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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Republic: American Shylock: Arnold Rothstein (1882–1928)

From a new anthology, one historian’s lowdown on F. Scott’s interpretation of that A.K., A.R.:

But just what was the relationship between Arnold Rothstein and the 1919 World Series fix?

A recent investigative biography of Rothstein by David Pietrusza sheds new light on this question. Yes, Rothstein paid to fix the World Series. But he seemed to be one of several groups who were paying off players. It was multiply fixed. He fixed the World Series, but the World Series, contrary to the Fitzgeraldian myth, was no spectacle of innocence. Baseball games had been fixed with regularity by gamblers and players on the take at the time, and practically every American ethnic group had been in on it.

Unknowingly, I had accepted Fitzgerald’s Field of Dreams–style, Edenic sanctification of baseball and thus Fitzgerald’s unique diabolization of Rothstein as the first to ever dare tamper with the sacred sport. It’s a belief that seems ridiculous once viewed through the cold light of reality, as portrayed in Pietrusza’s biography.

Here’s just one sample of what Pietrusza has dug up about the reputation of baseball, and especially the World Series, before Arnold Rothstein entered the picture:

[Chick] Gandil [one of the so-called Black Sox, the eight Chicago White Sox players accused—but never convicted—of taking bribes to throw the Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds] had heard the whispers about the 1914 Series. And you didn’t have to go back that far. The American League heard rumors that the 1918 Red Sox–Cubs World Series was fixed . . . There were even question marks surrounding the 1917 Series. John McGraw suspected his second baseman Buck Herzog of taking a dive in that one.

In other words, Fitzgerald’s myth of the noble national game despoiled by the greedy Jew ignores the reality that not just the Series but, as Pietrusza also points out, individual games as well were up for sale before the Series. Baseball was no field of dreams but a swamp of corruption, a field of schemes. Rothstein was in on the fix but so were a couple carloads of other wise guys of different ethnicities.

If you build it they will bet. If you build it they will bribe, and take bribes.

AndrewJ Posted: October 25, 2012 at 03:11 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: gambling, literature, white sox, world series

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4283382)
Well, Remus can go #### himself.
   2. McCoy Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4283384)
I found David's book on Rothstein to be subpar. I came away with the feeling that the book didn't paint a complete picture or really inform me of what Arnold did in his life. For the most part it reads like Arnold was simply a gambler and not involved in organized crime. Also the parts about baseball are pretty jumbled and confusing.
   3. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4283387)
Remus will #### himself when Remus feels like it.

More importantly, how is Mickey Doyle still alive?
   4. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4283399)
More importantly, how is Mickey Doyle still alive?

I think Nucky realizes that his Billie distraction, not Mickey's decision (thanks to Rothstein) to send the trucks through Tabor Heights, was responsible for the subsequent carnage. Also, while Mickey may be a putz, he backed Nucky at a critical moment in Season 2.
   5. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 25, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4283403)
Rosenbaum never noticed that FSF was a racist as well as an anti-Semite?
   6. Morty Causa Posted: October 25, 2012 at 06:34 PM (#4283409)
And he preferred the company of men. But who doesn't?
   7. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 06:54 PM (#4283424)
I think Nucky realizes that his Billie distraction, not Mickey's decision (thanks to Rothstein) to send the trucks through Tabor Heights, was responsible for the subsequent carnage.


Mickey disregarded a direct and specific order to avoid Tabor Heights. Not only did he get 11 men killed he made a second payment to the local sheriff who immediately rolled over and helps Gyp Rosetti set up the ambush.

Not that a little introspection from Nucky regarding Miss West isn't warranted - with all the #### that's going on with Rothsfein and Rosetti, he's expending personal capital getting Chalky White to strongarm Eddie Cantor into screwing up his own career to help hers?
   8. Benji Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4283442)
Dave Pietrusza does Amsterdam, New York proud again. I worked with Dave's father Danny. Major Met fan.
   9. Downtown Bookie Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4283454)
In other words, Fitzgerald’s myth of the noble national game despoiled by the greedy Jew ignores the reality that not just the Series but, as Pietrusza also points out, individual games as well were up for sale before the Series. Baseball was no field of dreams but a swamp of corruption, a field of schemes. Rothstein was in on the fix but so were a couple carloads of other wise guys of different ethnicities.


