Hemingway vs Knapp


Bimini , Bahamas is known today as the Sports Fishing Capital of the World among it's other reputations. In 1935 one of the leading proponents of that sport, writer Ernest Hemingway would sail there from Key West, along with the wealthy sportsmen who came from the Miami area in search of BIG FISH. When "The Storm King" from Ft. Lauderdale with Joe "Dodi" Knapp aboard tied up at the dock, a small squall brewed up and Bimini soon had a new sport....Boxing.

In 1993 there was a movie made with Robert Duval, Sandra Bullock (her first) and the irrepressible Richard Harris called "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" The story line is about two retired gents living out their days in Miami. Harris the wild one tells Duvall all about his reckless youth, including the time he fought with Ernest Hemingway. I have to wonder with what I just learned if this real story which they still talk about and sing about in Bimini, was not the source of that movie.

Here are two excerpts from biographer Carlos Baker's book, Ernest Hemingway A Life Story published by Charles Scribner 1969

and here is the letter the "BIG FAT SLOB" wrote to his editor Arnold Gingrich at Esquire magazine about the incident. It appears in Baker's other book Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters 1917-1961


June 4th 1935



I've made contact with people from The Bimini Museum in Alice Town, Bimini where this took place. Nat Saunders aka "Piccolo Pete" who is credited with writing the song is still alive and runs a bar there. His nephew Ashley is an author, teacher, and Bimini Historian. Mike Checkley from the Museum has told me he has a recording of the song and will get it to me mid November upon his return from a trip he is taking. Also a Dan Craig from the Museum has weighed in with a phone # and address for the Saunders. Stay Tuned...it's gonna get interesting. In the meantime here's a photo of Bimini Harbor taken in 1935.

Courtesy Of Bimini Historical Museum

After his success in the Joe Knapp fight Ernest started offering $250.00 to anyone who could go three rounds with him. photo: Ernest Hemingway A Life Story, Carlos Baker


I spoke on the phone with Ashley Saunders, who is Bimini's Historian and the nephew of Nat Saunders. He confirmed with me that his Uncle Nat who is now in his 90's did indeed write the song titled "Big Fat Slob" and that it will be available soon on a CD. He also told me as Paul Harvey would say "The Rest Of The Story" about how this fight came about. It seems the aniomosity started over who caught the bigger fish, and that night Ernest and his pals were partying loudly shooting off flares etc and generaly annoying the crap out of Mr and Mrs Knapp. Knapp came off his boat The Storm King in his pajamas and yelled "Pipe Down You Big Fat Slob". That set Ernest right off and he let Dodi have it with a fast 5 punches.

Ashley Saunders