At the invitation of the Nevada Press Association, I have been asked to write a nominating letter for my publisher and boss, Chuck Di Rocco, for possible inclusion in the state’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.
Naturally, it’s an honor to try to put into words the accomplishments of a man such as Chuck, but it’s also an imposing task. CD, as he’s known around here, has had an illustrious career that is both impressive and difficult to get an arm around.
Chuck’s life has been anything but boring. A story a day could be told about his adventures. However, along with the standard biographical information, I decided to send in just one interesting story. Who knows, it could be this one.
The event took place back in the 1960s, when Chuck was a young reporter in Philadelphia assigned to cover a murder case. Not just any murder case, but a sensational one. Newspapers up and down the East Coast had assigned their best reporters to it.
The more headlines the story got, the higher the reward money went for the capture of the criminal. Chuck certainly loved his job more than his pay. But the carrot that brought out the best of his work had to be the reward money.
Chuck was a good reporter, and at the same time, he was also a devoted player of the ponies. If he weren’t digging out news stories, he was sniffing out winners at the track.
One day, he got a news tip that eventually led him and the police to the killer. The case was solved. Chuck was an instant hero. By this time, the reward money was up to $25,000. Chuck felt like a kid in a candy store with a bagful of money sitting on the counter.
However, there was a technicality. The reward could not be paid until after the trial and conviction. This didn’t bother Chuck. Nor did it stop the bookies who extended him credit.
Nearly all the newspapers covering the case had front page stories giving Chuck credit for leading the police to the arrest. In Chuck’s mind, as in the mind of nearly everyone else, the reward was money in the bank.
So when he went to call on his man at the cigar store, he quickly reminded the gent not to worry about the $700 he already owed but to put him down for $100 across on a nag running that very afternoon at Garden State.
"Why are you betting so much money?" the bookie asked. "You’re not a hundred dollar bettor. Are you crazy?"
Chuck rebuffed him, "Not to worry. I’m on a roll."
The murder trial took less than a month. However, it was long enough for Chuck to blow the new found bankroll he had yet to receive.
After the trial, Chuck made formal application for the reward money, a detail he had not worried about earlier. After all, it had been widely reported that his clue led police to the killer.
You’ve heard the saying, when something can go wrong, it will go wrong?
Well, something went wrong, terribly wrong.
It seems that the arresting officers who Chuck had tipped off were from Philadelphia. But they made their pinch in nearby Montgomery County, outside their jurisdiction.
The county police, who never had any love for the city cops, were hell bent on keeping the reward money in Montgomery County.
So the issue ended up in court. But what court? You got it, a judge from Montgomery County. He awarded the booty to the county, which in turn bought new police cars.
In this instance, Chuck finished up the track, as did his "friend" at the cigar store.
But even in those days, CD had nine lives. In the throes of his dilemma, Chuck managed to work up a bankroll at the track one day by making a hunch parlay from a horse in the sixth race (Hot Seat) to a nag in the last race (Dead at Last).
Both were longshots. Both won. And although Chuck couldn’t completely bail himself out, he got the numbers down low enough to where he was back in business with his cigar-smoking friends.
Later, Chuck was quoted as saying, "I’m practically square with everybody and I’ve been playing and winning on hunches . . . I’ll never have another poor day."
And since then he’s been relying on his hunches. Not a bad system, from where I’m sitting.