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Only one out of thousands

February 27, 2010

There has been only one person - ONE?- out of the thousands and thousands of athletes who have participated in the Olympic Games, Summer and Winter, to win a gold medal in both seasons and in different disciplines.

That man was Edward (Eddie) Patrick Francis Eagan (April 26, 1897 to June 14, 1967). He won a gold medal as a light-heavyweight boxer in the 1920 Olympic Summer Games in Antwerp. He entered the Olympic Summer games in 1924 (apparently as a heavyweight) in Chamoix, France and failed to medal.

Then, in 1932 in the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, he joined the 4-man bobsleigh crew of Billy Fiske and won a gold medal.

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Egan’s ad in the 1908 directory, with the Dock & Coal Company ad included, simply because I think it’s clever and who said we didn’t have telephones in 1908…we had been incorporated only since 1892.

Egan was born into a poor family in Denver but studied law at Harvard University and Oxford, became a successful lawyer and served in the army as a colonel during World War II. He died at age 70 in Rye, New York.


How did he arrive here?

I have been trying to fit pieces of stories together to determine if that famous Eddie Eagan was a nephew of Saranac Lake's famous Mike Eganbut the spelling is different.

Now the names of many of the 12 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island in New York Harbor were changed simply by shouting out their name to the officer compiling the roster who would write down whatever he thought he heard. The Irish brogue caused many O'Neil's in the U.S. to be named O'Nail because that is what O'Neil sounds like with the Irish pronunciation.

So, of course, I'm thinking that the spelling of Eagan was changed in that mannerbut I am probably wrong. It took only a short leap of faith to believe that since Eddie's family was poor, he came to live with Uncle Mike in Saranac Lake who was doing quite well and was also a famous athlete. Raising kids for your siblings was not an unusual happening among families back then.

I actually know of a local family where one married sister had children and another of her married sisters had none, so she gave her a couple of hers.


Mike Egan with TB

Mike was born in Ireland in 1879 and arrived in Saranac Lake on a stretcher in 1901 suffering from tuberculosis. He weighed only 100 pounds and newspaper stories reported that he had only a short time ro live.

He recovered and in 1921 married Bernice Boehm at St. Mary's Hospital (located on Ampersand Avenue at the top of the hill where the stone wall of the hospital is still visible). The ceremony was performed by Rev. J. J. Waters pastor of St. Bernard's Church who was ill at the time and a patient in the hospital.


Mike Egan, the athlete

I am not sure of the sequence of events in his life but by 1908 he owned a livery stable in Saranac Lake and in 1914 he announced that he would be running for either a state assembly or senate seat as a Democrat in the fall election.

Here is a piece of his obit from the Enterprise:

"Mike Egan, as he was better known, was an undefeated world champion handball player in the early 1900's 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 that time.

"During the peak of his athletic career as a handball player, Mr. Egan defeated the United States' best, including Jerry McMahon of Brooklyn; Dr. Martin Gillen, New York City; William Carney, Philadelphia; Louis Keegan, Chicago; and Jim Fitzgerald, San Francisco."

His obit (he was 75) went on to say that he was known for his quick wit and winning smile. His livery business became a taxi business and he became a "large property owner, building and owning several buildings.

So I guess I can't connect the dots with Eddie and Mike because Mike's several surviving sisters and brothers were in Ireland and New Jersey along with many nephews and nieces.


Sources: Michelle Tucker, Curator of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library; The Viewer's Guide published by the USOC and the Internet.



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