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1934 Fifty Years Ago

May 2024
2min read


Anna Sage was forty-two, John Dillinger thirty-one, when they met. She was the roommate of his new girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, who worked as a waitress in Chicago.

Dillinger had become the most notorious criminal in America in one incredible eleven-month period. Between September 1933 and July 1934, he and his mob robbed more than a dozen banks, plundered three police arsenals, broke jail three times, and shot their way out of police traps, killing ten people in the process. In March, after escaping from an Indiana prison, he underwent facial surgery, doused his fingertips with acid, and dyed his hair. He was using the name Jimmy Lawrence. He knew that he was the object of an intense manhunt but felt secure enough with his new persona to take his two lady friends to the movies.

Anna Sage had troubles of her own. She came to America from Rumania (her real name was Cumpanis) and operated whorehouses in Gary, Indiana, and in East Chicago. She had been twice convicted for these activities and twice pardoned by the governor of Indiana. But a third offense found a new man in office, and he refused her request for a pardon. Now the immigration bureau was trying to deport her as an undesirable alien. Anna Sage knew who Jimmy Lawrence was.

She made a deal with the FBI. She would finger Dillinger if the deportation proceedings were dropped and if the reward money, ten thousand dollars, would go to her. Melvin Purvis, who was in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, agreed.

On July 22 Anna told Purvis that the trio would be going to the movies; she didn’t know which of two theaters it would be. She would dress in red.

Purvis staked out both theaters. Dillinger’s party went to the Biograph, on Lincoln Avenue, to see Manhattan Melodrama , starring Clark Gable and William Powell. Purvis’s men saw Dillinger enter the theater at about 8:30 P.M. ; Sam Cowley, the FBI man in charge of the nationwide manhunt, telephoned J. Edgar Hoover for instructions and was told to wait until Dillinger came out.

The trio came out two hours later; Purvis lit a cigar —the signal to his men that the quarry was in sight—and the women disappeared. According to Purvis: “Dillinger went on, perhaps another dozen feet, and stepped down a curb to the mouth of an alley. My men, at least five or six, were closing in on him suddenly. … Becoming suspicious, Dillinger whirled around toward the men closing in. He was facing, I believe, toward the dark alley when he reached for his pistol.” Three FBI agents fired, hitting Dillinger more than once and wounding two women who were standing nearby. Dillinger was dead before they got him to a hospital.

J. Edgar Hoover, reported The New York Times , “expressed himself as delighted that Federal men had succeeded in ridding the country of its most dangerous criminal. ” Dillinger’s father met reporters at his little farm in Indiana. “Well, John is dead. At last it has happened—the thing I prayed and prayed would not happen. I want the body brought back here.”

JULY 10: Every member of the American League team that faced Carl Hubbell in the 1934 All-Star Game is, today, in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Gehringer, Manush, Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, Cronin, Dickey, and Lefty Gomez, the starting pitcher. The National League played host at the Polo Grounds in the Bronx.

Gehringer opened the game with a single, Manush walked. Hubbell’s catcher, Gabby Hartnett, walked to the mound and said, “Throw the screwball—it always gets me out.” Hubbell then struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. In the second inning he struck out Simmons and Cronin on four pitches each. Dickey singled and Gomez went down swinging at a third strike. In the third and last of his allotted innings, Hubbell set the side down in order on two fly balls and a grounder.

Given the stature of the men Hubbell faced, those five strikeouts in a row remain a feat unmatched in baseball history.

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