THE WHISPERS ABOUT A FIX grew into shouts.
The day after the Series ended, former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman walked into the barbershop at Chicago's LaSalle Hotel. There was gambler Mont Tennes, who asked if Wheeghman remembered what Tennes predicted in Saratoga that August:-The Series would be fixed. Weeghman did, and Tennes inquired what he now thought. Weeghman didn't know what to say, which didn't faze Tennes. He had more information: Seven players were involved- Cicotte, Williams, Felsch, Jackson, Gandil, Risberg, and McMullin.
Despite being among the very first tipped off to the plot, Tennes still couldn't comprehend what had happened. Sometimes even the hardest characters have their illusions. "Tennes did not believe that a big series could be framed," Weeghman explained. "He told me so. Even with the information he had he went out and backed the White Sox to win. I have been told he lost $30,000 on the series ... it is common gossip around the loop that his losses reached that amount."
Charles Comiskey offered $20,000 to anyone proving the rumors true. St. Louis Browns second baseman Joe Gedeon tried collecting, fingering Swede Risberg, Ben Franklin, Joe Pesch, and the Levi brothers. Comiskey, his Harvard-educated team attorney, Alfred S. Austrian, and his bright young team secretary Harry Grabiner, listened to Gedeon's story-and told him to go away. It was bad enough that Comiskey's team had been cheated out of the world championship, if the plot were exposed now, he would be harmed even more. The guilty would be banned from baseball and the Sox stripped of their core talent. The Sox would plummet in the standings. Comiskey's great ballpark would stand empty.
Gambler Carl Redmon stepped forward, implicating Attell, Burns, Maharg, and the usual assortment of St. Louis gamblers. Comiskey had Kid Gleason interview Redmon, then ignored his story.
Swede Risberg packed his loot into a big black satchel and headed home to California. He wouldn't be returning to the Sox. Something told him it might be best to stay away. Hal Chase and Heinie Zimmerman didn't rejoin the Giants. John McGraw knew about their fixing. He didn't say anything publicly, but told the two they weren't welcome back.
In Chicago Hugh Fullerton had his own theories, yet neither his own paper, the Tribune, nor the syndicate for his national column would print them. Finally, in December 1919, Herbert Bayard Swope's New York World published Fullerton's expose. "Is Big League Baseball Being Run for Gamblers, with Ballplayers in the Deal?" Even Fullerton didn't dare reveal which players were involved, but he fingered many gamblers: Attell, Burns, Zork, Mont Tennes, the Levi brothers, Joe Pesch-and last, but not least, Arnold Rothstein:
There is in New York a gambler named Rothstein who is much feared and much accused. His name has been used in connection with almost every big thieving, crooked deal on the race track, and he is openly named in this baseball scandal. There has been no legal proof advanced against him beyond the fact that he is the only man in the entire crowd who had money enough to handle such a deal. At least $200,000 was used in actual cash, and no one concerned could command that much money excepting Rothstein, who is either the vilest crook or the most abused man in America.
Rothstein sits in the box with the owner [Charles Stoneham] of the New York Giants. He has the entree to the exclusive clubhouses on race tracks; he is prominent at fights.
Baseball's establishment press savagely ridiculed Fullerton's charges. Sporting News editor Earl Obenshain issued this unmistakably antiSemitic diatribe:
Because a lot of dirty, long-nosed, thick-lipped, and strongsmelling gamblers butted into the World Series-an American event, by the way-and some of said gentlemen got crossed, stories were peddled that there was something wrong with the way the games were played. Some of the Chicago players laid down for a price, said the scandalmongers. . . . [White Sox owner Charles] Comiskey has met that by offering $10,000 [sic] for any sort of clue that will bear out such a charge. He might have well offered a million. There will be no takers because there is no such evidence, except in the mucky minds of stinkers who-because they are crooked-think all the rest of world can't play straight.
Fueling the rumors were the big mouths of those involved. Late in July 1920, the White Sox were in New York to play the Yankees. The afternoon's game was rained out, and Kid Gleason headed for Dinty Moore's bar on Times Square. What Gleason heard amazed him. He rushed to phone Chicago Tribune reporter Jim Crusinberry. "Come up to Dinty Moore's," Gleason whispered. "I'm at the bar with Abe Attell. He's talking, and I want you to hear it."
Crusinberry and his roommate, fellow Tribune sportswriter Ring Lardner, hurried over and quietly ordered drinks. For their benefit, Gleason restarted the conversation: "So it was Arnold Rothstein who put up the dough for the fix."
"That was it, Kid," Attell responded. "You know, Kid, I hated to do that to you, but I thought I was going to make a lot of money and I needed it, and then the big guy double-crossed me, and I never got but a small part of what he promised."
In August 1920 a flurry of anonymous tips reached the Chicago Cubs front office. One of their games against the Phillies would be thrown. Under pressure from Cruisenberry and the Tribune, a Chicago grand jury convened under judge Charles McDonald to investigate the matter-and then ignored it, focusing instead on the 1919 Series. Charles Weeghman appeared and testified about Mont Tennes and Arnold Rothstein, about events in Saratoga in August 1919, and what Tennes told him after the Series concerning the seven players involved. Tennes denied everything.
