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Next was the Rhode Island game. This is one Sweeney had circled, but I was feeling jittery because a lot of people—hell, my people, Peter Vario, Burke, Perry, bookies—had bet a lot of money. But the other books were starting to get a little hep, so they were squeezing down Rhode Island as the favorite from maybe 15 or so to 10. Unfortunately, because those books were messing with me, a lot of my money was at 15 and the final spread ended up 13, meaning Rhode Island, which won 91-78, failed to cover the 15 points, meaning I have just had a disaster. Well, a semi-disaster. But a loss is a loss, right?
I was pretty upset because not only had I got down pretty good but my friends had got down even better. Of course, the damn players had a million excuses. But what was I going to do, take it to court? At least they agreed they weren't getting paid for this game, which was only fair. And they promised to make it up to us. It was here they began telling Perla we would have to have Cobb. They said they were trying like hell but they couldn't get the job done because Cobb was the key man on the team.
The more I thought about it, the madder I got. So I called Kuhn at his home in Boston. I still have his old number right here in my book. I started screaming at him, "If you're not gonna do what you're supposed to do, if you're not gonna live up to the deal you made, just forget about it. I'll walk away from it now. Just don't make me go blow another $25,000 or $50,000. Now I gotta bet twice as much to get even for the last game." I just spoke to him, laid the law down. Then I decided to get a little rambunctious on the phone. I reminded him that he couldn't play basketball with broken fingers. Or something to that effect. Sometimes words have a way of getting things done. All the time he was apologizing and saying it wasn't his fault.
Everybody was distressed, and I was getting pressure from my people, who were saying to me, "Hey, who do these kids think they are, cuties? We're just out to make a few dollars. What is this?" I could see their point, so I emphasized to Kuhn that he should take my message back to Sweeney. And I was thinking how all this looked real, real good in the beginning, and now it's looking like a disaster. Now I was looking to bet $40,000 or $50,000 and I was definitely not ahead of the game anymore. But the players kept reassuring me not to worry, that I was going to get even and make plenty of money, money, money. I'm a sucker like anybody else. I went for the story.
Bring on Holy Cross. Without a doubt, the players said, this is the time we all get our money. Maybe so, but not only do I need to get a lot of money down bad, but I've got serious trouble with the books because they know there is hanky-panky. Hell, I'm told that at this point even the NCAA had heard there was hanky-panky. But some of the books didn't want anything to do with BC. And those who did not only were moving the line around but they were wanting in on the deal themselves. BC started off at maybe a five-point favorite and got down to two or less, but I was trying to make a big score. Well, BC won by only two points, and I had a lot of losing money down on this game. It wasn't an absolute disaster but it was a cousin. The problem was Cobb. He just kept swishing them in, 30 or 35 points, I don't remember. Worse, Kuhn and Sweeney still thought they deserved their money because they tried. College kids and try. It makes me want to throw up. I think we finally settled on $1,000 each, which was too much.
And they were still saying, "We got to have Cobb." I realized that and so I passed the word through Tony, "At all costs, talk to him." Next thing I heard Cobb was all set, but it was going to take another $2,500 for his share. Of course, of course. I was upset, but what could I do? I didn't like dealing with a third party I didn't know and had never met. Plus, look how complicated it was getting. It's so difficult when you can't deal direct. I was hearing about Kuhn, Sweeney and Cobb through Perla. Or sometimes it even went from the players to Perla to Mazzei to me. It was crazy. I was behind the whole thing, but the information was getting to me third or fourth hand. It was awful. I was betting like mad on a scheme I set up, I was losing my ass, and my phone bill was running as high as $1,000 a week. Fun times.
But the word did come back that Cobb was enthusiastic and, don't worry Henry, nothing can screw up now. We're all home free. But all I knew for sure was I'm stuck for maybe $50,000 and there is no happiness in my circle of people.
The next game was an added starter, Connecticut in the finals of the Colonial Classic on Jan. 27. I was nervous but the books who weren't in it with me felt better, because I had blown the last two games. And I must admit that with Cobb on my team for the first time, my heart was back on beat. I got down good on this one, probably $35,000 with no problem. BC was a big favorite, five or six points, and they won by one. Beautiful. It was great to see—just a great moment in sport—and I was happy because I figured we were in the money again.
It helped that the next game was against Fordham, a New York team, because that would bring some extra New York money in. BC was favored by 15, and I probably got down for another $35,000. This was no problem for my boys, a snap. They proved themselves. Yes they did. This game is a good example of the beauty of point shaving. Cobb hit seven of 10 from the floor, four for four on free throws, had seven assists and only one turnover. Does that mean he didn't help shave? Not at all. Point shaving is sneaky and not nearly as messy as dumping. Look, kids have made thousands of bad passes by mistake for nothing, so what was so bad about making just one more bad pass and getting paid for it?
I'm told the Boston College athletic director said that if you watched a team coached by Tom Davis, "you'd feel it was impossible to fix a game." And Davis said even on looking back, he couldn't think of any time when a BC player gave less than full effort. Right. That's what point shaving is. Red Auerbach of the Celtics made a smart comment in a newspaper article about it: "There's no way you can tell if a referee or player is shaving points—absolutely no way."