Putnam was a great writer and an American original with heart, humor, brilliance and courage. He served two tours of duty in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War and won four Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross. He spent 17 months as a prisoner of war in Manchuria and carried pain and scars from that experience until the day he died. But he carried them deep inside, never putting them out for show or talking about the price he paid for his country.
In fact, within 10 seconds of a greeting from Putnam, you likely would hear a joke. His sense of humor was as renowned as his writing. Once before a fight in Reno, when Michael Buffer was in the ring introducing celebrities in the audience, Putnam, sitting ringside, shouted to Buffer, “Don’t forget Joe DiMaggio.” So Buffer, excited about the prospect of introducing the great DiMaggio, launches into this elaborate introduction, along the lines of, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a big Reno welcome for one of the greatest baseball players of all time, a member of the Hall of Fame who 50 years ago hit in 56 straight games. Let’s hear it for the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio.” The crowd went wild, standing up to get a look at DiMaggio.
Of course, DiMaggio was nowhere near Reno that day.
Once, in the week leading up to the Larry Holmes-Ossie Ocasio heavyweight fight in Las Vegas in 1979, Putnam and Holmes’ trainer, Richie Giachetti, covered fellow boxing writer Michael Katz, who was sleeping by the hotel pool in a lounge chair, with newspapers. Then Putnam set the papers on fire. His story was that he had just read a book about the Norsemen and he wanted to see a Viking funeral.