Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo.
Antonino Leonardo Accardo was born in Chicago's Little Sicily (an area
around Grand and Ogden Avenues) on April 28th 1906. His parents had emigrated
there from Sicily during the last years of the 19th century. At the age
of 5, Tony began grade school at the James Otis Elementary School not far
from where he lived at 525 North Armor Street. By 1916, he was in the fourth
grade at the Washington Grade School, still in Little Sicily. In 1920,
now 14 years old, school no longer held any fascination for Tony Accardo
and his parents, Francesco and Maria, were not impressed with his progress
and did what a lot of parents did in those times, filed a delayed birth
record affidavit stating that Tony was born in 1904, making him the legal
age to drop out of school and begin work.
Accardo's first brush with the law came on March 22nd, 1922, when
he was arrested for a motor vehicle violation. Then in 1923, he got fined
$200 for disorderly conduct at a local pool hall where mob figures were
known to hang out. It was at this time that the teenage Accardo joined
the Circus Cafe Gang. named for their hang out The Circus Cafe at 1857
North Avenue. Other members of the gang at that time included Claude Maddox,
Tough Tony Capezio and Vincenzo De Mora, later to become Machine
Gun Jack McGurn. Accardo progressed from muggings and pick pocketing
to burglary, car theft, armed robbery and aggravated assault. It was then
that the Volstead
Act implemented Prohibition. It was here that Tony's legitimate job
as a truck driver and delivery boy became useful because he could carry
illegal moonshine from the family run stills in Little Sicily to the speakeasies
that sprang up in and around the City.
In the next couple of years, Accardo would be in trouble with the
authorities a further eight times, never once spending a night in jail.
Also, his close friend, DeMora from the Circus Gang Cafe, would move up
and into the big leagues, joining the Capone Gang as hit man Machine Gun
As the organization of the gangs in Chicago progressed, Al
Capone required more and more soldiers to carry out his orders and
he would often turn to his friend McGurn for names of likely recruits.
One of the first guys McGurn singled out for consideration was Tony Accardo.
By this time Accardo had had his hands in all of the rackets a career criminal
could get involved in including hijacking and bootlegging. He was a prime
choice for Capone and so Accardo was graduated from the street gangs of
the 1920s to the Outfit run by Scar Face Al.
In the spring of 1926, Accardo was brought before Capone at the
Metropole Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Here, Capone explained to him that
he was being sponsored by Jack McGurn. He was ordered to take McGurn's
hand and swear to an oath of Omerta. The Chicago Mob has a very informal
initiation rite. The New York Mobs have a lot of ceremonial pomp and splendor
when it comes to being "made" the drawing of blood or the burning
of a playing card in the palm of the hand. But, in Chicago, it is just
the simple swearing of the oath of Omerta. And that was that. Tony Accardo
was now an officially "made" man in the Chicago Mob.
Accardo was one of Capone's bodyguards on September 20th, 1926,
when eleven car loads of the rival North Side Gang, led by Bugs
Moran, opened up on Capone's Hawthorn Inn headquarters in Cicero with
machine guns. Thousands
of rounds were poured into the building and within the first few shots,
Accardo pulled Capone down to the floor and laid on top of him to shield
him from the bullets spraying throughout the room. At the end of the tirade,
two bystanders and several minor mobsters were wounded but miraculously,
no one was killed. After that, Accardo was a regular bodyguard for Capone.
It was Accardo's job, as a front line bodyguard, to stop anyone from invading
Capone's headquarters, the Lexington Hotel. Throughout 1928, Accardo was
observed by detectives as he sat in the lobby of this hotel with a machine
gun in his lap. No policeman thought to walk up to the gangster and arrest
him for displaying such a lethal rapid fire weapon, for Capone at the time
owned most of Chicago's judges and police.
Accardo began to work closely with McGurn and Capone's other trigger
men Albert Anselmi
and John Scalise. Together, they were sent to New York to make the
hit on Frank Yale, a one time friend of Capone, now turned enemy. Frankie
Yale was gunned down in Brooklyn by machine gun fire as he drove by
in his Lincoln. This was the first time a Thompson submachine gun was used
in a Mob hit in New York.
