GEORGE UHLE: I played for Detroit 1929 through the beginning of '33. Detroit was a marvelous city then. Downtown was wonderful. You had no worries about walking around. The Missus used to go over to Hudson's and parade around. The Tigers were always a very good drawing ball club. In Cleveland, if you had six thousand people at a ball game, it was marvelous. Heck, in Detroit it was always a case of seven thousand to ten thousand people, and I mean during the week. There was a lot of difference.
I know Bucky said to me one rainy Sunday in Detroit, "Do you want to play?"
I said, "We've got a pretty damn good crowd here. Why not start? I'll tackle it in the rain."
So we played. I think we got beat. But we played.
Jumpin' Joe Dugan was a coach with Detroit then. I can't remember now exactly why they called him Jumpin' Joe, whether it was because he jumped ball clubs so often or was always hoppin' mad. But he was a real clever fellow. And real nice.
I'll never forget one incident. We stopped to get a beer once in Chicago -- Charlie Gehringer, Johnny Grabowski, Dugan, and myself. Al Capone's name came up in the conversation and one of us made the remark that "we'd love to meet him."
The fella who owned this saloon kind of worked for Capone -- a collector or something. Anyway, he says, "Would you really like to meet him?"
We all said, "Yes."
"All right," he says. "I'll arrange it for tomorrow night then." So the next evening we stopped by his place and he drove us to the Lexington Hotel, which was Capone's headquarters. He had it all arranged. When we walked into the lobby of the Lexington, the guy running the elevator stepped away and let us stand there for about five minutes. We stood in the hallway until he must've gotten the okay to come on up.
When we got on the elevator we were searched. Then when we got off on the floor where Capone had his suites, we were searched again. We went down this hallway to a door that led to a corner suite. We went in and there was a guy by that door. And then there was a guy by the door that led into the next room. I'd say we were searched four times by the time we got into Capone's office.
We sat down alongside the wall right inside the door. Capone was a little busy with a fella at the time -- Ed Strong, a promoter. Before we were introduced, we had a chance to look around. Capone was sitting at this big desk. On the wall behind him were hanging these great big paintings of Lincoln and Washington. Dugan took one look and said, "Look at this: Washington, Lincoln -- and the king sitting in the middle."
Capone didn't hear that. But he was glad that we came up. He was a big baseball fan. He wanted us to go out to dinner with him. He was going to some show that he owned, taking the troupe out, all the girls, and he wanted us to join him. We didn't want to do that, so we said thanks, but we can't.
We were leaving for Cleveland after playing Chicago, about the time a big fight was on, Stribling versus Max Schmeling. Capone turned to Strong, who owned a racetrack at that time and was backing the fight, and said, "These boys are going to be in Cleveland shortly. See that they get in to see the fight. Take care of them."
Never met him again. But he was fine with us. You know, they rave about all the money Capone made, but I don't about just how tough he was. He gave money away hand over fist to poor people. I heard he took care of a lot of people that way. He was sent away to prison a little while after that. Income tax evasion. Off the record, you know, he died of softening of the brain. Syphilis.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.