Born: c. 1879
Died: March 14, 1954
Michael J. Egan was a wrestler and boxer, a world champion handball player, a bobsledder and he ran a livery at the Empire Hotel.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 15, 1954
Michael J. Egan Dies, Once Handball Titlist
Michael J. Egan, known by many for his quick wit and winning smile, died at 1:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon in the Saranac Lake General Hospital.
He was 75 years old.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Thursday in St. Bernard's Church. Burial will be in St. Bernard's Cemetery in the Spring. There will be a Rosary service tomorrow night at the chapel of A. Fortune and Co., where the body is reposing.
A native of Ireland, Mr. Egan came to Saranac Lake on a stretcher in 1901, suffering from tuberculosis. Newspaper articles then reported, that he had only a short lime to live. He then weighed only 100 pounds.
But he recovered. And on July 12, 1921, he married the former Bernice Boehm. The ceremony was performed at St. Mary's Hospital by Rev. J. J. Waters. Rev. Waters, then pastor of St. Bernard's Church, was ill at that time at the hospital. Witnesses to the ceremony were Rev. E.A. Gallagher and the bride's sister, Miss Inez Boehm.
Mike Egan, as he was better known, was undefeated world champion handball player in the early 1900 and former sparring partner for such boxing greats as Bob Fitzsimmons, James J. Jeffries, Jim Corbett and Al Britt, all heavyweight contenders and champion boxers of their time.
During the peak of his athletic career as a handball player, Mr. Egan defeated the United States' best, including Jerry McMahon, Brooklyn; Dr Martin Gillen, New York City; William Carney, Philadelphia; Louis Keegart, Chicago, and Jim Fitzgerald, San Francisco.
Mr. Egan became a large property owner in Saranac Lake, building and owning several dwellings.
He operated a livery stable on Olive street, and later a taxi business. It is reported that Mike one-time ran as Democratic candidate for state senator from this district.
Besides his widow, who is employed at the office of Dr. Charles Trembley and Dr. Bradley Sageman, he is survived by several brothers and sisters in Ireland and New Jersey. There are also nephews and nieces.
Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat, April 30, 1909
Mike Egan Injured.
Mike Egan, the world's champion handball player, was seriously injured at Saranac Lake by being kicked by a horse. Egan's knee was fractured and it is feared that he is injured internally.
The Malone Farmer, October 11, 1922
Federal officers from Malone, armed with a search warrant, raided Mike Egan's Livery at Saranac Lake last week and found there a quantity of beer and whiskey. Egan was held in $1,000 ball for the federal grand jury by U.S. Commissioner Lawrence. Egan is champion handball player of the world.
The Malone Farmer, August 3, 1932
The jury in the case of Mike Egan and Morton Swinyer, charged with violation of the prohibition law which case was on trial last Wednesday came into court at 9:30 that night and reported that they were unable to agree upon a verdict. The jury was thereupon discharged by the court from farther duty in the case. Attorney Andrew B. Cooney was counsel for the defendants.
The Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat, July 31, 1936
Uncle Sam went into Franklin county real estate business in a big way at the courthouse in Malone Saturday, the government bidding in six separate parcels of Saranac Lake property for a paltry $300. Mike Egan, the owner, and once the world's champion handball player, a colorful figure at the resort village for many years, was a silent and rather sad observer as be watched the six properties assessed in his name at a total valuation of more than $21,000 go under the hammer.
Talking on the phone to Mike Egan yesterday, he wondered if I recalled a Bijou Theatre in Brooklyn years ago. Of course I did. Located at Smith and Livingston streets it was, in the days I remember, the home of the Spooner Stock Company for many years. The stars were Cecil and Edna May Spooner and the leading man, if memory serves me, was Augustus Phillips. Prices were 10, 20 and 30 cents, and ranged from the gallery to the orchestra, and most of the Brooklyn hausfraus had the same seats every week for the season. Although my bailiwick was a block or so north, at the Star Theatre, I did of occasion visit the Bijou and remember that the shows were rather good, if a bit on the weepy side — which was only natural with a predominately feminine audience to be pleased.
I don't know why I'm getting so gabby about this, when the only reason Mike wanted to know about it was because in the old, old days — which probably antedated the stock company — he had wrestled at a Bijou Theatre over there, but he couldn't remember just where it was. His opponent there was a wrestler known as "Yussoff", the Terrible Turk, who was managed by Bob Fitzsimmons brother-in-law, a fellow named Martin Julian. And Mike even remembered just how much Julian had paid him.
And he recalled that Yussoff had gone down on the Titanic years later, with his fortune — $68,000 in gold — in a money belt around his waist. He also recalled meeting Frank Gotch, who was one of the all-time greats.
I have often wondered why no one has ever written Mike's story-Think it would be a very interesting one. Maybe if I saw more of him I could get him to talk a little about those days when he was a handball champion, etc. And I could print some of it here occasionally. It should prove good reading. Yessir, it's an idea!
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 14, 1969
Mike Egan had been the Champion Weight Lifter of Ireland before he came to the U.S. and contracted the lung disease; in short order he was in Saranac Lake, and to support himself and his doctors (as he himself was wont to say), he drove a taxi cab. If Mike didn't cure the disease, he at least neutralized it and his feats of strength became legend. He lifted automobiles, boat engines and front porches all by himself, and once he moved a monument.
One particularly cold New Year's Eve, Mike picked up a fare who asked to be driven to the Riverside Inn; they had not gone ten yards from Bloomingdale Avenue and Broadway before Mike realized his passenger was changing locations because the St. Regis would no longer sell him a drink. At the Riverside Inn, the fare blandly instructed Mike to "send him a bill," whereupon Egan picked the fellow up by his elbows and set him down on his heels hard enough to crack the concrete sidewalk.
That was the wrong thing to do, and Egan's next move was to Fox Memorial Hospital 1 to see if someone there could bring the man to. It being a holiday eve, only an interne was on duty and he, following an examination of the victim, hurriedly consulted by telephone with the hospital chief of staff. Following his description of the symptoms, he was informed that it sounded like a concussion and he was to prepare the man for immediate surgery.
While Egan paced miserably in the lobby, a nurse shaved the passenger's head and the intern prepared the operating room. Finally three doctors arrived and while they were discussing the procedures of a trepanning, the patient suddenly sat up and asked what was going on.
Thirty Year Old Newspaper Tells of Egan's Title
Michael J. Egan of this resort was one time handball champion of the world. Before that he was handball champion of America, and his picture and that of his championship hand appeared in the New York Journal for Monday, April 18, 1898. A copy of that newspaper happens to be in the possession of Ernest Rind, of 98 Broadway, and those who have seen the picture quickly see the resemblance to the "Mike" Egan of today, who came here seeking restoration of broken health and has become known to all through his livery business. The caption of the cut says: "Handball originated in Ireland and an American of Irish descent quite naturally hold the title of champion. Egan has proved himself one of the best players we have. He is a lively little chap and can use both hands. He intends to win again this year." 2
Photo caption, ADE Nov. 14, 1969, page 4:
WORLD HANDBALL CHAMP — Mike Egan and his wife Bernice in 1920s. The undefeated handball player was also trainer of James J. Corbitt, second World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1892 to 1897. Mike came to village in 1906 with lung punctured by broken ribs, cured at Trudeau for over 5 years, then started taxi company and later a livery numbering 18-20 horses. (Courtesy of Bernice B. Egan)
1. This odd and unlikely detail (Fox Memorial Hospital is in Oneonta) was preserved in the retelling of this story in the August 1994 Enterprise.
2. Unidentified newspaper clipping, c. 1929, from Coogan scrapbook.