The Black Sox Baseball Scandal

The Black Sox Baseball Scandal


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Just how the “Big Fix” of 1919 played out remains a subject of considerable debate among baseball historians. Accounts differ, but the scheme may have first materialized a few weeks before the World Series, when White Sox first baseman C. Arnold “Chick” Gandil and a gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan met to discuss the possibility of Sox players throwing the championship. Gamblers had long been greasing the palms of disgruntled ballplayers in exchange for inside tips, but attempting to rig an entire World Series was a rare and perhaps even unprecedented proposition. Gandil later claimed he was initially skeptical that it could work, but he eventually agreed that he and a few co-conspirators would throw the series in exchange for a hefty payout of around $100,000. He soon enlisted White Sox pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg and outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch into the scheme. Third baseman Buck Weaver was in on the early stages of the plot before pulling out, and utility infielder Fred McMullin was cut in after he overheard the players talking about the deal. Power hitter “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was also approached.

As Gandil recruited his conspirators, Sullivan and a tangled web of crooks that may have included “Sleepy” Bill Burns, Bill Maharg and Abe Attell began raising the bribe money. New York mob leader Arnold Rothstein may have been a major player, but his involvement has never been proven, and evidence suggests that Gandil and his co-conspirators may have hatched multiple deals with different syndicates. “They not only sold [the series]” Abe Attell later claimed, “but they sold it wherever they could get a buck.” Bookies had previously had the Sox winning the World Series over the underdog Cincinnati Reds by as much as three-to-one, but the odds shifted after those in the know began betting heaps of cash on the Reds. As the championship drew near, the streets buzzed with rumors that several White Sox players were in the pocket of high stakes gamblers.

Suspicions that the championship was “in the bag” only increased after the White Sox and the Reds met on October 1 for the first game of what was then a best-of-nine World Series. After hitting a batter with one of his first pitches—supposedly a signal that the fix was on—Eddie Cicotte went on to make a series of uncharacteristic blunders from the mound. Chicago lost the game 9-1, leading the New York Times to marvel, “Never before in the history of America’s biggest baseball spectacle has a pennant-winning club received such a disastrous drubbing in an opening game…” The faulty play continued in game two, when Sox pitcher Lefty Williams gifted the Reds a 4-2 win after walking three batters in a row.

The White Sox continued losing over the next few games, and by October 6, the series stood at 4-1 in favor the Reds. Everything was proceeding as planned, yet according to later accounts, many of the crooked Sox players had begun to grow restless. They had purportedly arranged to receive their bribes in five $20,000 installments—one after each loss—but the gamblers had failed to deliver the full amount. After game five, the furious ballplayers supposedly called off the fix once and for all and resolved to play to win for the rest of the series. Over the next two games, the Sox sprang to life, winning 5-4 and 4-1 and putting themselves back in the race for the championship. Backing out of a deal with gangsters proved difficult, however, and several of the players later hinted at having received threats against their families. Whether because of intimidation or merely an unexpectedly strong opposition, the Sox went on to lose game eight to the Reds 10-5, giving Cincinnati their first ever World Series win.

Rumors of a fix continued to persist in the months after the championship defeat. Leading the charge was sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, who investigated the 1919 series and later wrote a famous article for the New York Evening World titled “Is Big League Baseball Being Run for Gamblers, With Players in the Deal?” Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was quick to shrug off any reports of impropriety, saying, “I believe my boys fought the battles of the recent World Series on the level.” Despite his claims to the contrary, evidence would later show that Comiskey had been tipped off about a possible fix early in the series and may have attempted to bury the story to protect his business interests.

Baseball’s leading figures appeared content to let the 1919 World Series go unexamined, and it largely did until August 31, 1920, when evidence surfaced that gamblers had rigged a regular season game between the Cubs and the Phillies. A grand jury convened to investigate, and speculation soon turned to the previous year’s World Series. Around that same time, gambler Bill Maharg went public with an account of his own involvement in the fix. As the accusations mounted, Eddie Cicotte decided to testify before the grand jury. During a tearful mea culpa, the pitcher admitted involvement in the scandal, saying, “I don’t know why I did it…I needed the money. I had the wife and kids.” Shortly afterwards, star hitter “Shoeless” Joe Jackson testified and admitted to having accepted $5,000 from his teammates. Over the next few days, Lefty Williams and Oscar Felsch also confessed their involvement.

In October 1920, Gandil, Cicotte, Williams, Risberg, Felsch, McMullin, Weaver and Jackson—now dubbed the “Black Sox”—were indicted on nine counts of conspiracy. While they were lambasted in the media for “selling out baseball,” the players coasted through their June 1921 trial after all the paper records relating to their grand jury confessions vanished under mysterious circumstances. Many now believe that Comiskey and gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein arranged for the papers to be stolen as part of a cover up. Whatever the cause, the prosecution’s case disappeared along with the confessions. On August 2, 1921, the Black Sox were found not guilty on all counts.

The ballplayers’ vindication would not last long. Only a day after the acquittal, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, recently appointed as baseball’s first commissioner, decreed that all eight players were permanently banned from organized baseball. “Regardless of the verdict of juries,” Landis wrote, “no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

The edict effectively destroyed the careers of the eight Black Sox. Some of them later tried to win reinstatement to the league, but Commissioner Landis ensured that none of the disgraced ballplayers ever set foot in a big league diamond again. The decision was especially harsh toward Buck Weaver, who was banned even though he supposedly dropped out of the plot before it started. Joe Jackson, meanwhile, had admitted to accepting money from the Black Sox, but later claimed that he was an unwilling participant and had tried to tip Comiskey to the scheme. “Shoeless Joe’s” true level of involvement remains unclear, but his series best batting average of .375 suggests he took no active role in throwing the 1919 championship.

If Landis’ blanket ban helped cleanse baseball’s damaged image, it also served to sweep the Black Sox scandal under the rug. Chick Gandil and others would later produce contradictory accounts of what happened, leading to still unanswered questions about who was really involved in the 1919 World Series fix and to what degree the games were thrown. Arnold Rothstein, one of the most likely suspects for organizing or financing the fix, was never even charged with a crime. He would maintain his innocence for the rest of his life, despite widespread rumors that he made a fortune betting on the series.


Baseball had frequent problems with gamblers influencing the game, until the 1920s when the Black Sox Scandal and the resultant merciless crackdown largely put an end to it. The scandal involved eight players and all were suspended for life. They were not guilty of the scandal but were suspended for life for being around the shady characters.

1877 Louisville Grays scandal Edit

After a losing streak towards the end of the season cost the Louisville Grays the pennant, members of the team were discovered to have thrown games for money. Four players, including star pitcher Jim Devlin, were banned from professional baseball for life.

1908 bribery attempt Edit

On the eve of the "playoff" or "makeup" game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants that would decide the National League championship, an umpire refused an attempted bribe intended to help the Giants win. The Giants lost to the Cubs, and the matter was kept fairly quiet. It came out the following spring, but the results of the official inquiry were kept secret. However, the Giants' team physician for 1908 was reportedly the culprit and was banned for life.

Recent research has suggested that the team physician was allowed to be the "scapegoat" some baseball historians now suspect that the Giants' manager, John McGraw, was behind the physician's bribe attempt, or that it may in fact have been McGraw himself who approached the umpire. If true, and had it become known, it could have been disastrous, as McGraw was such a prominent figure in the game.

