The Boxing Indictments
This is an article from the Oct. 5, 1959 issue
The elite of the American Mafia convened in November 1957 at Apalachin, N.Y. State police stumbled on the gathering and revealed thereby the intolerable situation of men who dare to call themselves "the invisible government" assembled in a brazen congress of crime.
One month later Frankie Carbo, the "invisible government" of boxing, called a brassy conference of his own at Miami. It was no coincidence that a member of the Apalachin mob attended. So did some of boxing's top managers. There Carbo laid down the pattern of an elimination tournament which, he ordered, would end with Virgil Akins assuming the welterweight title just vacated by Basilio.
A delegation then called on James D. Norris, president of the International Boxing Club, to implement the plan. Jim went along with it and state athletic commissions blandly approved the proposal for a tournament. The Carbo formula was followed to the ultimate letter. Akins did win the welterweight title.
In the elimination tournament he defeated Isaac Logart at Madison Square Garden on a night when, by coincidence, D.A. Frank Hogan's men were passing outIn the elimination tournament he defeated Isaac Logart at Madison Square Garden on a night when, by coincidence, D.A. Frank Hogan's men were passing out subpoenas in the crowd to start an action that resulted eventually in Carbo's indictment as an undercover manager.
Then, on June 6, 1958, in the tournament finals at St. Louis, Akins briskly knocked out Vince Martinez, also according to plan. That night the St. Louis police intelligence squad picked up Blinky Palermo, a Carbo errand boy, and found him carrying an assortment of sleeping potions, including Seconal. At the time there was no special reason to believe that Blinky was using the drugs for any purpose other than, as he put it, to ease his aching back.
Akins was champion. Carbo was happy.
But six months later a dreadful thing happened. Akins was knocked out by Don Jordan, a fellow whose manager was beyond Carbo's control. Just before the fight Carbo, through Blinky, demanded 50% of Jordan. But Promoter Jackie Leonard and Manager Don Nesseth resisted the demand. They called on Truman K. Gibson Jr., president of National Boxing Enterprises and Jim Norris' good right arm, to protect them.
Gibson, oddly enough, advised them to tell Blinky that they would accede to his demand, the implication being that Gibson thought they could doublecross Carbo with impunity. When a dubious Leonard expressed fear of reprisal, Gibson soothed him.
"That stuff," he said, "went out with high-button shoes [SI, June 15]."
So Leonard told Blinky, with broad reservations, that he and Nesseth would submit to the extortion. But Leonard didn't submit.
Thereafter Leonard was subjected to threats by Blinky, by Carbo, by Joe Sica, a muscular hoodlum, and by Lou Dragna, a leading figure of the Los Angeles underworld.
And so one night, Jackie Leonard says, he was brutally slugged by two men as he was closing his garage door. Later a fire bomb was tossed into his house. And a man, snarling "stool pigeon," attacked him in a parking lot. The word was out along Skid Row that anyone who beat up Leonard would be enriched by $250.
The California State Athletic Commission started an investigation, then wisely enlisted the aid of Captain James Hamilton, head of the Los Angeles police intelligence unit. At the same time a federal grand jury in L.A. was investigating aspects of the Apalachin mob's activities as part of a nationwide federal drive to uncover the Mafia's place in national crime.
Instead of pursuing separate courses, these three agencies—of city, state and federal authority—formed a triple entente. Their cooperation resulted last week in the indictments and arrests of Gibson, Carbo, Palermo, Dragna and Sica on charges of conspiracy to violate the federal anti-racketeering act, interstate communications extortion and conspiracy. Gibson was charged only with conspiracy. It was an "essential part of the conspiracy," the indictment said, that Gibson "would use his power and authority" to persuade Nesseth and Leonard to accede to Carbo's demands for control of Jordan.
With astonishing speed, in a mere matter of hours, FBI agents rounded up the five who were indicted, and thus put boxing's story on Page One. They took Carbo in a room at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, where he had gone for a look at his ailing kidneys, and Gibson at a friend's apartment in Chicago. Palermo was nabbed in Philadelphia, Dragna and Sica in Los Angeles.
As Captain Hamilton put it, explaining his and the California commission's decision to let the Federal Government handle the job: "We had gone as far as we could locally. The FBI had the facilities to do this much more thoroughly."
That is true and may well be the key to an eventual cleanup, of a substantial and permanent nature, of boxing's dirty business. The Federal Government has the nationwide facilities, and some very apt anti-racketeering laws, at its disposal. District Attorney Hogan, operating within the confines of New York, was able to nail Carbo only on a series of misdemeanor indictments, and at that Hogan is the only district attorney ever to have bothered Carbo on a boxing rap. Nor has any state boxing commission, working with the meager investigative resources common to commissions, ever been able to do more than inconvenience Carbo and the mob temporarily. Most haven't even tried. Many a manager, promoter, fighter and fight have been licensed by boxing commissions with the full knowledge that they were thereby enriching the hoodlums who have done most to debase the sport.
