Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Midnight Terrors


There’s an old boxing joke where a guy says, “Hey, you wouldn’t believe it, but I went to a boxing match last night and a hockey game broke out.” Well, imagine a New York City street gang that formed a baseball team so that they could expand their criminal empire. In the Gay Nineties in New York City, this actually happened, and the street gang was called The Midnight Terrors.

http://www.amazon.com/Mobsters-Gangs-Crooks-Creeps-ebook/dp/B006H99D1U/ref=zg_bs_11010_5

The Midnight Terrors were a group of young teenage boys, who terrorized the streets of the First Ward in the 1890’s. The First Ward was located on the southern-most tip of Manhattan. It ran eastbound on Liberty Street from the North River (now called the Hudson River), then continued on Maiden Lane, south to the Battery and all the way east to the East River. Governors, Bedloes, and Ellis Island were also part of the First Ward.

The Midnight Terrors were first called “The Dalton Gang,” after its leader, 14-year old “Chief” Dan Dalton, who commanded his gang from their headquarters on Broad Street. Other gang members included 14-year-old Bob Trail, 14- year-old Joe Hammill, 17-year-old Jim Styles, 19-year-old Al Morrett, 14-year-old Pete Oliver, and the baby of the bunch: 11-year-old Pat Kane.

Because he was so tiny, Kane’s specialty was to spread grease all over his body, then slither down the skylight of the business the gang was robbing. Once inside, Kane unlocked the front lock and let the rest of the gang in. The gang also specialized in the late-night muggings of any poor sap, dumb enough to walk the streets of the First Ward after dark. Each gang member carried a pistol and a straight razor, which they weren’t hesitant to use. The gang’s name was changed from “The Dalton Gang” to “The Midnight Terrors,” because the gang did all it’s business late at night, while the rest of the city was sleeping.

The biggest problem for the Midnight Terrors was boredom, especially during the day. One sunny afternoon, Dalton and a few of his gang members attended a local semi-pro baseball game. Dalton was quite impressed by the speed and ferocity of the event.

Dalton turned to a gang member next to him and said, “Hey dis game’s a pip! We ought to learn ‘ow to play.”

And that they did, but not very well.

Not that it made any difference. Dalton and his gang has other ideas in mind.

The Midnight Terrors tried to join a local baseball league, but were told they could not play in the league unless they wore proper uniforms, which cost a considerable amount of cash, to dress an entire team.

So a fast crime spree was required to raise the money to buy the uniforms.

In short order, The Midnight Terrors robbed Fredrick England’s Barber Shop at 4 Coenties Slip, Stephen Pyle’s Restaurant at 19 Coenties Slip, Charles Steckler’s Restaurant at 74 Pearl Street, and Meyer’s Saloon at 89 Broad Street. In addition, numerous individuals were robbed in the streets, sometimes even during the daylight hours. All the cash derived from these escapades were put directly into “The Midnight Terror Uniform Fund.”

Now resplendent in their sharp new uniforms, The Midnight Terrors were admitted into a baseball league, which played throughout the borough of Manhattan, and even into nearby Brooklyn. To make up for their lack of baseball ability, The Midnight Terror’s baseball team played a brand of baseball that could rightfully be called criminal. All the team’s member sharpened their spikes, and they did not slide directly into a base, but rather, right into the legs and chest of the opponent who was covering the base. As a result, countless fights broke out during games between The Midnight Terrors and their opponents, some of which became quite bloody. During these battles, baseball bats were used for other tasks besides just hitting the baseball.

To make sure they got the upper hand in these on-the-field-fights, The Midnight Terrors placed dozens of their non-baseball-playing gang members in the stands. As soon as an on-field commotion occurred, their cohorts would run onto the field, wielding bats, pipes, bricks, brass knuckles, and anything else they could get their hands on. The police were called in many times to break up these fights, but no arrests were ever made. The general feeling among the fuzz was that “boys will be boys,” and as long as no one was dead, or crippled, – no harm, no foul.

Fighting on the field was one thing. And as long as The Midnight Terrors concentrated their robberies and muggings in the First Ward, the First Ward police, most of whom were on the Midnight Terrors’ payroll anyway, looked the other way. However, “Chief” Dan Dalton’s plan all along was to expand his operations, by having his non-baseball-playing gang members rob the people sitting in the stands, while the game was going on. Since these games took place in several neighborhoods other than the First Ward, the police in other parts of the city would have none of The Midnight Terrors’ shenanigans. Besides, they had their own street gangs to deal with.

Spurred on by the police captains in other precincts, the First Ward cops rounded up as many of The Midnight Terrors that they could find, including “Chief” Dan Dalton. When The Midnight Terrors were arrested, the police found dozens of knifes and guns in their possession. Dalton, sure he would be back on the streets in no time, told the police captain in charge of their arrests, “Say jes keep an eye on doze guns and keys for us, Cap, will yer. ‘Cause we’ll soon be back.”

However, the roof fell in on The Midnight Terrors, when the prosecuting attorney asked for, and received from the judge, a $500 bail amount for each member of the gang, which was a kingly sum in the Gay Nineties. It was also an impossible amount of money for any of the gang members to raise, since their had spent all their ill-gotten gains on their spiffy new baseball uniforms.

Since they could not hit the streets and attempt to jump bail, Dalton and all his top gang members had no choice but to go to trail. When Dalton took the witness stand, he was asked by Judge Voorhis what he had done with all the money he and his gang had stolen. Dalton replied, “We eat almost everythin’ and wot we culdn’t eat we sold. Dat’s the way we wuz to get de uniforms fer de ball club.”

The trial of The Midnight Terrors was a slam-dunk for the prosecution. Dalton and his gang were convicted of numerous crimes, and sent to the slammer for long periods of time. This effectively ended the reign of the Midnight Terrors in Lower Manhattan.

And the game of baseball, as we presently know it, was saved.

http://www.amazon.com/Mobsters-Gangs-Crooks-Creeps-ebook/dp/B006H99D1U/ref=zg_bs_11010_5

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