1914 World Series upset Edit

The four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Athletics by the Boston Braves in the 1914 World Series was stunning. Students of that Series suspect that the Athletics were angry at their notoriously miserly owner, Connie Mack, and that the A's players did not give the Series their best effort. Although such an allegation was never proven, Mack apparently thought that it was at least a strong possibility, and he soon traded or sold all of the stars away from that 1914 team. The A's team was decimated, and within two years they limped to the worst single-season win-loss percentage in modern baseball history (36-117, .235) it would be over a decade before they recovered.

1917–1918 suspicions Edit

The manner in which the New York Giants lost to the Chicago White Sox in the 1917 World Series raised some suspicions. A key play in the final game involved Heinie Zimmerman chasing Eddie Collins across an unguarded home plate. Immediately afterward, Zimmerman (who had also hit only .120 during the Series) denied throwing the game or the Series. Within two years, Zimmerman and his corrupt teammate Hal Chase would be suspended for life, not so much due to any one incident but to a series of questionable actions and associations. The fact that the question of throwing the Series was even raised suggests the level of public consciousness of gamblers' potential influence on the game.

Then, just a year ahead of the infamous Black Sox scandal, there were rumors of World Series fixing by members of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs lost the 1918 Series in a sparsely-attended affair that also nearly resulted in a players' strike demanding more than the normal gate receipts. With World War I dominating the news (as well as having shortened the regular baseball season and having caused attendance to shrink) the unsubstantiated rumors were allowed to dissipate.

1919 conspiracy Edit

The 1919 World Series resulted in the most famous scandal in baseball history, often referred to as the Black Sox Scandal. Eight players from the Chicago White Sox (nicknamed the Black Sox) were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Details of the scandal remain controversial, and the extent to which each player was said to be involved varied. It was, however, front-page news across the country when the story was uncovered late in the 1920 season, and despite being acquitted of criminal charges (throwing baseball games was technically not a crime), the eight players were banned from organized baseball (i.e. the leagues subject to the National Agreement) for life.

Although betting had been an ongoing problem in baseball since the 1870s, it reached a head in this scandal, resulting in radical changes in the game's organization. It resulted in the appointment of a Commissioner of Baseball (Kenesaw Mountain Landis) who took firm steps to try to rid the game of gambling influence permanently.

One important step was the lifetime ban against the Black Sox Scandal participants. The "eight men out" were the great "natural hitter" "Shoeless" Joe Jackson pitchers Eddie Cicotte and "Lefty" Williams infielders "Buck" Weaver, "Chick" Gandil, Fred McMullin, and "Swede" Risberg and outfielder "Happy" Felsch. Jackson, who was suspended during the peak of his career with a .356 lifetime batting average (all-time third), is still regarded as one of the greatest players not in the Hall of Fame.

1919 aftermath Edit

After the 1919 scandal and some further game-fixing incidents in 1920 had been resolved, and with Landis having taken over, the gambling problem apparently went away, for the most part, for decades. Commissioners have taken an almost fanatical interest in the subject, suspending well-known individuals for lengthy times just for having been seen with gamblers Leo Durocher, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was suspended by Commissioner Happy Chandler for the 1947 season for just that reason.

After their retirement, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays served for a while as greeters at legal Atlantic City gambling casinos. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn issued a ban against them. New Jersey state gaming regulators harshly criticized Kuhn's decision, while newspaper articles of the time pointed out that Mantle and Mays played before there were large player salaries. Their bans were lifted during Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's term.

1980s Pete Rose betting scandal Edit

In March 1989, Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader and manager of the Cincinnati Reds since 1984, was reported by Sports Illustrated as betting on Major League games, including Reds games, while he was the manager.

Rose had been questioned about his gambling activities in February 1989 by outgoing commissioner Peter Ueberroth and his successor, National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti. Three days later, lawyer John M. Dowd was retained to investigate the charges against Rose. During the investigation, Giamatti took office as the commissioner of baseball.

The Dowd Report asserted that Pete Rose bet on 52 Reds games in 1987, at a minimum of $10,000 a day.

Rose, facing a very harsh punishment, along with his attorney and agent, Reuven Katz, decided to seek a compromise with Major League Baseball. On August 24, 1989, Rose agreed to a voluntary lifetime ban from baseball. The agreement had three key provisions:

  1. Major League Baseball would make no finding of fact regarding gambling allegations and cease their investigation
  2. Rose was neither admitting or denying the charges and
  3. Rose could apply for reinstatement after one year.

Despite the "no finding of fact" provision, Giamatti immediately stated publicly that he felt that Rose bet on baseball games. Eight days later, September 1, Giamatti suffered a fatal heart attack. The consensus among baseball experts is that Giamatti's post-agreement statement, his sudden and untimely death, and appointment of new commissioner, Fay Vincent, a close friend and great admirer of Giamatti, doomed Pete Rose's hopes of reinstatement. [ citation needed ]

Bud Selig, the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, succeeded Vincent in 1992. Rose has applied for reinstatement twice: in September 1997 and March 2003. In both instances, commissioner Selig chose not to act, thereby keeping the ban intact. Upon Selig's retirement from the Commissioner's Office, Rose applied for reinstatement in March 2015, but Selig's successor Rob Manfred denied the request in December of that year.

On February 4, 1991, Rose's ban from baseball was extended to the Baseball Hall of Fame, when the twelve members of the board of directors of the Hall voted unanimously to bar Rose from the ballot. However, Major League Baseball allowed Rose to be a part of the All-Century Team celebration in 1999 since he was named one of the team's outfielders.

In 2004, after years of speculation and denial, Rose admitted in his book My Prison Without Bars that the accusations that he had bet on Reds games were true and that he had admitted it to Selig personally some time before. He stated that he always bet on the Reds, never against them. [1]

Repeatedly in the 1980s, MLB owners colluded to keep player salaries down. Over multiple instances the owners were found to have stolen nearly $400 million from the players. When the Major League Baseball players struck in 1994, the owners were found to have committed unfair labor practices in attempting to keep player salaries down again. [ citation needed ]

Baseball has had its share of problems with substance abuse from the inception. Prior to the 1970s, there were countless individual problems with alcohol abuse, but as alcohol was a legal substance during most of that time (except for the Prohibition era), alcohol was typically seen as a character weakness on the part of individuals. Public awareness of illegal drugs accelerated during the 1970s, and by the 1980s a number of players had become caught up.

1985 cocaine scandal Edit

The spotlight on the "Pittsburgh problem" by the national media led to the more widespread awareness of use of other drugs such as amphetamines ("greenies" in baseball vernacular) and marijuana [ citation needed ] in the game. Both have a long history in baseball Milner (who had retired two years earlier due to recurring hamstring injuries), in fact, spoke of Willie Mays and Willie Stargell, both iconic figures and Baseball Hall of Famers, giving him "greenies".

Testimony revealed that drug dealers frequented the Pirates' clubhouse. Stories such as Rod Scurry leaving a game in the late innings to look for cocaine and John Milner buying two grams of cocaine for $200 in the bathroom stalls at Three Rivers Stadium during a 1980 game against the Houston Astros shocked the grand jurors. Even Kevin Koch, who played the Pirates' mascot, was implicated for buying cocaine and introducing players to a drug dealer. Ultimately, seven drug dealers pleaded guilty on various charges.

