John Hogan IV, who is a wonderful young man and the spitting image of Shamus O'Brien who is following in his footsteps in the boxing profession.


Dulce hogan 3 years ago

I'm so pround of my husband John IV and I hope he keep doing this..!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm proud of him, too, Dulce. He certainly has demonstrated that he has inherited much of his great great grandfather's genes. Nevertheless we've learned a lot in the past several decades about the health risks of such sports as boxing and football. It's a difficult personal decision. He has my full support in any decision he makes about his future. It's nice to hear from you.

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