Sid Luckman

How Sid Luckman and his family got tied up with Murder, Inc.

  • Chicago Bears
  • Inc.
  • Murder
  • NFL
  • Sid Luckman
By Luke O'Grady April 6, 2021 2 Comment
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Remember Sid?

This summer, the Chicago Bears are on the hunt for their new starting quarterback. The Mitchell Trubisky era has come to an end, as the former 2nd overall pick is headed to Buffalo on a 1-year deal. A rocky career that will likely be remembered for worse than it was, it is, unfortunately, par for the course for the Bears. Chicago cannot catch a break at the QB position. Most Bears fans alive today have never known anything but mediocrity from Bears QB’s in their lifetime. Older Bears fans will tell you that we haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman.

That’s even more disappointing when you consider that Sid Luckman was literally the NFL’s first franchise quarterback ever. It’s the 1940’s, the NFL is young, and the Chicago Bears are the best team in the world. And who is the star of these Bears teams? Quarterback Sid Luckman. He led the Bears to four world titles between 1939-1949 and was named the quarterback for the all-decade team. In the decade, he will set the record for almost every passing statistic and help reshape the quarterback position forever.

Off the Field

It really is a shame how little some Bears fans know about Sid. Even lesser known is just how rocky Sid Luckman’s road to the NFL was. He and his family would be struck with life-changing news just months before Sid’s 20th birthday. Like most stories of the time, it has to do with organized crime and Murder Inc., as Sid’s father, Meyer Luckman, would be tried and convicted for murder.

It’s a tale of addiction and deceit, not too unlike most crime stories of the time. It dates back to before even Luckman’s days at Columbia, and it is a topic that Sid seldom addressed publicly. Even to this day, the details surrounding it are suspicious, to say the least. It is an interesting story that only made Sid’s eventual rise to the top more impressive.

The Luckman’s Come to American

The Luckman’s, Meyer and Ethel, first immigrated to America from Lithuania in the 1920s. Originally landing in Williamsburg, the couple moved to Flatbush when Sid was very young. Flatbush, a borough of Brooklyn, was not an overly large community but a community the Luckman’s called home. Sid attended Erasmus Hall high school and was starting to garner significant attention for his athletic abilities. People from around the neighborhood would flock to watch Sid play baseball and football. People from outside the city started taking notice as well, as Sid received no less than 40 college offers in his senior year.

Meyer Luckman was well known in the community as well. He was a respected man and a hard worker. Originally, he worked selling flour from a pushcart but would eventually make a real business out of it. He and his brother end up starting a trucking company that delivers flour to little bakeries all over New York. By the time Sid was entering high school, business was really taking off.

Not So Lucky

Unfortunately for Meyer Luckman, business success those days almost assured you a visit from the mob. Crime was at the very core of New York at the time, and when the mob came asking for favors, you were basically doing your part. And Meyer did his part. He did it pretty well too. In typical Meyer Luckman fashion, he worked fairly hard, earned some respect from the mobsters he worked with, and got more work. Nothing too crazy, mostly just picking up and delivering payments. But Meyer was reliable, and the mob liked that.

Now someone who wasn’t nearly as reliable was Meyer’s brother-in-law, Sam Drukman. Sam got on with Meyer and had been helping to run the trucking business as well. The problem was, Sam had a bit of an addiction problem. Sam loved to gamble, and to make matters worse, he wasn’t very good at it. His debt started to pile up, and Meyer started to get the feeling that Sam might be taking some money out of the trucking business to cover his debts.

This was a big problem. The more Meyer started working with the mob, the more their money got in with his. So when Sam is taking money to cover his debts, he’s not just stealing from his brother-in-law; he’s stealing from the mob. That’s is a very, very bad career decision. Eventually, someone decides that having Sam around is too risky for business, and well, you can see where this is headed…

“There’s a commotion at the Luckman Trucking Company.”

So this is how the story officially goes.

On March 3rd, 1935, around 8:30 p.m., somebody places a call to the Brooklyn police. They complain that there is screaming coming from the Luckman Brothers Trucking Company. The police make their way over to investigate. When they arrive, they force their way into the building. Inside, they find one Sam Drukman, tied up in the back seat of a Ford, dead.

That’s not all they find. They hear some bustling coming from across the warehouse, so the police officers go on the hunt. Immediately they discover three other men are still in the warehouse. They apprehend two, but the third takes off. A warning shot, fired by one of the policemen, startles the character enough to give up the escape. When the police officers finally round him up, they discover it’s Meyer Luckman, and he’s got his brother-in-law’s blood on him.

A Shocking and Grisly Act

It’s hard to say exactly what happened that night in 1935. Meyer claimed he went to buy cigarettes and came back to find the scene just like the policemen did. He even claimed he was the one who placed the call to the police in the first place. All three men found at the scene initially got off. But the pressure to snap down on organized crime saw the case reopened, and Meyer Luckman, along with his nephew Harry Luckman and mob associate Fred Hull, would be tried and charged with the murder of Sam Drukman.

For Meyer and Harry, this made almost no sense. Business was good, and Sam was family. Sure there were reports that Meyer had a bit of a temper (chopped up Sid Luckman’s bike, with an ax, just riding it on the street as opposed to the sidewalk), but nothing like this. For Fred Hull, on the other hand, it made all the sense in the world. Fred was a hitman for the mob, and his being on the scene that night removed any doubt about what really went on before the police showed up.

Aftermath

Meyer Luckman would receive 20 to life at Sing Sing correctional facility and pass away in jail in 1944. Sid tried a couple of times to have his dad released on parole to deal with his health issues but was never successful. Despite being probably his biggest fan, Meyer would never see his son play a single snap at Columbia or the NFL.

As for Sid, he handled the situation, as well as any young man could. Sid spent some of his first months in college going to the courtroom. Imagine watching other members of your family deem your father a murderer under oath. That’s a burden heavier than many can even imagine, and yet it never derailed Sid. Admittedly, Sid did get lucky because he found legitimate role models at both Columbia and the NFL. His coach at Columbia, Lou Little, was a fatherly figure to Sid and helped him to deal with everything in the immediate wake of the arrest.

A Son in Search of a Father

When Sid made it to the NFL, it was George Halas who would take him under his wing. Halas was never considered an overly warm or compassionate man, but read the letter Halas wrote to Sid before he passed away; it is about as touching as a goodbye letter can get and only cements just how much Luckman meant to Halas, and vice versa.

There is a chance that Meyer Luckman was telling the truth and that he was innocent of what happened. Maybe he wasn’t guilty of murder, but the truth is probably somewhere in between. As things were, avoiding run-ins with the mob, especially if you were successful, was near impossible. It was a different time. Even Sid got in with some questionable characters when he made it big in Chicago. Hanging around with the likes of Sinatra and DiMaggio will probably do that. Fact is, organized crime wasn’t uncommon at all, and a story like Meyer Luckman’s wasn’t one of a kind. But it’s one that not many know and one at the origins of the greatest Chicago Bears quarterback of all time.

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2 Comments

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Tanner Palmer

April 6, 2021

Most goated article I’ve ever read?

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Binky Dean

April 6, 2021

This article is goated

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