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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Explosion: 1951 scandals threaten college hoops
By Joe Goldstein
Special to ESPN.com
In 1950, City College accomplished perhaps the greatest feat in basketball history, winning the National Invitation and the NCAA tournaments. One year later there was devastation as New York District Attorney Frank Hogan indicted players from four New York schools, including City College. The other New York schools were Manhattan College, New York University and Long Island University.
The earthshaking scandals of 1951, which eventually reached to seven schools and 32 players around the country, actually erupted on Jan. 17, 1951 when Henry Poppe and Jack Byrnes of the previous year's Manhattan team plus three fixers: Cornelious Kelleher and brothers Benjamin and Irving Schwartzberg, who were bookmakers and convicted felons, were booked on bribery and conspiracy charges. All were in violation of section 382 of the penal code, the bill passed by the New York State legislature in 1945, which established as illegal an attempt to bribe a participant in any sporting event, amateur or professional. Poppe and Byrnes actually "had done business" with Kelleher in the 1949-50 season and received $50 a week during the off season of that year plus $3,000 to insure Manhattan lost games by the point margin to Siena, Santa Clara and Bradley in Madison Square Garden.
Byrnes and Poppe also received an additional $2,000 each to go over the point margin in games with St. Francis College of Brooklyn and New York University.
Poppe had met with Manhattan junior center Junius Kellogg, who stood 6-8 and was the first black man to play for a Manhattan College basketball team. Kellogg came to Manhattan after 40 months in the U.S. Army. He entered Manhattan under the GI Bill.
Kellogg had refused a $1,000 offer from his former teammate, Hank Poppe (who was a pretty good player, holding the Manhattan career scoring record with 1,027 points). Poppe asked Kellogg to reconsider and suggested a meeting three days later on January 14. Kellogg promptly reported the offer from Poppe to his coach Ken Norton, who informed Brother Bonventure Thomas, Manhattan College's president, who endorsed the idea of going to the police.
The police instructed Kellogg to pretend he was going along with Poppe's offer.
Kellogg was picked up in the parking lot at Manhattan by Poppe and driven to a bar near the campus at Broadway and 242nd Street.
Kellogg told Poppe he accepted and asked what he should do to fix the DePaul game on Tuesday, Jan. 16. He was instructed in errors to commit (and not to be too obvious with his mistakes). Poppe spoke to Kellogg at courtside at the Garden before the game, telling him Manhattan was favored by 10 points--be sure to win by less.
Manhattan won by three, 62-59, as Kellogg's substitute, Charles Jennerich, scored on all eight of his shot attempts.
Kellogg showered and rushed to meet Poppe at Gilhooley's bar on 8th Avenue near the Garden. Kellogg was followed by detectives into the bar. Poppe did not show, but was arrested at his home in Queens at 3 in the morning. He was cooperative and implicated Byrnes for "throwing" 1949-50 games, but not in the attempt to bribe Kellogg. Byrnes was arrested two hours later.
Max Kase, Sports Editor of the Journal-American, who gave Hogan the "tip" on college basketball point shaving, broke the story on Jan. 18, receiving a counter favor (or break) from District Attorney Hogan.
In the 1951 scandals, referee Sol Levy, an accomplice of former LIU player Eddie Gard, was suspended for arranging the outcome on "fixing" six NBA games in 1950. There was no provision in the revised New York State Law of 1945 for referees. This was changed in 1951.
The real flood came on Feb. 18, 1951 when the CCNY players Ed Warner, Ed Roman and Al Roth were arrested on charges of bribery in Penn Station, New York, after returning from Philadelphia, where City beat Temple, 95-71.
The arrests of the three City College players on that February evening were the initial tremor of the earthquake of scandal that hit college basketball.
Eventually, District Attorney Frank Hogan arrested 32 players from seven colleges who fixed 86 games between 1947 and 1950.
The CCNY players who were arrested that first evening (under the New York State sports bribery law of 1945) were booked with Harvey (Connie) Schaaf of NYU at the Elizabeth Street Station.
Also booked that evening were the greedy, but nontheless ineffective fixer Salvatore "Tarto" Sollazzo and Eddie Gard, the former LIU player, who was Sollazzo's agent in arranging "dumps."
Two days later (Feb. 20), Sherman White, LeRoy Smith and Adolph Bigos of LIU were arrested for taking bribes from Sollazzo via Gard "to throw" games. The previous day, White had been named Player of the Year by The Sporting News. White had averaged 27.7 points per game and needed 77 points to set an all-time collegiate scoring record.
White was perhaps New York college basketball's best player ever. Bigos was a 25-year-old senior who had served 2 1/2 years in the Army and earned a Bronze Star. He enrolled at LIU under the GI Bill. He tried out for coach Clair Bee and earned a basketball scholarship. Smith, from the streets of Newark, was a former Marine.
The LIU-Cincinnati game on Feb. 22 at the Garden was cancelled, but the CCNY-Lafayette game was played, with City winning, 67-48. Floyd Layne, who scored 19 points against Lafayette, was arrested on Feb. 27, the same day as Natie Miller (informed on by Gard), a senior member of the 1948-49 LIU team.
A month later (March 26), the last of the City College players--Irwin Dambrot and Norm Mager of the 1950 Grand Slam champions and Herb Cohen, a Slam winner on the current team--were arrested.