On February 28, 1986, Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspended a number of players for varying lengths of time. A primary condition of reinstatement was public service. It would have also included urine tests, but the players union was able to successfully halt its implementation. To this day, drug testing, particularly of this sort, is a polarizing issue.

Rod Scurry died at age 36 on November 5, 1992 in a Reno, Nevada intensive care unit of a heart attack after a cocaine-fueled incident with police officers led to his hospitalization.

2005–2006 steroids investigations Edit

The steroids rumors and facts resulted in several de facto bans from the game by players who were either certifiable or suspected users of steroids, and significant doubt has been cast about the quality of various baseball records set since at least the early 1990s. Some people base their opinion on Jose Canseco's tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.

2013 Biogenesis scandal Edit

In 2013, twenty Major League Baseball (MLB) players were accused of using HGH after obtaining it from the clinic Biogenesis of America. Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, who had a drug-related suspension overturned in 2011, made a deal with MLB and accepted a 65-game ban. Two weeks later, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was suspended through the 2014 season (211 games), and 12 other players were suspended for 50 games. It was the most players ever suspended at one time by MLB.

Houston Astros Edit

In 2019, Mike Fiers of the Oakland Athletics spoke to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich of The Athletic where he revealed the Astros had been electronically stealing signs since at least the 2017 season. After an investigation by MLB, Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for one year from MLB. In addition, the Astros were fined $5 million and lost their first- and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 MLB drafts. After the news broke, Astros owner Jim Crane fired both Hinch and Lunhow. Hinch admitted to knowing about the scheme and discouraging it, but not reporting or stopping it. Both Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora were also implicated in the report by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Boston Red Sox Edit

The Boston Red Sox, managed by Cora beginning in the 2018 season, were also accused in a story on The Athletic of having their own sign stealing scheme. On January 14, 2020, Cora and the Red Sox agreed to "mutually part ways". In a statement after the news Cora said, "I do not want to be a distraction". The report on the Red Sox scheme was not released before the decision. Two days later, Beltrán and the New York Mets came to a similar parting of the ways the Mets had hired him as the team's new manager less than three months earlier.

On April 22, 2020, MLB suspended Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins without pay through the 2020 postseason and stripped the team of its second-round draft pick this year after completing an investigation into allegations that Boston stole signs during the 2018 season. Alex Cora was also suspended through the 2020 postseason, but only for his conduct as Houston's bench coach.

New York Yankees Edit

The New York Yankees were also allegedly revealed to have stolen signs, but the facts were suppressed despite a federal judge demanding that a confidential letter from Manfred to the Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman be unsealed. Since the ruling in June 2020, nothing more has been made public on the matter because of how potentially damaging the evidence could be to the Yankees organization and how costly it could be to MLB. [2]


The Series

Even before the Series started on October 1, there were rumors amongst the gambling community that things were not square, and the influx of money being bet on Cincinnati caused the odds against them to fall rapidly. These rumors also reached the press box where a number of correspondents, including Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and the ex-player and manager Christy Mathewson, resolved to compare notes on any plays and players that they felt were questionable.

Whether or not Jackson was involved in the conspiracy remains controversial. Jackson himself maintained that he was innocent, especially in his last words, which were "I'm about to face the greatest umpire of all, and He knows I am innocent." He had a .375 batting average, threw out five baserunners, and handling thirty chances in the outfield with no errors during that series. However, he batted far worse in the five games that the White Sox lost, totaling only one RBI, from a home run in game 8, when the Reds had a large lead and the series was all but over. Jackson—generally considered a strong defensive player— was unable to prevent a critical two-run triple to left during the series. However, he also threw a runner out at the plate. Most damningly, Jackson took $5000 from the gamblers. After the series was over, he tried to give the money back on multiple occasions, but by that time the damage had been done.

One play in particular has been subjected to much scrutiny. In the fifth inning of game 4, with a Cincinnati player on second, Jackson fielded a single hit to left field and threw home. Eyewitness accounts say that the throw would have resulted in an out had pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the leaders of the fix, not interfered. [citation needed] The run scored and the White Sox lost the game 2-0. James C. Hamilton—the official scorer of the 1919 World Series—testified under oath in a later civil trial between Jackson and Charles Comiskey that the throw was honest and that Cicotte jumped up and knocked it down for an error. [citation needed] Chick Gandil, another leader of the fix, later admitted to yelling at Cicotte to intercept the throw. ΐ] Cicotte, whose guilt is undisputed, made three errors in that fifth inning alone.

Another argument, presented in the book Eight Men Out, is that because Jackson was illiterate, he had little awareness of the seriousness of the plot, and thus, he consented to it only when Risberg threatened him and his family. Jackson accepted money in the fix and, on the advice of his lawyers pleaded guilty in the ensuing trial.


“Say it ain’t so”: The ‘Black Sox’ scandal that rocked American baseball

They were the biggest thing in baseball, a team of unrivalled skill and tenacity. So just why did the Chicago White Sox set out to lose the 1919 World Series? Richard Luck re-examines the greatest gambling scandal in the history of sport

This competition is now closed

Published: April 29, 2019 at 2:09 pm

‘The national pastime’ – that’s how Americans refer to baseball. As the US’s most beloved form of recreation, the sport is also seen to reflect the country’s character. In 1919, with the 20s yet to roar and prohibition yet to bite, the ‘boys of summer’ were the embodiment of a halcyon age. The war in Europe had been won, the stock market was starting to boom, and everything on the baseball diamond looked lovely.

As Manchester City are to today’s Premiership football, the Chicago White Sox were to baseball in the 1910s. After the Sox had won the World Series– the annual championship series contested between the American League and National League winners – in 1917, club owner Charles Comiskey continued to assemble a team of stellar talent, capable of taking apart all-comers. When the Sox made it to the series again in 1919, people gave their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, about as much chance as Custer had at Little Big Horn.

All of which made what happened next that much more extraordinary and despicable. Because when the Sox emphatically lost to the Reds over the eight-game series, it quickly became apparent that the greatest of sporting upsets was in fact the largest scandal in the history of American sport. But while the eight players who perpetrated the fraud received sanction and scorn, the men who financed it skulked back into the shadows. And one honest man had his career and reputation ruined for ever.

“Say it ain’t so,” a child allegedly begged White Sox legend ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson at the height of the affair. But it was. And yet it also wasn’t. Allow me to explain…

The roots of baseball’s biggest scandal

Under coach William ‘Kid’ Gleason, the Chicago White Sox had become all-conquering. Skippered by Eddie Collins, the team’s top talent included ace pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude ‘Lefty’ Williams, tenacious third baseman George ‘Buck’ Weaver, the hard-hitting Oscar ‘Happy’ Felsch, hard-nosed shortstop Charles ‘Swede’ Risberg and prize-fighter-turned-first baseman Arnold ‘Chick’ Gandil. All these and Joe Jackson, the illiterate mill worker who possessed the most beautiful swing of any baseball player before or since. After they had secured a fourth American League pennant in 1919, it was less a question of whether they could win the World Series than if they could beat Cincinnati 5–0.

Immediately in the wake of the pennant win, it became abundantly clear that all was not well with the White Sox. A player and coach before he became the club’s owner, Charles ‘Commy’ Comiskey was a man even Ebenezer Scrooge might have considered stingy. Having promised his players a bonus for winning the American League, one source records that Comiskey sent a case of flat champagne to the changing room. Another apocryphal tale claims that he short-changed Eddie Cicotte, who’d been promised $10,000 for winning 30 games, only to be left out of the side on the owner’s orders after victory number 29.

