Last Saturday afternoon Mr. Joseph (Newsboy) Moriarty and the rest of the boys from No. 4 Wing of the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton sat in the recreation hall and watched a movie called The Shadow of the Cat. It starred Andre Morell and Barbara Shelley, and if you want to know what it is about do not ask Newsboy to review it for you. He had other things on his mind.
Through much of last week people in Jersey City, where Newsboy comes from, kept rummaging through garages in which Newsboy, who does not like banks, stores his money. He has been in jail for the last four months, doing a two-to-three year sentence for running a gambling operation. On Tuesday a couple of carpenters found $2,421,850 of Newsboy's money. The FBI promptly grabbed it. This so aroused the Jersey City police that they went out and, three days later, found $168,675.52 of Newsboy's money. This made Treasury Department men very mad. They said they wanted to find some of Newsboy's money, too. By week's end, everybody wanted Newsboy's money.
As does the writer. He would like to put in a claim for $10 of it. The $10 was bet with Newsboy some years ago, and obviously he never did much more than leave it around in a garage. Now the law enforcement agencies, who never would have paid off if they had booked the bet, are holding the money. We want it back. One of our personal solicitors, Louis Nizer, was directed to spend the weekend mulling over the situation.
He said the government's prior claim might make our position difficult.
The bet was placed one hot afternoon in the summer of 1952. For some reason we had occasion to use the office facilities of a newspaper called the Jersey Journal. The editorial office shares the third floor of a building with a loan company. This tells you more about the newspaper business in one sentence than Editor & Publisher has in 40 years. Upon leaving the Journal that day, we requested the services of a bookmaker. Introductions were made to a man in a saloon located across the street. The play was $8 to win on a horse called Top String, which was running at New York, and also a $2 play on 432.
You received 600-to-1 odds on a number at this time. A numbers play involves a bet of anything from a quarter up on what three digits will form the last part of the total pari-mutuel handle figure for the day at a big New York track. For example, if the handle at Aqueduct is $2,852,359 then 359 is the winner for the day. It is the poor people's way of betting horses. The numbers volume is huge and it made Moriarty a millionaire. His runners would accept horse bets, and Newsboy himself was not afraid to accept a layoff on anything that moved. But numbers was his life.
The runner in the bar on this day accepted both of these small plays and then left.
"He works for Moriarty," the fellow with us said. "He's a big man around this town."
As the day wore on, Top String did a very bad thing. The horse stopped running somewhere around the eighth pole. And the day's number turned out to be 672. That took care of the $10.
Later on, in a diner, Moriarty was pointed out. He was a gaunt, lanky man who looked like a ghost and seemed to come out of the wall. He was about to walk right out of the place when we were introduced.