As Major League Baseball and the NFL prepare to announce their respective 2018 Hall Of Fame classes in the upcoming weeks it dawned on me that sports gambling needs a Hall of its own to honor the truly great. It’s a Hall Of Fame that Pete Rose actually has a shot in besides the Megan’s Law Hall Of Fame but he won’t be honored just yet (dude didn’t exactly have gambling success.). For the inaugural class we need the truly elite so here is the 2018 Sports Gambling Hall Of Fame:
1. Arnold Rothstein
“The Bankroll” is best known as the mastermind behind the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal yet he also influenced a generation of organized crime figures like Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. Those men combined to build the modern day gambling establishment as we know it at racetracks and casinos nationwide. However the 1919 World Series will always be Rothstein’s calling card. The eight White Sox players involved were all banned for life but Rothstein was never indicted in the scandal.
This of course led to the formation of the commissioners office and ushered in one of the most prosperous runs in baseball history (okay Babe Ruth also helped.) Plenty of fixing scandals have happened since but Arnold Rothstein remains the undisputed king. In 1921 he was also involved in fixing the Travers Stakes horse race. Sadly he wasn’t so lucky at cards and was gunned down November 4, 1928 at the Park City Hotel in NYC during a poker game. Despite dying at the young age of 46 his contributions make him a member of this hallowed class.
2. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder
The most controversial figure on this list Snyder was fired by CBS for racially insensitive comments after 12 years on the network for NFL broadcasts. However his overall contribution to sports gambling can’t be underestimated. Snyder brought prognostication to the mainstream during a period in which sports gambling was considered taboo. Although not allowed to mention spreads he was able to convey his message to the masses and got a generation of people gambling like degenerates so he deserves first class induction here.
As a young man he allegedly got started with a $10,000 bet on Harry S. Truman in 1948 at 17-1 and never looked back. His charm and personality landed him a role as the bookie in Cannonball Run. He famously disagreed with coworker Brent Musburger on the air and once punched him at a bar. In 2009 he was immortalized in the 30 For 30 “The Legend Of Jimmy The Greek.” Snyder died of a heart attack in 1996.
3. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal
The third member of the inaugural class Rosenthal was the basis for Robert De Niro’s “Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein character in the 1995 Martin Scorsese classic “Casino.” Rosenthal grew up in Chicago where he learned the fundamentals of prop bets in the legendary Wrigley Field bleachers as a child and by his 30s he developed a sophisticated network of informants on college campuses allowing him to become a top handicapper in the pre-internet days.
His Chicago Outfit connections ended up landing him in Las Vegas where he ran multiple hotels for them in the 1970s. Rosenthal’s greatest contribution to the world of sports gambling was being the first person to put sports books in casinos during his time running the Stardust and other locations. Before this despite legal sports gambling in Nevada books were seedy dumps in shady storefronts. Anyone who has ever enjoyed March Madness in a casino sports book has Frank Rosenthal to thank for that pure bliss. Rosenthal died at 79 of a heart attack in 2008 in Miami Beach, Fl.
4. Tim Donaghy
For years conspiracy theorists have claimed NBA games were fixed and in 2007 Tim Donaghy just gave them all credibility. That year the FBI uncovered his connection to organized crime figures while investigating mob activity. The Philadelphia native gave insider information and proved what many had suspected for years: that relationships between the officials, players, coaches and owners directly affected game outcomes. Anyone that makes David Stern lose the smug look on his face is okay by me and Donaghy was the one to do it. Recently he was arrested on aggravated assault charges after threatening someone with a hammer. Something tells me we’re not done hearing from him.
5. Brent Musburger
For years Musberger dog whistled sports gambling info to those who paid attention while serving as a broadcaster for CBS then at ABC/ESPN. Now he is wide out in the open with it while serving as the face of ViSN with his show My Guys In The Desert. Originally from Billings, Montana Musberger was a minor league baseball umpire and sportswriter before he landed at CBS in 1968. He eventually ended up anchoring NFL Today where he clashed with fellow inductee Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. In 1990 he left CBS and moved to ABC/ESPN where he stayed until 2017. As a major network broadcaster Musberger helped bring sports gambling to the mainstream which helps seal his case as a member of the inaugural class. He currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This first class is by no means perfect and I’m sure I’ll get arguments but I felt I needed to get people that went above and beyond the others. Three helped the expansion of sports gambling, one was the brains behind the biggest fix in gambling history and never took a pinch for it, and finally we have a crooked official who despite getting caught confirmed long held suspicions about the NBA. Comment below with your picks and they’ll be taken into consideration for the 2019 class next year!