Add to this the fact that Comiskey refused to grant his players their full daily food allowance and insisted that they pay their own laundry bills (the Sox refused and took to the diamond in dirty uniforms, earning them their ‘Black Sox’ nickname) and it’s easy to see why his employees welcomed the chance to make some easy money. After all, it wasn’t as if they could go and play elsewhere – a controversial stipulation called the ‘reserve clause’ meant that teams retained the rights to players following the expiration of their contract. As such, the Sox players were unable to sign with another team. Only if Comiskey chose to trade or sell them were Gandil and company free to go elsewhere.

Chick Gandil it was, then, who sat down with Sox pitcher-turned-professional gambler ‘Sleepy’ Bill Burns with an eye to doing the unthinkable. After further conversations were held with Boston bookmaker Joseph ‘Sport’ Sullivan, the two messengers relayed the news to someone with enough money to ensure the Sox lost the series.

Arnold Rothstein was a very big deal in 1919. With his mob affiliations and vice-like grip on the American gambling scene, he’d acquired such wealth that he could easily stump up the estimated $70,000 (as you can understand, the figures vary wildly) needed to secure Chicago’s services.

On 21 September 1919, just two weeks before the series, Gandil arranged a meeting at New York’s Ansonia Hotel with the men he believed were most likely to agree to his egregious plan. Scorned pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, Gandil’s good friend Swede Risberg, the happy-go-lucky Oscar Felsch, the too-dim-to-know better Joe Jackson – all five agreed terms with Chick, as did journeyman Fred McMullin, who’d overheard talk of the fix and threatened to squeal unless he received a cut. Also present was fellow player Buck Weaver, although he’s said to have stormed out the moment it was suggested that the White Sox, and by extension the World Series, were for sale.

The 1919 World Series

On Wednesday 1 October, it was apparent the fix was on the moment Eddie Cicotte’s pitch hit the Reds’ leadoff hitter Morrie Rath on the back, a signal he’d agreed upon ahead of the game. Cicotte – who’d received $10,000 before game one – proceeded to pitch like a dog, consigning the Sox to a 9–1 shellacking. Worse was to come in game two, when it was pitcher Lefty Williams who literally threw the game. That Chicago defeated the Reds in the third game was entirely down to rookie pitcher Dickey Kerr playing very well, having being considered too insignificant to bribe. Normal service quickly resumed, however, with Cicotte and Williams handing games four and five to Cincinnati, leaving the Reds needing one more win to secure the championship.

And then the situation changed – changed utterly. After Dickey Kerr repeated his game three heroics in game six, Eddie Cicotte – who along with the other Black Sox hadn’t received the full sum of money he’d been promised – pitched one of the games of his life in game seven to bring Chicago back to within a victory of tying up the series. Lefty Williams had also had enough of the gamblers’ empty promises and was dead set on winning game eight – at least until some toughs threatened him with violence if he didn’t go through with the original plan. Chastened, Williams gave up four runs in the game’s first inning. Shortly thereafter, the Cincinnati Reds wrapped up the first World Series title in the club’s history. Yet again, David had slain Goliath.

The rumour that, in this instance, Goliath might have taken a dive had been going around the press box since the start of the series. Still, it wasn’t until the following September, when the Sox were again in the running for the pennant, that a grand jury was convened to investigate the issue of gambling in baseball. When called to the stand, both Eddie Cicotte and Joe Jackson confessed that they’d taken money to lose the 1919 World Series. At which point, all hell broke loose.

The fallout of a scandal

In June 1921, the eight men who had met at the Ansonia Hotel went on trial for conspiracy to defraud. That Gandil, Jackson and friends walked free wasn’t too surprising – the jurors were baseball fans and someone had ‘mislaid’ Cicotte, Jackson and Williams’s grand jury confessions, rendering them inadmissible. But any idea of the Sox having got off scot-free was quickly dismissed by the baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. A day after the players were acquitted, Landis issued the following proclamation:

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

And they didn’t. Not one of the Black Sox returned to the majors. But what of the gamblers? Well, they most certainly did get away with it, either through giving false testimony or fleeing the country. Charles Comiskey, meanwhile, continued to treat his players like cattle, so much so that Dickey Kerr – the saving grace of Chicago’s 1919 series – quit both the club and Major League Baseball in 1925.

Was ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson innocent?

The legacy of the Chicago Black Sox affair includes the excellent John Sayles movie Eight Men Out, and Field of Dreams, the Phil Alden Robinson film adapted from a WP Kinsella novel in which Joe Jackson and his teammates are redeemed for the sins of 1919.

At the heart of both films is the notion that Joe Jackson was a blameless victim of the scandal. But without getting into deep statistical analysis of his World Series form, the figures simply don’t back up this notion. On the contrary, those times in the series where he most needed to deliver, Jackson rarely did. This isn’t to say ‘Shoeless Joe’ was a willing conspirator – it’s just hard to tell.

No, if there was a wronged party, it was Buck Weaver – the man who wouldn’t have a part in the fix. Along with Kerr, Weaver was the Sox standout player of the series. He offered up his impressive batting average as proof he hadn’t taken a penny, and his refusal to turn in his fellow pros as evidence of loyalty rather than collusion. Yet he was banned from baseball, and his annual reinstatement requests went unheard. After he died in 1956, Weaver’s family took to petitioning Major League Baseball in the hope of clearing his name. As of this time, Weaver is still persona non grata as far as the baseball authorities are concerned even the passage of time has been incapable of removing the dark stain of the Black Sox.

Richard Luck is a feature writer, critic and author specialising in film, music and sport. A San Diego Padres fan, he is a regular contributor to The New European and has written for Esquire, Empire and Inside Sport.


The Black Sox Baseball Scandal - HISTORY

Gambling on baseball is a very sensitive subject and to understand why all you need to do is wind the clock back almost 100 years and look at the 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox.

Fans who know the history of the game are aware that there was a scandal and that White Sox players conspired with gamblers to throw the Series, but not too many know some of the more interesting facts.

Here’s look back at the Black Sox Scandal:

  • The term “Black Sox” was around before the 1919 World Series. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was so cheap that he reduced the number of times the players’ uniforms were washed. The dirty uniforms gave rise to the term Black Sox.
  • The Cincinnati Reds were the winners of the 1919 Series, taking the Series in eight games, 5-3. And to this day they are credited with being winners of the 1919 Fall Classic, with no asterisk by the Championship entry in record books.
  • After the 1919 mess, the first-ever commissioner of baseball was appointed. His name was Kennesaw Mountain Landis. He ruled over baseball and vowed to prevent another “Black Sox Scandal.” He was commissioner for 35 years, and there has been a commissioner ever since.
  • Six of the eight games of the 1919 World Series were completed in under two hours. With no TV or radio commercials to fit in, the game proceeded at a fast pace. By comparison, the shortest game of last year’s World Series was 2 hours and 28 minutes, the quickest game in 25 years.
  • “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the great left fielder whose name will forever be linked to the scandal because of his star status, batted .375 in the Series. He was accused of being part of the scandal and was banned from baseball for life, along with the seven other “conspirators.” Jackson was approached by his teammates, said “no” to them twice, but accepted some money from the gamblers.
  • The players and gamblers had a signal to indicate if the “fix was on”—if the White Sox pitcher hit the first Reds batter. The pitcher for Game 1 was Eddie Cicotte, and he plunked the batter in the back with the second pitch. Cicotte later admitted to throwing easy pitches to hit and making deliberate errors on throws.
  • Rumors of a fixed Series were widespread before it started, so much so that the White Sox, who started out as strong favorites, were the underdogs by the time the Series started. Either way, the gamblers knew where to place their money.

