Celebrity Cub Fan

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John Dillinger was a bank robber, a murderer, and a Cubs fan.

He was Public Enemy #1--so hounded and hunted by the FBI that he underwent drastic plastic surgery to change his appearance. The surgery left him disfigured, but didn't do a very good job of disguising his appearance.

Other bank robbers and gangsters tended to lay low while they were "on the lam," but die-hard Cubs fan Dillinger couldn't stay away from Wrigley Field. In the weeks before he was shot, June and July of 1934, Dillinger attended several games. He went to see them on June 8th, and he went again on June 26th. He was convinced his new face was fooling everyone.

At that June 26th game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, a fan in the stands (Robert Volk from Crown Point) couldn't keep his eyes off the man sitting two seats away from him. There was something familiar about him, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. Was it possible? Was that...no, it couldn't be. It looked like it could have been him. He introduced himself to the man, who shook his hand and introduced himself as Jimmy Lawrence.

A reward was being offered for Dillinger's capture dead or alive, so Volk considered turning him in, but he couldn't be sure. Would John Dillinger really take a chance by going to a Cubs game? Nah, it couldn't be him.

On July 8th Dillinger went to his final Cubs game.

Jim Weaver was on the mound for the Cubs. He was the fifth starter on the team that year, an 11-game winner at season's end. But it wasn't the Cubs pitching that drew fans to the ballpark that year; it was their hitting. Future Hall of Famers KiKi Cuyler and Gabby Hartnett paced the most feared offense in the league. (Photo: 1934 Cubs) They pounded the Pirates that day, 12-3.


The next day the Cubs left on their longest road trip of the season.

They were only three games out of first place on July 22, 1934. That afternoon they played an extra inning game against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Dillinger probably didn't know that the Cubs had blown it in the bottom of the 12th inning because he was in one of the only cool places in Chicago--the Biograph Theater. He was watching the movie "Manhattan Melodrama" with his girlfriend.

When he emerged from the theater and back into the scorching heat (it was over 90 degrees that day), he felt a different kind of heat. FBI Agent Purvis related what happened next:

"I was about three feet to the left and a little to the rear of him. I was very nervous; it must have been a squeaky voice that called out, 'Stick 'em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded.'"
Dillinger ran to the alley and allegedly reached for his gun, but he was cut down quickly by the agents on the scene. Agent Purvis was among the first ones to examine the body.
"Probably I will never forget, although I would like to, the morbidness displayed by the people who gathered around the shooting. Craning necks of curious persons, women dipping handkerchiefs in Dillinger's blood. Neighborhood business boomed temporarily. The spot where Dillinger fell became the mecca of morbidly curious."
When Robert Vogel saw the photo of the corpse, he knew his suspicions had been correct. He had been sitting just two seats away from John Dillinger at Wrigley Field.
Cubs fan John Dillinger went to his grave thinking that 1934 might be "the" year for the Cubs. Needless to say, it wasn't. They ended the season in third place, eight games out of first.