Anthony “Joe Batters” Accardo was born in Chicago’s Little Sicily on April 28, 1906. At the age of five he enrolled in grade school, but by the time Accardo was 14 he’d become disenchanted with the education system. So had his parents, who, like many others of that era, filed a delayed birth-record affidavit, stating that their son had actually been born in 1904. The additional two years allowed Tony to drop out of school and begin working.
Accardo had several minor brushes with the law in his youth — among them a 1922 arrest for a motor-vehicle violation and a 1923 charge in conjunction with an incident at a pool hall where organized-crime figures were known to hang out — but he never spent a single night in jail. Around this time the teenage Accardo joined the Circus Café Gang, named for its headquarters, the Circus Café on North Avenue. Among his fellow gang members was James Vincenzo De Mora, also known as Vincent Gibardi. De Mora would later make his mark as Machine Gun Jack McGurn. Under that name he became one of Al Capone’s most trusted hit men and was the reputed planner of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
By 1926, the Capone organization was expanding rapidly and Big Al needed more soldiers for his army. McGurn, having experienced Accardo’s criminal abilities first hand as a member of the Circus Café Gang, recommended his friend to Capone as a possible recruit. Tony had already participated in nearly every racket and was a prime candidate for advancement. So it was that Accardo graduated from the street gangs of Chicago to Scar Face Al’s powerful Outfit. He was brought before Capone at the Metropole Hotel on Michigan Avenue and, grasping the hand of his sponsor, Machine Gun Jack, swore the oath of Omerta. Having taken the mob’s vow of silence, the 20-year-old Accardo became a made man in the Chicago Outfit.
Tony was one of Capone’s bodyguards on September 20, 1926, when eleven cars occupied by members of Bugs Moran’s rival North Side Gang attacked Capone’s Cicero headquarters, the Hawthorne Inn. Thousands of machine-gun rounds poured into the building. As soon as the bullets started to fly, Accardo pulled Al to the floor and lay on top of him to shield his boss from the onslaught. At the conclusion of the assault a couple of bystanders and several minor gangsters had been wounded, but miraculously, no one was killed.
Tony’s actions that day earned him a position as one of Capone’s regular protectors, and he soon began taking on more important assignments for the Outfit. He allegedly earned his nickname by smashing the skulls of two men with a baseball bat; when Jack McGurn told Capone about the beating, the boss was impressed and said, “This boy is a real Joe Batters.” The name stuck, and from that point on Tony was known as Joe Batters to his criminal colleagues.
Accardo also worked closely with Capone’s other top assassins; McGurn, Albert Anselmi, and John Scalise. It’s believed the four went to New York City in 1928 to kill Capone’s friend-turned-enemy, Frankie Yale, who was gunned down in Brooklyn. It marked the first time a Thompson submachine gun was used in a gang-related hit in the Big Apple.
Accardo continued to do the heavy work into the ’30s. When the Chicago Crime Commission released its first “Public Enemies” list in 1931, Tony came in at number seven.
After Capone went to prison in 1931 for income-tax evasion, Joe Batters moved on to do the bidding of Al’s successor, Frank Nitti. In 1933, the new boss appointed Accardo as capo (captain) of a street crew, in command of a dozen or so soldiers. The promotion made Tony one of the top twelve members of the Chicago Mob.
In the early1940s, Accardo’s career took another giant step forward when many of his superiors were implicated in what was known as the Hollywood Extortion Case. As the men above them went to jail, Tony and others moved up the ladder. Eventually, two gangsters were in contention for the top spot: Tony Accardo and Dago Lawrence Mangano. Before the issue could be settled by a vote, the unfortunate Mangano was murdered. Unidentified assailants in a passing car fired shotguns and .45 pistols at him, riddling his body with more than 200 shotgun pellets and five 45-caliber bullets. With his competition gone, Accardo became the number-one man in the Chicago Outfit in 1945.
In 1946, Accardo’s people approached James Ragan, the owner of the Continental Press wire service that provided racing results to bookies, and offered to buy him out. It was an offer Ragan felt he could refuse, and he turned them down. To people with Accardo’s mindset, that was bad enough. But Ragan compounded his sin by bringing the Outfit’s proposal to the attention of law enforcement. Shortly thereafter he was gunned down on State Street in Chicago, then poisoned while recovering in the hospital. Ragan’s body had barely assumed room temperature before the Outfit had control of Continental Press.
In 1950, the crime commission officially recognized Accardo as the boss of Chicago’s crime syndicate. However, his reign was cut short in 1957 when an IRS investigation forced him to step down and turn control of the Outfit over to Sam Giancana. At Giancana’s request, Tony agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity. Most law enforcement personnel believe that Accardo was actually the brains behind the Outfit for the next several years, keeping a low profile behind a series of “bosses.” One such figurehead was another career criminal, Joseph Aiuppa, who ascended to the throne of the Chicago mob in 1971.
Joseph John Aiuppa was born on December 1, 1907, in Melrose Park, Illinois. According to a 1958 FBI report, an examination of Aiuppa’s Selective Service questionnaire submitted in 1940 showed that he only attended school until the third grade. Aiuppa’s record from the Federal Penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana, from which he was released on March 3, 1958, after serving a year and a day for an unspecified offense, stated that he left school in 1918, at 11 years of age.
After working for the Alming Greenhouse in 1922 and as a driver for the Midwest Cartage Company in 1925, Aiuppa purchased the Turf Lounge in Cicero, Illinois, in 1930. That same year he also became a partner in the Taylor Company, which manufactured gambling equipment.
The same FBI report indicates that Aiuppa was connected with the John Dillinger and Alvin Karpis gangs in the early 1930s. In 1935, he joined the Capone Outfit, then being run by Frank Nitti, as a muscleman and gunner. He went on to take control of the Outfit’s criminal activities in Cicero and the western suburbs of Chicago. In 1958, Aiuppa was recognized as the boss of the “strip,” a row of illegal gambling and strip joints located in Cicero.
In the mid-1950s, when the Senate’s McClellan Committee investigated organized-crime’s infiltration of labor unions, Joe Aiuppa was summoned. When he appeared to testify, the gangster exercised his Fifth Amendment rights 56 times.
The FBI document concludes with this warning: SUBJECT IS KNOWN TO CARRY GUNS AND HAS ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED MURDER IN THE PAST AND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS.
In 1962, Joe Aiuppa earned the moniker “Doves” when he was arrested upon returning from a hunting trip in Kansas. Some 500 dead birds, all doves, were found in his possession, far exceeding the 24-bird limit.
Although Doves was vicious and loyal, he wasn’t considered especially bright or articulate. He rose through the ranks to become one of the top three men in the Outfit, but didn’t advance further for several years. His opportunity to move to the top came in 1971, when the current boss, Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, was convicted of bank fraud. Backed by Tony Accardo, Joe Aiuppa was picked to fill the resulting vacancy.
So, in 1971, the two most powerful men in the Chicago Outfit were Joe Aiuppa and the behind-the-scenes “real boss,” Tony Accardo. Between them, the pair had only about 12 years of formal education, but nearly 90 years of criminal experience.