Accardo was now up to his neck in the 'heavy' work of the Mob and
he became one of the most experienced and capable trigger men on Capone's
payroll. But, guns were not the only weapon in Accardo's arsenal. On one
occasion, McGurn returned to Capone's headquarters with a tale of how Tony
had smashed the skulls of two men with a base ball bat. Capone was impressed
and said "This boy is a real Joe Batters". The name stuck and Tony Accardo
was from then on known as Joe Batters to his Mob colleagues.
The spring of 1929 brought even more acclaim to the now shining
star of Joe Batters. He was ordered to participate in the hit on Bugs Moran,
now the leader of the North Side Gang after the demise of
Weiss, in what was to become known as The Saint Valentines Day Massacre.
Again, the foursome of McGurn, Scalise, Anselmi and Accardo were to participate
in the hit. Disguised as police men, the four gangsters raided the SMC
Cartage Company garage on North Clark Street and killed six of the seven
men inside. The seventh died later in hospital with 22 bullets in him.
However, they missed their main target, Moran, who was late for the meeting
that morning and fled when he saw the "police" show up at the door.
Accardo continued to do the Outfit's heavy work into the 30's and
in the first list of "Public Enemies" produced by the Chicago Crime Commission
on July 31st 1931, he was number 7 on the list.
After Capone went to jail on income tax evasion charges in 1931,
the Outfit fell under the leadership of Frank
'The Enforcer' Nitti. One of Accardo's first tasks under Nitti was
to take out Teddy Newberry, the new leader of the North Side Gang since
Moran had gone south after the St. Valentines Day Massacre. Accardo assembled
his hit squad and shot gunned Newberry to death on the Near North Side.
The body was then carried to a ditch in Porter County, Indiana, where it
was unceremoniously dumped.
Accardo would continue to serve Nitti as he had Capone, always
gaining more respect from his fellow mobsters as time went on. In 1933,
Accardo was made a Capo, a captain of a street crew, by Nitti and was given
command of a dozen or so soldiers running a gambling racket. This effectively
made Accardo one of the top 12 members of the Chicago Outfit. Tony was
on the upward rise through the ranks of the Underworld.
Accardo got a big boost in his career in the early 40's when many
of the top Mobsters in Chicago were implicated in the Hollywood Extortion
case (read the bio on Frank
Nitti for details). Many of the top figures in the Outfit were sent
to jail due to their association with the Hollywood Extortion case and
that left just one man above Tony Accardo his friend and counsel,
Ricca. When Paul Ricca was sent to prison in 1945, Accardo stepped
in to run the show in Chicago.
There was one other possible leader for the top spot in the Outfit
besides Tony. That was Dago Lawrence Mangano, but he was killed in a shoot
out at Taylor Street and Blue Island Avenue on August 3rd 1944. He was
shot with shotguns and .45 caliber pistols by unknown assailants in a passing
car. That car even circled around the block and came back to make sure
Mangano had been hit. Mangano later died in hospital from his wounds. He
had been hit by over 200 shotgun pellets and 5 .45 caliber bullets.
Through a ruse where Accardo pretended to be one of Ricca's layers,
Tony was able to get into the penitentiary at Leavenworth to consult with
Ricca on important issues in the running of the Outfit. It was on one of
these visits that Ricca told Accardo that the most important issue on the
Mob agenda was to get Ricca and the other men convicted in the Hollywood
Extortion case out of jail as soon as possible. This was no easy task but
Accardo pulled it off nonetheless. On the first day the convicted men were
due for parole, they were let out.
Accardo was later brought up on charges of defrauding the United
States Government for impersonating Joe Bulger, one of the Mob's attorneys.
This was how he was able to see Ricca in prison. The suit went to trial
but Accardo was later found not guilty by the jury. The common feeling
is that the jury had been compromised by the Outfit's corruption squad
and persuaded by money offers or brutality to vote in favor of an acquittal.
In 1946, Accardo made a major move in Chicago. He began to take
over the wire services operating in Chicago. The wire service was a must
have for all the bookmaking joints in the area. The wire would carry the
racing information from the race meets to the bookmakers so they could
set the odds and establish winners and payoff information. In 1946, the
major operator of the wire service was Continental Press owned by James
Ragan. Accardo went to Ragan and made him an offer, Ragan refused
to play ball. So Accardo instructed his people to pirate the wire service
from the Chicago operator, Mid West News Service, and offer it, in competition
to the legitimate service, to all the Mob run bookmakers. Accardo also
went one step further. He established another wire service company, Trans
American Publishing, and staffed it with employees poached from Mid West.
