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FRAUD alert: Former SI writer apparently lied about his Marine exploits

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by poindexter, May 2, 2008.

  1. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member


    Famed boxing writer faked Korean War legacy

    By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
    Posted : Friday May 2, 2008 9:44:55 EDT

    As a widely admired boxing scribe at Sports Illustrated, the late Pat Putnam was known as someone who could spin a tale with the best, sharing the stories of all-time greats such as Muhammad Ali.

    But Putnam didn’t just spin a tale about boxing. His own widely celebrated background as a Marine veteran and former Korean War prisoner of the Chinese — with four Purple Hearts and a Navy Cross — wasn’t true, Marine officials said Thursday.

    Putnam, who died in 2005, does not exist in Marine Corps Archival Tapes, a list of Marine veterans that covers Corps history until about 1970. He also does not exist in any Marine medals databases, including one for the Navy Cross, the Corps’ second-highest military honor.

    The revelation came just hours before the Boxing Writers Association of America was set to award the Pat Putnam Award at the association’s annual award dinner at the posh Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles.

    The award, launched in 2005, honors perseverance in overcoming adversity. Previous honorees include Ali, honored in 2006 for his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, and Izzy Burgos, a 2007 recipient who began an amateur boxing career at 12 in 2005.

    Bernard Fernandez, BWAA president, said he would still honor the 2008 recipients Thursday night, but would not mention Putnam.

    “He had a substantial enough career as a major, big-time successful sports writer that he didn’t have to do this,” said Fernandez, a columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News. “Being someone in his line of work, I can’t believe he didn’t think this wouldn’t come to light eventually. He had to know this would come to light, and that people would get hurt.”

    Fernandez said he first learned of potential inconsistencies in Putnam’s service record earlier this week when he was called by Chuck and Mary Schantag and Doug Sterner, who run Web sites dedicated to preserving the stories of war heroes and exposing fakers.

    “They checked it 17 ways to Sunday, and it came up totally bogus,” Fernandez said. “He had us all fooled. You’re talking about media people (in the association), and he had us buffaloed.”

    The Schantags and Sterner began investigating Putnam’s story after Fernandez wrote in a Philadelphia Daily News column on Tuesday that Putnam — the “rawhide-tough Marine” who “came back [from Korea] with four Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross” — would be happy with the 2008 selections for the award bearing his name.

    Those winners, brothers Anthony and Lamont Peterson, grew up homeless in Washington, D.C., but are now top boxers in their respective weight divisions, Fernandez’s column said.

    Putnam’s background as a Marine veteran and prisoner of war has been covered in numerous publications over the years, including Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe and several boxing Web sites.

    At the time of his November 2005 death, boxing columnist Michael Katz also recalled a 1988 trip to South Korea with Putnam to cover the Olympics in which Putnam introduced him to a Korean general in charge of the country’s amateur boxer program.

    “Please turn around,” Katz recalled Putnam saying, on the Web site maxboxing.com. “I want to see if I recognize you.”

    Fernandez said Putnam’s story became believable, in part, because he had one lung missing and a steel rod inserted in his back “many years ago.” Putnam perpetuated the myth that the injuries were sustained in combat, rather than a car accident, Fernandez now believes.

    “The proof is overwhelming,” said Fernandez, who noted the association’s “overcoming adversity” award will not carry Putnam’s name next year.

    “He told a little fib 50 years ago, and look where it is now. At some point, it passed the point of no return, and he couldn’t go back.”

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  2. Holy Jeebus.
    Putnam was a legend. He told those POW stories for years. (I think he's ID'd that way in McCambridge's book.) He hated (out loud) even being IN Korea for the 1988 Games. For folks too young to have read him, this isn't a big deal. But for those of us a little older, this is a mindblower.
  3. alleyallen

    alleyallen Guest

    I think it's a pretty horrible lie no matter the reader's age.
  4. Yeah, no argument there, but I think it hits a little harder for those of us who read pat, and knew him, back in the day.
  5. alleyallen

    alleyallen Guest

    For me, it's anyone who lies about military service.
  6. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

  7. broadway joe

    broadway joe Guest

    Pat Putnam came to my college to speak when I was a student there and he was with SI. I remember him talking about his Marine background, at some points with great emotion. Stunning to think that it was all a lie.
  8. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Anybody else have a problem with the fact the guy isn't around to defend himself? Yeah, it's probably true but the fact he isn't listed anywhere doesn't automatically mean he never served.

    I don't see the point in crapping on the guy's grave.
  9. I have no problem with this at all.
  10. Other than the fact he lied about being a distingushed war vet?
    If you ask me - and to quote Eeyore "Nobody did" - but this guy's falsehoods deserved to be ferreted out, dead or alive. This kind of crap softens the sacrifices made by real soldiers.
    Yeah it sucks he's not here to defend himself, but I guess this when the error was caught.
    Quite honestly, I'm really surprised the guy's fabrications weren't caught sooner.
  11. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    I guess the fact the alleged fabrications weren't caught sooner is why I have hard time believing this. The story gives every indication he was a liar but it's hard to grasp that he wasn't called on it while he was alive.
  12. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I agree, Armchair. Or maybe that's just me really wanting to think this isn't true. Yeesh.
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