Gives new meaning to the phrase, “this game is a Locke.”
In the waning days of the 2012 major league season, Niki Congero received an unusual text message. It came from a man she had never met — a sports handicapper who for a couple of weeks had been texting unsolicited betting tips to her cellphone.
“LOL,” wrote the man, who identified himself as James Hunter from VIP Sports. “I got a baseball game that will be fixed on sunday.”...
At first the tips were nothing special, Congero told The Center for Investigative Reporting. Then the handicapper guaranteed her a winner in the Sept. 16 game between the Pirates and the Cubs at Wrigley Field. “My best friend is pitching today for the pirates,” Hunter texted. “His name is jeff locke. he will not have a good day.” In a later text he wrote, “Tell your biggest people that pirates game today is fixed. My friend will be throwing this game.”
Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead behind Locke, a late-season call-up. While the Bucs were ahead, Congero says, the handicapper phoned her, acknowledging that the game wasn’t going the way he had predicted. He implied that he was in touch with the lefthander even as the game was under way….
Sure enough, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Locke fell apart….
MLB’s own investigators and organized-crime detectives from the New York City Police Department were deployed to learn the handicapper’s identity and unravel the plot.
Before it was over, their investigation would lead to a tense standoff by the side of an Arizona desert road, where more than a dozen armed officers confronted two frightened young women with a baby in an effort to track down James Hunter. The outcome would hinge on separating fact from fantasy in the interpersonal dynamics between two former youth-baseball teammates from a small New England town — one of whom grew up to become a major league pitcher, the other a sports gambler.
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