Showing posts with label Sam Battaglia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sam Battaglia. Show all posts

Monday, February 12, 2007

Capone, Mobsters, Relaxed in Pingree Grove

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Sam "Teets" Battaglia, Sam Giancana

What would the world’s most famous mobster want with little Pingree Grove?

Well, there were no police, few people were around and everyone in town minded their own business, locals say, making the little village an ideal place for Al Capone to relax.

Resident Alice Thurnau, 86, says Capone was even rumored to have owned a house in Pingree Grove. That house no longer stands.

Alice’s husband, Kenneth, 92, also known as “Shorty,” is the oldest resident in town to have been born and raised in Pingree Grove.

He says that when he was 12, he once had a personal encounter with the mobster. One day in 1927, Capone brought his car to the Thurnau Garage, opened by his father, Jack, a one-time mayor of Pingree Grove. Capone had a flat tire and asked Shorty if he’d change it. And after he did, Capone rewarded him with a tip. “It was pretty big,” Shorty said.

But Capone isn’t the only mobster thought to have cooled his heels in Pingree Grove.

Various residents say Sam “Teets” Battaglia, a member of the Chicago Outfit and close associate of Sam Giancana, who died in prison in 1973, maintained a house and farm on Damisch Road. But in Pingree Grove, Battaglia was known for furnishing all of the children with free pop, Alice Thurnau said.

“He wanted to make a good name for himself,” she said.

Thanks to Lenore T. Adkins

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Battaglias: From Siciliy to the Chicago Mob to the NHL

It was during a conversation about restaurants, Italian food and his Sicilian roots that Bates Battaglia mentioned his grandfather.

The Battaglias: From Siciliy to the Chicago Mob to the NHLHe said the old man's name was Sam and that no, Sam was not in the food service industry like Bates' father, Richard.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was speaking softly and politely -- like he always seems to -- as he explained that Sam "took a different" path in life. He said if a reporter wanted to know what that path was, he could punch Sam Battaglia's name into the Internet and find out for himself.

Sam Battaglia embodied the American Dream. He was nobody when he started out, nothing more than a poor uneducated son of Italian immigrants scratching out a living on Chicago's rough-and-tumble west side.

By the time of his death in 1973, everybody in town knew the Battaglia name. Sam had made it. He went out on top. But his American Dream was lived out in a sinister and shadowy otherworld populated with two-bit hoods, killers for hire, politicians on the take, corrupt cops, compromised union bosses and a code of honour that was written in blood.

"Sam Battaglia was the Don of the Chicago mafia," says Jack Walsh, the special agent for the Internal Revenue Service who finally caught up with Battaglia in 1967 and sent him to jail for 15 years. "Battaglia's street name was Teets, and he ran the Chicago Outfit from his farm out west of the city."

Bates Battaglia never met his grandfather. He was born two years after the authorities released the old man from prison so he could die at home, quietly, a victim of cancer.

Bates' parents divorced when he was a little kid. He and his two brothers, Anthony and Sam, would spend the school year -- and hockey season -- in the Chicago area with their mom, Sandra. Once school was out, they headed to Florida where Richard had become a successful restaurateur.

Neither parent told the Battaglia boys much about their grandpa, beyond Richard telling them that his father had been "well-respected. And that he was one of the nicest men, and that that's the way a lot of people knew him." But the kids around Chicago knew otherwise. And they talked, as kids do. It was out on the street playing road hockey where Bates learned that the man he knew as Grandpa was a notorious mobster.

"This is my family," Bates says. "This is who I am, and this is where I came from. And I wouldn't change anything about it.

"I'm proud of who I am, and who my family are."

Sam Battaglia first drew notice in Chicago in 1930 when he committed a stop-the-presses-style crime. At the time, he was a member of the 42 Gang, a wild bunch of juvenile crooks who ran amuck in Al Capone's kingdom of sin, stealing cars, robbing cigar stands and holding up nightclubs in the hopes that the big boss was paying attention.

