Throwback Photo of the Day: Al Capone and Gabby Hartnett at Comiskey Park
The photo you see up above is somewhat of a mystery. You can find it hiding on a few photoblogs and Pintrest boards with a different caption nearly every time.
In the picture, you see Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett signing a baseball for infamous Chicago crime boss Al Capone -- sitting in the first row, naturally.
While the photo is most often cited as coming from a Cubs-White Sox game, those of you over the age of 16 would probably point out that interleague play didn't exist until 1997, and neither the Cubs nor the White Sox made the World Series that year. That's true -- but it's not the whole story.
What you're looking at is, most likely, a photo from a September 9th, 1931 charity game between the Cubs and White Sox, played at Comiskey Park. According to the Chicago Tribune's reporting at the time, the game was organized to benefit Governor Louis Lincoln Emmerson's unemployment fund -- a fund which later became the Chicago branch of the United Way.
Charlie Root took the hill for the Cubs, facing off against White Sox pitcher Red Faber. The Cubs won the game 3-0, with Root also driving in all three runs.
Capone was a noted baseball fan, but there's more going on here than just that. He'd recently spent nine months in prison for carrying concealed weapons, and was now embroiled in a fight with the IRS over tax evasion -- a fight he would ultimately lose.
And yet, here's the biggest name in Chicago crime, sitting front and center at an event organized on the Governor's behalf.
A month after this picture was taken, Capone would begin an 11-year prison sentence for tax evasion -- but when you're a notorious gangster in the midst of a brutal war with the law, thumbing your nose at the Governor isn't a terrible consolation prize.