The eight accused players testified in a hearing about the fixed Series, and seven of them said Jackson was never at the secret meetings where throwing the Series was talked about.

  • Third baseman Buck Weaver was banned by Landis, despite performing well in the series (.324 BA) and not taking any bribes. Landis punished Weaver for failing to alert team officials after becoming aware of the fix.
  • Eight players were eventually accused of agreeing to take money for throwing the Series. Most of their money was never delivered. Surprisingly, eight of the accused players were found not guilty by a public jury in court in 1921.
  • Claude “Lefty” Williams, one of the eight, was accused of tanking in the World Series. He lost three decisions with a 6.63 ERA, becoming one of only two players in baseball history to lose three games in a World Series.
  • There have been a number of books about the scandal, including Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof, which was made into a movie in 1988 starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen and Christopher Lloyd as some of the players. The summary of the movie on IMDb.com says it’s a “dramatization of the Black Sox scandal when underpaid Chicago White Sox accepted bribes to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series.”
  • The ringleader seemed to be Chick Gandil, who approached a small-time gambler he knew and had worked with before, Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, just 13 days before the start of the Series. Gandil told Sullivan, before he had any buy-in from others, that he could throw the Series for $100,000. Whereas other players eventually admitted their role in the scandal, Gandil and Sullivan denied they had taken part in any wrongdoing.
  • MLB Rule 21, which prohibits gambling, was put in place eight years after the 1919 World Series. It states that a player will be banned for life if he bets on a game in which he is involved.

Players have the 1919 Black Sox to thank for that rule—and so do all those who care about the integrity of the games played on the field. Even those fans who may have a few bucks (or lots of bills) bet on the game.


Baseball’s idyllic past, like America’s and like our own, is not history it is a pretty story agreed upon.

Only in recent years, thanks largely to investigative efforts by members of the Society for American Baseball Research, has the truth about the Fix begun to come out. It is indeed a twisty tale, in some measure beyond perfect reconstruction, but neatly encapsulated by SABR’s Black Sox research group as “Eight Myths Out.” Among these are:

The Chicago White Sox were poorly paid by their skinflint owner Comiskey. In fact, the White Sox payroll was the American League’s highest. The players were not staging a labor action for higher wages they merely saw an opportunity and took it. It was Asinof and other socially conscious writers — Nelson Algren and James T. Farrell, notably — who later made the Black Sox out to be class-warfare victims and rebels.

Gamblers initiated the Fix. In fact, the idea was born among the players, who commonly bet on games involving other clubs. Gandil and Cicotte approached gamblers in hope of arranging a low-risk, high-reward deal like the one rumored to have been struck by the crosstown Cubs the year before, when they lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox.

The popular version of events right after the scandal was that, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, the innocent players were corrupted by a snake of foreign origin. In 1921, The Dearborn Independent, for example, ran an article headlined “Jewish Gamblers Corrupt American Baseball,” which claimed: “All along the line of investigation the names of Jews were plentifully sprinkled.”

America’s distrust of recent immigrants — whether Germans, Italians, Irish, Slavs or Jews — had been brought to a boil with the Great War. Nativism spilled over into a clash of urban versus rural values, most visibly in the rise of women’s suffrage simultaneous with the state-by-state spread of Prohibition. This was no golden age in America.

After undeniably tossing Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, the Black Sox, shorted on their promised payments, played to win, until a hit man known only as Harry F. threatened Lefty Williams before the deciding game. In fact, it is impossible to say, a century later, which games beyond the first two were fixed. Regarding Game 3, pitched by Dickey Kerr, Jackson said: “The eight of us did our best to kick it and little Dick Kerr won the game by his pitching. Because he won it, these gamblers double-crossed us for double-crossing them.”

Many believe that Kerr also won Game 6 despite his teammates’ determination to lose undercutting this assertion is the fact that the winning run came when Gandil singled to drive in Weaver — two players in on the plot — in the 10th inning. Close examination of the newsreel footage of the 1919 World Series, improbably recovered from the permafrost of the Yukon, offers no help in determining which plays were on the level.

The Black Sox affair was populated by a dizzying array of gamblers. Some were big-time players, like Boston’s Joseph Sullivan, known as Sport, rumored to have fixed the 1914 World Series. Others were small-timers like Billy Maharg, the man who broke the gamblers’ code of silence in September 1920 by revealing the Fix. None of these men were regarded as mob enforcers who might have frightened the ballplayers they were said to fear only shortstop Swede Risberg, who was known as “a hard guy.”

As to Harry F., who was said to have threatened Lefty Williams if he did not “blow up” in the first inning of Game 8 (the 1919 World Series was a best-of-nine affair, and the White Sox were on the brink of elimination): He did not exist. Asinof created Harry F., he later admitted, “to guard against copyright infringement.”

The Black Sox scandal was baseball’s “original sin” — its first instance of game fixing, which shocked the conscience of the nation. True, with a qualification: The scandal was a cataclysmic event in the game’s history not because it was the first time anyone had cheated, but because it was the first time the public knew about it.

Ordinary fans, who frequently bet on games themselves — a workingman’s pleasure like alcohol or tobacco, also under assault in 1919 — were unaware that the national pastime had not always been played on the level. Few recalled the great game-fixing episode of 1877, when four Louisville players tossed away a pennant in exchange for filthy lucre. Hardly a soul outside organized baseball knew of the purported attempts to fix the World Series in 1903, 1905, 1914, 1917 and 1918.


Contents

The Chicago White Sox Edit

Jackson was the unquestioned star of the team. The left fielder hit .351 that season, fourth in the league and in the AL's top five in slugging percentage, RBI, total bases and base hits. He was not the only star in a lineup with hardly a weak spot, as former A's superstar leadoff hitter Eddie Collins, one of the greatest second basemen of all time, [4] was still going strong in his early thirties, hitting .319 with a .400 on-base percentage. Right fielder Nemo Leibold hit .302 with 81 runs scored. First baseman Chick Gandil hit .290, third baseman Buck Weaver .296, and center fielder Oscar "Hap" Felsch hit .275 and tied Jackson for the team lead in home runs with only 7 (as the dead-ball era was coming to a close). Even typical "good field, no hit" catcher Ray Schalk hit .282 that year, and shortstop Swede Risberg was not an automatic out with the .256 average and 38 RBI. Manager Gleason's bench contained two impressive hitters, outfielder Shano Collins and infielder Fred McMullin, both veterans of the 1917 world championship.