At the age of 22, Sam Battaglia pulled a gun on the wife of the mayor of Chicago, William Hale Thompson, and asked her to hand over her jewels. He left the scene with US$15,500 worth of shiny trinkets, plus the gun and badge of the woman's police escort. The authorities were unable to positively identify Battaglia as the culprit. But Capone and his cronies were indeed paying attention. In no time, the young gangster nicknamed Teets -- because he had had his front teeth knocked out -- was on his way up the organized-crime ladder.

Bates' father is Sam Battaglia's youngest son. Richard currently resides in Raleigh, N.C., the city to which he moved in 1999 after his boy made it with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Richard understood that young athletes tend to get rich before they get wise, so he encouraged Bates to put his money in to something he could touch, such as real estate. The hockey player, who turns 31 next week, now owns two condominiums, a beach house, a house, a bar and a building in Raleigh's restaurant district that he and his dad plan to transform into an upscale Italian eatery once he stops playing. "We want it to be a place where you're not coming in dressed like a bum," Bates says.

In the meantime, Richard tends to the bar -- Lucky B's -- and shops around for other potential investment opportunities in the Raleigh area. (When Bates is home for the summer, his father cooks dinner four times a week for he and his younger brother, Anthony, a winger with the Columbia (S.C.) Inferno of the East Coast Hockey League.)

Asked how the son of the one-time Don of the Chicago Outfit can be playing chef to his boys instead of running a crew of his own in Chicago and Richard, polite like Bates though more verbose, answers: "How do you know I wasn't? You are asking me something I can't talk about."

Richard will say that whatever he did is in "the past," that he is "not real proud of it," and that he has never been in jail. He is simply Bates' dad now, and happy to be that.

He was a star high school athlete in his own day. Football and baseball were his games. Much like his boys, he only learned of Sam's line of work when the kids in the neighbourhood started talking.

Richard remembers Steve Sullivan, an Irish brat with a big mouth who later became his best friend, making some crack about his father when they were playing baseball as 10 year olds. "I ran over to the dugout and started beating the s--- out of him," Richard says. "That was my dad he was talking about. Steve didn't know that hurt me. He was just a little kid and being a smart ass.

"What really hurt me was that I would see my dad on TV for certain things, and I didn't understand it."

To Richard, Sam was the father who came home every night to have dinner with his family. And on Friday nights, he was the dad who piled through the front door of his house with all his buddies in tow to partake in one of his mother's multi-course feasts. The men would sit around the big round basement table after dinner smoking cigars and talking.

Richard, Steve Sullivan, and the rest of the Oak Park Pony League baseball team made it to the 1960 World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Richard remembers standing at home plate on a perfect sunny day, looking out to right field and seeing his father -- with a couple buddies in tow -- strolling along the fence line. "I got real excited -- and it kind of gets me now, just thinking about it," Richard says. "And don't you know it, I hit a home run right over their heads." The crime boss threw a big party for all the parents and the players after Oak Park won the championship game. There was lots of food and drinks. Sam paid for the whole thing.

Sam Battaglia had hit the big time, and was a millionaire several times over with a fortune built upon extortion, loan sharking, burglary and the Chicago Outfit's No. 1 moneymaker: gambling.

Battaglia's star in the Outfit's galaxy was approaching its zenith in the early 1960s. Sam (Momo) Giancana, Battaglia's old pal and a fellow graduate of the 42 Gang, was running the whole show. Giancana had brought La Cosa Nostra out of the back rooms of Little Italy and into the national spotlight. He was a friend of Frank Sinatra. He ran around with one of the singing McGuire sisters, and he allegedly held discussions with the CIA about putting a mob hit out on Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Giancana was jailed in 1965 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. In his absence, Battaglia assumed control of the Outfit. By then, the Chicago mafia was a far-reaching and influential empire. "They could produce more money and votes for politicians than any other organization in Chicago or even Illinois," Walsh, the IRS special agent, says. "They had tremendous power. They had master control in Chicago."

Battaglia's command centre was an opulent racehorse farm he owned in Kane County. Every morning his driver, Jackie (the Lackey) Cerone, would pick Sam up at his home in Oak Park and take him out to the property.

Battaglia was an untouchable, and then he made a mistake.

