Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series

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Overview

History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, an underworld genius. The real-life model for The Great Gatsby's Meyer Wolfsheim and Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, Rothstein was much more—and less—than a fixer of baseball games. He was everything that made 1920s Manhattan roar. Featuring Jazz Age Broadway with its thugs, speakeasies, showgirls, political movers and shakers, and stars of the Golden Age of Sports, this is a biography of the man who dominated an age. Arnold ...

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Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series

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Overview

History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, an underworld genius. The real-life model for The Great Gatsby's Meyer Wolfsheim and Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, Rothstein was much more—and less—than a fixer of baseball games. He was everything that made 1920s Manhattan roar. Featuring Jazz Age Broadway with its thugs, speakeasies, showgirls, political movers and shakers, and stars of the Golden Age of Sports, this is a biography of the man who dominated an age. Arnold Rothstein was a loan shark, pool shark, bookmaker, thief, fence of stolen property, political fixer, Wall Street swindler, labor racketeer, rumrunner, and mastermind of the modern drug trade. Among his monikers were "The Big Bankroll," "The Brain," and "The Man Uptown." This vivid account of Rothstein's life is also the story of con artists, crooked cops, politicians, gang lords, newsmen, speakeasy owners, gamblers and the like. Finally unraveling the mystery of Rothstein's November 1928 murder in a Times Square hotel room, David Pietrusza has cemented The Big Bankroll's place among the most influential and fascinating legendary American criminals. 16 pages of black-and-white photographs are featured.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Pietrusza, the author of several books about baseball, does a terrific job capturing Rothstein's colorful career and sheds new light on Rothstein's role in fixing the World Series, disputing the standard history, Eliot Asinof's Eight Men Out. He convincingly argues that not only was the fix much more complicated than previously understood, but also that Rothstein played the lead, not the supporting role. — John D. Thomas
The Washington Post
… the prolific baseball writer David Pietrusza offers up a morsel worth chewing over during the long, dark months between seasons … Pietrusza plunges us into early 20th-century New York City's remarkable, Broadway-centered underworld, in which gangsters and gamblers, newspapermen and songwriters, showgirls and pimps, crooked cops and lawyers and theatrical producers rubbed shoulders. — Warren Goldstein
Publishers Weekly
Writing a biography of the notoriously secretive Arnold Rothstein, a rum-and-drug-running, bookmaking loan shark who became one of the richest men in the world, is a gamble that, for the most part, pays off for Pietrusza (Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis). After a brief look at Rothstein's Jewish upbringing, Pietrusza concentrates mostly on his "business" interests and does an especially fine job of analyzing the involvement of the "Great Brain," as Rothstein was known, in fixing the 1919 World Series. Quick to point out that the fix "was not the perfect crime," the author tracks down almost every lead associated with what is still one of America's most astonishing crimes thanks to how the caper was played out in the public eye. Strong investigative journalism helps Pietrusza make sense of the complex back stories of Rothstein's fathering of the American drug trade and the gambling debt that led to his murder. While seeking to expose the truth behind Rothstein's dealings and death, the author sweeps readers are into the seedy world of Tammany Hall politics, violent mobsters, dirty cops and paid-off judges. While many of these side stories prove worthwhile entertainment, the vast amounts of information needed to explain them allows the reader only glimpses of Rothstein's true personality. Still, while some readers may clamor for a more intimate portrait of the subject, Pietrusza persuades in his assertion that Rothstein really had only one true emotion: greed. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Colorful biography of the crook who served as the model for Damon Runyon’s Nathan Detroit and Scott Fitzgerald’s Meyer Wolfsheim. In the wide-open precincts of the Tenderloin and Times Square, Arnold Rothstein (1882-1928), scion of a devout Jewish family, carried the moniker "The Brain." He was also known as "The Great Bankroll" and "The Man to See," pioneer of the floating crap game and the guy who fixed (though it wasn’t broke yet) the 1919 World Series. His story makes a (slight) change of pace for baseball writer Pietrusza (Ted Williams, not reviewed, etc.), who notes that the Black Sox were not the only colorful characters in Rothstein’s life and premature death. There were the grafters and grifters, the touts and toughs, the horse dopers, con artists, cops gone wrong, thieves, prostitutes, goons, bootleggers, labor racketeers, gold diggers, chiselers, and killers. Rothstein knew Fanny Brice and her man Nicky Arnstein, Max Factor’s bad brother, Herbert Bayard Swope, Lepke, Gurrah, and Legs. He did business with mugs on the way from Lindy’s and Belmont to Sing Sing and the hot seat, citizens more dangerous than Runyon ever depicted them. Rothstein was power broker to them all, displaying a cool that once enabled him to sidestep an armed robbery by taking the gunman to a Turkish bath. He played a tricky role in the Series fix, more fully dissected here than in standard histories of the event. His adventures were rife with unexplained, untimely deaths—his own among them. Nobody ever took the rap for Rothstein’s murder, but Pietrusza undertakes to name the perp in prose that recalls the verve of writer Gene Fowler, who used to hang out with these guys. Stick around for the epilogue,which thumbnails the lives and deaths of more than a hundred characters. True crime, evil doings, and monumental double-crossing by the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, and the Machine in a savory account of the legendary bad old days. (40 b&w photos, not seen) Agent: Robert Wilson/Wilson Media
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786712502
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 8/25/2003
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2010