He then ordered all the bookies in Chicago to get the wire service from
Trans American and drop the Mid West service. Almost all the bookies toed
the line, those that did not were shut down or their operators were put
out of the business, permanently.
Ragan was infuriated by Accardo's ploys and decided to take his
problems to the FBI. He wrote an affidavit detailing his dealings with
the Chicago mobsters who had tried to coerce him and then threaten him
into giving up his wire service. The FBI opened up a special case on the
matter. The FBI had previously not gotten involved in Mob investigations
because the rackets did not cross and boundaries where the federal government
had jurisdiction. However, since the wire service used telephone lines
from all over the country and the headquarters of Continental was in another
state from Illinois, they could get involved with this one. Using close
surveillance and other measures, the FBI began to build a lot of useful
information against the Outfit and things began to look very bad for the
Mob. Then things turned pear shaped when Ragan was gunned down on State
Street in Chicago. Ragan was seriously wounded but he did not die from
his wounds. Instead, he was taken to Michael Reese Hospital where he continued
to talk to the FBI while he was nursed slowly back to health. Accardo was
furious that Ragan was still talking and insisted the man was silenced.
Six weeks after the shooting, the Mob finished the job. Ragan was poisoned
in his hospital bed on August 14th. With the death of Jim Ragan, the FBI
lost their primary witness and therefore could not make a good enough case
In 1949, Accardo and the Outfit had a problem in Cicero, a Mob
controlled strong hold for many years (Al Capone had two of his headquarters
there). A new mayor, John C. Stoffel, was elected and he appointed Joe
Horejs to Superintendent Of Police in the district. Stoffel and Horejs
were definitely not Mob puppets. The pair of them set about cleaning up
the criminal rackets in Cicero and the Outfit began to feel the pinch.
Many of the bookmaking joints were closed and a lot of Outfit men were
jailed on racketeering and gambling charges. Accardo moved his operations
further out of Chicago and into the suburbs where the jurisdiction fell
to the local sheriff. The local law was a lot easier to control. But still
something had to be done in Cicero. Accardo sent a soldier with a $100,000
bribe to Horejs, he refused the money. Then the Mob tried to muscle the
Superintendent, still he would not bend. So, the Outfit brains pondered
the problem and came up with a winner of a plan. They would take away the
police function from the Mayors office and put it in the hands of the Village
Board. The city ordinance was changed and Horejs was moved from office
and the old Superintendent, who was a little more tolerant of the Outfit,
was put back in place.
The problem was not completely fixed though. Mayor Stoffel resigned
his post in protest at the Village Boards decisions and went on a campaign
to clean up Cicero with a colleague, Frank Christenson, a former Cook County
District Attorney. The pair of them began to make some head way with their
policies and Christenson was whacked on December 9th, 1949. Stoffel himself
was confronted with the wrong end of some Outfit shotguns soon after but
he managed to escape with his life. He did not protest the situation in
Accardo is regarded as Chicago's best boss. He kept the mob focused
on continuing its very successful rackets, political corruption, controlling
the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund and the skim from mob controlled
casinos in Las Vegas. Wisely, he kept a low profile and insisted that other
members do the same. He retired in 1956 and was replaced by Sam Giancana,
who ruled for ten years.
Giancana is famous for his role in the assassination of John Kennedy.
Accardo fell afoul of the same people who had imprisoned his mentor,
Al Capone. IRS agents began to probe deeply into his fabulous income after
he retired and he was indicted for tax evasion. In 1960 he was convicted
and sentenced to six years in prison and fined $15,000. But the conviction
was later overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Chicago
because of so called "prejudicial" newspaper publicity that had occurred
during Accardo's trial. He was a free man and could go on to boast,
that he never spent a night in jail, even though Accardo had been cited
for contempt in the Kefauver Hearings in 1950-51 and had taken the Fifth
Amendment 172 times before the McClellan Committee.
When Accardo's tax conviction was overturned in 1960, he went on
playing "dead" as the top don of Chicago but systematically continued to
pull the strings, especially after Paul Ricca retired in 1968. Ricca would
die of natural causes in 1972, leaving Accardo in complete control, although
Sam Giancana was the line boss of all Chicago operations.