Sammy Luftspring was born on May 14th, 1916 in "The Ward" in Toronto. His parents were working-class Jews who emigrated from Eastern Europe. Sammy began training as a youth at the Brunswick YMHA. He lived in Kensington Market and attended B'nai Brith summer camp as a youngster. In 1932 he started entering boxing matches. He competed in 105 fights and only lost five bouts, capturing the Golden Glove tournaments in the weight classes ranging from bantamweight to welterweight. Sammy became famous for his fighting prowess as well as his Jewish pride, always sporting a Star of David on his boxing shorts.
By 1933, he became the Ontario lightweight champion, representing the Elm Grove boxing club. That same year, he took part in the Christie Pits riot. Because of his accomplishments in the ring and his contribution to his community, he became a highly respected athlete within the Jewish community.
In 1936, he was selected for the Canadian team to take part in the Berlin Olympics that year. Although he was eager to compete, his parents and the community pressured him to boycott the games in protest over the Nazi's treatment of Jews in Germany. Luftspring and "Baby Yak", another famous local Jewish boxer, decided to participate instead in the alternate games in Barcelona, Spain, called the "People's Olympics". After making the trip to Europe by ship, the two faced the disappointment of having the event cancelled after the Civil War broke out on the eve of the opening ceremonies.
After his return to Toronto, Luftspring began to box professionally. In 1938, he won the Canadian welterweight championship after a 15-round fight where he defeated Frank Genovese. He held the title for two years. During a fight in New York against Steve Belloise, Luftspring was poked in the eye, resulting in a detached retina. This injury left him blind in one eye, ending his boxing career.
By 1948, he began a new career as a boxing referee. He refereed for several decades, overseeing some of the most celebrated fights of that time. He also ran a nightclub in Toronto called the Mercury Club with three partners. It attracted famous entertainers such as Henry Youngman, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett. He subsequently ran other nightclubs such as the Tropicana.
In addition to his boxing career, Sammy was also a devoted family man. He married his wife Elsie in 1938 at the McCaul Street synagogue. Three hundred and fifty people attended and hundreds waited outside of the synagogue to wish them well. They had two children: Brian and Orian.
His biography, Call Me Sammy, was published in 1975. Luftspring was given the great honour in 1985 of being inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He passed away on September 27, 2000.
The scrapbooks were created by Sammy Luftspring. He kept them at his house and when he passed away they were safegaurded by his son Brian.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of two scrapbooks that reflect Sammy Luftspring's personal life and various careers as a boxer, referee, author, and nightclub manager and owner. Scrapbooks contain correspondence, ephemera, newspaper clippings, brochures, autographs, coins, and approximately 700 photographs.
Personal records include photographs of Sammy and his family during his childhood, family weddings, trips and vacations, and other family events, such as birthday parties and his son's Bar Mitzvah. There are also letters and cards from Sammy's wife, children, grandchildren and friends, and other ephemeral items Sammy collected, such as ticket stubs from baseball games.
Professional records include images of Sammy training for upcoming boxing matches, portraits of Sammy posing in his boxing attire, images from the grand opening of the Mercury Club, photographs of Sammy as a referee, as well as, photographs of Sammy at various celebrity boxing matches. There is also correspondence and a brochure documenting Sammy's incorporation into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and some correspondence regarding the publication and promotion of his book. Finally, there are numerous newspaper clippings relating to all of Sammy's professional endeavours.
Luftspring, Sammy, 1916-2000
The scrapbooks are in poor condition. Many of the photographs, documents and clippings were glued to the pages and the pages have almost all fallen out of the bindings.
The scrapbooks have been kept intact and no arrangement has been done. However, some of the key images have been scanned and item level descriptions have been completed for them.
This file consists of photographs taken at the 1988 Sports Celebrity Dinner, honouring Pat Gillick, General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. The event was held at the Constellation Hotel. The photographs depict the guests and JCC Executive Committee members.
Identified individuals include Bernard Kaimin, Eddie Shack, David Perlmutter, Sammy Luftspring, Kelly Gruber, Paul Brownstein and Alan B. Zender.
This file consists of a program package and photographs taken at the 1990 Sports Celebrity Dinner. The dinner featured a tribute to Irving Ungerman, boxing promoter and manager. It was held at the Constellation Hotel on 5 June 1990 and featured a boxing match and demonstration.
The photographs are of Irving Ungerman, celebrity guests, invited guests and JCC Executive Committee members. Celebrity guests included Jake La Motta, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Claude Brochu, Brian Williams, Pat Marsden, Alan B. Zender, Paul Brownstein, Ron Kanter, Mayor Mel Lastman, Rabbi Dr. David Monson, Donovan Boucher, Alan Eagleson, Glen "Yuk Yuk" Foster, Vicki Keith, Sammy Luftspring, Police Chief William J. McCormack, and Harry Ornest.
Other identified individuals include Eddie Shack, Martin Atkins, Harold Cipin, Al Waxman, Paul Godfrey, Rabbi J. Kelman and Paul Lindzon.
This file consists of photographs taken at the 1994 Sports Celebrity Dinner. The dinner featured a tribute to Steve Stavro, former owener of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Raptors and the grocery chain Knob Hill Farms. The dinner also featured several Jewish Hall of Fame inductees as honoured guests. The dinner was held on 22 June 1994.
The photographs are of the guest of honour and other celebrity guests, the JCC Executive Committee members and Sports Celebrity Committee members, along with the invited guests. Identified individuals include Michael Burgess, Harold Cipin, Darryl Sittler, Steven Wise, Mark Hebscher, Cliff Fletcher, Mike MacDonald, Dave Perlmutter, Allan Wexler, Richard Levinksy, Jules Goldstein, Gary Berman, Irving Ungerman, Ken Daniels, Bob Rae, Sammy Luftspring and Paul Brownstein.