Nicknames Make Them Recognizable

July 16, 1992|by RUDY BEDNAR

Nicknames make it easy to identify many of our all-time greats in sports. And that is true of any era.

Take Bill "Honeyboy" Evans. Coal region sports fans of the 1920s and '30s will readily remember this rough-and-tough athlete from Coaldale.

It was said he could have held his own against anyone in the world. He was born in a company home in Lanigans Patch, within the shadows of the old Ellangowen Colliery breaker in Shenandoah, but grew up in the Panther Valley.

The Evans family lived in Seek, a mine patch at the east end of Coaldale where Honeyboy earned a reputation as quite a football player as a teen-ager.

At 17, he joined the Navy, and it was there that he took up boxing and became a big hit as he often boxed three opponents in one night. Of course, boxing was a popular coal region sport in those days. So when Honeyboy returned home from the service, he was raring to challenge anyone in the ring.

Local sports pages spread the word, and it was Jim and Vince Gildea, Coaldale publishers, who were promoting bouts in Tamaqua's Liberty Hall, who set up his first match.

Honeyboy faced Bill Conohan of Summit Hill and floored him four times before Tamaqua police chief Phil Erich stopped the bout. Back then in the coal towns, the local police chief ruled the boxing game.

Evans became one of top fighters of the region as well as the state for the next 10 years and then turned pro. He chose the fight game as opposed to working in the mines.

Honeyboy weighed in at 165 but took on anyone at any weight. In one bout, he severely thrashed 220-pound Jim Slimmer of Millville, N.J.

As it turned out, his career didn't come to an end at the hands of any opponent. It was the Great Depression that stopped him. After beating Jim Noble of Wilkes-Barre in 1931, Honeyboy decided to hang up the gloves. It was his wife, Rose, who also was his trainer, who prompted the move.

Besides boxing, Honeyboy was just as devastating as a running back or end in football and played for the Coaldale Big Greens, one of the premier semi-pro football teams in Pennsylvania for years.