I had been convicted of filing false income tax returns and was being sent to the prison camp at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. I decided to tell the truth and when I did, Tyler started to cry. He was not old enough to understand what was happening. But I didn't want to lie because I knew that sooner or later, he'd find out the truth. I swallowed the lump in my throat and thought about the pain my dad must have felt while making that tackle with a broken leg. But Dad's pain was physical and what I felt this day was emotional — a helluva lot harder to deal with! I grabbed Tyler by the shoulders and tried to explain that everything would be okay. But nothing I said made that little boy feel any better. The next few minutes felt like hours. I had no answer for the betrayed look in Tyler's eyes. My dad never let me down on any level and failing my own son was just too tough to handle. So hell, I started to cry, too — rare for me because, like I said, I'm not a warm-and-fuzzy guy. But I'm speaking from experience when I tell all of you dads out there — no pain is worse than when you let down your kids. Finally, my wife, Carol, ushered Tyler into the kitchen for some ice cream and a promise that he could come visit me on Sundays. Now ain't that a bitch? Trying to cheer up your son by telling him he can come visit Daddy in prison on Sundays.
As you can imagine, this was the lowest point in my life. I walked out onto the lawn and took one last look at my 10-acre Indian Hill estate and stared toward the barn that housed my prize quarter horses — knowing that it would all have to be sold to pay the seven figures I owed to lawyers, taxes, penalties, and interest. I felt more like an outcast than Cincinnati's favorite son or baseball's all-time Hit King. At just about that time, I saw my wife's closest friends, Rickelle Ruby and Charlotte Jacobs, pulling into the driveway.
The two attractive blondes were invited along to help my wife share the drive back from Carbondale, Illinois. Years earlier, Johnny Bench and I provided the seed money for Rickelle's husband, Jeff Ruby, to open the Precinct and Waterfront restaurants — sites where we all spent many nights celebrating during the 1980s. But as soon as Carol saw her girlfriends, I knew I was in for trouble. The three of them huddled up and started hugging and crying and talking about how they had to be strong, which left me no option but to step right in and straighten things out. The last thing I wanted to see was a bunch of crying women. So I walked toward the girls and looked them squarely in the eye. "I have a serious question to ask and I'd appreciate an honest answer," I said. The girls wiped their tears and responded to the serious tone in my voice. "Do you know why they can't keep Jews in prison?" I asked. "Because they eat all the lox," I replied. The punch line took a moment to sink in but the girls started laughing at my corny joke, which provided some much-needed relief from what was already a grim atmosphere. I figured a little humor would help to keep things in perspective. After all, I faced Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, and Bob Gibson — I could damn sure face 5 months in southern Illinois.