Dominoes started falling. Giants pitcher Rube Benton implicated Sleepy Bill Burns, Hal Chase, and pitcher jean Dubuc. Benton also testified that while in Cincinnati, he had heard rumors of a Pittsburgh gambling syndicate fixing the Series through Gandil, Felsch, Williams, and Cicotte.
On September 27, 1920 Billy Maharg spilled his guts to the Philadelphia North American-about Bill Burns and Eddie Cicotte at the Ansonia, about A. R. blowing up at the Astor grill, about Attell and Bennett/Zelser and a cash-filled room at the Sinton, about a telegram from A. R., about angry players-and how the whole stupid scheme exploded in his face.
Maharg's confession unhinged Eddie Cicotte. The next morning, awash in tears, he told all to Comiskey, Alfred Austrian, and Kid Gleason-and then to the grand jury. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Lefty Williams confessed the following day. Williams added something new to the public's knowledge: the names of gamblers Sport Sullivan and "Rachael Brown" (Nat Evans's alias during the series). Happy Felsch admitted his own guilt to an enterprising reporter from the Chicago Evening American.
That same day, John McGraw appeared before the grand jury, discussing an assortment of crooks: Chase, Dubuc, catcher Heinle Zimmermann, and outfielder Benny Kauff. In New York, detective Val O'Farrell-the same O'Farrell present when Bill Burns propositioned A. R. at the Astor-claimed that not only Burns, but Kauff (whom O'Farrell claimed was close friends with Attell), and a gambler named "Orbie" or "Arbie" were among the first to know of the fix. O'Farrell also contended that it was Kauff and Attell who first solicited A. R.'s backing for the scheme.
Things were only beginning to get curiouser and curiouser.
Rothstein's scheme had clearly proven too clever by half. Maharg was to have served as an alibi, a fall guy. Now, he was the prime witness for whoever dared prosecute this mess, convincingly tying Attell, Zelser, and company to the fix. Sport Sullivan and Nat Evans should have known enough to work directly with Gandil or Risberg, mugs who could keep their mouths shut. Instead they met face-to-face with weaklings like Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams-men who would talk.
A New York Tribune reporter visited A. R.'s three-story stoneand-brick home at 355 West 84th Street to interview "a member of the family"-a source that sounded like the Great Brain himself.
"You can say that Maharg's story is substantially correct," the Tribune's source admitted. "Arnold was never in on that deal at any stage. He told me that he was much surprised when the proposition was put up to him, and declared to Burns that he didn't think it could be done. He never sent any telegrams to Attell in Cincinnati during the Series, and if Attell says he received any money or telegrams from him at that time [emphasis added-the telegram Attell produced to Burns and Maharg was sent the night before the Series started], it's a lie. Why should Arnold be sending telegrams when he didn't have a thing to do with the matter?
"I had heard long ago that Abe Attell had been bragging to friends how the deal was put over. He should keep on bragging now."
That afternoon Abe Attell watched ball scores being posted upon a Times Square scoreboard-and heard of A. R.'s comments. Realizing that Rothstein had no compunction about betraying him, he fired back, talking wildly and dangerously to a reporter:
You can say that the story placing the responsibility upon me for passing the $100,000 to the White Sox is a lie. It looks to me that Rothstein is behind the stories, and I am surprised at this, because I have been a good friend of Rothstein.
He is simply trying to pass the buck to me. It won't go. I have retained a lawyer to take care of my interests and in a day or two I will tell what I know about this thing in a story that will shoot the lid sky high.
You can see that someone is trying to make it appear that I was responsible for the deal at the Astor. Well, I can tell you that I was not responsible for the `deal' at the Astor. I can tell you I was not responsible for it. I will tell you what I knew about it at the proper time. Rothstein, I know, is trying to whitewash himself. Nobody can pass the buck to me. Maharg's story of the fake telegrams and all the rest is all bunk, and all the rest, as far as I'm concerned is all bunk.
I have done many things for Rothstein, and when he didn't have a cent I fed him and boarded him and even suffered a broken nose in defending him from a bootblack in Saratoga. We have not been on the best of terms for the last year, but I didn't think he would open up this way.
At Boston's Fenway Park, that busy September 29, 1920, Sport Sullivan watched the Sox trounce the A's 10-0, and learned that Lefty Williams had implicated him before the grand jury. He fled the park and headed for New York. Perhaps Rothstein could find a way out of this madness. On the train he bought a paper and learned Attell was squealing on A. R. Where would all this stop?
It wasn't about to stop with Sullivan. At Lindy's, Sport promised a reporter to reveal "the whole inside story of the frameup.... They have made ... made me a goat and I'm not going to stand for it.... I know the big man whose money it was that paid off the Sox playersand I'm going to name him."
He couldn't warn A. R. more clearly.
