I saw a great movie about mobsters, and the kind of characters that make sitting in the theatre a pleasure. Without further delay, the movie title is “Things to do in Denver When Your Dead.” There is a friend of mine who has been a bookmaker for years. Every time we speak I learn something new about this interesting fella. The other day when we were talking about horses, he happened to bring up one fact about his life that made me take two steps back in surprise.
Tommy rolls into the track everyday. Well, you can toss out a day or two a week now that he baby sits his grandkids; good fella… The kind who offers you one of his cigars and is glad to take a small wager from you. He used to be a bookmaker when things were really hot in this area. Well, sometimes when you cross the lines of the law, it can really ruin your day. He was convicted, and given the opportunity to be a “snitch” to get himself off the hook. Tommy just sat there and didn’t tell them anything. I guess that appealed to the mob-movie ideal I always enjoyed, and since nobody was injured or worse. It was pretty cool that he took the rap, and went away for a awhile.
I always loved to hear the stories of who bet what, and how much he made back in the day. Just a horse player born a little too soon, he always said. He said I would have loved the bar and the traffic of gamblers who enjoyed getting down a bet. For me, I had a similar upbringing. Tagging along with my dad, and hanging out with gamblers in a back room local bar. We lived in a town that had more bars than churches, and you may have been surprised of who was reading about the horses in the back room. But I digress…
Tommy was talking about football, and how lucky I was to win that $10 wager. We joke and kid around, and I always enjoy our talks. As I have always said, the most interesting people in the world are at the track. I jammed him up and said that if he attended church a little more that he may not get his butt whipped. He started laughing and said he had been more than the average bear. It was at this point that he said, “I guess I never told you about my early years.”
Tommy is a large man. He was a great athlete and a good student. Oh, did I mention that Tommy attended the seminary? Yep, my man after all of these years told me a story that knocked me cold. His love for the church had him heading in a committed direction for his life. But after much thought and his love for women and gambling, he had a heart-to-heart talk with the Bishop.
He said the Bishop had him in his office for three hours. As he was watching the clock, he finally spoke up and said his decision was made. When the Bishop said that he looked like he had somewhere to be. Tommy replied that it was 30 minutes until the first post. He could catch a ride and meet up with a friend for a ride home. The Bishop turned bright red, and asked him to follow his heart. Well, he picked up the pace and caught a cab in time for the first race. He kicked off with the daily-double, and the rest is history.
He laughed and said, “just when you think you know someone, you may get a little surprise,” as we both laughed. It was at that time I told him my secret name for him would be in honor of his time with the church. His name would forever be “Tommy The Saint.”