The Great Depression was taking its toll on the country and in September of 1931, the city of Chicago’s two baseball teams came together to play a fundraising exhibition to benefit an unemployment relief fund. The crowd was nearly 35,000—a bigger turnout than the White Sox usually had for their American League games. Among those in attendance was a man famous well beyond Chicago. Organized crime boss Al Capone took the afternoon off and brought his 11-year-old son, Alphonse Jr., known as “Sonny” along with him. Behind the Capone boys and wearing fedoras are members of Capone’s “security detail”.
Sonny went home with an autographed baseball from Gabby Hartnett who stopped by the box seats and signed one for the youngster. A photo from that memorable afternoon in Chicago history is among the featured attractions in RMY Auctions’ August online catalog.
The photo is well known, but fewer than a dozen original copies remain with this one surviving for decades in a newspaper archive. The International News Service image carries their stamp on the back, along with the original paper caption.
A year and a half before his father-son trip to Comiskey Park, Capone had been released from prison on weapons charges. Just a month after the photo was taken, he was convicted after trial and on November 24, was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and a hefty fine. He suffered from paresis derived from syphilis and his health declined. Al Capone died in 1947. His son died in northern California in 2004.
Bidding in the auction, which includes over 400 photos, continues through Saturday at RMYAuctions.com.