As a 15-year-old student at Eureka High School in the roaring '20s, Laurence Beal got a job with the Humboldt Times newspaper as a part-time high school sports reporter and sports cartoonist, his passion at the time. He also answered phones, stuffed inserts and sold newspapers on the streets. By the age of 17, he was a high school dropout and full-time reporter for the paper. He needed a sports reporter's name, so he nicknamed himself.
"Scoop" Beal left the area briefly to pursue his passion in drawing and cartooning but was persuaded to come back to his old job in 1927. He stayed for more than four decades. His wife, June, later said, "He loved his job; he was interested in everything and he started work at 6 a.m. every day."
He wrote a column called Around the Town about local sports figures, covered all sports, did cartoon caricatures of local big wigs, became the city editor as well as sports editor, published a book and was an innovative promoter. In newspaper circles, Beal was a living legend.
The Harlem Globetrotters were a traveling exhibition team of exceptionally talented Black basketball players who could dunk, juggle balls and take unusual shots. They were as good as any NBA players at the time but it didn't allow Black players until 1950. The Harlem Globetrotters would come to town with one of their four teams, the West Coast Globetrotters, selling out high school arenas.
Satchel Page, the great Negro League baseball pitcher traveled with the Globetrotters, throwing out the first ball at basketball games. Page became acquainted with Beal, as they had similar outgoing personalities.
In the late '30s, the Globetrotter promoters signed for a Friday night game in Walla Walla, Washington, and a Saturday night game in Eureka. The Eureka gym was packed but the Globetrotters were a no-show. When they arrived the next day, fans were not happy and, due to contract issues, some of their best players bolted, including all-time basketball superstar Al "Runt" Pullens. Beal put the rest of the team up, got them home to Chicago and worked with Pullens to find other players to make a knock off team. Along with some connections from another Black touring team, softball players the Sioux City Ghosts, Beal and Pullens put together a team, eventually named The Harlem Clowns.
The Clowns played more razzle dazzle and gag gimmicks than the Globetrotters, and became a bigger draw locally. Beal promoted them nationally and even on a tour in Japan from his home base in Eureka.
Eureka was one of the main boxing towns on the coast during the 1920s, through the depression and on for decades. A cigar in his mouth, Beal ran with the promoters and boxing crowd. His boxing write-ups were classic. In the late 1920s, a friend who drove a delivery truck told Beal about a "kid" out in Fieldbrook named Milton "Tiny" Abbott. As reluctant as initially Abbott was to box, he decided to try. He was a great guy with a big heart and crushing right hand who became known as "The Redwood Giant."
Tiny was a major local attraction as his solid muscular 6-foot-8-inch frame and size 16 shoes always brought the crowd to cheers when he entered the ring, scissor stepping over the top rope instead of pulling it up and stepping under per usual boxing etiquette. He could take a beating as his fans watched in awe. He would stand there taking it until he could sneak in a powerful right blow. He ran up a record of knockouts and became such a huge draw the promoters had to move the matches from the smaller Armory Hall to the Broadway Arena.
Max Baer was moving into the championship ranks in boxing in the Oakland area. He later became heavyweight champion and was portrayed as a much worse person than he was in life in the movie Cinderella Man. Baer was knocking everyone out in his path including top title contenders. The local boxing trainers got Abbott a fight with Baer in Oakland. In a rare loss, Baer was disqualified after he knocked Tiny down in the third round and hit him again as he was getting up (Baer later killed a man in the ring with the same tactic). A rematch of the two was scheduled two weeks after the first bout with an anticipated crowd of 8,500, standing room only.
Beal wanted to promote the fight back home. He had a ringside direct phone line installed at the Oakland Auditorium and called the fight blow by blow back to a large megaphone mounted at the newspaper office window in Eureka. Some 3,000 fans sprawled down the streets past the Eureka Inn, partying and listening. For the first time on the West Coast, a boxing match would be announced remotely.
Tiny matched Baer blow for blow for five rounds but, at the end of round five, Baer buckled him with a powerful left to the stomach as Abbott was saved by the bell. The official stopped the fight after Abbott answered the bell in the sixth round, launching Baer into the championship rung of his career. It was also the most successful promotion in North Coast history at the time and propelled Tiny Abbott to infamy.
That night, Tiny Abbott told Beal he'd win the next fight. "I won the first one in three and lost the next one in six. Third time is a charm." He never got another chance like that. He fought a few more times, once up in Eureka against Max's brother Buddy Baer, with Max in attendance. He lost. He never got to fight Max again and soon decided to go back to the ranch.
Beal promoted anything he could. Along with Don Terbush, another great longtime newspaper man, and Bigfoot hoaxer Ray Wallace, they promoted Bigfoot and tourism with a consistent idea: "Come to the North Coast, spend money, go find Bigfoot, buy a paper and read all about it."
Beal stayed on at the Times-Standard, moving up in ranks for almost 50 years, until he retired as the editor in 1971. He was a real newspaper man and sports promoter. The days of his kind of sports reporter are just a memory, but a good memory.