Six, Two and Even

by John Delach

Are you familiar with the expression, “six, two and even” or as it is also stated, “6 – 2, & even?” It’s cloaked in mystery and the key to solving it is missing.


Many people who know it trace first hearing it back to “Walpole” Joe Morgan, the life-long Red Sox organization manager, scout and coach. From 1988 to 1991, Morgan managed the Boston Red Sox and brought with him a down-to-earth; tell it like it is personality. When fired by Haywood Sullivan and other Sox executives, he left them with these parting words: “Your team is not as good as you think it is.”


How unique was Morgan? For about ten-years while he was in the Red Sox organization, he worked for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority driving a plow each winter earning him a second moniker: “Turnpike Joe.”


Shaun Clancy, the Manhattan saloon keeper and primo baseball aficionado shared this about Morgan: “Joe used it as code for any questions he didn’t want to answer or felt the asker didn’t need to know. It started at his first news conference when some of the writers were asking questions to try to make Joe look stupid so he used the phrase. No one called him out so he continued to use it.”


Rory Costello wrote about Morgan for the Society for Baseball Research:


Almost 20 years after he left the Red Sox, people still remember a Morgan catchphrase, “Six, two and even.” Many fans were baffled by what this meant – even Joe himself didn’t really know. Humphrey Bogart said it in The Maltese Falcon, but Morgan picked it up from his old minor-league manager, Joe Schultz (who was also full of little sayings).


Morgan told Costello: “(Schultz) used to say, ‘six, two and even’ all the time and when I asked him what it meant, he’d just shake his head. It wasn’t until I was out of baseball about 15 years that I met this old guy, he was 94, who was a bookmaker in the 1920s.” It refers to betting odds on horse races.


A number of horse racing folks will agree that it refers to the odds on a pony in a given race: Six to one to win, two to one to place (finish second) and even money to show (finish third.)


But others believe it has a more sinister nature describing when the odds on a horse to win a race drop from six to one down to two to one and finally to even just before post time signifying that the so called “smart money” has jumped on that nag and the fix is in.


That would explain why Humphrey Bogart’s used the term in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon? I read that Bogart changed what was written in the script and I was able to locate a Warner Brothers’ document with the notation:  “FINAL VERSION (2nd re-make)” of that script. The term, 2nd re-make, referred to the fact that the Bogart film was the third version of the film. The first version opened in 1931, a the second in 1936.


In the 1941 film, Bogart played detective, Sam Spade. In a confrontational scene with Joel Cairo, (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman, (Sydney Greenstreet), Spade turned to an un-named character simply referred to as “the boy” and, according to the script I perused, he was supposed to say: “Two to one they’re selling you out, son.”


Instead, Bogart changed the line and said: “Six, two and even, they’re selling you out, kid.” Perhaps Bogart believed this more forceful term revealed that the kid was being set up and trumped the more mundane of two to one odds?


There is also a Dick Tracy connection to this expression. For two years in 1961 and 1962, the same Chester Gould, who created the comic strip in 1937, produced an animated show for television. On the show whenever Tracy or one of his assistants finished their wristwatch telephone conversation, they signed off with: “Six, two and even, over and out.”


Perhaps, like Joe Morgan, Gould liked the rhythm of the expression? Curiously, Gould used it to describe a more level playing field where circumstances are as they should be, the planets and stars are in alignment and Mother Nature is at peace. “Six, two and even, over and out” in Gould’s use translates to “all is well.”


The mystery of its origin remains unsolved. If you have a theory, I can direct you where to express it.


Shaun Clancy adopted this expression to invite people to come and enjoy life at his saloon; Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant where he states that, Foley’s is: An Irish Bar with a Baseball Attitude Where Everything is 6 – 2 & Even.