Rothstein grew edgier. From the beginning, he'd taken steps to protect himself. They hadn't worked. Now he would have to buy politicians. Investigating the New York side of the matter was Manhattan District Attorney Edward Swann, who quickly declared Rothstein off limits. A. R., revealed Assistant District Attorney James E. Smith, wouldn't be testifying before any grand jury "because of orders I have received from District Attorney Swann."
It didn't take much to control Swann. A. R.'s Tammany friends were always helpful. Controlling the press was entirely different. A. R. wanted his operations to proceed quietly, anonymously. All this clamor only hurt business. Controlling the Chicago grand jury was equally difficult. Tammany didn't rule Chicago, and A. R. had no desire to summer at Joliet.
Rothstein turned to thirty-four-year-old New York attorney William "The Great Mouthpiece" Fallon. Fallon had already established himself as not only the best-but the most spectaculardefense attorney in Manhattan. Relying on spellbinding oratorical skills and an uncanny ability to establish empathy with jurymen, he rarely lost a case. When these weapons proved insufficient, Bill Fallon employed obfuscation, demagoguery, judge baiting, concealment of evidence, bribery of witnesses, and jury tampering. With an entire nation outraged by the corruption of its national pastime, Fallon would have to employ virtually everything in his arsenal to save his client.
Recently Fallon had represented John McGraw, at the behest of Giants owner Charles Stoneham. After drinking and brawling one night at the Lambs Club with actor William Boyd, McGraw boarded a taxi to his West 109th Street apartment with two other men-one of whom, actor John Slavin, mysteriously fractured his skull. McGraw admitted purchasing four pints of whiskey at the Lambs Club-"I never fight unless I am drunk." A grand jury indicted him for illegal possession of alcohol. By the time Fallon took the case to court, McGraw had changed his story, denying purchasing any liquor that evening, and claiming he couldn't have, as he had generously given away all his cash to a needy Lambs Club cleaning woman. It was the sort of preposterous story Fallon's clients told with regularity, and which regularly won them acquittal. The jury freed McGraw in five minutes.
As the Black Sox case broke, Rothstein engaged Fallon to represent Attell and Sullivan. Attell had implicated Rothstein by name on September 29. Fallon publicly advised The Little Champ to keep a discreet silence. He didn't. A day after Fallon's warning-Attell vowed to reveal the "master mind" behind the "whole scheme." Broadway had only one "master mind": Arnold Rothstein.
Fallon tried changing the subject, advancing a curious theory of his new client's innocence:
The men [the Black Sox and the gamblers] undoubtedly are morally reprehensible, but it is my opinion that no crime has been committed. I consider the conspiracy indictment invalid as `conspiracy to commit an illegal act' means nothing unless you can prove that throwing a ball game is an illegal act. This I am prepared to doubt. If the gamblers who are said to have fixed this series are not profiting by an illegal act, they cannot be prosecuted as such. Profiting as such is not an indictable offense.
On October 1 A. R. issued his own statement: he was selling his gambling houses and quitting all gambling for good. The slurs, the calumny he had been forced to endure, had finally proven too much. He told the World:
My friends know that I have never been connected with a crooked deal in my life, but I am heartily sick and tired of having my name dragged in on the slightest provocation or without provocation whenever a scandal comes up.
I have been victimized more than once and have been forced to bear the burden as best I could, simply because of the business that I was in and the peculiar moral code which governs it. But that is all past.
The unwarranted use of my name in this unfortunate scandal was the last straw. I made up my mind to retire from the gambling business as long ago as last June, as plenty of witnesses will testify, but this has led me to make the announcement publicly, instead of dropping out quietly as was my original plan.
From now on, I will devote most of my time and attention to the real estate business and to my racing stable. It is not pleasant to be what some may call a "social outcast," and for the sake of my family and my friends I am glad that the chapter is closed.
A. R. went too far. Normally content to ignore his activities, the Times could not tolerate this drivel and unleashed a vitriolic editorial in his direction:
He Goes, but Is Not Driven
With patience at last exhausted, one Arnold Rothstein, who seems to be a man of commanding eminence in the circles in which he moves, has decided to give no more excuse to the censorious. It seems that in the past, whenever by any possibility his name could be linked with a current scandal, somebody has done it. Naturally this has worn upon the nerves of a man with a nature as sensitive as his. As he puts it in a printed interview of a length proportional to the importance of his determination, "it is not pleasant to be what some may call a `social outcast.' " And so. "I am going to devote most of my time to the real estate business and to my racing stables. "
It is interesting to note-and especially our police and the District Attorney's office should be regardful-that Mr. Rothstein's decision to retire from what he calls "the gambling business" is entirely an outcome of his own present preferences and desires. For years and years he has lived and prospered on the profits of what "some may call" criminal activities, and the only penalty has been the linking of his name with all the current scandals!
One easily can imagine how annoying that would be to him, but more serious inconveniences not infrequently have been endured by persons who did not confess, even after conviction, their law-breaking as frankly as does Mr. Rothstein. Evidently he has no fear that his revelation now will have effects any more troublesome than did his continual conduct of a business which the law professes to hold criminal.
