The Ansonia in 1904, via Wiki Commons
With the 2018 World Series kicking off today, it’s amazing to think that one of the most iconic landmarks of the Upper West Side played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the World Series back in 1919. Back then, the Ansonia was a brand new, luxury residential hotel in Manhattan–it opened in 1904 with a grand total of 1,400 rooms and 320 suites. The lavish locale quickly became popular amongst athletes; even Babe Ruth would stay there and come to treat the entire hotel like an extension of his apartment. But in 1919, baseball players and the mafia found a match in the hotel. A small group of players, and one very powerful, moneyed mafioso, came up with a deal that would throw the results of the game pitting the Chicago White Sox against the Cincinnati Reds.
Though the residential hotel was without-a-doubt luxurious (the Beaux Arts building boasted an array of tearooms, restaurants, a grand ballroom, Turkish baths and a lobby fountain with live seals), it became “became indelibly linked with gambling and shady characters just two years after it opened,” according to an Ansonia history by New York Magazine. The owner William Earle Dodge Stokes, the Phelps-Dodge copper heir and shareholder in the Ansonia Clock Company, even encouraged it. He invited Al Adams, the notorious millionaire “Policy King” of the New York numbers racket, to stay at the Ansonia right after his stint in Sing Sing. He stayed two years, badgered by police and reporters before Stokes found him dead of a self-inflicted bullet wound in Suite 1579.
According to New York, “the Ansonia’s racy reputation also drew pro athletes.” After World War I, in particular, the Ansonia became the preferred home of professional baseball players in New York, including New York Yankees Wally Schang, Lefty O’Doul, and Bob Meusel. Babe Ruth moved there with his wife when the Boston Red Sox sold his contract to the Yankees after the 1919 season. Here’s an incredible piece of Ansonia history, again from New York:
There wasn’t a fitness regimen to follow in those days, and the ballplayers spent a lot of their evenings wandering up to the Babe’s suite, where there was always some sort of party or card game. Ruth, who thought of the entire hotel as an extension of his apartment, would sometimes wear his scarlet silk bathrobe down in the elevator to the basement barbershop for his morning shave. He was inspired to take up the saxophone while living at the Ansonia, and his squeaky bleatings were familiar up and down the hallways on his floor.
But before Babe Ruth arrived to live at the hotel, an illicit deal was made there to throw the 1919 World Series. On September 21, 1919, a group of Chicago White Sox players assembled in the Ansonia hotel room of first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil. Together, they agreed to throw the World Series, to be played against Cincinnati, for about $10,000 per player. The deal was made with Arnold “The Big Bankroll” Rothstein, then considered the king of New York’s gambling houses.
The White Sox lost five games to three–but they played so clumsily that suspicion arose. The result was one of baseball’s biggest scandals and the indictment of eight players on a charge of conspiracy to commit an unlawful act in relation to the throwing the game. Two of the players, Eddie Cicotte and Joe Jackson, even offered confessions. Though the group was ultimately found innocent by a 1921 grand jury, they were later banned from baseball for life.
The Ansonia today via Wally Gobetz/Flickr
For many years the Ansonia kept its reputation for scandal, hosting a variety of athletes, entertainers, and moneyed New Yorkers. (From 1977 until 1980, the hotel basement was even home to Plato’s Retreat, an open door swinger sex club.) But in 1992 the Ansonia was converted to a condo with 430 apartments, and by 2007, most of the rent-controlled tenants had moved out.
Though the Beaux-Arts details of the building were restored, so the stunning building looks much like it did back in 1904, the colorful characters are gone and have been replaced by multi-million dollar apartments.
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Neighborhoods : Upper West Side