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Monday, November 6, 2017

Newport's Gambling Past Highlighted in Sports Illustrated Article

In the November issue of Sports Illustrated, writer William F. Reed takes a look at the 1951 point-shaving scandal involving multiple NCAA basketball teams. 

It's still the biggest point-shaving scandal in college basketball history. 

New York district attorney Frank Hogan arrested several members of the City College of New York team. The news rocked college basketball, but it was of special interest at Kentucky, where coach Adolph Rupp was presiding over a dynasty. The Wildcats had claimed NCAA titles in 1948 and '49. Hogan's roundup happened a month before the '51 tournament, which Kentucky would enter ranked No. 1 with the nation's premier player, 7-foot center Bill Spivey. 

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The Lexington media rushed to Rupp to get his reaction to the arrests. Impervious and scornful as ever, the 49-year old coach snorted, "The gamblers couldn't touch my boys with a 10-foot pole."

The article goes on to describe exactly how organized crime elements were able to get to some of those players. Of particular note to northern Kentucky residents is an excerpt from the article that mentions Newport, Kentucky's involvement into the gambling and crime syndicate world. 

From the article:
For as long as anybody can remember, Kentuckians have bet on everything, from roosters to horses to games. In the 1930s the mob took over Newport, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and turned it into a little Las Vegas. There was a plush nightclub named the Beverly Hills outside town - it burned down in 1977, killing 165 - and bars and brothels lined Newport's main streets. 

In 1951, George Ratterman, best known as a backup quarterback to Johnny Lujack at Notre Dame and to Otto Graham with the Browns, ran for sheriff of Campbell County and pledged to rid Newport of crime. But one night he accepted a drink laced with chloral hydrate by one of his enemies, and passed out. He awoke in a strange bed with a stripper named April Flowers as photographers snapped away. Ratterman was eventually vindicated and elected, and he did, indeed, fulfill his promise to clean up the city. 

The article goes on to describe the central figure in the betting scandal, Ed Curd, and how his love for betting the ponies in Lexington led to the basketball point-shaving schedule with UK. 

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