Sunday, April 14, 2013

Creekmur was targeted by Purple Gang hood

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In 1950 Detroit Lions rookie guard Lou Creekmur was targeted in an extortion scheme by a former member of the Purple Gang, Detroit’s notoriously violent organized crime syndicate.

On Oct. 21, Dave Mazeroff was arrested in connection with a plot to extort $10,000 from Creekmur as hush money to cover up a non-existent assault on a young woman.

Police became involved when they were approached by 22-year-old Lucille Genoff, who told them Mazeroff had instructed her to accuse Creekmur of attacking her and to demand $10,000 not to go to the police.

According to the district attorney’s office, the woman refused to go through with the plan and Mazeroff threatened her. She said Mazeroff told her, “Don’t mess with me. You’ve heard about the Hooper killing. I’m fingerman in that one.” Police believed he was referring to the unsolved murder of State Senator Warren G. Hooper, who was killed while sitting in his car in 1945. Hooper was set to testify in a grand jury investigation into legislative graft in Michigan.

When he was told of the scheme, Creekmur denied knowing Genoff.

I couldn't find any record of the outcome of the Creekmur extortion case against Mazeroff. Nobody was ever convicted of pulling the trigger in Hooper's murder, though a number of people -- not including Mazeroff -- went to prison for conspiracy in the case.

Creekmur played his entire NFL career -- 1950-59 -- for the Detroit Lions. He was a six-time first team All-Pro and was elected to Hall of Fame in 1996. He died in 2009.

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