We need to start with a reference to the hotel “league” of the Catskills. Each hotel had several waiters and busboys who were collegiate athletes from the New York Metropolitan area. Many of the players were solid, D-1 athletes representing virtually every school in the “City.” As was true of most everything in those days, the white athletes were waiters and the black athletes were busboys or bellhops. The waiters could pick up as much as $2,000 in salary and tips over the summer, the busboys, much less.
However, there were inventive ways to bring in much more. The roots of the scandal can arguably be traced to the Catskill hotel teams, where many of the nation’s top collegiate players played in a semi-official hotel league. Sometimes incredible talent could be thrown together from the help in the dining rooms.
Junius played for Klein’s Hillside in 1950 along with teammate George Mikan. Mikan was one of basketball’s first great centers.
A lot of money was passed around by a bunch of petty gamblers and hotel guests. The mob was not blind to this and through a player named Ed Gard, they started playing around with the point spread. Gard found players who could be influenced to take bribes. At first it was penny ante stuff, but as summers came to an end some of the more unethical athletes started to see the potential in working with game fixers and big time gamblers.
The early 1950s was a time when money was tight, the NCAA was weak, and virtually no one thought that the NBA was anymore than a novelty act. In other words, many of the athletes who could be bought never thought of the consequences. We also can’t forget that many of them were in their late teens or early twenties. Then there were those who were WWII veterans and maybe, some of them just didn’t give a damn.
About the injustice part
In the Catskills and New York City Junius made friends with some of the best basketball players in the country. It was 1950 and Junius was drawn to the African American players, and why not? Even in “enlightened” New York racism was very much alive and well.
I know I am really fast-forwarding here because the scandal is quite complex. I cover it much more thoroughly in the book. Nevertheless, when Junius cooperated and the huge point shaving scandal was uncovered, many players and coaches were implicated. Unbeknownst to Junius, some of his friends were arrested as well. Perhaps he was naive, but it was going on around him.
Despite the unbelievable horror of the fix to fans, and the blemish it made on collegiate sports, only 5 athletes faced jail time: Ed Gard, Al “Fats” Roth, Ed Warner, Sherman White and Connie Schaaf. I also want to include Floyd Layne into this conversation.
Ed Gard was a bum, a hustler and mediocre athlete. He was responsible for bringing many of the players to the prime fixer, Salvatore “Tarto” Sollazzo. They sentenced him for up to 3 years. He was praised by Assistant D.A. O’Connor for his cooperation and only served 9 months. Al Roth was sentenced to 6 months in the workhouse. He got it suspended by volunteering for the army. Connie Schaaf who was in bed with the mob almost as deep as Gard, was given a 6 month suspended sentence.
Now for the screw job. Sherman White, an African American player, served 9 months in jail. Ed Warner, an African American player, served 6 months in jail. Though Floyd Layne, an African American player, was suspended, he saw his scholarship go away, he was barred from the NBA. Floyd redeemed himself but he was never given a fair shake.
As for Junius Kellogg, he never fully forgave himself. Granted, he had no idea some of his closest friends were involved in taking bribes, but what made him the angriest was that the white athletes, with the exception of Gard, never saw a prison cell. Two of the three black athletes saw jail and the third went through hell to clear his name.
It was just another ugly truth of the times.