Academic journal article Base Ball

A Black Sox Mystery: The Identity of Defendant Rachael Brown

Academic journal article Base Ball

A Black Sox Mystery: The Identity of Defendant Rachael Brown

Article excerpt

Quietly nestled among the renowned sports names charged in the Black Sox scandal is that of an obscure figure: one Rachael Brown.1 Based on surviving evidence, it appears that Brown was indicted by the Cook County grand jury almost entirely on the word of Lefty Williams, who identified the negotiators of the fix as "two fellows introduced as Brown and Sullivan ... the gamblers from New York."2 Defendant Brown, however, was never taken into custody on the indictment. Nor did he ever make an appearance, either personally or via counsel, in a Chicago courtroom. From the time of the scandal until today, Rachael Brown has remained largely a cipher, a scandal actor whose identity has never been conclusively established. In the order in which they appeared on the public stage, here are snapshots of the most likely candidates for the role of Black Sox defendant Rachael Brown.

1. Abram Braunstein, Commonly Known as Rachel Brown

A contemporary of Arnold Rothstein, Abram "Rachel" Braunstein was a smalltime Manhattan gambler who first came to public attention via his connection to Louis "Bridgie" Webber, a key prosecution witness in the trial of the notorious Rosenthal murder case. Those proceedings culminated in conviction with death sentences for five men, including corrupt NYPD Vice Squad Lieutenant Charles Becker. While in a jail cell awaiting his fate, Becker claimed that Rosenthal's killers had had an earlier target, namely "'Rachel' Braunstein, Webber's partner in a 42nd Street gambling house and known in the gambling fraternity as Rachel Brown."3 According to Becker, a prospective new trial witness named Jack Sullivan would testify that Rosenthal's slayers had plotted to kill Rachel Braunstein and take his half of the gambling partnership. Sullivan "learned of it ... told Braunstein and escorted him to a steamship" on which Braunstein escaped to Spain, as reported in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, the New Brunswick (N.J.) Times, and the Washington Post, Oct. 29, 1912. In due course, this allegation precipitated the issuance of a subpoena for "Rachel Brown of 123 Manhattan Avenue," served while Brown was appearing in magistrate's court to answer a disorderly conduct charge that stemmed from a fight. Indignant, Brown disclaimed knowledge of the reason why the subpoena had been issued and "asserted that since the Becker trial he had been hounded and threatened on many occasions," as per The New York Times, Mar. 6, 1914.

After that, Brown apparently tried to stay out of the public eye. But four years later, "Rachie Brown, the old partner of Bridgie Webber" was back in the news after being netted in a police raid of the newly opened Picadilly Club in Manhattan. The arrestee identified himself as fish dealer Aaron Braun but vice detectives immediately recognized him as "the genuine 'Rachie Brown'" (Boston Globe, Dec. 9, 1918). The following summer, Brown was in custody again, arrested during a raid on a disreputable gambling resort in Saratoga, as reported in the Saratogian, Jul. 29, 1919. After much foot-dragging by local officials cozy with gaming interests, a specially convened Saratoga County grand jury returned gambling-related indictments against 48 targets, including Abram (Rachie) Brown, as per the Saratoga Sun, Aug. 20, 1920.4

None of the above received mention when newspapers nationwide ran stories about the forthcoming indictment of Joseph "Sport" Sullivan and Brown, "an otherwise unidentified gambler from New York City," in connection with the Cook County probe of the 1919 World Series (see, e.g., Chicago Tribune, Sept. 30, 1920). Within days, however, it was reported that "Rachie Brown, a gambler said to have been deeply involved in the Series plot, has left New York City and gone to Europe. His departure is regarded by underworld gossips as proof that he was mixed up in the baseball plot. He [Brown] had been known as a 'steerer' for Rothstein's gambling operations" (see unidentified news item reprinted in The Sporting News, Oct. …

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