Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Chiolero’

Kid Irish

April 9, 2020

While watching Robert Ryan get pummeled as a too-old-to-compete boxer in a movie on TCM while sequestered over the weekend, Kid Irish flashed through my mind. My father worked at the Owens-Illinois Glass Company machine shop in Alton, Illinois starting in 1950. He continued working there when the shop moved to a new facility in the nearby town of Godfrey in 1957 (I think). He retired in 1976 or 1977. While working there, he told me that one of his coworkers had been a boxer who fought under the name “Kid Irish.” I worked there one summer as a clean-up boy but don’t recall meeting the pugilist. He could have worked on the other shift, the one Dad was on. A few years back, I read or heard that Kid Irish was a common moniker used by white boxers to inform fans that they were not black.

Intrigued and required to self-distance from society, I made a quick internet search for “Kid Irish.” Boom. Up popped a listing for a professional boxer who fought under that ring name.  Thomas A. Chiolero of Alton, Illinois lived from 1909 to 1987. This had to be the guy Dad worked with. A St. Louis sportswriter was credited with giving him his nickname, probably because he had difficulty pronouncing the Italian surname.

Kid Irish fought 55 professional bouts for 352 rounds winning 39 (7 knockouts), losing 7 (knocked only once and that was in his last fight), and drawing 9 times. He fought primarily in Illinois and Missouri but ended his career on a tour of Australia in 1938.

A search of newspaper archives uncovered two other fighters using the same name. The first was a decade earlier and ended up in an insane asylum. The other came along decades after he had retired. I also found a wrestler and a race horse using that name.

Irish wasn’t through with boxing when he hung up his gloves. His obituary in the Alton Telegraph included his activities coaching boxing at local schools, the YMCA, and the Alton Police Department. It also mentioned that he was a machinist at Owens-Illinois Glass Company for 25 years, retiring in 1973.

Kid Irish 1974