There is a mystery here, but presumably the police will regard it with "that baffled look" which has come to be their usual, if not habitual, expression.
And while Fallon defended Sullivan and Attell (what a remarkable coincidence if Attell actually had operated independently of A. R.), he nonetheless acted suspiciously like Rothstein's counsel. On October 4, he announced: "Rothstein turned the proposition [the fix] down hard, calling the man who made it all sorts of names."
"I am making this statement," he explained piously, if improbably, "in justice to Mr. Rothstein, and I am not his attorney."
Meanwhile A. R. was caught in a pincer move. Despite his claims of leaving the gambling trade, A. R. maintained his Long Beach casino. Nassau County's District Attorney subpoenaed Attell, Nat Evans, and the real Curley Bennett to obtain information on Rothstein's Long Island operations. Enough was enough. A. R. would do whatever necessary to silence the Little Champ.
Fallon summoned Attell and Sullivan to A. R.'s home. Sullivan was in no position financially to disagree with Arnold, but Attell might have been. That September Abe had won $100,000 at dice. He put $20,000 to $25,000 of his winnings in a film-and not just any film. With amazing chutzpah, he invested in a baseball film called Headin' Home starring the game's greatest star: Babe Ruth.
Attell was solvent, but also practical. No need to antagonize so powerful and ruthless a figure as his old friend Arnold. No use taking chances serving time. Fallon ordered everyone to vanish: Attell to Montreal, Sullivan to Mexico, and Rothstein and his wife on a liner bound for Europe. A. R. would foot the bill. Attell and Sport Sullivan departed as planned. On October 9, Rothstein tested the idea of flying the coop, issuing this statement to the Morning Telegraph:
I am in a position to prove conclusively that instead of profiting I lost heavily upon the outcomes of the games.
I am most reluctant to make any statement to the public press concerning the conditions affecting the playing of the world's baseball series of 1919, but circumstances have arisen which prompt me to speak.
My physical condition is such that the imperative orders of my physician are to leave town for a short time in an endeavour to regain my health. In order that there may be no unfair nor unjust inference from my departure, I take this occasion to explain my position in this entire matter.
It is of course hardly necessary for me to explain how deeply grieved I am at the suggestion that I participated in some way in the outrageous happenings that are alleged to have taken place in the playing of that series.
Notwithstanding that these insinuations have absolutely no basis or foundation, I am unable to do more than proclaim my innocence of any part in these occurrences.
The Telegraph wanted to know more: Had A. R. known in 1919 that the series was crooked? "I not only had no part in the transaction but possessed no knowledge whatsoever of such events," he said, ignoring his very public run-in with Burns and Maharg.
"Did you bet on the series?"
"Yes," A. R. answered, "and I am in a position to prove conclusively that instead of profiting I lost heavily upon the outcome of the games.
"Now I have to go away and my purpose in speaking at this time is to make manifest my desire to exonerate myself from these totally unjust suggestions, and to have it known that I will return at once if afforded an opportunity to meet and disprove these slanderous accusations."
No one believed A. R. was leaving town for his health. The questions and accusations grew louder. "I want you to stop this noise," A. R. ordered Fallon. Fallon was a proponent of dragging a case out, letting public outrage die down before a case got to jury. But he also believed in spectacularly brazen courtroom stunts. He advised an adversarial approach: "I want you to get on a train and walk right into the lion's den."
"You mean go to Chicago?"
"Are you crazy?"
"Only in the earlier stages of insanity. Go to Chicago. You can stop an indictment with your Svengali pan."
"Of all the dopey advice I ever had! And I'm paying you for it, too."
"Listen. Go to Chicago and begin brow-beating everyone. Find fault with everything. Be temperamental.... I've got a great scheme."
"You'd better have."
"It's about photographers. Listen ..."
Fallon outlined his plan. He'd notify the Chicago papers of Rothstein's appearance. They'd assign photographers to cover his arrival, crowding and jostling him, yelling for a pose. Rothstein could then scream to the grand jury about his reception, claiming he was being treated like a criminal.
Rothstein wasn't buying it. "I don't want any photographs," he said.
"Hold your hat over your face, then. It's the best bet I can think of."
"You'd better take a night off and do some more thinking."
A. R. boarded a train for Chicago, ready to testify but still not convinced of Fallon's plan, but trusting his attorney's skills. Far more important, however, than Fallon's public strategy, was his backroom strategy and his talents as America's most accomplished jury fixer.
Arriving in Chicago, A. R. first stopped at the law offices of Alfred Austrian, one of the biggest lawyers in Chicago, counsel to both the White Sox and Cubs. Some said Rothstein asked Austrian to also represent him, observing that his interests and the interests of Austrian client Charles Comiskey coincided. If Rothstein went down, everyone went down-including half the talent on Comiskey's team.
