PLAY IT AGAIN SAM BY AL ""Bo" Bozzi
What a team we were --- Jim the Wanger, Dink the lover and "Bo" the Hustler. We'd beaten so many bookies at Scollay Square that the word got out to watch out for the Gimmick Boys. So we scouted around for
the few maverick bookies that were brave enough to back up their bets without the sanctions of the top office controlled by the Syndicate. We moved uptown to Huntington and Mass. Ave. (Boston, MA) for better pickins'. This section had plenty of bars, restaurants and smoke shops. The retired wrestler, Steve "Crusher" Casey's Cafe was there as big as life. What a joint! Old Steve was no pushover. As old as he was he still could bounce those drunks thru the doors. Down the street on Huntington Ave. was the old Five O' Clock Club.
Lately, the whole area had gone downhill. Most of the property including the Club had been bought up by The Christian Science Mother Church. Our friend and old time bookie Sam De Gangi owned the Club and the church paid him a small fortune for the joint and gave him three months to vacate. What a deal, free rent. So Sam stayed there and booked all the bets. Sam was wise to all the tricks of the game. There was no way we were going to beat this sharpie . He sat there every day getting soused and counting his money. He just kept taking our bets and laughing at us all the way to bank in Italy because that's where he was going when his three months of free rent were up.
Our time was running out. We had our daily noon-day-meet-ups there. Tom, the cook, made us a few good meals from time to time. That's the only free thing we got from Sam. Six days a week the three of us ended the day there to bet the feature race at Suffolk Downs and listen to the great Ralph "Babe" Rubenstien call the race on the radio. Sam was cleaning us out. He must have us beat for at least $3000 in the last two months. Every day at 4:00 p.m., Sam would be half in the bag and he would holler out, "Hey Tom, it's race time, turn the radio on and give my pals a chance to get some of their money back".
That's when my pal Jim the Wanger came to life and gave us the wink. Sam closed up and staggered home a few blocks away. The Wanger had come up with a way to beat Sam. "Boys, it was there in front of us all the time. And, we were so intent on beating this bum that we never thought of it while we were listening to the radio", Jim explained
"We have to push his clock back ten minutes and get Tom and Sally to play along with us. We'll win all our money back plus four or five grand to boot. All we have to do is tape record the race and play it back for our drunk'n friend Sam", Wanger continued. Dink was given the job to take care of Sally. I got along famously with Tom and was told to help him put together some meals so he should be no problem. It took us a week to convince Tom and Sally to be in the scam with the promise they had 10% of what we beat Sam for. Jim went all out and bought the best tape recorder that the Radio Shack had. Jim met Tom at 10:00 a.m., the next morning to set the clock back and put his act together. Sally and Sam came in around 11:45. Jim had everything all set and left before Sam arrived.
We met and went to Sam's for our daily lunch and kibitz with Sam and Sally. I helped Tom make the lunch for the bunch and assured Tom who was nervous that we were going to take good care of him. The races started at 1:00 p.m. at Suffolk Downs. So we got busy looking at the race sheet and writing down all our bets. This day we made some heavy bets on the early races. Sam scooped up the cash and remarked, "Boys you must be feel'n lucky today. Keep it coming in and I'll be retired and enjoying myself in my Villa in beautiful Cortona sooner than I thought. Every time I spend some of this cash I'll think of you guys". We knew Sam was needling us but we gave him a big smile back. "Maybe, Sam" answered Dink, "but we are due for a big hit and today might be our day". The bum was so sure we were big suckers that he was ready to back up any bets we gave him. After the first four races were over he had us for over $600. We knew Sam. There was no way we could win playing legit. While he was laughing at us Sally kept his whisky shots coming. "We ain't leaving today Sam", said Bo, "it's getting close to our post time". By 4:00 p.m., Sam was so stoned Tom had to holler out that he was turning the radio on. Jim just finished taping the race. As Sam listened, the playback started with Babe Rubenstien greeting us from beautiful Suffolk Downs in East Boston. Jim came out of the kitchen while Sally blocked Sam's view. As post-time approached Jim had the winner written on a blank slip and we were off.
We gave Sam $700. $300 to win on the winner, Homeward Bound, and $400 mixed up plays of ten and twenty buck exactas. Sam scooped up all the slips and stuffed the "seven bucks" in his pocket and we were ready to listen to the race. We sat there all crowded in the big booth. There off and running. And, coming down the stretch it was Homeward Bound by three. As expected he won by more. We made it look real good by shouting the winner across the finish line. After all the backslapping and handshaking was over we got down to the business of totaling up the winnings. We got real lucky, the winner paid the limit the bookie had to pay, $42.00 for every two bucks bet. Between the big win, a few exactas, we wound up winning $7700.
Sam, true to form, paid us all but $2500. in his drunk'n stupor and slurring of words he smiled and said "Boys come in tomorrow for the rest. You may not be so lucky as you was today. I'll get it all back".
Sam had three weeks left before the wrecking crew would knock down the old Five 0' Clock Club. We continued to play every day, losing a few grand one day and taping the race again the next day for a win. We took Sam for another $5000. In the span of three weeks we cleared about $20,000. Sam always paid off with no problems. This was one of the easiest hits we ever made. Each race Jim taped and played back came over perfect. Sam never caught on, never bitched and the curtain came down.
We all watched the wrecking crew demolish the old club. A few nights later we all got together with Sam and had a farewell party for our pal Sam. At noon the following day we picked up Sam and we all had breakfast in Hayes & Bickfords at North Station. Sam's plane was not leaving 'till 4:00 p.m., so we really got Sam to open up. He tells us he owns a beautiful villa in Cortona Italy. I said, "Sam you're the first bookmaker we ever got lucky with and you always paid us off with a smile, how come?" "Bo, I booked horses for twenty years and made a fortune, plus I made over a hundred grand when I sold the club to the church. I've got a half mil in cash stashed in a few banks in Italy" Sam proudly said. "If anyone of you guys ever take a trip to Italy come and visit Sam. You can stay a month rent free and I'll feed you too" Sam offered.
"Well fellas let's get going to Logan" Bo prodded. The trip over was quick and we -carried Sam's luggage up to the departure gate and wished him well and a safe trip to his homeland. As we waved Sam off the three of us voiced in unison --- "What a guy! Why can't there be more bookies like Sam". Bo chimed in, "Okay fellas let's get busy and look for our next mark --- after betting on sure winners for one month who wants to bet on losers".
Stay cool! See you all at the races.