To show how ridiculous today’s online—and print—media have become, let’s begin with one of the very best-read Met blogs. One of the writers—quoting a poorly researched piece in one of NY’s tabloid garbage sheets—lazily and carelessly repeats the paper’s incorrect info about Mike Piazza, his dad, a Lexus, and Charlie Samuels.
As most Met fans who pay attention remember, Piazza’s father bet Samuels that he could not lose a large amount of weight in a fixed time period. Samuels lost the weight, and Mr. Piazza bought him a Lexus. Of course, they get it wrong, repeating that it was about how much weight Piazza’s father could lose. Which it wasn’t.
Is this illegal gambling? Does this speak poorly to Samuels’ or either Piazza’s character? Or is it a very friendly and ultimately healthy and productive way for a generous, wealthy man to motivate a valued friend?
This blog also repeats a truly comical line—“…there is no evidence at this time which shows Francisco Rodriguez was a part of Samuels’ illegal gambling operation.” Is there also no evidence at this time which shows that Rodriguez is an astronaut? A transvestite? A lion tamer?
Don’t expect research, clarification, or seriousness from these sources.
Another of NY’s papers—one which has a very long, upstanding tradition compared to its brethren—threw out the names Bonanno and Colombo. This paper and its colleagues have been selling copies for 80 years now by alluding to the famous Five Families, of which these named groups certainly are two, and have been since Charlie Luciano anointed them as such in the early 1930s. Almost all illegal sports gambling in the NY area ultimately is tied to one of these groups. Paying a bookie who pays an associate who pays a solider for a family does not make the bettor a crime kingpin.
Francisco Rodriguez stayed with Samuels after his altercation with his girlfriend’s father. What did they discuss?! Was KRod blowing games for Samuels’ benefit?! What inane suppositions can we think of next?!
One can imagine the unsourced information Adam Rubin will come up with while daydreaming up his next “insider” Tweet.
Yes, it appears that Charlie Samuels gambled on sports; a lot on the NFL and perhaps at least occasionally on baseball. Early reports indicate that he may have “borrowed” money from team accounts. These are crimes, to be sure. Other reports suggest that he gave Met tickets to criminals. Definitely improper.
But is this story as ominous as it appears? Or more media feeding at the Met trough?
Gambling is an integral part of the sports world. Today’s athletes are precisely the types of people who fit the profile of serious gamblers. They are sought after and catered to by casinos, and often will bet each other on cards before the game and golf on off-days.
We all know of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Tiger Woods being huge legal casino gamblers. Baseball has had an intimate relationship with gamblers since its inception. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis was hired to oversee the game after the debacle of the 1919 World Series. Landis was a terrible racist who worked very hard to keep the game white-only. Would the game have had less integrity with more gambling and less racism?
From the days of Leo Durocher to Denny McLain to Willie Mays to Pete Rose, very prominent figures have faced very serious repercussions from overt associations with gamblers, as since the days of Landis, baseball’s seeming biggest fear has been gambling.
Is gambling worse than racism? Worse than steroids?
These are very debatable points, as the integrity of the game can be compromised by any of them. Are the records of Ruth and Gehrig as relevant as the records of Aaron and Mays, who played against ALL competition, black, white, and Latin?
Are the records of Bonds and McGwire relevant at all?
The point being driven at here is that there seems to be an incredibly oversized Puritanical reaction to gambling in baseball, and sports in general. Gambling exists. Players do it. In the clubhouse, on off days, and in casinos; legally and illegally. They bet on football, and on NCAA basketball. They populate high roller areas in casinos.
This writer will admit a fondness for Las Vegas. During a trip there in the late 90s, this writer shared Caesars Palace with the NBA union during a negotiating meeting. They have lots of meetings there; it’s a really fun place to go. This writer saw retired stars, active coaches, and current players at all hours, in bars and in the casino—and at tables gambling.
Charlie Samuels has been with the Mets for decades. Through ups and downs, great teams and awful teams, and the one consistent stream of fact regarding him is that he appears to have been universally loved. Piazza and KRod obviously considered him family. Many Mets gave him huge tips at the end of every season. He helped with travel, chores, and who knows what else. He also appears to have had a serious—and potentially problematic—gambling habit.
While this space is in no way suggesting that secret illegal gambling—or theft—are positive or acceptable, it is being suggested here that perspective might come in handy, before reading and believing the drivel and outright untruths which we will be faced with in the coming days and weeks.
Many sources will spin this as “more of the same” for the cursed Mets; some will indeed throw out LoDuca’s gambling, Franco’s association with Pete Rose in Cincinnati, and the old favorites Bonanno and Colombo—as if Samuels was fixing games with KRod for Godfathers. Dire warnings will be thrown out about how the game’s best—starting with the degenerate racist Landis—have worked so very hard to “protect” America’s pastime from these evil types.
This investigation will very possibly show that Charlie Samuels was a beloved member of the Met family for literally decades. That players have looked up to and confided in him behind closed doors for ages. That he has been given countless tips that most of us could only dream of, for being a high-level gofer and confidant to Met stars from many eras.
It may also show that he was a man with a gambling problem, who, similar to many with gambling problems, eventually had to commit crimes to cover his debts. Is it possible that he lasted this long in his job while others knew this was going on because he was so well-liked and trusted? Maybe. Should he face penalties if he did indeed steal from team accounts? Most definitely.
However, at the end of the day, barring major unforeseen facts which have yet to emerge, before heaping ridicule on this very obviously well-liked and hard-working man, we all need to remember that sources ranging from our less-responsible sister blogs to major NY papers to national media outlets will attempt to play this story for all it is worth—to demonize a very ordinary man who got in over his head, as often happens with gamblers. They will try to paint a picture of a team falling apart at the seams, gripped by criminality, and in the thrall of major crime families (who incidentally, much like the major print and TV media, saw their heyday begin to fade decades ago).
It says here that while Samuels must be punished if he did indeed steal from the team, that gambling is an American pastime as beloved as baseball; perhaps more so.
Let us not excessively condemn Charlie Samuels at the behest of a media which has become a pale shadow of what it used to be, and today mostly exists to titillate and excite and to sell more of itself—not to inform, enlighten or raise any of us in any manner.