We milked downtown, then flew

Jul 7, 2009 5:08 PM
Getting Rich with Saber by Richard Saber |

Never ending saga takes a turn out West

It is 1967 and I am out of the Air Force after a very eventful tour of duty. (That’s another story.) I’m in Steubenville, Ohio. The steel mills are booming, the city is booming, the pool halls, the cigar stores (actually gambling places) and the red light district are all in fine shape, if you know what I mean.

New clothes are in order, so I go downtown, which is in walking distance from my house, and go to the Phil-Mor clothing store – a top-end men’s store run by a guy named Morris Supovitz. He’s a classy guy in more ways than one!

I love good clothes, especially Italian knit shirts, and Phil-Mor was the place to get them.

As luck would have it, Morris, whom I know from my high school days, is in need of a good salesman. He asks if I’m interested, and my first career as clothing salesman and future buyer for our three stores is launched.

The gig lasted 10 years and it was a blast. Downtown was just crazy in the late 60s and early 70s. It was open until 9 p.m. on Monday nights, a big thing back then. We would get buyers from Pittsburgh who would make the 40 minute trek to catch a movie and shop, and hopefully save the state tax.

Another great thing was that after work I would meet up with my friend, Craig Stern, who was Morris’ nephew, and it was off to Waterford Park to play the ponies.

Craig ran his dad’s steel mill across the river in Weirton, West Virginia, where they manufactured steel shelving.

The times were great but as the Vietnam war wound down and our mills went south, business really slowed down and we spent more time shooting pool and playing the horses.

Then one day Craig’s dad, Joe, summoned the two of us to come to the house for dinner. My dad, who was as close to Joe Stern as butter is to bread, knew what was up. I had no clue.

After dinner we headed to the den, where Joe looked us both in the eye and proclaimed, "Your misspent youth is over, your horse playing days at Waterford Park are history; Craig is going to Los Angeles where he will be selling houses, you will be running the Phil-Mor for Morris, and that’s that."

Well, Craig headed off to La-La land, but after a few months I received an urgent call from him. He said he lived 15 minutes from Santa Anita and I should get my butt out there.

I gave my notice, packed my 1969 Caddie Eldorado and headed West, with intentions of chasing fast women and betting fast horses. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what was going to really happen.

Stay tuned for Part Four next week as I find my way to Las Vegas.

Meanwhile,
back in Vegas

As I make my way in and out of race and sports books, I run into many of our readers. They always have a few stories for me – bad beats, how poorly some books are run, and how they never get a fair shake.

For instance, they say they head to the window to bet a game but somehow when they get there they talk to someone and change their mind. Then the team they were going to bet wins but the team they bet on loses. Sometimes it’s about what a bad ride their horse got.

It all reminds me of my grandfather, Frank Lamantia, who thought his wife was losing her hearing so he sneaked up on her from behind and softly said, "Can you hear me?" With no answer, he moved closer and in a louder voice said, "Can you hear me?"

Still no answer, so he got right behind her and yelled "CAN YOU HEAR ME!" She turned and looked him in the eye and said, "For the third time I can hear you, what the heck do you want?"

Yes, it was him, not her – just like us bettors. It is usually us, not the rider, not the book, not the guy or gal who mentioned the other team that we bet.

In baseball, I’ve observed that with the lack of steroids, the run production has declined, which led me to believe that with the lower scores, taking plus a run and a half would become a better bet.

In fact, the reverse has happened. You see more 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and scores like 5-0. The good pitchers can control the game, thus you find more good teams covering the minus a run and a half.

Also, betting good teams with solid starting pitchers in the first five innings looks to be a good play for the bettor, thus eliminating the bullpen from the equation.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Richard Saber