The 1919 pennant-winning pitching staff was led by a pair of aces and a very promising rookie. Knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte had become one of the AL's best pitchers after turning 30 and discovering the "shine ball" he had won 28 games for the 1917 champions, and after an off-year in 1918 had come back with a hefty 29–7, leading the league in wins and second in earned run average to Washington's veteran "Big Train" Walter Johnson. Next came Claude "Lefty" Williams, at 23–11 and 2.64. Twenty-six-year-old rookie Dickie Kerr started only 17 games, but turned in a solid 13–7 and 2.88. Fourth in the rotation was Urban "Red" Faber, who had beaten the Giants three times in the 1917 World Series but had an off-year in 1919 at 11–9 and 3.83 in 20 starts. He was ill and unable to pitch in the Series, limiting Gleason to three top-of-the-line starters for what could be nine games.

However, all was not well in the White Sox camp. Tension between many of the players and owner Comiskey was quite high, given his penny-pinching ways memorialized in two urban legends: (1) that he told Gleason to shut down Cicotte in the last days of the regular season to prevent him from winning 30 games, a milestone which would have earned him a sizeable $10,000 bonus (2) that many derided the White Sox as the Black Sox because Comiskey wouldn't pay to have their uniforms laundered regularly, and they became blacker and blacker due to accumulated sweat, grime, and dirt.

The Cincinnati Reds Edit

In contrast to the White Sox, the 1919 Cincinnati Reds were upstarts. They had finished no higher than third since 1900, and then only twice, before winning the NL pennant handily in 1919. Under new manager Pat Moran, best known as the leader of another bunch of unlikely newcomers to the World Series, the 1915 Philadelphia Phillies, the Reds finished nine games in front of the runner-up New York Giants at 96–44 and at least 20 games ahead of the other six, with the second highest NL won-lost percentage since 1910 at .686.

Their greatest star was center fielder Edd Roush, who led the league in hitting at .321 and, like the White Sox's Jackson, was in the top five of their respective leagues in most important hitting categories. Third baseman Heinie Groh was the other great hitter on the team at .310 with a .392 on-base percentage and 79 runs scored. Slick-fielding first baseman Jake Daubert, a two-time National League batting champion with Brooklyn earlier in the decade, also scored 79 runs and hit .276, while catcher Ivey Wingo hit .273. The rest of the team was unheralded, including second baseman Morrie Rath, a .264 hitter with no power but a good on-base percentage, and shortstop Larry Kopf, a .270 singles hitter. The corner outfielders were decidedly weaker hitters, with former Phillies star left fielder Sherry Magee's .215 in 56 games and right fielder Earle "Greasy" Neale's .242 with little power. This would prompt Moran to start rookie Pat Duncan in left field in the World Series.

The Reds' pitching was universally solid, however. The team's big three included Hod Eller (20–9, 2.39), Dutch Ruether (19–6, 1.82) and Slim Sallee (21–7, 2.06), all among the league leaders in various categories. They were backed by three other pitchers who were almost as successful: Jimmy Ring at only 10–9 but 2.26, Ray Fisher at 14–5 and 2.17 with five shutouts, and Cuban Dolf Luque at 10–3 and 2.63, former and future Giant who would win the last game of the 1933 World Series in long relief for New York. It was a deep and talented staff, a definite advantage in a Series whose format had just been changed from best of seven to best of nine.

The conspirators got an unexpected assist when a flu-stricken Faber was left off the World Series roster. Indeed, years later catcher Schalk said that had Faber been healthy, there never would have been a fix (since he almost certainly would have gotten starts that went to Cicotte and/or Williams). [5] Despite their many wins on the field, the White Sox were an unhappy team. Many observers believe that it was Comiskey's stinginess that was largely to blame for the Black Sox scandal, despite the fact that the 1919 White Sox payroll was third highest in the American League, behind only Boston and New York.

Stories of the "Black Sox" scandal have usually included Comiskey in its gallery of subsidiary villains, focusing in particular on his intentions regarding a clause in Cicotte's contract that would have paid Cicotte an additional $10,000 bonus for winning 30 games. According to Eliot Asinof's account of the events, Eight Men Out, Cicotte was "rested" for the season's final two weeks after reaching his 29th win presumably to deny him the bonus, but the truth may be more complex. Cicotte won his 29th game on September 19, had an ineffective start on September 24 and was pulled after a few innings in a tuneup on the season's final day, September 28 (three days before the Series opener). In addition, Cicotte reportedly agreed to the fix the same day he won his 29th game before he could have known of any efforts to deny him a chance to win his 30th. [6] The story was probably true with regard to the 1917 season, however, when Cicotte won 28 games and hurled the White Sox to the world championship.

Although rumors were swirling among the gamblers (according to Tom Meany in his chapter on the 1919 Reds in "Baseball's Greatest Teams," "Cincinnati money was pouring in" even though the White Sox were regarded as the overwhelming favorite) and some of the press, most fans and observers were taking the Series at face value. On October 2, the day of Game 2, the Philadelphia Bulletin published a poem which would quickly prove to be ironic:

Still, it really doesn't matter, After all, who wins the flag. Good clean sport is what we're after, And we aim to make our brag To each near or distant nation Whereon shines the sporting sun That of all our games gymnastic Base ball is the cleanest one!

Game Date Score Location Time Attendance
1 October 1 Chicago White Sox – 1, Cincinnati Reds – 9 Redland Field 1:42 30,511 [7]
2 October 2 Chicago White Sox – 2, Cincinnati Reds – 4 Redland Field 1:42 29,698 [8]
3 October 3 Cincinnati Reds – 0, Chicago White Sox – 3 Comiskey Park 1:30 29,126 [9]
4 October 4 Cincinnati Reds – 2, Chicago White Sox – 0 Comiskey Park 1:37 34,363 [10]
5 October 6 Cincinnati Reds – 5, Chicago White Sox – 0 Comiskey Park 1:45 34,379 [11]
6 October 7 Chicago White Sox – 5, Cincinnati Reds – 4 (10 innings) Redland Field 2:06 32,006 [12]
7 October 8 Chicago White Sox – 4, Cincinnati Reds – 1 Redland Field 1:47 13,923 [13]
8 October 9 Cincinnati Reds – 10, Chicago White Sox – 5 Comiskey Park 2:27 32,930 [14]

Game 1 Edit

Wednesday, October 1, 1919 3:00 pm (ET) at Redland Field in Cincinnati, Ohio
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
Cincinnati 1 0 0 5 0 0 2 1 X 9 14 1
WP: Walter "Dutch" Ruether (1–0) LP: Eddie Cicotte (0–1)

The first game began at 3 pm at Cincinnati's Redland Field, with 30,511 fans in the stands and ticket scalpers outside the park raking in at least $50 per ticket. Chicago failed to score in the top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, Cicotte (who was paid his $10,000 the night before the series began) took the mound and hit the leadoff hitter, Morrie Rath, in the back with his second pitch, a prearranged signal to Arnold Rothstein that the fix was on. Even so, the game remained close for a while, due in part to some excellent defense from the conspirators, seeking to deflect suspicion from themselves. In the fourth, however, Cicotte "went haywire" (again according to Meany, op. cit.), allowing a number of hits in succession climaxed by a two-out triple to the opposing pitcher, as the Reds scored five times to break a 1–1 tie. Cicotte was relieved at that point, but the damage was done and the Reds went on to add three more runs in later innings and win 9–1.

Sportswriters thought that a bad throw by Cicotte to Risberg in the fourth inning, which prevented a possible double play, was suspicious. [15] By that evening, there already were signs that things were going wrong. Only Cicotte, who had shrewdly demanded his $10,000 in advance, had been paid. "Sleepy" Bill Burns and Maharg met with Abe Attell, the former world boxing champ and Rothstein's intermediary, but he withheld the next installment ($20,000) nonetheless to bet on the next game. The next morning Gandil met Attell and again demanded money, but again to no avail.

