Bookie From Chi-Town

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 26, 2009 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

I was at the Bengals / Bears debacle today. It was lucky for Cincinnati that Chicago did not come to play. They blew them out 45-10… That was nothing compared to the gent sitting next to me in his Chicago jersey, and binoculars in hand…

Tommy had to be in his 70’s. He introduced himself as soon as he sat down. He was in incredible shape, and had the handshake of a bricklayer.  He came down five hours alone to watch the game. He bought his tickets from scalpers, and always does it that way… He said it keeps the little guy in action.

We both rooted for the Bears, and after the first quarter it was over, Tommy told me of how he made his living for over 50 years.

He hails from Cicero… You know, the home of Hawthorne and the once upon a time Sportsman Park….He had quite the business he told me… It was this poor showing that looked liked a fix that brought an old tale to mind..

He took wagers on horses and football.. He said the juice was too tough for baseball.. He skipped, as there were too many books who have gotten clipped with b-ball…. Tommy G was the man in his end of town. He was the call-off man.. You know, the guy who would take any bet that smaller bookies would not.. This gave him clout, and nobody ever fooled around with Tommy… The football game was over by quarter number two, but the stories were rolling as two horse players talked shop…

He had a bar in the blue-collar district. It was called the “Quarter Pole.” He was so close to the track, that he could smell the barns…. He told me of a beating he took, and how he finally caught on….

There were two regulars who would make bets very close to post time. Back in the day, the times would fluctuate by a couple of minutes a few times a day. These two “hats”, as he called them, were sitting at the bar and drinking beer. They had a Form, and would make a few small bets during the day. Then all of a sudden, they would make a $50 – $100 wager that would win and pay well… Tommy never squabbled, and always paid… This went on for months, and even into the trotter season at Sportsman Park. Tommy’s partner was Nick, and he weighed 400 pounds if he weighed an ounce…. Nick was stopping outside to catch his breath, when he saw someone in the car parked close to the door beeping his horn like Morse code….

Big Nick went over and asked what the hell was going on…The man inside the car had a set of military binoculars that could see the wall of the final turn at Sportsman Park…. Someone was signaling him from that wall, and the car would honk that many times…. Well, Nick came from a time that dealt harsh with men that did play by the rules. We will save the details for every mob movie known to man….

Nick and Tommy brought in the “mad honker.” They had a few fellas with them, and the point came across quickly…. The man in the car was NEVER to tell….. NEVER to say anything to his compadres…. He was going to talk them into making bigger plays to make a killing. The boys talked him into honking, but it would be one number off…. This way, they would allow a couple of small bets, and kill them for the big bets… This went on for two weeks before Tommy and Nick called the boys into the back room and had a little talk…. Needless to say it never happened again….

The game was going into quarter #4, and Tommy had seen enough… He said it was time to hit the road… He hated to see his Bears pulling this crap, but he had taken a great deal of action on them. So, it was bittersweet…. Tommy shook my hand like the heavyweight champ, and told me to bet the Bears next week…. This looks like a trap, and they will beat anybody next week… If anyone would know, it would be Tommy.. This was what he did all of his life….