Point shaving. Match fixing. How many movie plots over the years have involved some story where the fix was in on a sporting event, thanks to the influence of the Mob?
If you want to place a wager on a sporting event, that’s easy. Simply open an account with an online betting site. Check out the options at onlinesportsbetting.net. Once you’ve picked out a site you like, sign up and place that wager.
Now, if you want to be certain that the bet is going to be a winner, well that’s where the mafia sometimes enters the picture.
North American sports has on occasion been rocked by betting scandals. The most notorious was when gangsters paid eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series.
In the 1940s, NHL players Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor of the Boston Bruins were banned for life after FBI wiretaps of known Detroit gangster James Tamer revealed that the trio were conspiring to fix a game against the Chicago Blackhawks and that both players had bet against their own team.
In the 1950s, a massive point shaving scandal rocked NCAA basketball and involved some of the top teams, including national champion CCNY and the Kentucky Wildcats.
However, perhaps the most unique, if not the most memorable point-shaving incident in college basketball history was the 1978-79 Boston College scandal, if for no other reason than the infamous mobsters who were involved in its implication.
ESPN chronicled the entire event in one of its 30-for-30 documentaries, Playing For The Mob.
The Goodfellas Get In The Paint
If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas – and let’s be honest here, who hasn’t? – then the names of the major players in the Boston College point-shaving scandal will be easily recognizable.
Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke were two of the gangsters who were backing the scheme. Hill was the character played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. Also part of the plan was Jimmy Burke, who was portrayed on screen in Goodfellas by Robert DeNiro under the screen name Jimmy Conway.
The scheme was originally hatched by two brothers who were small-time gamblers from Pittsburgh, Anthony and Rocco Perla. They were also high school friends of Boston College player Rick Kuhn.
The Perla brothers connected with well-known New York gambler Paul Mazzei, who’d done time with Hill. Mazzei brought Hill into the loop. Once Hill, with the approval, power and might of the Lucchese crime family behind him, was in on the action, the deal was going to go down.
Kuhn was all for it, and teammate Jim Sweeney was coerced into joining the plan.
A Badly Broken Fix
Fixing games isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, when Gallinger and Taylor bet against the Bruins in that NHL game that cost them their careers, Boston still won the game.
Arranging the outcomes of Boston College basketball games proved equally challenging. The first game to be fixed was against Providence. BC was a 10-point favorite but the plan was for the Eagles to lose by less than 10. Instead, they won by 19 and the mobsters lost their bets.
Seeking more insurance, the gangsters sought to recruit Ernie Cobb, who was BC’s leading scorer. The next two games saw BC fail to cover against Harvard and get blown out by UCLA.
However, just when it looked like they’d fixed their fix, BC lost by only 13 to Rhode Island as 15-point underdogs. There were two wins for the fixers and two pushes over the next four games. Finally, came a game against Holy Cross in which BC were three-point underdogs. But instead of losing by more than three, the Eagles were defeated by two points.
Spilling The Beans
In 1980, Hill was arrested by the Feds on drug charges and he began singing like a canary. Among the many crimes he not only admitted to, but implicated others in, was the Boston College point shaving episode.
The Perlas, Mazzei, Burke and the three players – Kuhn, Sweeney and Cobb – were all arrested. Burke was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while the Perla brothers and Mazzei each got 10 years. Kuhn was also sentenced to 10 years, which was later reduced to 28 months. Cobb was acquitted and no charges were laid against Sweeney.
Charges were not brought against Hill in return for him turning state’s evidence against the other conspirators.