February 11, 1909 - November 21, 1959: Age 50
Max Baer, made infamous by his unflattering portrayal in the film Cinderella Man, was actually a pleasant, cheerful man with an impish sense of humour. There really was a Max Baer-Jim Braddock fight, and Braddock did win by decision. Before that fight, Baer held the heavyweight title for nearly a year. He took singing lessons, learned long words, smoked, drank, and caroused. He lost his title to the much older Braddock because of overconfidence; he hardly trained for the 1934 fight. When he lost, he did so with good grace, conceding that Braddock's victory was deserved.
Baer did have a "killer" reputation: he had killed another fighter in the ring in 1930. He apparently lost his temper in a fight against Frankie Campbell, pummeling him severely against the ropes. When the referee finally stopped the fight, Campbell collapsed. He died the next day. When Baer received the news, he broke down sobbing.
On the morning of November 21, staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Baer had chest pains while he was shaving. He called the front desk to ask for a doctor. The clerk said that a house doctor would be right up. "A house doctor? No, dummy, I need a people doctor." The house people doctor arrived and treated him, while a fire department rescue squad gave him oxygen. The chest pains subsided and he began to recover, but then suddenly had a second attack. Says the doctor, "Just as I was talking to him, he slumped on his left wide, turned blue and died within a matter of minutes. His last words were, 'Oh God, here I go.'"
Max Baer is the father of Max Baer Jr., a.k.a. Jethro Bodine in TV's The Beverly Hilbillies.
Click here to see him fight.