Friday, May 20, 2005


May 20th, 1920

Police Raid Wrigley Field

Ok, that's a bit melodramatic. The Chicago police were conducting an undercover sting in the bleachers. Dressed as soldiers and farmers, they launched their raid and arrested two dozen fans for gambling on the game, a game won by the visiting Phils on a 6-0 shutout by Grover Cleveland Alexander. Given the environment in 1920, with rumors of the Black Sox scandal swirling and the recently installed Judge Landis this was one of many steps baseball was taking to crack down on gambling. It also makes for a relatively entertaining visual, dozens of Chicago police officers in costume leaping out during the 7th inning stretch or something to arrest gamblers in the bleachers. I imagine this was a pretty nice good gig to be assigned to: dress up, watch a ballgame for a few innings and then bust some gamblers. Good times.

Something that strikes me as interesting having recently returned from the
UK is the differences in gambling culture between the two as it pertains to sport. I had been watching some footy (which is to say, soccer), so I knew enough to know that the attitude was different, one team in English soccer's highest league is sponsored by an online casino. When I actually went to a match however, I was shocked. At Upton Park, Ladbrokes (one of the big betting companies) not only has its signage all over the pitch, they also have betting parlors set-up inside the hallways of the stadium so you can make a bet on who is going to win, what the score will be, who will score first (team and player) or some combination thereof. The booths then close during the game, only to re-open at halftime for bets to be made on readjusted odds and then re-opened again at the end of the match so that winners could collect their winnings.

Compared to Major League Baseball, which is reluctant to put a team in Las Vegas because of the presence of casinos in the same city, Manchester United--one of the world's most famous and successful clubs--are in talks to attach a casino to their stadium. But is Major League Baseball living in the past of the Black Sox or is the Premiership playing see-no-evil with a problem? Well, Pete Rose would seem to indicate that MLB can't be too careful, as even modern players are susceptible to gambling but nothing like that has come out in English football, although rumors sometimes circulate. I don't know the answer to the question, but the systems are quite different and yet both work. Perhaps the lesson that can really be drawn is one already known, different strokes for different folks.

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