Game 2 Edit

Thursday, October 2, 1919 3:00 pm (ET) at Redland Field in Cincinnati, Ohio
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 10 1
Cincinnati 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 X 4 4 3
WP: Harry "Slim" Sallee (1–0) LP: Lefty Williams (0–1)

Although they had not received their money, the players were still willing to go through with the fix. "Lefty" Williams, the starting pitcher in Game 2, was not going to be as obvious as Cicotte. After a shaky start, he pitched well until the fourth inning, when he walked three and gave up as many runs. After that he became virtually unhittable again, giving up only one more run but lack of clutch-hitting, with Gandil a particularly guilty party, led to a 4–2 White Sox loss. Attell was still in no mood to pay up afterwards, but Burns managed to get hold of $10,000 and gave it to Gandil, who distributed it among the conspirators. The teams headed northwest to Comiskey Park in Chicago for Game 3 the next day, with no days off for travel in this Series.

Game 3 Edit

Friday, October 3, 1919 2:00 pm (CT) at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1
Chicago 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 X 3 7 0
WP: Dickie Kerr (1–0) LP: Ray Fisher (0–1)

Rookie pitcher Dick Kerr, the Game 3 starter for the Sox, was not in on the fix. The original plan was for the conspirators, who disliked Kerr, to lose this game but by now dissent among the players meant that the plan was in disarray. Burns still had faith and gathered the last of his resources to bet on Cincinnati. It was a decision that would leave him broke, as Chicago scored early—Gandil himself driving in two runs—and Kerr was masterful, holding the Reds to three hits in a 3–0 complete game shutout.

Game 4 Edit

Saturday, October 4, 1919 2:00 pm (CT) at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 5 2
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 2
WP: Jimmy Ring (1–0) LP: Eddie Cicotte (0–2)

Cicotte, the Game 4 White Sox starter, was determined not to look as bad as he had in Game 1. For the first four innings, he and Reds pitcher Jimmy Ring matched zeroes. With one out in the fifth, Cicotte fielded a slow roller by Pat Duncan but threw wildly to first for a two-base error. The next man up, Larry Kopf, singled to left Cicotte cut off the throw from Jackson and fumbled the ball, allowing Duncan to score. The home crowd was stunned by the veteran pitcher's obvious mistake. When he then gave up a double to Greasy Neale scoring Kopf to make it 2–0, that was enough of a lead for Ring, who threw a three-hit shutout of his own matching Kerr's in Game 3. The Reds led the Series 3–1.

After the game "Sport" Sullivan came through with $20,000 for the players, which Gandil split equally among Risberg, Felsch, and Williams, who was due to start Game 5 the next day.

Game 5 Edit

Monday, October 6, 1919 2:00 pm (CT) at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 1 5 4 0
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3
WP: Hod Eller (1–0) LP: Lefty Williams (0–2)

Game 5 was postponed by rain for a day. Both starters, Williams and Cincinnati's Hod Eller, pitched excellently at first, with neither allowing a runner past first until the top of the sixth, when Eller himself hit a blooper that fell between Felsch and Jackson. Felsch's throw was off-line, sending Eller all the way to third. Leadoff hitter Morrie Rath hit a single over the drawn-in infield, scoring Eller. Heinie Groh walked before Edd Roush's double—the result of more doubtful defense from Felsch—brought home two more runs, with Roush scoring shortly thereafter. Eller pitched well enough (he struck out nine batters, including a then-World Series record six in a row, since tied by Moe Drabowsky in the 1966 World Series opener) for the four runs to stand up, and the Reds were only one game away from their first world championship.

Game 6 Edit

Tuesday, October 7, 1919 3:00 pm (ET) at Redland Field in Cincinnati, Ohio
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Chicago 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 1 5 10 3
Cincinnati 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 0
WP: Dickie Kerr (2–0) LP: Jimmy Ring (1–1)

The Series reverted to Cincinnati for Game 6. Dickie Kerr, starting for the White Sox, was less dominant than in Game 3. Aided and abetted by three errors, the Reds jumped out to a 4–0 lead before Chicago fought back, tying the game at 4 in the sixth, which remained the score into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Gandil drove in Weaver to make it 5–4, and Kerr closed it out to record his — and Chicago's — second win.

Game 7 Edit

Wednesday, October 8, 1919 3:00 pm (ET) at Redland Field in Cincinnati, Ohio
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 4 10 1
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 7 4
WP: Eddie Cicotte (1–2) LP: Harry "Slim" Sallee (1–1)

Despite the rumors already circulating about Cicotte's erratic performances in Games 1 and 4, White Sox manager Kid Gleason showed faith in his ace for Game 7. This time, the knuckleballer did not let him down. Chicago scored early and, for once, it was Cincinnati that committed errors. The Reds threatened only briefly in the sixth before losing 4–1, and suddenly the Series was relatively close again. This marked the only time in World Series history that the winner of Game 7 did not ultimately go on to win the series.

This did not go unnoticed by Sullivan and Rothstein, who were suddenly worried. Before the Series started, the Sox had been strong favorites and few doubted they could win two games in a row—presuming that they were trying to win. Rothstein had been too smart to bet on individual games, but had $270,000 riding on Cincinnati to win the Series. The night before Game 8, Williams—the scheduled starter—was supposedly visited by an associate of Sullivan's known as Harry F who left no doubt that if he failed to blow the game in the first inning, he and his wife would be in serious danger.

Game 8 Edit

Thursday, October 9, 1919 2:00 pm (CT) at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cincinnati 4 1 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 10 16 2
Chicago 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0 5 10 1
WP: Hod Eller (2–0) LP: Lefty Williams (0–3)
Home runs:
CIN: None
CWS: Joe Jackson (1)

Whatever Williams had been told made its impression. In the first, throwing nothing but mediocre fastballs, he gave up four straight one-out hits for three runs before Gleason relieved him with "Big" Bill James, who allowed one of Williams' baserunners to score. James continued ineffective and, although the Sox rallied in the eighth, the Reds came away with a 10–5 victory for a five-games-to-three Series win. Jackson hit the only homer of the Series in the third inning after the Reds had built a 5–0 lead. Immediately after the Series ended, rumors were rife from coast to coast that the games had been thrown. Journalist Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner, disgusted by the display of ineptitude with which the White Sox had "thrown" the series, wrote that no World Series should ever be played again. [16]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Cincinnati Reds 5 1 2 10 3 9 2 2 1 0 35 64 13
Chicago White Sox 1 3 2 1 3 3 2 4 0 1 20 59 12
Total attendance: 236,936 Average attendance: 29,617
Winning player's share: $5,207 Losing player's share: $3,254 [17]

Jackson led all players with his .375 average. Some [18] believed that most of his offensive potency came in games that were not fixed and/or when the game seemed out of reach. He hit the Series' lone home run in the eighth and final game, a solo shot in the third inning, by which time the Reds were already ahead 5–0. His five hits with runners in scoring position came in: Game 6, sixth inning with Kerr pitching Game 7, first and third innings Game 8, two in the four-run eighth.