That may have been, but if Rothstein and Fallon wanted Austrian or the grand jury on their side, they would have acted well before leaving New York. With whom had Rothstein conferred before departing for Chicago? Ban Johnson-who exerted far more influence over grand-jury proceedings than either Austrian or Comiskey. Ban Johnson-who was dangling the plum of chairmanship of a planned new baseball commissionership in front of the grand jury's presiding officer, Chief Judge Charles McDonald.
Johnson desired two items. The first was Charles Comiskey's head on a platter. A. R. couldn't help him there. The second was job protection. Johnson had ruled baseball's ruling body, the National Commission, since 1903, but his power was fading fast. Virtually every National League club and three of eight American League teams wanted Johnson ousted. He needed all the help he could get.
Arnold could offer him the New York Giants.
Bill Fallon was already extricating John McGraw from his Lambs Club difficulties, but of more significance to Comiskey than McGraw was Giants owner Charles Stoneham, A. R.'s secret partner in a series of shady brokerage operations. Stoneham provided knowledge of Wall Street; Rothstein provided protection from Tammany. Johnson sorely wanted Stoneham's support. A few weeks after A. R. visited Chicago, White Sox secretary Harry Grabiner recorded this in his diary:
[Cubs minority stockholder Albert] Lasker was told by Stoneham that Johnson came to see him to secure the lease on the Polo Grounds in the name of the American League [the Yankees were tenants of the Giants at the Polo Grounds] and would place new owners in the American League in New York that were satisfactory to Stoneham and Johnson would even let Stoneham to name the 3rd member of the National Commission.
Ban Johnson fulfilled his part of the bargain. Arnold Rothstein didn't.
After meeting Austrian, A. R. headed for the grand jury. Austrian accompanied him. The standard histories tell us that when Rothstein arrived, news photographers virtually attacked him. Actually, press coverage was minimal and unenthusiastic. Only two Chicago dailies, the journal and the Tribune, printed A. R.'s photo-and the journal ran it in a tiny grouping with three other witnesses.
Nonetheless, Arnold had enough to portray himself as a victim, assuming his best air of outraged rectitude. "Gentlemen," he implored the grand jury, "what kind of country is this? I came here voluntarily and what happens? A gang of thugs bars my path with cameras as though I was a notorious person-a criminal even! I'm intended to an apology. I demand one! Such a thing couldn't happen in New York. I'm surprised at you."
We'll never fully know what A. R. said in his half hour before the grand jury, beyond strenuously maintaining innocence and placing all blame elsewhere. The Chicago Daily journal reported he claimed to have thrown "Attell and Burns out of his office [sic-they never met at his office], told John J. McGraw ... what had happened and asked him to notify `Kid' Gleason, manager of the White Sox, that a group of crooked players ... were about to `throw' the championship games to Cincinnati."
For good measure, he told conflicting tales of his betting during the Series. Entering the grand jury, he advised reporters that he hadn't bet at all. Exiting, he claimed to the same reports that he lost $6,000.
His ordeal over, A. R. released a written statement, brazenly denying all guilt. It read:
Attell did the fixing.
I've come here to vindicate myself. If I wasn't sure I was going to be vindicated, I would have stayed home. As far as my story is concerned, I've already told most of it, but I guess you [the Grand jury] want it on the official record.
The whole thing started when Attell and some other cheap gamblers decided to frame the Series and make a killing. The world knows I was asked in on the deal and my friends know how I turned it down flat. I don't doubt that Attell used my name to put it over. That's been done by smarter men than Abe. But I wasn't in on it, wouldn't have gone into it under any circumstances and didn't bet a cent on the Series after I found out what was under way. My idea was that whatever way things turned out, it would be a crooked Series anyway and that only a sucker would bet on it.
I'm not going to hold anything back from you [the jury]. I'm here to clear myself and I expect to get out of here with a clean bill of health.
But reporters wanted more. A Tribune reporter demanded details of The Big Bankroll's gambling career. Gambling was the last thing A. R. would discuss. "Pardon me," he said as he walked away. "I believe the phone is ringing."
When A. R. returned to his impromptu press conference, the Tribune's man resumed, "Now, regarding your career as a gambler-?"
Rothstein interrupted: "I am now in the real estate business."
"Yes, yes, of course. But.... What was the largest pot you ever won?"
Rothstein thought for an instant, but remained on message: "I believed I vindicated myself before the grand jury."
The reporter asked about A. R.'s race track gambling, but Rothstein cut him off with the comment. "Abolishing of horse racing was largely responsible for baseball gambling."
Rothstein's obtuse responses and his chilling manner disconcerted his inquisitor, but he bore on, nonetheless: "How much money, in the aggregate, have you won in your career?"
"A frightfully dark and dismal day, isn't it?" And that was all The Big Bankroll had to say to the Tribune.
To another reporter, he put all the blame on Attell:
Attell approached me shortly before the world series of 1919. He told me that it would be possible to fix the series. I was both interested and amused at the proposition for I didn't think it possible to fix a team.
Attell asked me to put up a fund of $100,000 for the purpose, but finally I turned him down cold for the reason stated. I had no further conversation with him, heard nothing further about the matter, thought it was abandoned and went out and bet $6,500 on the Sox.
