Hubbard and Dibo
Richard F. Stratton
Of all the pit dogs of which I am aware, Dibo was probably the most influential. He marked a turning point in the pit dog game. I don’t think we know just how great a dog he was himself, and there is some dispute as to whether he had one or two matches. But he produced good dogs like crazy. They weren’t just game—they were bone-crushing destroyers! I don’t think he is relevant now except to those who are interested in Bulldog history, as he was around in the mid 50s.
While asserting that he was a landmark dog, I would hasten to add that there were destroyer type dogs before him, but they were few and far between, and none of them produced like Dibo did. In analyzing Dibo’s pedigree, it is difficult to predict that he would have been such a great producer. There were a lot of good dogs, but there were some not-so-good ones, too, and his mother, Bambi, was a cold bitch that probably wouldn’t be bred today by knowledgeable dog men. Somehow, the genes fell just right to make Dibo the greatest producing dog of his time. Some of his sons were dogs that dog men ranked as the best of all time, from Spike to White Rock to Jeff, with lots of others too many to mention.
Although all of our dogs today have Dibo someplace back in their ancestry, a lot of people don’t even pronounce Dibo the way it was pronounced then, and that was as DIE-BO, not DEE-BO. There was also controversy about the breeding of Dibo back in the day, as there frequently is about famous dogs. One well placed source claimed that Ritcheson and Heinzl used a different stud dog than Bouncer because Bouncer was sterile. One reason for not giving too much weight to that tale was that Ritcheson and Heinzl didn’t breed Dibo, and that’s where S. W. Hubbard comes in.
I’ve often thought that Hubbard, known as “Whiz” to his friends, has been forgotten as an important dog man, and I’m partly responsible for that, as I didn’t write much about him. I was fortunate enough to be in Phoenix, Arizona, just before Christmas in 1950. I was only 19 years old then and in the army, but I had taken my delay in route there on my way to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to join the 11th Airborne Division (now inactive). I had previously known and traded dogs with I. D. Cole, and he hosted me and showed me around. I was struck with the quality of the dog men and their dogs in that area. There were a lot of them, for one thing, and they were of high quality. Cole himself was a representative for the railroad, and he had the type of job that he could deviate from his normal schedule, and he had enough influence that I was paged on the PA system when I arrived at the Phoenix train depot, and that was a rare occurrence in those days. Ritcheson owned a barber shop, and I think Heinzl worked as a veterinary assistant at the race track, but he was young at the time, and he was quite good looking, and the girls all loved him. But it was Hubbard who had the spectacular wife. Cole warned me before we went to his house not to be drooling ostentatiously. He was right—she was drop dead gorgeous! And Cole swore that Hubbard had a previous wife even more beautiful! That seemed strange to a young fellow like me, as Hubbard was not particularly handsome, but he was smart and articulate, and he had a night club that was quite successful. He was a great influence on the dog game, as he purchased some great dogs, including Dibo’s grandsire, Gimp, as well as Corvino’s Braddock, one of the great all time dogs. Hubbard just went for the good dogs, wherever they might be, so he wasn’t necessarily a fan of Corvino dogs. When I met him, he had purchased the Big Boy dog from Bert Clouse, and I had seen Big Boy’s sire, Kito, back in Colorado, being kept by one of Clouse’s protégées. Big Boy won a number of matches, including one against Wallace’s Pistol Pete, probably his toughest match. But he was considered one of the top dogs in the country. An interesting fact about Hubbard was that he would bring a veterinarian to matches in which he had a dog, and the vet would help other dog men tend to their charges, and that very fact put the Arizona gang ahead of the rest of the country in regard to doctoring dogs after a match.
If we look at Dibo’s pedigree, we will notice a lot of Hubbard dogs on his dam’s side of the pedigree, and Hubbard also owned Bouncer, sometimes misspelled as “Bounce,” Dibo’s sire. I got to see Bouncer rolled at the weekend get togethers at Heinzl’s pit in Tucson. He was a quality dog, but he wasn’t an ace. My main point here is that the Arizona dogs were of unusually good caliber, and so were the dog men, and Hubbard was a major influence in both those respects.
