Women were a rarity in the sportsbooks, but they had some great characters too

August 22, 2017 3:00 AM
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Women were rare visitors in the storefront books of old.

There were a few female regulars that I recall. One we called “Cement,” because she was built like a brick… house. She’d always be with her boyfriend.

Another was Suzy Wang, a Chinese girl and a real character who was like one of the guys. Then there was Da Da from Beverly Hills, always with her boyfriend Gino.

Even the racebooks were 99% male. Then came a day in baseball season of 1977 when a woman came into Churchill wearing a plain plaid dress and carrying a brown paper bag full of hundreds. Not many women ventured into the spartan, storefront books of that time – especially carrying a bag of cash.

Anyway, this very plain-looking woman walks in waving the bag of money and says: “I don’t want it. It’s not mine. It’s all your fault. This isn’t my money.”

She’s going on and on about it, really raising hell. She puts it on the counter in front of me. It’s packaged very neatly in bundles of hundreds. We guess there’s about $50,000 in the bag (we’re good at that).

So my friend Joey Boston, who’s working next to me writing tickets, says, “I’ll take it back in the office and keep it safe for you, take it off your hands.”

She didn’t let Joey have it. Good move. Anyway, she’s raising all kinds of hell. “This isn’t mine, it’s your fault I have it.”

Turns out her husband was booking sports and pleading poverty to her at the same time. She found his stash hidden in a closet. We had nothing to do with it or him but she associated it with bookmakers, so she decided to blame his deceit on us.

She didn’t leave the money with us. Thank heavens she didn’t let go of it. The last we saw of her, she ran out the front door and boarded a city bus. We later heard she was OK.

Another very nice lady was familiar to some of us. I ran a sportsbook for Joe Slyman at the Royal Casino, not to be confused with the Royal Inn next-door. Joe booked as high as anyone in Vegas; that’s all time. Joe hired Sam “The Plumber” Cagnino to help with our college basketball numbers. Sam was an uncanny college basketball handicapper, which was his only sport. Joe wanted to bet on Sam’s games, but he also wanted Sam to write tickets. Bad idea. Sam was a pencil and paper guy and had no chance of operating a ticket machine. None.

Sam kept his basketball figures in an oversized, loose-leaf, beat-up notebook. He tracked hundreds of college teams and kept his figures, box scores, and updated power ratings in the smallest pencil entries possible. Any smaller and they’d be invisible.

If the FBI had it they’d throw it away, they’d never decipher it. It’s an amazing workbook. I know because after Sam passed away, his wife gave it to me. She said Sam wanted me to have it. What a treasure. I drag it out when I attempt to tell people about pre-computer days.

Sam and his wife were a completely happy, compatible couple. She would go around the casinos betting for Sam. Their oldest son, Scott, would follow her undercover. Quite a sight. She was a large lady and would be at least pick’em in a fight if someone tried to get Sam’s money.

Being a large woman, Sam gave her a job to do one night. Sam told us in all sincerity, as if it was completely normal, that he had her sit outside on their satellite dish to keep it steady in a wind storm, while he watched his beloved college basketball inside.

Scotty www.wiseguys.com (check it out for football).