Now for goodness sake let me out of this matter hereafter. Chicagoans proved easily impressed. "Rothstein in his testimony today proved himself to be guiltless," pronounced Alfred Austrian, who had his reasons for being impressed. Illinois State Attorney Maclay Hoyne was so satisfied he told reporters. "I don't think Rothstein was involved in it [the Series fix]." The grand jury agreed. Two jurors became so smitten with their star witness that in years to come they would visit him regularly in New York. Their courtesy so touched A. R., that he would graciously provide them with theater and baseball tickets and fine dinners.
Ban Johnson also expressed confidence in A. R.'s innocence. "I found the man Arnold Rothstein and after a long talk with him, I felt convinced he wasn't in any plot to fix the Series," Johnson told the press. "He did admit to me that he'd heard of the fixing, but in spite of that, declared he had wagered on the White Sox. . . ."
Rothstein escaped indictment, helped, no doubt by Illinois State Attorney Hoyne's chief investigator: Rothstein pal Val O'Farrell. But A. R.'s associates weren't so lucky. The eight Black Sox, plus Attell, Sullivan, Chase, "Brown," Zelser, Zork, Ben Franklin, and the Levi brothers all found themselves indicted. No Illinois statute prohibited fixing sporting events, so authorities changed them with conspiracy to defraud bettors (in the form of a Chicagoan, Charles Nims, who lost $250 on the Sox) and players (in the form of catcher Ray Schalk), and to injure the business of Comiskey and the American League. If found guilty, they faced up to $2,000 in fines and five years in jail.
To Abe Attell $2,000 seemed a reasonable expense for winning tens of thousands, but five years loss of liberty was a little steep. The Little Champ remained in Montreal. Neither was Bill Fallon eager for him to return. "I'll not produce my client," Fallon proclaimed just before the grand jury finished its work, "unless there is a specific charge made, or my client is indicted. This is merely a dodge to reach someone else [Rothstein] through Attell."
Fallon didn't want Attell back until it was safe-safe for Attell; but more importantly, safe for Rothstein. In late October he advised Abe to return to New York. But before Attell left Canada, he fired another broadside, telling reporters how A. R. had already fixed the Series before he-Abe-had decided on participating. For good measure, Attell filled reporters in on current events, saying:
Rothstein is worth about $4,000,000 to $5,000,000, which he has got by his bets. He has always been a gambler and has financed anything or everything. District Attorney Swann ... says he has evidence that Rothstein told some men Chicago would win the series and that he then sent his men to bet on Cincinnati.
Fallon surely had second thoughts about bringing such an idiot back into the country. Nonetheless, on November 1, 1920, Abe returned to New York. Two detectives from the pickpocket squad collared him in Times Square. Fallon secured his release on $1,000 bail. It was all a setup. Police had not just happened upon Attell. He went to Times Square expecting arrest. Bill Fallon soon demonstrated why.
"The man sought by the Chicago authorities, the man indicated by the Cook County grand jury, is not the same man as my client, Abe Attell!" he told the presiding judge.
To identify Attell, Illinois Assistant State's Attorney George E. Gorman dispatched a Chicago manufacturer's agent named Sammy Pass to New York. Pass, a White Sox fan, had bet with Attell on the Series, and had been a complainant in the original indictment.
Fallon's special talents now came into play. The Great Mouthpiece met Pass at Grand Central Station. A $1,000 bill changed hands, and suddenly Abe Attell was not Abe Attell.
It went like this in West Side Court:
Q-[Fallon]: Are you the witness that complained and then testified before the Cook County grand jury against a certain Abe Attell?
A-[Pass]: I am.
Q-Did you ever see the Abe Attell who now is here in court?
A-No; I never saw that man before.
Q-Had you ever seen him until he was pointed out to you in this courtroom an hour ago?
Authorities were dumbfounded. Judge Donnelly let Attell walk, but police rearrested Attell later that afternoon on essentially the same conspiracy charges. Fallon obtained an injunction from Supreme Court Justice John M. Tierney. District Attorney Swann bellowed about questioning Attell on his own, but Fallon retorted that in the absence of evidence, he wouldn't allow it. Eventually the furor subsided, and Attell was indeed a free man-just as A. R. had promised.
The same confusion of identities shielding Attell and David Zelser, protected Nat Evans. The grand jury never bothered with Evans, instead indicting his alter ego "Rachael Brown." Authorities made little, if any, effort to untangle the situation, and Evans remained at liberty.
In Chicago, with or without Attell, Sullivan, or Evans, justice ground on. Key documents disappeared from the prosecutor's office, but authorities plodded on. Ban Johnson forced them to, rounding up new witnesses (traveling as far as Mexico to retrieve Sleepy Bill Burns) and evidence. The case went to trial on Monday, July 18, 1921, with Arnold Rothstein's specter hanging over the proceedings, as Assistant State's Attorney George Gorman reminded the court of Abe Attell's boast that A. R. financed the deal. Star prosecution witness Bill Burns implicated Attell, Zelser, Chase, and every player save for Joe Jackson. He admitted Rothstein turned him down, but revealed how Attell and Bennett claimed to speak for The Big Bankroll:
Q-Did Bennett say anything about whom he represented?
