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Know when to walk away

Sports | John Daly says he lost between $50 million and $60 million to a gambling habit that spun out of control over a dozen years

Issue: "No way out," May 13, 2006

Golfer John Daly sees his ruin from afar. In a candid admission in his autobiography, Mr. Daly says he lost between $50 million and $60 million to a gambling habit that spun out of control over a dozen years. He says he's not over his gambling addiction, either. "If I don't get control of my gambling," Mr. Daly wrote, "it's going to flat-out ruin me."

A lot of things have ruined Mr. Daly, once a premier golfer and now an overweight also-ran on the PGA tour. As he describes in his new book, John Daly: In and Out of the Rough, he's publicly battled addiction ever since he earned his tour card. He once claimed to have consumed one bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey every day when he was 23 years old.

He broke his alcoholism in a rehab center in 1993, two years after he won the PGA championship as a long-driving 25-year-old. "The people around me . . . were hoping, of course, that the [thing in my life replacing alcohol] would be practicing golf. No such luck," Mr. Daly wrote. "What I found was gambling."

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The book details one gambling episode when Mr. Daly won $750,000 in bets despite losing to Tiger Woods on a playoff at the World Golf Championship last fall. Instead of banking the cash or using it to pay down his gambling debts, Mr. Daly took the loot to Las Vegas where he lost that sum and nearly $1 million more mainly playing $5,000-per-pull slot machines.

Mr. Daly isn't the only athlete to be caught up in gambling. Baseball's two biggest scandals (until steroids) revolved around sports betting: the Black Sox scandal and the Pete Rose affair. Basketball star Michael Jordan is also famous for his appetite for endurance at Las Vegas tables and for high-stakes golf matches. Federal authorities say Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Ricky Tocchet helped run a national gambling ring generally for NHL players, but also including the wife of former star and current Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky.

Meanwhile, Mr. Daly says he has a plan to control his gambling habit. He says he'll start with $25 slots only. "If I make a little bit, then maybe I move up to the $100 slots or the $500 slots, or maybe I take it to the blackjack table," he wrote. "It's their money. Why not give it a shot, try to double it? And if I make a lot, I can . . ." Could it work? Wanna bet?

Around the Horn

It's possible that as long as Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has a job, so will newly reunited teammate Doug Mirabelli. For years, Mr. Mirabelli provided the Red Sox knuckleballer with a unique asset-a catcher who could catch the fluttering pitch. But Boston traded Mr. Mirabelli away last year. The experiment didn't work. Since no one on Boston's roster could successfully catch Mr. Wakefield's knuckleball, the Red Sox traded to get Mr. Mirabelli back on May 1. Why is it so hard to catch? Because once it leaves the knuckleballer's hand, nobody (not the batter, catcher, or pitcher) knows where it will go next. So how do you do it? "Wait'll it stops rolling, then go pick it up," veteran broadcaster and former catcher Bob Uecker famously said.

It wasn't a good year to sit atop the Western Conference standings in the NHL. Conference champion and top playoff seed Detroit led the NHL with 124 regular season points, but lasted only six games in the Stanley Cup playoffs against Edmonton in the first round. Regular season runner-up Dallas lost its first-round series to Colorado in just five games despite racking up 112 points during the regular season.

It wasn't the sort of off-season excitement Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor was looking for. According to a police report, Mr. Taylor only honked at another driver when the motorist became enraged and ran him off the road. The other driver, Redmond Charles Burns of Davie, Fla., jumped out of the vehicle, banged on Mr. Taylor's trunk, shouted racial obscenities at him, and then tried to stab Mr. Taylor with an unidentified metal object. The Dolphins star suffered a few lacerations, but was otherwise fine. Mr. Burns was arrested and charged with three crimes, including aggravated battery.


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