One of my amusing memories was when I first met Hubbard at his night club. It was a very classy establishment, but this was during the day, and Hubbard was tending bar at the time. He did that occasionally, but normally he had someone else doing that sort of thing, and he was rarely there in the evenings. All the dog men called him “Whiz,” a name he had retained from boyhood, but I called him “Mr. Hubbard,” as was proper for a young fellow like me in those days. After introductions, we were talking dogs, of course. One of his customers asked, “Do you raise Greyhounds, Mr. Hubbard?” Well, of course, Cole and I couldn’t resist laughing out loud, while the customer looked befuddled. Cole explained to him, “The reason what you said was funny is that Greyhounds are supposed to run, and the kind of dogs that Mr. Hubbard raises aren’t supposed to do that.” It was a completely different time, as the general public knew nothing about Bulldogs or Pit Bulls, and they didn’t even know they existed. And those were better times for the dogs and the people.
While Heinzl hosted the rolls, Hubbard hosted an early Christmas party that night, primarily for dog men. Howard was a late arrival, and as he was walking up the walk, Hubbard declared, “I’m getting out my shotgun because I know Heinzl is after either my wife or one of my dogs!” That brought general laughter, as Howard was something of a lady’s man, and I’ve already told you about the desirability of Hubbard’s wife. And there was no doubt that Hubbard had stockpiled some of the best dogs in the city, if not in the country.
I was struck by the affability of Hubbard in particular and of most of the dog men there in general. One of Ritcheson’s dogs had stopped one of Leo White’s in one of the rolls earlier on that day, and Ed was consoling him, as he was all-too-aware of how painful it was to have a dog pull up short—especially when you had great hopes for him. That aspect of things makes the pit dog game especially tough, especially for dedicated dog men with small kennels or yards. At the rolls that day, the guys were rolling a dog named Spike (the sire of Bambi, Dibo’s dam) that was past his prime. In a diplomatic way, Hubbard told the guys that they should stop rolling the dog at that age. “But he still likes it!” was their protest. Hubbard told them that it didn’t matter because old dogs are more easily injured, and it is more difficult for them to heal up. He was respected enough that the guys acquiesced, and they retired the dog from rolls. Hubbard was a man that was much respected, and he was a great influence on the dog game. In addition, he was responsible for the upgrading of dogs because he concentrated so many good dogs at his place. He was even responsible for Dibo in an indirect way.
For some reason, everyone seemed to think that Howard Heinzl and Ritcheson had bred Dibo, as that was the general opinion after the Dibo dogs became famous. Howard could have easily taken credit for the breeding, as few people knew the true story after Hubbard had died. But Heinzl took particular pride in getting pedigrees right, whether his or someone else’s. He told me that he had been disgusted by Bambi because she was completely cold, so he sold her to a young African American fancier. He, in turn, took her to Hubbard’s place to breed to Bouncer. He could only keep a few of the pups, so he sold some of the males, including Dibo. The boy who received Dibo had actually wanted a Collie, as the Lassie movies were all in vogue at that time, as well as the television series. Heinzl liked the looks and breeding of the pup, so he got a Collie out of the pound and traded it to the boy for Dibo. The boy had actually called the pup Dumbo, but the breeder had trimmed his ears by the time the boy got the dog. In some way, the dog ended up being registered as Dibo.
Dibo was such an easy going dog that Howard had him running around loose before Earl Tudor came to visit. Howard said he only chained him up because he was embarrassed about having a dog running loose like that. In the course of Earl’s visit, Howard offered him his pick of the yard, and Earl picked Dibo! Howard was chagrined about his choice, and he didn’t want that cold dog representing his dogs to Earl, so he told him the entire story. Dibo remained Earl’s pick, though, and we must confess that if he had that kind of an eye for dogs, it must have been part of the secret of his success with them.
The rest, of course, is history. Somehow Hubbard’s role in it was left out. He was such a good man and an influential dog man that I thought I would try to remedy that to some degree. And, of course, the man who actually bred Dibo is completely forgotten, and that is certainly ironic. All I know was that Heinzl told me his last name was Smith!