A-[Burns]-Yes, he said he represented Rothstein and was handling the money for him. Bennett also wanted to go to Cincinnati to confer with the players.
Q-Was anything else said?
A-I asked Attell how it was that he had been able to get Rothstein in when I had failed?
Q-What did he say?
A-He said he had once saved Rothstein's life and that the gambler was under obligations to him.
Q-At that time you were at the hotel was any mention made of money?
A-Bennett said Rothstein had agreed to go through with everything.
At one point Burns misspoke, testifying he met Rothstein in Cincinnati. In New York A. R. denied Burns' charges, jumping on that point and virtually anything else Sleepy Bill had to say:
William Burns, testifying at his trial of those indicted in connection with the alleged fixing of the world's series of 1919, mentioned my name and stated that certain persons referred to by him, without any authority by him or having any connection whatsoever with me, as his testimony effectively shows, have used or advanced my name to him as one of those ready to participate in the financing of the alleged deal described by him. Although his testimony, some of which is quoted below, is a complete exoneration of any act of impropriety on my part, I have, however, to make this statement in response to numerous requests made of me by representatives of the press.
When Burns, with whom I had no acquaintance, sought me out in this city and advanced to me his proposition to enter into a scheme to fix the world's series, not only did I most emphatically refuse to have anything to do with him or his proposition. But I told him that I regarded his proposition as an insult and him as a blackguard, with whom I wanted no dealing whatever and warned him not to come near or to speak to me on any pretext whatsover.
When the world's series was being investigated by the Grand Jury of Chicago without any solicitation from any source that I come to Chicago or any suggestion that I was wanted in Chicago, my name having been mentioned in the matter, I sought and obtained permission to appear before that body and gave a complete statement of Burns's conduct as I have just described it and also permitted the Grand jury and the authorities in charge of the investigation to subject me to the most minute examination possible with a view of their ascertaining whether I had any connection whatsoever with the matter under investigation.
The action of that body is known to everyone and is a complete exoneration and vindication of me, fully supporting the statements made by me at that time, of my absolute innocence of any wrong doing in connection with this matter.
What stronger proof can any one require to support what I have just said than the following testimony given at the trial by William Burns on Thursday last.
"Q-Mr. Burns, you claim you spoke to Mr. Rothstein in New York in connection with this matter?
"Q-Did you see or speak to him in Cincinnati?
"Q-Did you see or speak to him in Chicago?
"Q-Did you ever talk with him either than this one time you were in New York?
"Q-You spoke to him only once?
"Q-At that time you say you put this proposition to him?
"Q-Did he accept it or turn it down?
"A-He turned it down.
"Q-He turned it down?
It seems to me that it must appear to all fair-minded persons from what I have just said how wholly unwarranted has been the mentioning of my name in connection with the matter now being tried in Chicago and how greatly slanderous in the imputation that I participated in any way in the occurrence.
... I talked to Burns once in my life when he approached me in the matter of throwing the games. I didn't think he had a chance in the world and told him so, and added that even if he could assure me he could actually do it, I didn't want him to ever speak to me again as long as I lived. That was the first and last time I ever had knowledge of the situation until I heard my name being used out West [in Chicago].
Burns said I was waiting downstairs in the Sinton Hotel, Cincinnati, to join a conference between himself and the other ballplayers. I was never in Cincinnati in my life. At the time he mentioned, I was at the race track in New York ...
On Friday, July 22 Assistant State Attorney George Gorman revealed that some key evidence-Cicotte's, Jackson's, and Williams's confessions and waivers of immunity-had disappeared. When reporters asked how such things could happen, Gorman retorted. "Ask Arnold Rothstein-perhaps he can tell you."
Monday, July 25, saw presiding judge Hugo Friend admit the substance of the missing confessions into evidence, allowing the use of unsigned carbon copies-but only against the individual who made each confession. State's Attorney Robert Crowe (Maclay Hoyne's replacement) promised two new grand-jury investigations, including a probe of Rothstein's involvement in the disappearance of the documents. Crowe's office pledged to indict at least two additional ballplayers, but declined to name them. It also promised that more gamblers would be questioned or indicted. When reporters asked Assistant State's Attorney John F. Tyrrell if Rothstein would be questioned, he replied ominously: "None of those we expect to indict will be called as witnesses."
American League President Ban Johnson had also lost patience with Rothstein-after all, Giants owner Stoneham had helped elect Kenesaw Landis commissioner and end Johnson's dominance of baseball. "I charge," Johnson said in a written statement:
that Arnold Rothstein paid $10,000 for the [signed] Grand Jury confessions of Cicotte, Jackson, and Williams. I charge that this money, brought to Chicago by a representative of Rothstein, went to an attache of the State's Attorney's office under the Hoyne administration. I charge that after Rothstein had examined these confessions in New York City, and had found that the ballplayers had not involved him to the extent of criminal liability, he gave the documents to his friend, the managing editor of a New York newspaper. I charge that the editor offered these documents for sale to broadcast throughout the country.
