Wednesday, March 31, 2021

My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column: 'The Short Life of Hughie McLoon: A True Story Of Baseball, Magic And Murder'

 The Washington Times ran my On Crime column on Allen Abel’s The Short Life of Hughie McLoon. 

Veteran sportswriter, reporter, and author Allen Abel’s “The Short Life of Hughie McLoon: A True Story of Baseball, Magic, and Murder,” recounts the life of a deformed youngster who navigates through 19th-century professional baseball, boxing and organized crime in Philadelphia, my hometown.


As Mr. Abel tells it, the professional athletes at the time were a superstitious lot, and sports teams adopted human mascots, such as a short hunchback, as good luck charms.


Hughie McLoon (1902-1928) was deformed by a fall at the age of 3. He became one of the best-known mascots after he told Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack in 1916 that he could break the teams’ losing streak. The legendary baseball manager hired McLoon as a bat boy and McLoon stayed with Mack for three years and then shifted to boxing, where he brought good luck to several legendary boxers.


This led to his becoming a boxing manager and a manager of a Philadelphia speakeasy during Prohibition for Max “Boo Boo” Hoff, the Philadelphia king of illegal booze.


I reached out to Allen Abel and asked him why he wrote the book.


“After a dozen years on the Hill and in the White House briefing room, writing the 100% true biography of a murdered hunchbacked bat boy was a delicious change-of-pace,” Mr. Abel said. “Philadelphia was politically corrupt, morally bankrupt, murderously violent, and too drunk to care. Philly embraced Prohibition with all the passion of Donald J. Trump kissing Rosie O’Donnell.”


I asked how he would describe Hughie McLoon..


“He’s a wise-cracking, street-smart, umpire-baiting, fatherless boy searching for love and acceptance and finding it at the highest level of sport, celebrity, and organized crime — a broken boy who lived a leprechaun’s life and died a gangster’s death.” 

You can read the rest of the column below or via the below link:

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