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November 4: Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein

November 4, 2014
ARNOLD+ROTHSTEINGambler and mobster Arnold Rothstein was shot in a New York hotel in a dispute over gambling debts on this date in 1928. He died two days later, age 46. Rothstein was an early bootlegger during Prohibition and is believed to have been the gambler behind the “fixing” of the 1919 World Series, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox (henceforth called the Black Sox) were bribed to lose games intentionally. Historian Leo Katcher described Rothstein, whose father Abraham was a wealthy businessman and chair of the board of Beth Israel Hospital, as “the J. P. Morgan of the underworld; its banker and master of strategy,” while Meyer Lansky said “Rothstein had the most remarkable brain. He understood business instinctively and I’m sure that if he had been a legitimate financier he would have been just as rich as he became with his gambling and the other rackets he ran.” Among those “rackets” was the narcotics trade, for which Rothstein provided significant capital. His henchmen during the 1920s included Dutch Schultz, “Legs” Diamond, “Lucky” Luciano, and Frank Costello. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald based his character Meyer Wolfsheim on Arnold Rothstein, as did Damon Runyan his character Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. “If a man is dumb, someone is going to get the best of him, so why not you? If you don’t, you’re as dumb as he is.” —Arnold Rothstein