Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Updated: February 8, 3:38 PM ET
Biggest sports gambling scandals
By Jeff Merron
It didn't take long for the NHL to land back in the penalty box, did it? This time, it didn't take hundreds of players and dozens of owners, though -- it took only Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet, who's been charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy. It's reported that he took about 1,000 bets from six to 12 NHL players and -- sacre bleu! -- Wayne Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, totaling more than $1.7 million. New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said the bets were on football and basketball -- but not hockey.
This could turn out to be one of the biggest sports betting scandals in history. The sting operation that uncovered the ring already has a made-for-Hollywood name: "Operation Slap Shot." Nonetheless, the scandal, which is just in its opening act, is up against tough competition.
1. The Black Sox
Of the eight Black Sox banned for life by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for fixing the 1919 World Series, Shoeless Joe Jackson was the most noteworthy. Jackson had both the most impressive past and the brightest future. He was only 31 years old and had a .356 lifetime batting average, to this day the third-highest in history. Eddie Cicotte, though 35 in 1919, was the best AL pitcher that season, going 29-7 with 30 complete games.
The players weren't banned until just before the 1921 season. Jackson's 1920 season: .382 batting average, 12 homers, 121 RBI. Cicotte's 1920 stats: 21 wins, 10 losses, 3.26 ERA.
Jackson testified before the Cook County grand jury in September 1920, and the Chicago Herald and Examiner reported the following: "As Jackson departed from the Grand Jury room, a small boy clutched at his sleeve and tagged along after him. 'Say it ain't so, Joe,' he pleaded, 'Say it ain't so.' 'Yes, kid, I'm afraid it is,' Jackson replied. 'Well, I never would've thought it,' the boy said."
2. The 1951 point-shaving scandal
The many instances of point shaving uncovered in 1951 make this the biggest scandal in college basketball history. The numbers tell some of the story:
• Thirty-five active and former college players were accused of fixing games.
• Between 1947 and 1951, at least 86 games were fixed.
• Twenty players were indicted and convicted in the scandal.
• Fourteen gamblers were indicted and convicted.
• The careers and reputations of many players and coaches were ruined.
The biggest names involved were Jack Molinas, Sherman White, Ralph Beard and Alex Groza. Molinas bet on his own team, Columbia University. He averaged 12 points per game in his short career as a Fort Wayne Piston before the NBA banned him for life.
Groza and Beard, Kentucky All-Americans and first-round NBA draft picks, had already played two years for the NBA's Indianapolis Olympians (and were both first-team NBA All-Stars) before it was found that they shaved points while at Kentucky in the late 1940s. They were immediately banned.
White, a 6-foot-8 LIU forward who was the Michael Jordan of his day, might have been an NBA superstar. He would have been drafted by the Knicks but was barred from the NBA and later served nine months in prison for fixing games.
In 1999, New York Newsday listed the scandal as the worst event in New York sports history -- worse, even, than the Giants and Dodgers leaving town.
The scandal continued to scar the Wildcats program even after Groza and Beard left Kentucky. The two were among Adolph Rupp's "Fabulous Five" teams, which won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1948 and 1949. Three other Kentucky players also admitted involvement.
Rupp's team, which had won the 1951 NCAA title, had the dubious honor of becoming the first college basketball team to get the "death penalty," and were barred from play in 1952-53, a season in which the Wildcats probably would have again won the NCAA championship.
3. Pete Rose
He bet on baseball. He bet on Reds games. He put his autograph on a document that declared him permanently ineligible for baseball. Rose had been the Reds' skipper from 1984 until he was banned, at the age of 48, in 1989. The ban cost him dearly -- besides being denied a sure place in the Hall of Fame, he also forfeited what likely would have been a long managing career.
"The matter of Mr. Rose is now closed," commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti said after the ban was made public on Aug. 24. "Let no one think it did not hurt baseball."
But Rose reopened the case year after year, denying all allegations, despite the mountain of evidence against him. Finally, in 2004, he made a desperate attempt to get into the Hall of Fame before he kicks. In "My Prison Without Bars," he confessed, for an advance of about $1 million, that he had, indeed, bet on baseball.
4. Paul Hornung and Alex Karras
Hornung, the Packers' "Golden Boy" running back and 1961 MVP, and Karras, an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Lions, were forced to sit out the 1963 season, suspended by NFL commish Pete Rozelle for betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers. Hornung had bet up to $500 on games, said Rozelle, and Karras had placed at least a half-dozen $50 to $100 bets.
