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Capone at the Ballpark
( Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
I get many requests asking what was the event around this photo. Also, who are some of the people in the photo. Here are some of the details. The photo was taken on September 9, 1931, at Comiskey park. Al Capone took his son to the ball game. Not just any ball game.
The game was between the Chicago white sox and the Chicago cubs. It was a game to raise funds for charity. The cubs won 3-0. In the top view to the right you can see Vincent Gibaldi, aka Machine Gun Jack McGurn .
Front row: The real Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone. No, not a stand-in as most think or have read about!
(See **** at end of web page )
That particular day showed that most of the Capone entourage were playing musical chairs between innings.
Two Capone politicians between two bodyguards.
( Info Mario Gomes. Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
Disregarding the hairline as I have flipped a known photo (Right) of Daniel Serritella vertically so that the two left profiles could be shown side by side.
Albert Prignano. Note his signature wavy hairstyle
Why in the hell would anyone fear for Sonny's life with the amount of bodyguards there. Also, rivals had a strict rule as to not hurt a single hair on the head of an opponents family. Rivals would never attempt something in a huge crowd like that. Sonny was a very shy boy outside his family comfort zone and having a hero player like Hartnett in front of him with the photographers made him real shy. It didnít help to have all those torpedoes behind him attracting the crowd's attention. Capone brought him there to spend some special father and son time. Sonny probably didn't want the attention directed on him. Al wanted this quality time together because he had a sense that his upcoming tax trial might not go the way he is hoping.
See TAX TRIAL
Even Senator Roland Libonati who was there had stated Al Capone wanted Libonati to speak to his son at that ball game. He had stated that in an interview. So why would Libonati speak to a strangerís son when Al asked him to speak specifically to his son? What would be the point of making stuff up in later years?
(Decatur Daily Review December 28,1957).
Bodyguard Phil D'Andrea now puts himself behind Capone.
(Mario Gomes Collection)
Gabby Hartnett also defended himself to the commissioner saying he would sign that ball for any manís son, yes, even Al Caponeís. Kenesaw Landis chastized and forbade Hartnett to no longer pose for photos with gangsters like Capone. Hartnett had supposedly replied to the the baseball commissioner that he was totaly fine with that order. Hartnett also wittingly replied to the commissioner "to go and tell Capone" personally about his new rule.
(Star Tribune May 20, 1932).
The Petaluma Argus Courier September 25, 1931.
So as far as the stand-in boy nonsense used to replace Al's real son, I've decided to prove it right here! I've taken a known authentic Sonny Capone photo from my private collection and cropped Mae all the while keeping Albert Francis "Sonny " Capone. I've made a transparency of this photo and superimposed it on the famous baseball photo. Yep! It's Sonny alright! Click on Mae and Sonny photo below and keep your eyes on the nose, eyes, eyebrows and cheek bones. They match up perfectly!
CLICK ON PHOTO
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME!
( Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
In this top shot at left, is the catcher for the Chicago cubs, Charles Leo "Gabby" Hartnett signing a ball. Hartnett, a Cub for 19 seasons, dies on December 20,1972, exactly on his 72nd birthday. Gabby was criticized for this gangster aimicable autograph display. The man next to Hartnett is Illinois legislator Roland V. Libonati. World war 1 veteran, He later becomes a congressman and after retirement, a lawyer in private practice. Mr. Libonati never shied of his friendship with big Al and once said about Capone "I liked him, because he respected me."
Mr. Libonati died on May 26,1991 at the age of 90.
The Supposed Sonny Stand-in
**** Sam Pontarelli: the myth of a supposed Sonny Capone stand-in took root from Capone, The Man and the Era by Larry Bergreen. Right there this should send up a red flag, but there's more. If you look at the index, next to Pontarelli's name there is "pseudonym" - So Sam Pontarelli does not exist. We have no way of knowing if anything Bergreen attributes to "Sam Pontarelli" is true. Obviously, if that's not Sonny in the photo (which there no proof whatsoever that it isn't), it's not Sam Pontarelli either because there is no Sam Pontarelli. Bergreen's book is laden with many fairy tales, such as Capone being a bookkeeper in Baltimore, a cocaine fiend, and last, but not least is Capone being a gopher for boss Frankie LaPorte's Chicago Heights crew. No proven facts for any of these wild statements.
So where did the story come from? Again, Bergreen's book, see page 227. Here's the passage:
"...Capone became a regular at Chicago Cubs home games, always in the company of several bodyguards, and occasionally a young boy that everyone, including the newspapers, assumed was his son. But Capone was not so foolish as to display his only child in front of 30,000 members of the public. Sonny Capone remained secluded in the safety of the family house on South Prairie Avenue, and this boy was a stand-in. He was Sam Pontarelli, another of Capone's surrogate sons."
No footnote explaining anything about this passage; not when or why this supposed person stated it, no discussion of the proof that this supposed person provided showing that it's not Sonny, not anything to corroborate this statement. The only thing noted is "Pontarelli interview".
First Posted August 2006
Revised February 2017