Just for the record (in case there's someone out there who might be wondering) this is why I have problems with any attempt to analyze stats pre-Landis, be it for the Hall-of-Fame, the Hall-of-Merit, or just for the hall of it.

Forgetting speculation for a moment, let's just look at what we know to be true. We know players took money as part of an agreement to throw the 1919 World Series. We know that the manager and a coach for the St Louis Browns were willing to do whatever it took to help Nap Lajoie win the 1910 AL Batting Title over Ty Cobb. We know of players being banned from baseball as far back as 1876 for throwing games. We know of the legend that was Hal Chase.

And that's just what we know. If we then add to that all that historians suspect, theorize, and conject, we must ask ourselves when examining the statistical record, "How much of this is really real, and how much of these statistics are as real as professional wrestling?"

DB
   10. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM (#4283480)
Mickey disregarded a direct and specific order to avoid Tabor Heights. Not only did he get 11 men killed he made a second payment to the local sheriff who immediately rolled over and helps Gyp Rosetti set up the ambush.

In fairness to Mickey, during the prior incident in Tabor Heights, he attempted to reach Nucky at Billie's pad but couldn't get through, thanks to Nucky's assumption that the call was from one of her other flames. Consequently, the trucks turned around and went back to AC.

This time, with Nucky again nowhere to be found, Mickey succumbed to Rothstein's intimidating voice and sent the trucks through the town. (As you know, going to New York via the back roads was out of the question.)
   11. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 08:08 PM (#4283489)
we must ask ourselves when examining the statistical record, "How much of this is really real, and how much of these statistics are as real as professional wrestling?"


Take it to the NBA thread.
   12. Shoebo Posted: October 26, 2012 at 12:07 AM (#4283936)
So who has played the best Arnold Rothstein In Television and Movies
   13. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: October 26, 2012 at 06:36 AM (#4283980)
Nucky is easily the least interesting Character on BE. The writers seem aware of it too. You can tell at this pojnt they wish they were just making a gangster superfriends show about Rothstein, Lucciano, Capone, Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Masseria and the Irish guys to boot.

The scene in Italian between Masseria and Lucciano a couple weeks back was awesome.

The loss of Jimmy and the irrelevance of Harrow is deeply felt. I am enjoying the Van Alden stuff though.
   14. JoeHova Posted: October 26, 2012 at 08:51 AM (#4284007)
Nucky is easily the least interesting Character on BE.

Only if you exclude his girlfriend, wife and stepkids.
   15. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: October 26, 2012 at 09:34 AM (#4284033)
This time, with Nucky again nowhere to be found, Mickey succumbed to Rothstein's intimidating voice and sent the trucks through the town. (As you know, going to New York via the back roads was out of the question.)


Wait wait wait, Mickey works for Arnold Rothstein now? And he was, again, specifically instructed to take those back roads (I think either he or Eli said it was impossible but Nucky overruled them, so end of discussion). Remember the bottom line here - several hundred cases of hooch gone, 11 dead, loyal men, two bribes to local police lost, and Nucky's sole customer livid. And Mickey Doyle is still alive? He's lucky Nucky didn't castrate him for claiming to have offed Manny Horowitz. Nucky must be hypnotized by that laugh.
   16. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: October 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4284399)
For those interested, yesterday's interview with Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks). I'm not otherwise familiar with this actor, but I like the way he sees the character:

Q: Paul, What's it like playing Mickey Doyle?

A: It's sort of like driving a really fast car with a very small steering wheel.
   17. There are no words... (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: October 26, 2012 at 02:30 PM (#4284414)
But Mickey is very valuable: he brings people together...
   18. McCoy Posted: October 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4284415)
BE seems rudderless at this point.
   19. esseff Posted: October 26, 2012 at 02:53 PM (#4284429)
So who has played the best Arnold Rothstein In Television and Movies


That list doesn't include Ed Begley, Howard da Silva and others who have played Fitzgerald's Meyer Wolfsheim.

As for the excerpt, I think we've known since "Eight Men Out" that the fix was coming from several directions. That's what kept Asinof from being able to wrap it all up in a tidy bundle.

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