There is the added factor that to a great extent the new problems of boxing are a product of the television age. The national ramifications of boxing in this age have discouraged local law enforcement authorities from any effective corrective moves. And television's impresarios haven't yet produced any measures of their own to keep the hoods out—if, indeed, they have taken time to think seriously about the subject.
The California commission, the Los Angeles police and the U.S. Attorney General's office have blazed a new and most intelligent trail by the simple device of sharing information and facilities, then allowing the best equipped of the law enforcement agencies to carry the ball.
This formula of cooperation, if followed in other states and cities, could be the most valuable development to arise from the indictments and arrests. It points a way by which authorities may pool resources and information to win an enormous victory over the lawless elements of boxing, all of which have hitherto been shrewdly aware of the statutory, physical and financial handicaps under which individual law enforcement agencies must operate. It is a device by which boxing may be enabled to survive and re-establish itself, both as a sport and a business.
Last week's arrests of Frankie Carbo, some hoodlum assistants and Truman K. Gibson Jr., president of National Boxing Enterprises, discussed above, were a commendable and expert job on the part of the federal authorities. But the Chicago FBI does seem to have committed an ethical foul against the person of Gibson and perhaps even should be penalized a round.
According to Gibson, the apartment house of a friend he was visiting was surrounded by perhaps a dozen FBI men. Spotlights from their cars played on the house as if "Dillinger was reincarnated." The result was hysterical turmoil among the women and children in the apartment. And when Gibson was taken to the home of a federal judge so that bail ($5,000) might be fixed, he was quite unnecessarily handcuffed.
Next day, Gibson says, U.S. Attorney Robert Tieken sent him a message of apology for the treatment but, of course, photographs of Gibson in handcuffs are still around and will be for a long time.
The crime of conspiracy with which he is charged is a serious one but Gibson is hardly to be ranked with hoodlum murderers like Carbo or treated like one.
It's been a great baseball season for Albert Kochivar, of Windham, Mont., a tall, balding, 45-year-old cattleman who has hated the New York Yankees for 27 years. When the Yankees have slumped, Kochivar has rejoiced, and after many a lean year (for him) he has now been chuckling merrily day after day at reports of declining batting averages, dropped fly balls, strikeouts and all the other difficulties the Yankees have labored under. "I started hating the Yankees back in Detroit in 1932," he explained, "because of their attitude. They struck me as thinking they were too good when all they were was a bunch of lucky stiffs."
The lucky stiffs went on to win pennant after pennant, and Kochivar, after studying engineering, went to Montana, prospered, got into real estate in Great Falls, and acquired two ranches. But he continued to hate the Yankees. His feeling was no routine hatred, such as was found among thousands of fans of other clubs in both leagues: it was a grand passion, like something out of opera, growing and swelling with each Yankee triumph, a first hate, as intoxicating in its way as a first love. Every time the Yankees lost, Kochivar wired the manager of the winning team and congratulated him. And early this year he bought space in The Sporting News to offer two weeks of Montana elk hunting to members of the team doing the most "to destroy the myth of Yankee invincibility."
As the season wore on and the Yankees skidded, Kochivar was kept busy wiring managers. When the Detroit Tigers beat the Yanks in a double-header May 3, he wired Jimmie Dykes twice in one day. On May 20 the Tigers took another from New York and dropped them to last place. This year Detroit beat the Yankees 14 times, more than any other team in the league. Kochivar took a poll in Great Falls, was delighted when his sample agreed with him that Detroit had "done most."
So invitations went out to the Tigers last week to come to Montana and hunt elk. The invitation is for two weeks, and the Tigers can come any time during the season, which runs from October 15 to November 15. Cookie Lavagetto of the Senators sent word that his pitcher Tex Clevenger wished he could hunt elk too, so Kochivar sent him an invitation, even though Washington beat the Yankees only seven times. A nonresident big-game license in Montana entitles the hunter to one elk, one deer, one mountain goat and one grizzly or one brown bear. There are plenty of deer right around the ranch, and Kochivar has arranged with rancher friends to take the players into wilder country if they have to go deeper for elk.
You might think that some faint signs of pity or mercy would show up in Kochivar's triumph, but no. He still chuckles joyously at word of Yankee catastrophes, and laughs outright as he says, "I'm glad I helped dispel the myth of Yankee invincibility." The only difference is that he has stopped sending telegrams every time a team defeats the Yankees. "The Yanks can win the rest of their games now," he says.
