In the early 20th Century, Philadelphia was something of a powerhouse for boxing fans. For immigrants and their children, boxing provided an opportunity to seek a better life. Young men who trained in Philly’s boxing gyms hoped for a chance at a title, some money, and an escape from a life of crime. In Tacony, one of these hopefuls was Eddie Cool, a boy who would eventually become known as “the Pride of Tacony” or “the Tacony Flash,” and the favorite for the Lightweight Championship before he sank into obscurity.
On February 16, 1912 Eddie Cool was born to Irish immigrants in Northeast Philadelphia. When he was four years old, in 1916, his brother Jimmy was born. How these boys grew up is undocumented, but they lived in Tacony and were likely members of the St. Leo’s Irish Catholic congregation. At this point in Tacony’s history, it was a factory town with every convenience the Disston estate could provide. Eddie’s father probably worked for the Disston Saw Works, or one of the other factories that had popped up along the Delaware. It’s possible that his mother worked for the Tacony Worsted Mills, while Eddie and his brother went to school at the Henry Disston School and the Mary Disston School. What we know for certain is that Eddie grew up to earn a name for himself and the Tacony neighborhood.
When Eddie was 15, his father died. Accounts of Eddie’s life mention the death as a tragic accident, and Eddie himself claimed his dad died drunk. Eddie debuted shortly after losing his father, on November 29, 1928 with a win against Mike Palmer. Some accounts suggest that Eddie began fighting because of his father’s death, possibly to earn money for his family.
Following his debut, Eddie became someone to contend with. He had an elegant and quick style of jabbing and dodging that the average Philadelphia brawler just couldn’t beat. In his first 34 matches, he lost only eight times with just three draws. By 1932 he was almost unbeatable, and when he broke Jackie Willis’ 32 match streak in April of 1932, he really took off. In 1933, he was offered a fight with the top-dog of Philadelphia’s lightweight boxers; Benny Bass. 8,500 fans drove through a snowstorm on December 28 to watch the match between Cool and Bass, but they were disappointed. Spectators thought that Cool seemed too respectful of Bass, and following his loss he reportedly went on a long drinking binge.
After marrying in the Summer of 1934, Eddie’s record improved once more. In a rare trip out of Philadelphia, Cool beat Al Roth and Teddy Loder at Madison Square Garden in November of 1934. In 1935, he managed to win his second match against Benny Bass, and in October of 1936 he beat the Lightweight Champion, Lou Ambers. After this match, Cool was the number one contender for the championship, but he was never able to fight Ambers with the title on the line.
Eddie Cool had his last match on October 18, 1939. He wrapped up a four match losing streak, and at 27 was considered washed up. This was in part due to his lifestyle. While everyone can agree that Eddie was a good fighter with a natural talent, it’s also well known that he lacked discipline. He fired his first manager, Joe Bradley, for being too strict. Under his second manager, Sam Weinberg, he earned a reputation as someone who was a great fighter some nights, and completely unmotivated on others. After a loss against Sammy Fuller in 1934, it became common knowledge that Eddie Cool was a drunk; found more often than not by his trainers and teammates passed out in the gutter. He was also handsome, described as having “matinee idol” looks, and preferred going out on the town more than training.
Marriage changed him, but only briefly. He would often say, “My father died a drunk at a young age and I guess I will die the same way.” In 1947, Eddie was 35 and working at Liberty Bell Park. On July 11, while walking horses at work, he collapsed and died of liver failure. At the time of his death, he was still living in Tacony at 6610 Tulip Street with his wife and daughter.
His brother, Jimmy, had gone on to have a boxing career himself, though not nearly as successful as Eddie's 95-29-16 record. Compared to Eddie's 140 fights, Jimmy only fought 11 professional bouts before he died at just 36 years old in 1952. The Cool brothers were buried together in an unmarked grave in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham, until John DiSanto of the Philly Boxing Gravestone Program erected a flat memorial to honor them in December, 2011.