Weird baseball history: Giants vs. Yankees, the Titanic and a 'Great Gatsby' murder
Please gather yourself and all of your friends around the fire for a baseball story chronicling one of the most interesting tidbits in the history of the game. It involves the sinking of the Titanic, the father of the American musical comedy, The Great Gatsby and one of the most infamous American murder cases of the early 20th century.
We start in the spring of 1912. William Howard Taft is President of the United States.
April 11 - The New York Highlanders (the ancestors of the Yankees) wear pinstripes for the first time in a game against the Red Sox
April 15 - The RMS Titanic sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean en route to New York City
April 20 - Tris Speaker hits the game-winning RBI to help the Red Sox beat the Highlanders in the first regular season game played at Fenway Park
April 21 - The Highlanders and the New York Giants play an exhibition game at the Polo Grounds to benefit the survivors of the Titanic disaster
And that's really where this story begins ...
In two photos from the Library of Congress, American entertainer George M. Cohan is shown to be in attendance at that benefit game. Cohan -- who has been immortalized with a statue in New York's Times Square -- reportedly spent his entire day on April 21, 1912 traversing the five boroughs to sell a special edition of the New York American newspaper. But some think that the focus of those photographs should be the guy behind Cohan.
The guy at Cohan's side might be "Jack Sullivan," who was known for organizing newsboys and founding the Newsboys Athletic Club. Sullivan earned his place in American lore for his involvement in the murder of Herman Rosenthal, a notorious gambler and bookmaker who was gunned down after complaining about police corruption.
The infamous case was such a popular topic of conversation in early 20th century New York that F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned it in The Great Gatsby:
Though Sullivan was never accused of pulling the trigger, he was said to be one of the men seen fleeing the scene. Also, the Mr. Wolfshiem in that quote is Fitzgerald's character Meyer Wolfshiem, who is very obviously based on Arnold Rothstein, the forefather of American organized crime who reportedly fixed the 1919 World Series.
Basically, in the heyday of New York baseball, some of the sport's most historic franchises came together to raise money for survivors of the most infamous disaster of the 20th century and "The Man Who Owned Broadway" and one of the alleged conspirators in the notorious Rosenthal murder case were there to sell a special edition of William Randolph Hearst's now defunct newspaper.
Also -- Charlie "Victory" Faust -- was at the game. Faust is basically "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams, if Graham were a pitcher who was only signed to a contract because the Giants' superstitious manager was convinced that he was the team's good-luck charm.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be spending the rest of my week writing the screenplay you desperately need right now.