The pull of football comes from panoramas. It is for the sweeping runs and lofting downfield passes—or the hope of them—that the stands fill up on autumn days. But among the true followers of the game is many a man with an ardent and thoughtful devotion to its microscopic detail. Such is William J. Perkinson of Baltimore; through Sunday afternoons at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium last season he heard fellow Colt fanatics applaud the long passes of Quarterback John Unitas, likening them to guided missiles.
Not a bad simile at all thought Perkinson, an assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun and a man of scientific bent. As a missile launcher, Unitas must have problems common to all rocket scientists, Perkinson reasoned, including the need to make allowances for Coriolis force.
As any college physics major but few college quarterbacks can explain, Coriolis force, named for the 19th century French mathematician who discovered it, is a measurable effect produced on a moving object by the rotation of the earth. Could this make the same forward pass thrown in one direction go farther than if thrown in the other, and if so how much? Bill Perkinson took his question to an official at the missile-making Martin Company. In due time back came answers which Unitas may want to consider the next time he takes to his launching pad.
Noting that the earth's west-to-east rotation would have little effect on football fields facing north and south, the scientific report concerned itself largely with what happens to a passer's accuracy as he changes throwing direction in such National Football League towns as Washington and Los Angeles, where the fields face east-west.
"In Los Angeles," the report said, "the deviation is 1.7 inches per hundred yards. That is, such a pass thrown eastward there under the same conditions as a pass thrown north or south in Baltimore would travel 1.7 inches farther. One thrown westward would travel 1.7 inches less.
"Hence, in Los Angeles a long pass timed for finger-tip reception as a receiver tries to outrun a defending back will be long or short by one-half to three-quarters of an inch compared to the same pass thrown under the same conditions in Baltimore. Compared with Baltimore, Washington, only 40 miles away, would give you a measurable but hardly significant plus or minus deviation for a 40-yard pass."
The conclusion that quarterbacks need range-finding adjustments for Los Angeles and Detroit was passed on to Unitas and Baltimore newspaper readers by Perkinson for what it is worth. Colt quarterbacks may rightfully ignore it, he suggests, but he'll be cheering nonetheless. Meanwhile, he's busy telling housewives that catsup comes out of a new bottle more easily if they rotate it counterclockwise while trying to pour. It's the Coriolis force again. You see, liquids flow from—but that's another story.
Tip to a Trend
Statisticians, as is their wont, have been doing some counting these days, this time on what they are sure to call the return of the foot to college football.
What they've found is that the game's wider goal posts—nearly five feet wider—and freer substitution rules have led to a profusion of field goals soaring through the heady autumn air. Some of the kicks have been pretty good, too, like the boot which won for Tennessee over Auburn last Saturday and those of a University of Maryland end named Scottgun Scott, who kicked three pro-length field goals of 31, 41 and 48 yards in the West Virginia game.
But what impresses us even more was a rare event at New Orleans the other night. Like you, we have always believed that the drop kick went out, and forever, roughly with Prohibition: it is just too hard to drop the modern narrow ball on its svelte nose.
So what happens? Bobby Joe Green, a Florida halfback, brings back 50 years of football memories by beautifully drop-kicking an extra point against Tulane. The drop kick was no accident either. Tulane had been warned by scouts that Green could be expected to try it.
Chortled Lynn (Pappy) Waldorf, former Northwestern and California coach and now head scout for the San Francisco 49ers, who have already drafted Green: "I thought I was being carried back to another time stage. That's the first drop kick I've seen in—must be 30 years—and I can't even remember anything about the last one."
All of which brings to mind a prophesy of the late Herman Hickman, who wrote (SI, Jan. 27, 1958): "Farfetched as it may seem, I look for a return of the drop kick." These days that doesn't look so farfetched after all.
The novice aboard
Is now in a funk;
He used the stern sheets
To make up his bunk.
They Said It
Bill Stead, after surviving a 130-mph hydroplane somersault in the President's Cup race on the Potomac: "It's never been done before, I know that. But it isn't the kind of record Pm fond of establishing."
Beatnik in San Francisco predicting the pennant chances of a local baseball club: "The Giants are just like us—beat, beat, beat."
Joe Garagiola. St. Louis sportscaster, on the future of Milwaukee's ageless Enos Slaughter: "He'll be the first guy to play ball on the moon."
Stanley F. Horn, Nashville magazine editor and onetime owner of Nashville's minor league baseball team: "An aroused Congressman complains that 'there is too much crookedness in professional pugilism' but doesn't specify just how much crookedness he thinks there should be."