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Up Close With Henry Hill and Ed McDonald

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In 1978-79, one of the most infamous point-shaving scandals in recent sports history was executed with the Boston College basketball team. Originally conceived by Pittsburgh bookies, infamous mobster Henry Hill and his boss Jimmy Burke—of the Lucchese crime family—were brought in on the scheme.

The crew recruited several BC players, who deliberately missed shots to cover the point-spread in several games. After an unsuccessful run in a Feb. 10 game against Holy Cross, Burke decided he was through with the scheme, and thus ended the point-shaving run of the '78-'79 Boston College basketball team, who finished that season with a 22-9 record.

Henry Hill -- the subject of Martin Scorcese's award-winning 1990 film "Goodfellas" -- passed away in 2012, but PSR writer Anthony Jaskulski tracked down the infamous mobster -- and the prosecutor of the BC point-shaving trail, Ed McDonald -- to talk about the case.

Anthony: Talk a little bit about how this point-shaving scheme was conceived, and when and why you brought in on the plan.
At first, Paul Mazzei came to me. He was a degenerate gambler, and he was a friend of mine in prison. He came to me because he knew that I could get down (an amount to wager) for as much as they wanted. After that I took it to Jimmy (Burke), and we met these kids up in Boston and told them everything we wanted to do. That's how it all started.

Anthony: What was your and Jimmy's role once you met the kids in Boston?
I was the only one meeting the kids in Boston, and all we had to give the kids was $2,500 a man, so that's $7,500 total. I mean, yeah, I'd give them coke, or other drugs to start, but after a while, they had their own money. After the first or second game, they wanted us to pick it up to $7,500 a man for them. That was another way we knew that they would perform for us.

Anthony: And what if they didn't perform?
Well that's easy. I told them, “you can't play basketball in casts.” And besides, all the money we were giving them, there was no way they wouldn't perform. Other than (leading scorer Ernie) Cobb, none of these kids had a shot in hell to make it to the pros, and they weren't getting paid to play basketball in college. I mean, come on, that's obvious. Of course they would take the money. It means a better living, anyway.

Anthony: When did the DA's office catch wind of a possible point-shaving scheme at your alma mater, Boston College?
I simply asked him, I said, “Henry, what were you doing up in Boston?” He said, “We were fixing college basketball games.” And I said, “What do you mean you were fixing basketball games?”  And he said, “We were fixing Boston University games,” and I was thinking to myself, this is crazy, there are no lines on BU games. And then he told me, we were at the place where the Celtics play, and I was thinking, if this is BC (Boston College), they only played a handful of games there, and sure enough, the Harvard game was one of them.

So the more we talked about, he described one of the players, who was clearly Ernie Cobb. After that I got a list of the players and I added like 10 more names to it that I made up. I gave him the list and I said, “Who were the three guys you had?” 

Once he picked the names of the three kids on the team, he started talking about them and what they did, and then I knew it was the real deal. From that point we just started investigating the case.

Anthony: What happened after you started investigating the case?
Well all of the kids, except for Sweeney, admitted to the scandal. I told Henry he needed to  speak the truth of the scandal, and during the trail, he gave a testimony that had all of the guys in on it, except for a couple of the basketball players, indicted. The basketball players (who were indicted) were Kuhn and Cobb.  The only one to get jail time was Kuhn.

Hill: Sweeney didn't even admit it that he was on the take to Ed McDonald for years. Then finally one day his conscience was haunting him, I guess. I told Ed that this kid took money from me in a hotel room in Boston. I think I gave him $5,000 dollars and an ounce of coke. He took it right out of my (expletive)ing hand. Ed didn't believe that, and he believed this kid instead for the longest time until the truth finally came out.

Anthony: Was this one of the more infamous, well known and successful point-shaving scandals you've witnessed?
Not really. I mean they lost on a few of the games that they bet on, and it really didn't prove to be all that successful. I'm sure there are and were scandals in college sports that we don't even know about.  It's well-known obviously, but a successful one would be one that wasn't uncovered.


players did not get a dime or anything else from henry including physical harm threats. all he said was he could not get bets down on the games and so the players were told to in new york slang FORGET ABOUT IT!!! so they did their best in most games. that is why doublecrossing liars like henry lost on some games

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