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As I See It, by Jimmy Vaccaro

21 October 2002

October 9, 2002

I believe there have been six major league baseball managers fired since the end of the regular season. Nothing new there as this becomes routine and we all just wait until they appear somewhere else next season.

A few will go into the broadcast booth or do a stint on Baseball Tonight, and conversely a few who are now in the booth or studio will reappear on the field in the near future. All baseball guys who have been in that racket their entire life basically have to be carted out when it is time to go.

That is the way it goes for a lot of people who have been in one line of work for a long time.

Now is something to ponder: Where would you go if you found out you had to go and what would you do?

I have been doing this writing gig now for almost three years and found out it is most gratifying in a way I never thought it could be. I have conversed through the new electronic way of communication with hundreds of people, most who I have never met in person. Most have in some fashion heard of me or the places I worked at.

I know what some of you do, but other than the common thread that connects us, which pertains to gambling, I suppose a good number of you actually have what we would categorize as "normal jobs". So I ask you, what would you do if you had to pack it in tomorrow? Where would you go? Think about that and I will try to relate to you what happens to veterans in the gambling business, whether their experience is legal or otherwise. I will illustrate it by showing what has happened to a few of my friends who have called Las Vegas home for lots of years.

What I am trying to say is that in most cases none of us have been highly educated, and college degrees of any type are few and far between. This does not make us illiterate, but even while some of us were going to school we really were not going to school.

The migration to Vegas and sports betting was borne out of an idea to be part of something we loved and so much wanted to be part of. We understood it at an early age and quickly found out that winning was very important but did not let circumstances stop us even if we went dry for a while.

As we lived through this transformation of sports betting from the early '70s until now, we found that once you are connected, in 90% of the cases you are a lifer. I did not even know what a 401K was until 10 years ago, and neither did a lot of my friends.

Even if we had been aware of them, we probably would not have understood it, anyway. The reason being that gambling is a day-to-day process and the only thing tomorrow promises is there will be more games either to bet or book. The more bullets you have simply means you can bet more.

If you profiled every new guy who wanted to move to Vegas or go offshore, his resume would a lot different than mine in most cases. My first job application in Vegas took two minutes to fill out. Education: grade school, high school, college, but did not graduate. Previous work history: none. Skills: not many. If I walked into a Strip casino now with that app, I would not get through the first screener.

The only good thing about it was, I was not alone and quickly got absorbed in a business which, at that time, gave you at least a shot because of the street skills you possessed.

I have been fortunate in finding a way to still be part of the scene in an ever-changing sports world, after a boatload of us were dropped off at Flamingo and the Strip in the early '70s.

A lot of the people who I worked with or with whom I had some sort of relationship are, like me, still "connected" - some by choice and some by necessity. Some ask why and some know why. But in reality there is nothing else we are suited for.

I couldn't sell a straw hat in the Bahamas.

Some have moved offshore, some have moved into offices back where they came from, and a lot still move money. But all are still connected. It seems like you have to be.

I have a service, do a lot of writing, and contribute to the Don Best site. It is quite a spot as there is constant activity from both the service side and the schedule side of the operation. There are a lot of people who do a lot of different things. I stop over at least once a week just to stay "connected". I see many younger people just starting off but also a lot of guys just like me who can not totally ever walk away.

Too numerous to name but a capsule on a couple.

Jimmy Sirody and Scotty Schettler have been in town longer than I have and are still members in good standing of this fraternity. Like a lot of us, when they are being given the last rites, they will still want to know if there was an off pitcher in the Cubs game.

Jimmy has been a clerk and supervisor since 1970 and worked in more joints than a high line hooker. The old Saratoga - Dunes sportsbook - Palace Station - Sands - and was at the Castaways when Sonny Reizner ran the joint. When he decided to pack it in and get out the hotels he wound up working for Dana Corbo at Don Best. He has an assortment of jobs besides his writing and still carries the schedule in his back pocket. He likes this a lot better because the job is not a pressure cooker like some hotels, but he remains "connected". In his words he wouldn't have it any other way.

Scotty Schettler, undoubtedly one of the best bookmakers ever to hit town, also works at Don Best. Scotty like myself grew up near Pittsburgh and came to Vegas in 1968. His first job was a waiter at the famous Tower of Pizza which at the time was owned by two of the more famous gambling legends: Jasper Speciale and Bobby "The Hunchback" Berendt.

He finally got a job at Churchill Downs and worked at some great spots but he is more known for the work he did at the 'Dust. A great operator who came up with the lottery which is still in use at the Stardust. I had lunch with him today and always during the conversation we find out that we are part of something very important and always will be.

I could list many more names both in Vegas and offshore, but I hope you got my message. I suppose there are a lot of occupations that are hard to walk from but this one has to be near the top.

I think that a part of it is the challenge of the unknown, the result of the next game, that makes our day, or kills it. We deal with cash, get instant gratification and like the feeling of living on the edge to a degree.

I suppose Jimmy and Scotty would agree with most of what I said. But like true gamblers no one ever agrees with you 100%.

I hope I did not ramble as the true picture would probably need to be told in a short story as opposed to an article.

Let me close by emphasizing that this business is not like Andy of Mayberry, where there is always a happy ending.

But I guess if Don Baylor can continue to get work, why shouldn't guys like us?

Take care, Jimmy V.

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