The Outfit, with the help of some crooked people who held influential political offices, was extorting money from building contractors in Northlake, Ill. Rocco Pranno, a.k.a. Jim Martell, was running the operation with Battaglia's blessing. Construction would be halted midstream on a major project under the pretext that an engineering firm needed to review the contractor's plans. The builder was then charged a hefty fee to continue the work, leaving Pranno and his partners to divide the spoils.

It was not long after Battaglia replaced Giancana that the new boss replaced Pranno with Joe Amabile, a.k.a. Joe Shine. Pranno was not happy with the new arrangement. Neither were his associates. One of them started talking to Walsh. The mafia turncoat wound up being the government's star witness in a sensational 11-week trial that resulted in Battaglia's conviction on extortion and conspiracy charges. (The witness is still alive, and Walsh refuses to divulge his identity).

During the court case, the special agent's wife began receiving calls at home. The voice on the phone would describe in detail the clothing Walsh's children wore to school that day. Walsh approached his superiors about it, and a meeting was arranged with the defendant so prosecutors could inform Battaglia of what was happening on the outside. "The old mafia had a code," Walsh says. "This was the only time anyone heard Battaglia speak, except for me when he said he wouldn't talk to me. "But he told them: 'Tell the kid he doesn't have to worry any more. It won't happen again.' "And I never got another call."

Sam Battaglia was arrested 25 times in his life: for burglary, larceny, assault and attempted murder. He was also the prime suspect in seven unsolved homicides.

His grandson, Bates, is a winger of modest talent on a mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs team but a budding property baron/restaurant owner in Raleigh.

Bates' younger brother, Anthony, is still waiting for his NHL dream to come true.

His older brother, Sam, runs a successful chiropractic practice on Chicago's west side -- on the same street where his grandfather got his start. He has an 18-month-old son, also named Sam.

Bates says about the closest he and his brothers have come to a life of crime was a juvenile addiction to Martin Scorsese's mafia film, Goodfellas. "We were so in to that movie," he says. "You see that and the hype and what the [mobsters] get, and it looks like a cool lifestyle at points. "But any one who has actually been in that life, or around it, like my dad, will tell you that you have those guys who you think are your best friends and they will turn on you in a second."

Richard Battaglia likes to talk about the "circle of life," and about how amazing it is that a dirt-poor family from Sicily can come to Chicago to chase the American Dream and, within a few generations, produce two sons who are professional athletes and another who is dedicated to healing. "Listen," Richard says. "I am proud of my dad, and I love him more than anything, and I wish he was alive today to see this. "The old days are gone and past, and I'm gone and past, and this is the new era where the Battaglia boys are going to do a lot of good things. "And that's the way it is."

Thanks to Joe O'Connor

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo Index

Anthony Accardo (1906-1992): mob boss, The Genuine Godfather Joe Batters

He had the longest career of any U.S. mobster. Tony Accardo, aka "Joe Batters" or "Big Tuna," served as the boss or chairman of the board of the Chicago Outfit from 1944 until his death in 1992.

Accardo was born in Chicago, the son of Sicilian immigrants. His father was a shoemaker. He grew up at Grand and Ashland avenues and started as a common street burglar, involved mostly in petty larceny. This caught the eye of "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn. Accardo joined the Circus Gang, working his way up the ladder of minor league organized crime. Gradually he progressed from muggings and pocket picking to armed robbery and aggravated assault. He became a member of Capone's Gang after he successfully planned and executed the Hanlon Hellcat shootout in which he led the killing of 3 rivals. As a teenage hood with the Al Capone mob in the 1920s, he participated in lots of Prohibition-era violence. By age 16 he was a high-ranking bodyguard, gunman and "enforcer." In 1929 he participated in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre of Capone rival Bugs Moran's gang on Clark Street.

Accardo received his nickname from his reputation for swinging a ball bat to mete out violence to rivals and others who'd displeased his bosses by failing to make their weekly loan-shark payments. After he killed two of those men, Capone is to said to have commented "This kid is a real Joe Batters".

