||18 February 1888
||near Huron, South Dakota
||25 August 1950
||3 AAU National Championships
Born on February 18, 1888 , on a farm near Huron, South Dakota , Earl's family
moved to Iowa when he was two years old. He began wrestling as an Iowa farm boy
and won three AAU national titles. He captured the 175-pound and heavyweight
titles in 1915. He was undefeated as an amateur.
Caddock began professional wrestling in 1915 with great success. He
trained with Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns and won his first 61
professional matches in a row. He captured the world heavyweight title
on April 9, 1917 , with a stirring victory over Joe Stecher in Omaha .
The country eagerly awaited a Caddock-Stecher rematch, but World War I
intervened and Earl signed up to fight, seeing considerable front-line
action with the infantry in France .
The next great conflict that America took part in was called at the time “the
war to end all wars.” Un fortunately, those words were not true when spoken back
In 1917, the heavyweight champion of the world was Earl Caddock, a handsome
young man who was raised on a farm near Walnut, Iowa. He won three AAU national
titles in the years 1915-1916 (winning two weights in 1916), and was never
beaten in 53 amateur bouts. He turned professional at the advice of the
legendary Frank Gotch, who had been his hero.
Like Tillman, Caddock felt the need to enlist in the Army after seeing his
country involved in World War I. He rejected an officer’s commission. “I’m no
better than any of these other boys,” he said at the time and wound up fighting
in foxholes in France.
“With the war on, Caddock, one of the first to enlist, went overseas where he
showed the same mettle as a warrior that he did as an athlete,” wrote famed ring
historian Nat Fleischer.
The United States entered the war in 1917 and before the draft was in effect
Caddock, with his title and all, reported at the recruiting office and
volunteered his services at the call of his countrymen. He was rejected after
careful medical examination because of infected tonsils.
This, however, did not deter Caddock for long. He left
the same night for Rochester, Minnesota, called on the famed Mayo brothers at
their sanitarium, and had them perform a tonsil operation, and then returned to
Des Moines, Iowa, less than a week later and this time was accepted.
A book could be written on the romance following this
act. Caddock certainly conducted himself as a great example for the youth of the
country and as a model for his profession. He was assigned to headquarters,
doing duty in the soldiers’ camp near Des Moines.
Influences got to work which caused Caddock to receive offers
for a commission as first lieutenant and even as captain, but he steadfastly
refused, claiming that he was no better than any of the recruits. He insisted
that a private’s post was good enough for him and that attitude, combined with
the fact that he was the world’s heavyweight wrestling king, made him a great
favorite with the doughboys. Later, he was made a corporal, and still later he
was promoted to sergeant, and he saw service in the thick of the war.
"That’s how patriotic Caddock was,” continued Fleischer. “No
finer example of true Americanism was ever found in the athletic ranks of our
boys than in Earl Caddock. He was an inspiration to the youth of America. During
his entire career, he exemplified the best in American sports traditions.”
Jack Curley, one of the top promoters in sports history, agreed totally.
No finer man ever graced a roped square than Earl,” he said. “A true American, a
splendid soldier, a great athlete and a fitting model for our boys to follow.”
Earl returned to the ring after the war and continued his long sting of
victories. He finally lost his title to Stecher in a sellout match in 1920 in
Madison Square Garden before 14,000 fans. Known as the "Man of a Thousand
Holds," Caddock spent most of his later life in Walnut, Iowa , and Omaha ,
Nebraska , and ran a very successful oil business. Both of his sons played
college football in Iowa . He died on August 25, 1950 at the age of 62
Caddock’s unselfish attitude and patriotism are very similar
to that shown by Pat Tillman in the war against terrorism nearly 90 years later.