Hornung apologized. "I made a terrible mistake," he said. "I am truly sorry." Karras also said he was sorry, in his own way. Upon returning to action in 1964, he refused when an official asked him to call the pregame coin toss: "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I'm not permitted to gamble."
5. Connie Hawkins
Hawkins got the ultimate bum rap. The New York prep hoops superstar was booted from the University of Iowa after his freshman year after testifying in the 1961 point-shaving case involving Molinas. Hawkins had not been charged with doing anything wrong except, perhaps, hanging out with some people he should have avoided. He hadn't played a single varsity game at Iowa.
Hawkins went pro in 1962 and was named the ABL's MVP. He then played for the Globetrotters from 1963-67 and in the ABA for two seasons, including one in which he was named MVP. Hawkins had been eligible for the 1964 NBA draft, but commissioner Walter Kennedy made it clear he wasn't welcome in the league. He went undrafted in 1964, 1965 and 1966 and was finally officially banned after the 1966 draft. Hawkins
filed a $6 million antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. In 1969, the suit was settled out of court, so to speak -- the NBA lifted the ban and gave Hawkins nearly $1 million and a five-year, $410,000 contract with the Suns.
6. March Madness
In June 2003, Rick Neuheisel, the University of Washington football coach, was fired for participating in March Madness pools. Although he had clearly done so, the NCAA had found that a Washington compliance officer said participating in off-campus pools was OK. Neuheisel sued the university for wrongful termination and won a $4.5 million settlement.
7. Carving points for cash and cocaine
In 1985, five Tulane players were accused of point shaving in two games. Apparently, they needed to get the Benjamins and the Blow -- and fast. Among the players busted in March 1985 was John "Hot Rod" Williams, who was accused of pocketing $8,550 for three shaved games.
Williams was indicted on five criminal counts, but after a mistrial, the charges were dropped. Williams then went on to enjoy a nine-year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
8. Boston College's mob connection
During the 1978-79 season, BC hoops player Rick Kuhn hooked up with mob figure Henry Hill, of New York's Lucchese crime family, to fix nine games. Kuhn also convinced teammates Jim Sweeney and Ernie Cobb to join in the fun. The players shaved points in nine games during the season, and picked up about $10,000 for their efforts. Kuhn picked up a point-shaving record 10-year sentence, which was later reduced to 28 months. Neither Sweeney nor Cobb was charged.
9. BC's unlucky 13
After losing 45-17 to Syracuse on Oct. 26, 1996, BC football coach Dan Henning heard that some players might have bet against their own team. He informed the appropriate university officials. As a result, 13 players were suspended for the rest of the season and six were banned permanently. Henning, scarred by both the scandal and a poor 16-19-1 record at BC, resigned at the end of the season
10. Hal Chase
"Prince Hal" was a great batter who, it was believed, threw games during his 15-year career. It was never proven, but after the 1919 season -- in which he played for the New York Giants -- he was unofficially banned from the majors. Later, he was officially banned from the Pacific Coast League for, among other things, offering an umpire a bribe. His Giants teammate, 1912 Triple Crown winner Heinie Zimmerman, was also barred from baseball after the 1919 season for fixing games.
The former Ohio State quarterback, then with the Colts, was suspended by the NFL in 1983 after it was learned he had gambling debts of over $150,000. After his NFL career ended in 1985, Schlichter's compulsive gambling problems landed him in prison several times for fraud, forgery and other charges. He is currently incarcerated in Indiana, due for release in 2008.
The Dodgers manager missed out on Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season, suspended from baseball six days before Opening Day in 1947 by commissioner Happy Chandler for associating with gamblers and therefore engaging in "conduct detrimental to baseball."
Merle Hapes and Frank Filchock
The Giants fullback and quarterback both admitted to being offered $2,500 bribes to lose by more than the 10-point spread before the 1946 NFL championship game against the Bears. Hapes admitted being offered the cash before the game, and commissioner Bert Bell banned him from the championship game. Filchock didn't come clean until after the game, but probably wished he too had been banned, as he threw six interceptions in the Giants loss. Hapes never played again, and Filchock played in only one more game, four years later for the Baltimore Colts. Neither was accused of accepting the bribe and neither was officially banned.
Some of this material was previously published on ESPN.com