    A interesting take on a piece of American history.

    This book really opened my eyes to the amount of gangs and gambling in the 1920's. This man really was a criminal genius. He fixed games and had major gambling debt with a lot of people. On occasion he would be making hundreds of thousands of dollars in a night, and the equivalent of that today is just ridiculous. Reading this has shown me that gambling was probably even more popular 90 years ago than it is today. There were so many underground gangs that were out at night in the Chicago streets. If you didn't play your cards right you ended up in jail or dead, Just as the case for Rothstein. It's really hard to describe what a life like that could lead to. For Arnold it was full of lies, cheating, and abandonment. He even put his own family in danger. This book was a lot different than I thought it was going to be, and it was very good. It was very informative, and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys baseball and learning about life in other time periods.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2013

    Rothstein

    Have a thesaurus handy when you read this book. The author repeatedly uses $50 words, trying to impress the reader with his extended vocabulary, which in my opinion takes away from the contentof the book.
    Lastly, the introduction of so many characters in every chapter leads you to wonder who the book is actually about. Not the best "mobster" reading material, but does give some interesting insight to that era in history and little revealed facts about the 1919 World Series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2004

    The Underworld King of Old Broadway

    Rothstein tells the story of the underside of the glitzy Broadway that reigned from the turn of the century to the end of the 1920s. Arnold Rothstein is best remembered today as the man behind the 1919 World Series fix, but that was just one example of A. R.¿s greatest ability, putting himself in a position where he could not lose. He got into nearly every conceivable area of crime and knew just when to get out, or exactly who to pay off to keep the income coming. He knew what the odds were when a sucker veered from this path, yet ¿The Big Bankroll¿ met his end after losing too much at cards and then refusing to pay his debt. Author David Pietrusza, who did a similarly masterful job with Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, helps the reader return to a world where mobsters, athletes, Tammany Hall politicians, and Broadway actresses rule the city. Everyone else better get out of the way, turn their head, or put out their hand for a bribe. Pietrusza¿s research is exhaustive and brings about new conclusions on Rothstein¿including significant forms of income few ever knew about in his lifetime¿and hands us A. R.¿s killer in a 75-year-old unsolved murder case. The author even provides a preface that introduces the many underworld characters involved in the story, as well as an epilogue that tells the reader what happened to everybody after A. R. got his.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2004

    A pathetic gambler dies at the hand of lady luck

    Rothstein takes 500 pages to explain what you could read for yourself with a simple web search at the historical files in the New York Times (who shot Rothstein and why). You will learn a lot of names, a lot of places, but not much else. Author kicks over a few rocks, then moves onto the next name dropper in the story. The background information is more valuable than the story of Rothstein (for folks interested in New York City and the birth of the underworld.) Rothstein would give the book long odds, maybe 20-1, but Rothstein liked betting on winners with long odds. Give the book 3 stars for effort and scope.

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    Posted May 16, 2014

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    Posted February 14, 2012

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    Posted May 28, 2013

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