February 13, 1921: Bandit holds up gamblers in den of former baseball star

William “Rasty” Wright. (Image: Public Domain)

On this day in Duluth in 1921, a gambling den operated by Rasty Wright, former professional baseball player, was held up by a masked bandit. Wright had played in professional baseball leagues from 1883 to 1899. In 1,454 minor-league games, Wright had a career batting average of .351 and accumulated 2,111 hits, 1,655 runs, 336 doubles, 137 triples, 42 home runs, and 388 stolen bases. He also made some enemies along the way and, after baseball, got into some trouble organizing card games. He moved to Duluth in 1908 and found trouble for “conducting a gambling establishment.” According to Zenith City’s Anthony Bush, “one notorious episode in Wright’s Duluth career reads like the scene from The Sopranos. In the early morning of February 13, 1921, a crap game at Wright’s apartment at 224 West Third Street was interrupted when an unwelcome guest—wearing a handkerchief over his face and a wig on his head—entered the room, pulled a gun, and robbed the 15 players gathered there. Reports initially indicated that $2,000 worth of cash and jewelry was stolen, but that number was later adjusted to $400. The robber fired three shots during the incident, two at fleeing participants who presumably thought the robbery was a police raid. The third struck the floorboards near Wright’s feet—he had not moved fast enough when the gunman demanded he put his hands up and face the wall. Duluth plain-clothes officers later stopped known gamblers on the street and asked for the time; nine who could not produce their pocket watches were suspected of being among the victims and booked on gambling charges. William “Reddy” Bownes, a 25-year-old African American veteran of World War I, was convicted of the hold up and sentenced to five to 40 years in prison. Wright was arrested for keeping a gambling place, the final time he would see the inside of a jail cell. He died at his home from a cerebral hemorrhage on October 14, 1922; he was 59 years old. You can read more about Wright here.

3 Responses to February 13, 1921: Bandit holds up gamblers in den of former baseball star

  1. I love this web site. Being a former Duluthian, Duluth history was little known to me before the internet. My Grandfather immigrated to Duluth, from Norway, in 1901. Fascinating stuff and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time. Grandpa was a gambler, didn’t drink, smoke, carouse, but loved his card games. I wonder if he was at these places.

  2. I heard of this also happening at the old Hotel Duluth one time. It forced the gamblers to charter a boat and do there gambling out on the lake from then on.

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