Fallon calmly admitted possessing grand-jury minutes, saying it was all very innocent, having received them from Carl Zork's defense counsel, Henry J. Berger (until very recently an assistant state's attorney in Chicago). Berger denied everything, including being Fallon's representative ("I met him only twice").
In New York, Rothstein once again feigned anger:
My name was dragged into this by men who thought they might evade trouble for themselves or get some advantage by bringing me into it. I have never seen these confessions nor would I spend ten cents for the privilege of reading all the documents in the case.
Ban Johnson needs to watch his step: the most peaceful of men can be driven too far.
As suddenly as the tide had risen against the gamblers, it subsided. Nothing more was heard of indicting Rothstein. In fact, the state's entire case was collapsing. As the trial began, judge Friend dropped charges against Ben and Louis Levi. On July 27 he announced that even if Weaver, Felsch, and Zork were convicted, he would grant them new trials "as so little evidence" existed against them. Now only David Zelser and the remaining six Black Sox remained in jeopardy.
Buried among such news were Assistant State's Attorney John Tyrrell's comments regarding A. R.'s direct involvement with Attell, Zelser, and company. "It will be remembered," Tyrrell noted as he interrogated Zelser, who had conveniently forgotten that he and Attell (along with the Levi brothers) had shared the same room at the Hotel Sinton, "that this sample room he [Zelser] registered for is the one Attell kept his money in cases and hidden under the mattresses of his bed. It is the same place where the gamblers hatched their conspiracies and to which Rothstein had a private wire from New York."
"Rothstein had a private wire from New York ... "
In an era when people thought twice-and then twice againabout the expense of placing a single long-distance call, this was news indeed. That A. R. paid for a private wire to Attell and Zelser reveals that Attell and Zelser were not acting alone. They weren't pretending to have Arnold's backing; they had it all the way.
Thus Attell knew that he could safely stiff the players. Working as the left hand of Rothstein, he knew the players were getting enough money from Arnold's right hand-Nat Evans and Sport Sullivan-to keep them on the hook. And Evans and Sullivan knew they could toy with the Black Sox for the same reason-or if they didn't quite know why, A. R. would simply tell them not to worry about it.
Attell's working for A. R. ties up yet another loose end-one making no sense if Attell were operating behind Rothstein's back and, if not jeopardizing his "good name," jeopardizing his activities with Sullivan. That loose end is this: A. R. spent a lot of time and money shielding Attell from prosecution, hiding him in Montreal, having Fallon concoct his audacious "two Attells" scheme. If Attell had acted on his own, there would be no reason to shield him, no reason to buy The Little Champ's silence.
But, in fact, there was every reason in the world.
Rothstein's name surfaced again in the trial's closing moments. Carl Zork's other counsel, A. Morgan Frumberg, asked repeatedly why Rothstein or Sport Sullivan or "Rachael Brown" or Hal Chase ever went to trial. "Arnold Rothstein came here to Chicago during the Grand jury investigation and immediately went to Alfred Austrian, the White Sox attorney," Frumberg pointed out. "What bowing and scraping must have taken place when `Arnold the Just,' the millionaire gambler entered the sanctum of `Alfred the Great.' By his own testimony, Mr. Austrian admits conducting this financier to the jury and of bringing him back unindicted.
"Why was this man never indicted? Why were Brown, Sullivan, Attell, and Chase allowed to escape? Why were these underpaid ballplayers, these penny-ante gamblers from Des Moines and St. Louis, who bet a few nickels perhaps on the world series, brought here to be goats in this case?
"Ask the powers of baseball, ask Ban Johnson, who pulled the strings in this case? Who saved Arnold Rothstein?"
Judge Hugo Friend's instructions to the jury made each defendant breathe easier: "The state must prove that it was the intent of the ball players that have been charged with conspiracy through the throwing of the World Series to defraud the public and others, not merely to throw games."
Well, how could anyone prove what was in the mind of Shoeless Joe Jackson or Happy Felsch? The jury returned two hours and fortyseven minutes later, acquitting everyone-the Black Sox, Zelser/Ben- nett, Carl Zork. Everyone. Eddie Cicotte hugged jury foreman William Barry. His teammates lifted other jurors upon their shoulders. Judge Friend beamed. When Friend's bailiffs noticed his reaction, they abandoned any impartiality, "whistling and cheering" with the players. The camaraderie didn't end there. Defendants and jurymen found themselves celebrating at a nearby Italian restaurant. It was just a coincidence, of course, that both groups found themselves in adjoining rooms, separated by a folding partition, in the same establishment. Soon, doors opened, partitions folded back, and jurors and defendants rejoiced together.
In 1961 a newspaper columnist asked Abe Attell if the Series could be fixed again. "Not a chance," the Little Champ responded, "that kind of cheating died when they buried Arnold Rothstein."