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Tilden: "I mean I was not involved in it, sir...."
The judge, simmering at this affront to the court's intelligence, allowed a bit more discussion, then glared down at Tilden and, without warning, loosed this thunderbolt: "All right, the court at this time is going to sentence you to the county jail for a period of one year...." Tilden gagged, stupefied. "I am going to recommend that this time be served at the road camp, and on your release from jail...you are not to be found in the company of juveniles...."
Big Bill slumped in his chair, aghast. "He was absolutely in shock," Maddox says. But Scott poured it on, speaking past the poor crumpled figure into the newspapers: "And I hope, Mr. Tilden, that this will serve as an object lesson to those parents who are concerned about the type of individuals that their youngsters are going around with. There is too much of this going on all the time in Los Angeles and elsewhere, and we've got to stop it."
Maddox tried to rise at this point: "If the court please, is there an opportunity for a stay of execution to permit this defendant..."
"No," Scott called down. "Put the sentence into effect immediately."
Big Bill was so stunned that Maddox had to help lift him up and support him as he led him away to the custody of sheriff's deputies.
After a week in the county jail, Tilden, No. 9413, was sent to the Castaic Honor Farm, a few miles north of Los Angeles, where he was a storekeeper and trusty until Judge Scott relented and granted him an early release after 7� months. But his probation became a purgatory; since he could not be alone with minors, Tilden lost much of what little coaching work he could obtain. He moved to smaller, cheaper apartments and became even more careless in his personal habits.
Some of his Hollywood benefactors abandoned Tilden, but the Cottens remained loyal, as did Chaplin. So did the Andersons, his family. "I want you to know, Marrion, that you're the one who must decide whether I ever see you and Art again," he told her after his arrest, but they did not desert him. In fact, Arthur was with Tilden, alone in his apartment, in complete violation of his probation, when the police showed up on Jan. 28, 1949, with another warrant for Big Bill's arrest.
He had been identified as the man in a 1942 Packard Clipper who had picked up a teen-age hitchhiker at 8 a.m. that day on Wilshire Boulevard and immediately began making improper advances. By now, pathetically, Tilden was reduced to cruising, trolling the areas around high schools and Y's. "I can't help myself," he told Scott, and he begged the judge not to make him live in the twilight of probation; give him his sentence and let him square the account inside so that he could teach his young friends again.
By this time, the public had lost interest and the judge was lenient. On Feb. 10, Tilden's 56th birthday, Scott returned him to Castaic, but only for violation of probation, for being alone with Arthur. The grave new charge, which could have been prosecuted as a felony, was forgotten. Tilden was given a year, but they let him out a couple of months early, for Christmas. There was no one to meet him when he was released in Los Angeles on Dec. 18, 1949. It was just days before the Associated Press half-century poll voted him the greatest athlete in his sport by a larger margin than any athlete in any other sport. J. F. Grover, the jailer, said, "Well, here's Big Bill Tilden again."