By the '30s, with the end of bootlegging, the Mob turned its attention to even nastier stuff, like narcotics. During that era the Chicago Syndicate drove all the non-Italian gangs out of business until the Mafia was in complete control of the city's illegal activities. Accardo became Paul "The Waiter" Ricca's second in command. When Ricca went to prison from the Hollywood Extortion Case, Accardo stepped into the position of acting boss of the Outfit in 1944. He often visited Ricca in the federal penitentiary masquerading as his lawyer to obtain direction.

Eventually, around 1947, Accardo became the boss himself. Under Accardo's leadership, the Chicago Outfit expanded its dominion, taking Las Vegas away from the New York mob. This was first done through the Stardust Casino (which yours truly just visited as documented at the Vegas Syndicate and it is was I use the Stardust Odds for my NFL picks at the Sport Syndicate) and later expanded to several other casinos. Joe Batters also aggressively enforced a city-wide street tax, which ordered that the Outfit get a percentage of any money made illegally.

Around 1957, Accardo passed the leadership over to Sam Giancana. As consiglieri, Accardo removed Giancana in 1966 and named Sam "Teets" Battaglia top guy. This was the start of a "boss" merry-go-around that eventually led to Joe Batters assuming the role of boss again in 1971 and had him ordering the hit of Giancana in 1975 as he was cooking dinner in his basement after returning from Mexico.

Despite everything that went on in his empire, Accardo never spent a single night in jail. In the 1950-'51 Kefauver hearings, Accardo took the Fifth Amendment 172 times. In 1960 he was sentenced to six years in prison for income tax evasion but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of "prejudicial" newspaper publicity during his trial.

Accardo ran the Chicago Outfit for 40 years as boss and/or consiglieri until he died in his sleep due to heart problems at 86 in 1992.

In the past, I used to list all of the articles below in which Tony Accardo appeared. However, by clicking on the label with his name, you can find the same results.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

A century of Chicago mob bosses

Here's a thumbnail history of Chicago's mob leaders. Dates are approximate.

1910
"Big Jim" Colosimo (1910 to 1920). Chicago's vice lord runs brothels and nightspots, shot dead in 1920 at his popular restaurant. Death cleared way for Capone

1920
Johnny Torrio (1920 to 1925). Reserved boss, eschews violence, retires in 1925 after a fouled-up hit leaves him barely alive.

1925
Al Capone (1925 to 1932). Made Chicago mob famous. Perhaps the most successful mob boss ever, the subject of countless books and movies, done in by the IRS for tax evasion.

1932
Frank Nitti (1932 to 1943). With help from Jake Guzik, rebuilds the Outfit after Capone's departure. Commits suicide after he's indicted in 1943.

1943
Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (1943 to 1950). Has a son who's a drug addict and decrees no Outfit member can have anything to do with narcotics trafficking.

1950
Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (1950 to 1957). Considered the most capable Outfit leader ever. Never spends significant time in jail. Always plays key role as adviser, but facing a tax case, he officially hands reins over to ...

1957
Sam "Mooney" Giancana (1957 to 1966). Attends the infamous Apalachin, N.Y., meeting that draws national attention to organized crime, draws even more focus on the Outfit with his flamboyance, shared a girlfriend with JFK, flees country for eight years, slain in 1975 at his Oak Park home.

1966
Sam "Teets" Battaglia (1966). Tough leader who is convicted in federal court same year, dies in prison.

1966
John "Jackie" Cerone (1966 to 1969). Considered one of the smartest underworld figures, a strong leader, then the feds pinch him.

1969
Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio (1969 to 1971). The mob killer is an unpopular leader, then he's convicted of bank fraud.

1971
Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa (1971 to 1986). A Cicero mobster who ran gambling and strip clubs and grows into the job, with help from Accardo, Gus Alex and, later, Cerone. He is convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

1986
Joseph Ferriola (1986 to 1989). Heads the Outfit for only a few years before succumbing to heart problems.

1989
Sam Carlisi (1989 to 1993). Protege to Aiuppa and mentor to James "Little Jimmy" Marcello. Carlisi and his crew are decimated by federal prosecutions.

1997
John "No Nose" DiFronzo (1997 to present). Called mob boss by Chicago Crime Commission, but other mob watchers disagree.


Crime Family Index