Hogan was slowly dribbling out with arrests.
On March 30, former LIU player Louis Lipman was arrested for violation of New York penal code #302 for tossing the Jan. 1, 1949 game with Duquesne, and Richard Feutardo was accused on April 13 for games dumped two and three years before.
Eli Klukofsky, alias Eli Kaye, was arrested on April 28 for bribing City College players in the 1949-50 season. Hogan arrested Klukofsky on July 20 for bribing Toledo University players Bill Waller, Carlo Muzi, Bob McDonald and Jack Freeman for games dumped two and three years before. Klukofsky had associations with mobdom and it was fortunate for some mobsters he died of a heart attack during the trials of the following year. Two days later, Jackie Goldsmith, a former LIU star, who had the best long range set shot in NY history (he could connect with two handers consistently from 45 feet) was arrested.
Goldsmith had an active role in fixing LIU games with Gard in seasons preceeding 1950-51 and was also involved with the Manhattan College rigged games involving Byrnes and Poppe in the same period.
On July 24, 1951, Bradley players Gene Melchiorre, Bill Mann, Bud Grover, Aaron Preece and Jim Kelly admitted to taking bribes from gamblers to hold down scores against St. Joseph's in Philadelphia in 1951 and against Oregon State in Chicago.
On August 27, Hogan's office came up with indictments against gamblers Nick and Tony Englises, Joe Benintende and big time fixer Jack West plus Bradley players Melchiorre, Mann and George Chianakos. No charges were filed against Grover, Preece, Kelly and the subsequently involved Fred Schlictman.
In early October, Melchiorre, Mann and Chianakos pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor before Judge Saul Streit in New York. The players faced three years in jail, but assistant District Attorney Vincent A.J. O'Connor praised the threesome for their cooperation, indicating there would be a suspended sentence.
The accounts of the Manhattan College phase of the 1951 scandals tends to be dwarfed by the involvement of CCNY, LIU and Kentucky. However, the Manhattan College involvement in the scandal was the first event followed by multiple main events. It was news of such proportions it was printed on the first page of the New York Times on Feb. 18, 1951. The writer of the story was the greatest reporter in New York Times history, the Pulitzer Prize winner Meyer Berger.
A blast as large as the one involving City College on Feb. 18 exploded on Oct. 20 when Hogan arrested Kentucky basketball players Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Dale Barnstable for accepting $500 bribes to shave points in an NIT game against Loyola of Chicgo in Madison Square Garden in 1949. Groza and Beard had been on two NCAA championship teams and Beard also had been on one NIT winner. The 1949 games were an attempt to win the 1949 NIT and NCAA, which CCNY achieved in 1950. Beard and Groza had also been on the 1948 Olympic basketball gold medal team, and this Olympic unit was the nucleus of the NBA Indianapolis Olympians in 1949.
Judge Streit awarded suspended sentences to Groza, Beard and Barnstable and placed them on indefinite probation and barred them from all sports for three years. The NBA commissioner Maurice Podoloff also suspended the trio.
In the last stages of the hoop scandals or 1951, there was another significant event.
Bill Spivey, Kentucky's All-American center and leading player on the NCAA champions of 1951, was barred on March 2, 1952 from athletic play at the university. Spivey was never implicated in point shaving, so the action was surprising, though there were accusations against Spivey by teammates.
Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp had claimed his team was untouchable: "They couldn't reach my boys with a ten-foot pole." He was wrong. The NCAA suspended the Kentucky basketball program for the 1952-53 season.
Spivey was indicted for perjury in 1953 by Hogan and he then played for six teams in the old Eastern League plus the Los Angeles Hawaii team of the unsuccessful American Basketball League.
Spivey was never convicted (a mistrial was declared and the case was subsequently dismissed), but the NBA refused to admit Spivey.
Spivey sued the NBA for $800,000 and settled out of court for $10,000. In the late '60s Spivey was playing for $200 per game for the Wilkes-Barre Barons of the Eastern League.
An illuminating article by Neil Amdur of The New York Times was printed on Feb. 13, 1968. Amdur, now the Sports Editor of the Times, who as a youth saw Spivey play in the Eastern League in Wilkes-Barre, reported Spivey's only NBA game: "Bill Spivey made his NBA debut Sunday night in Baltimore. His team lost, 38-37, but Spivey as usual, was top scorer with 12 points. Yesterday (Feb. 12) the seven-footer announced his retirement from basketball."
"I've been thinking about it for a long time," Spivey told Amdur.
Spivey was 38 and had been an All-American at Kentucky.
He remarked: "This is an opportune time to retire. It really meant something for me to finish off my career with a game like that."
Amdur revealed a technicality that allowed Spivey to play for the Baltimore Bullets veterans in an all-star game preceeding the regular NBA contest between San Diego and Baltimore. He had played for the Bullets of the Eastern Basketball League when Baltimore was between NBA franchises.
Big time college basketball survived near destruction in 1951. Though another major scandal developed in 1961 and several lesser scandals developed in the '70s, '80s and '90s, the sport became even bigger. Big time betting has also thrived. The amount of money wagered on basketball is staggering. According to the Nevada State Gaming Commission, $172.4 was legally wagered on basketball in the state of Nevada in March 2000. In April, after the NCAA tournament was completed, the amount wagered fell to $53.1, indicating the popularity of betting on college basketball.
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