Dan was the only guy I ever met who lit his next joint from the still smoldering embers of the roach from his last number. Chain smokin’ doobies.
He had called me to dump his inventory of Ohio State tickets, as he knew I was interested and would pay a fair price. He told me he had no desire to work hard enough to get top dollar, but he also knew that I would, so, buying his 3 dozen or so for the price he wanted worked for both of us.
I declined the offer of a toke, but accepted the price for the tickets, and left him vegetating in his apartment.
I was waiting for my bar exam results and working full time as a scalper, uh, ticket broker. In 1979, Notre Dame was a money maker, but Ohio State was the game.
The winner still would get the Rose Bowl, even though we had lost at a ranked Purdue team, 24 to 21, the week before, a game which I attended, and the Buckeyes were coming in undefeated in Earl Bruce’s first year as Woody’s successor.
I was living on a house on Hill Street, one of those uneven spots where the front was in the basement, but the door in back opened at ground level. Actually, even when the door was closed, we discovered that the leaves blew under it into the house in the fall. With the addition of Dan’s tickets, I had over 100 left, even though I had been selling them all year.
In those days, the sidewalk on State Street in front of the Michigan Union was a street market for tickets. The university had set up a ticket board inside in the basement, with hooks for small cards listing tickets for sale or wanted for each game. As a service to the students. The scalpers had moved from grabbing the cards, to accosting students inside, to simply catching them on the sidewalk outside on their way in. They had learned to bring their tickets with them.
Not much went on there until afternoons, the closer to game day, the more the action.
I got a call from a guy in Ohio who wanted a bunch of tickets, he would not say exactly how many. I gave him the price range, from high at mid-field to low in the end zone.
Low seats were the worst before they dug down the field. You could not see over players or cheerleaders or anyone else standing on the field.
He said he was interested, was in town, when could he come look at the tickets. He had cash, so I said he could come to the house, enter in back.
It was early. For me anyway, ten in the morning was not yet time to get dressed, but cash is alluring, so I gave him the address and told him come on over. So I threw on a robe over my tighty-whities and waited a few minutes.
Answering the knock on the door, I found a light haired bearded Buckeye looking dude about 5 ten 220 pounds, at least 40 of which served no purpose.
I held my hundred or so tickets in my hand, sorted by section and row, most expensive to least, as I explained on which yard lines, or in which corner, or where in the end zone, each section was located.
He reached over asking to take a look so I handed him the bunched up tickets and he fanned them out in his hand.
I left him momentarily for I forget what reason, and heard him take off running out the door.
I immediately gave chase, feeling like an idiot for screaming “Help! Police! Help! Police!” as loudly as I could. But I could not think of anything else to say.
I kept him in sight as I chased through several back yards away from State street, maintaining my yells, across the street, turning through some front yards back toward State, gradually gaining ground. Suddenly he stopped, and I extended my hand, saying “Give me the tickets!”
He started telling me how he was an undercover Ohio State policeman investigating scalping.
After my third demand for the tickets, he handed them to me, and I returned home, not bothering to follow him further to identify his vehicle or otherwise prolong the situation.
Then I heard the sirens.
I met the police in front of my house, and told them my story. I was not exactly comfortable. When they asked the value, I wondered whether they meant face value, or actual worth? There were two, who looked at each other, turned back to me and the one taking notes said ”Face value.”
Which was still over $1,000. One of them radioed some information back at the patrol car, and shortly thereafter said they had picked up a suspect.
I was astounded, until I saw him.
Another car rolled up, and a plain clothes guy not matching much of my description was led out of the back seat, looking guilty.
I said no, that ain’t him. I think they were testing me.
I went back inside.
“Uh, Tom?” I was looking for my roommate, as I heard noises from his end of the place.
He came out. “Yeah?”
“Uh, didn’t you hear anything? Like, me, screaming for the police?”
“Oh, yeah, sure did, you bet.” He replied.
“So, uh, I could have used a little help?”
“Well” said Tom “First rule when cops are involved: HTD.”
“HTD?” the meaning of the acronym eluded me, and my confused countenance gave me away.
“Hide The Dope.” Tom explained.
Hard to argue that my self interest trumped his, so, that was that.
Later that day in front of the Union, I apprised my fellow scalpers of the incident, needlessly adding that they should be leery of any calls from Buckeyes looking for large numbers of tickets who wanted to meet them.
Mike figured he had been called by the same guy, just before he had called me. Being more suspicious than I, Mike had turned him down, and was now very glad that he had escaped my fate.
I found that I had over $1,000 of cash, it is, after all, a cash business, in addition to the Ohio tickets.
Mike told me he had secured a safety deposit box early in the season to hold most of his inventory and some of his cash.
I decided it was a little late in the game for me to go that route. But I had a 12 gauge single shot shotgun, which I loaded and kept next to my bed every night until the game was over. After all, he knew where I lived.
There was no burglar alarm, and the door was not exactly secured.
Even though I am the son of a stockbroker, I did not understand what selling short was until Mike explained how he was selling tickets in Columbus.
He had ads in various Ohio newspapers, with different names, so that he knew where the call came from by the name of the person the caller was seeking. He was selling tickets he did not yet own to Buckeyes, then buying for a lower price in Michigan.
And periodically flying to Ohio to deliver tickets and collect cash.
He had decided he could make more money spending the day before the game in Columbus. But he wanted to be able to make last minute sales to Buckeyes who were stillcalling him.
So, being there were no cell phones, he asked me if he could forward his phone to mine, so that he could call me throughout the day, to get the contact info on the new Buckeye buyers. He was taking all his inventory with him.
In return, I could field all the Michigan area calls, and make whatever sales I wanted. Another win-win idea.
So that Friday I worked all day, taking and returning calls, mine and Mike's, meeting people to buy or sell tickets, giving Mike the updates.
By midnight I was plus over $1,000 for the day, and had some left to sell on game day.
I wondered how long it would be before I made that much money in one day again.
My parents had season tickets, and were going to take me out for dinner after the game. Which we lost. Bo tried to pull a rabbit out of his hat by starting Rich Hewlett at QB for the first time. Mike Jolly blocked a punt for a TD, but we still lost 18 to 15.
I collapsed on my bed in exhaustion after the game for a nap. Apparently, my sister was unable to rouse me for dinner, and I slept through the night on into the next morning.
I went to the Gator Bowl, where double digit underdog North Carolina broke Wangler’s leg and beat us 17 to 15.
We opened 1980 hosting Northwestern, which narrow victory I missed to attend a wedding.
I then went to South Bend for the miracle wind stoppage and last second game winning Olver field goal.
Then home to face Heisman winner George Rogers of South Carolina. Bo went for it on 4th and one from our own 29, failed, and the Gamecocks capitalized for the winning TD in a 17 to 14 Wolverine loss.
We thought we were in a new era, the era of losing.
It is always darkest before the dawn.