My post the other day about boxing as part of basic training for the First World War got me thinking about Theodore Roosevelt. Many people do not know that Roosevelt was rendered fully blind in one eye during a sparring match while he was president. The reason so few people know is that he made so little of it; he only referred to it occasionally from the time it happened in 1905 until his death in 1919. That’s right. Theodore Roosevelt was fully blind in one eye for nearly the last fifteen years of his life. Not even the man who caused the injury knew about it.
Roosevelt had always loved boxing, and did not sour on it even after the incident; he called it a “first-class sport” in his 1913 autobiography. As New York City Police Commissioner he encouraged young men to put on the gloves in clubs and YMCAs throughout the city. Still, he understood its tawdry side. Just a few months after he became governor in early 1899 he signed the legislation that outlawed professional fighting in the Empire State. Surprise! Pro boxing was corrupt even a century and more ago.
Dan T. Moore was a military attaché stationed in the White House who sparred with the president approximately 100 times during the two winters he was stationed in the Executive Mansion. Years later Roosevelt mentioned in passing that the injury had occurred while he was sparring a “captain of artillery.” Moore, stationed at Camp Meade at the time and preparing the American buildup taking place after the declaration of war that April, understood immediately that he was that captain; there were others who boxed with Roosevelt, but he was the only captain of artillery. When Moore realized the gravity of what had happened he wrote to Roosevelt immediately to make amends. Roosevelt never blamed Moore, but the military officer never got over it.
(top image, Library of Congress; bottom image, NARA)