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Weird baseball history: Giants vs. Yankees, the Titanic and a 'Great Gatsby' murder

Baseball history, the Titanic and The Great Gatsby

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

Via an April 1912 edition of The New York Daily News:

But the destitution of Titanic survivors was even bigger than Giant manager John McGraw's ego, so the game was arranged - on a Sunday, when blue laws still prohibited a regular for-profit game - and 14,083 fans each donated the usual price of a ticket while purchasing a program. Further donations were solicited by shapely starlets circulating through the crowd, while down on the field Cohan did his imitation of a newsboy, legendary Giants' good-luck charm Victory Faust reappeared and a moving-picture crew filmed the whole affair. Total take: $9,425.

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:

"The old Metropole," brooded Mr. Wolfshiem gloomily. "Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there."


"He turned around in the door and says, 'Don't let that waiter take away my coffee!' Then he went out on the sidewalk and they shot him three times in his full belly and drove away."

"Four of them were electrocuted," I said, remembering.

"Five with Becker." His nostrils turned to me in an interested way. "I understand you're looking for a business gonnegtion."

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. 

Read More: San Francisco GiantsNew York Yankees