Shoeless Joe had 12 hits overall, a World Series record at that time. [19]


MLB History: The Black Sox – The Players

There were eight players implicated in the Black Sox scandal. Their names were Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Claude “Lefty” Williams. Each of them had varying roles with the team in 1919.

MLB History: The Black Sox – Individuals

Eddie Cicotte was the best pitcher on the 1919 White Sox. Cicotte recorded win totals of 28, 29, and 21 in 1917, 1919, and 1920 respectively. Without his participation, it is hard to imagine the fix being effective.

Happy Felsch was an outfielder, who compiled a career batting average of .293. He hit .275 in 1919, and a career-best of .338 in 1920.

Chick Gandil was the first baseman for the White Sox in 1919, who hit .277 over the course of his career. In 1919, he hit .290. He did not play after 1919.

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the most well-known of the Black Sox, was a career .356 hitter. He hit .351 in 1919 and hit .382 with a career-high 121 RBIs in 1920. Many still make the case that Shoeless Joe belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

Fred McMullin was a utility player who compiled a career batting average of .256, hitting a career-best .294 in 1919. Then, he hit a career-low .197 in 1920, his final season.

Swede Risberg was a young utility player who hit .238 in his short career. His involvement may have come from the desire of a mediocre player to earn a paycheck. Otherwise, his appearance on the list is a bit of a mystery.

Buck Weaver was a solid player, and the third-best player on the list, behind Jackson and Cicotte. He was a career .272 hitter and played all over the infield. In 1919, he hit .296 and finished his career in 1920 by hitting a career-high .331.

Lefty Williams, a left-handed pitcher was a solid second pitcher to Cicotte. He won 23 games in 1919 and went on to win 22 more in 1920. He had a career ERA of 3.13.

MLB History: The Black Sox – The Verdict

In the 1919 World Series, Williams walked eight batters while striking out only 4 in 16.1 innings. Eddie Cicotte pitched poorly in two games and pitched well in a third. He took two losses against a heavy underdog. Joe Jackson hit .375 in the 1919 World Series, while Buck Weaver hit .324.

These stats would suggest that Cicotte and Williams did their part in throwing the Series. while Jackson and Weaver did their best to help the White Sox overcome their ace pitchers. Alas, they failed, as the Sox lost to the Reds, five games to three. (In 1919, the World Series was a best of nine formats).

All eight players faced trial in 1921 and were acquitted. One might think that all was well and the Black Sox would be welcome back to MLB and that their 1919 World Series activities might just be a footnote in MLB History. The legal system, however, did not have the final say on their fate.

After the eight were acquitted, new Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis imposed a lifetime ban on all eight players. Even Jackson and Weaver, who played up to their capabilities were banned. Weaver applied for reinstatement while Jackson never did make the application. Perhaps the darkest chapter in MLB History came to a sad conclusion.

MLB History: The Black Sox – Epilogue

There are really no winners in the Black Sox scandal. Eight baseball players saw their careers ended abruptly, albeit deservedly in most, if not all cases). Baseball got cheated out of a true World Series. America’s national pastime suffered a permanent scar, as it is still fresh for many even after 102 years.

Yet, for two players, questions remain to this day. Shoeless Joe Jackson is still an icon to many South Side fans. They also still support his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. The facts on Shoeless Joe are these: He did receive $5,000 from the gamblers that is not in dispute. He also played extremely well, with his .375 average. His performance suggests that he did not play to lose.

Buck Weaver, on the other hand, did not take any money from gamblers. He also played very well in the Series, hitting .324. A stronger argument can be made for Weaver than for Jackson. Weaver played no part in the biggest scandal in MLB history.

Many fans will insist that Jackson and Weaver played up to their capabilities in the 1919 World Series. Thus, they should be viewed differently than those who willingly played well below their capabilities. A reasonable person could suggest that these two should be at least considered for reinstatement.

At the end of the day, however, both players knew about the scheme, and in Jackson’s case, even received the money. Yes, they were put in a no-win situation: keep quiet and hope the Sox win anyway, or blow the whistle on their teammates, and blow up the whole World Series.

There were no good choices for Jackson and Weaver, only bad ones. However, history will record that they did, in fact, know about teammates conspiring to throw a World Series, and never said a word. For that, MLB history will say that they were complicit in the plan, and their silence was deafening. Fans can agree or disagree, but for their part in the biggest scandal in MLB history, there will be no exoneration for Jackson or Weaver.

MLB History: The Black Sox Scandal – Footnote

A story on the Black Sox scandal without at least one more reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson. First, he hit .356 in his career. Babe Ruth (a pretty good hitter in his own right) said of Jackson, “I copied (Shoeless Joe) Jackson’s style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He’s the guy who made me a hitter.” High praise to be sure.

Secondly, Shoeless Joe Jackson was introduced to new generations of fans in the classic movie “Field of Dreams.” He was the most well-known former star to appear at the little ball field in Iowa. This helped more and more fans fall in love with the legend of Shoeless Joe Jackson, which endures to this day.

Yes, Shoeless Joe took money from gamblers and will be forever banned from baseball. But not even the biggest scandal in MLB history can diminish the love his many fans have for him. In the hearts of many Sox fans, Shoeless Joe will live forever.

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9. Pete Rose Banned

In his playing and then in his managing days, ol’ Charlie Hustle was a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, in 1989, allegations of Rose betting on baseball came to light, and an investigation revealed many of the charges to be true. As punishment, then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, in a move that stunned fans everywhere, permanently banned Rose from baseball — no playing, no managing, and no Hall of Fame. Rose has tried to get himself reinstated, but so far, no attempts have been successful.


'This Should Be the Biggest Scandal in Sports'

To understand the fiasco of baseball’s 2021 season, which people around the game describe as sullied by rampant cheating to a degree not seen since the steroid era, all you have to do is pick up a ball.

Then try to put it back down.

One ball made its way into an NL dugout last week, where players took turns touching a palm to the sticky material coating it and lifting the baseball, adhered to their hand, into the air. Another one, corralled in a different NL dugout, had clear-enough fingerprints indented in the goo that opponents could mimic the pitcher’s grip. A third one, also in the NL, was so sticky that when an opponent tried to pull the glue off, three inches of seams came off with it.

Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated

Over the past two or three years, pitchers’ illegal application to the ball of what they call “sticky stuff”𠅊t first a mixture of sunscreen and rosin, now various forms of glue—has become so pervasive that one recently retired hurler estimates � to 90%” of pitchers are using it in some capacity. The sticky stuff helps increase spin on pitches, which in turn increases their movement, making them more difficult to hit. That’s contributed to an offensive crisis that has seen the league-wide batting average plummet to a historically inept .236. (Sports Illustrated spoke with more than two dozen people most of them requested anonymity to discuss cheating within their own organizations.)

From the dugout, players and coaches shake their heads as they listen to pitchers’ deliveries. “You can hear the friction,” says an American League manager. The recently retired pitcher likens it to the sound of ripping off a Band-Aid. A major league team executive says his players have examined foul balls and found the MLB logo torn straight off the leather.

In many clubhouses across the sport, the training room has become the scene of the crime: Pitchers head in there before games to swipe tongue depressors, which they use to apply their sticky stuff to wherever they choose to hide it, then return afterward to grab rubbing alcohol to dissolve the residue. Even that is not always sufficient. One National League journeyman reliever, who says he uses Pelican Grip Dip, a pine tar/rosin blend typically used by hitters to help grip their bats, has been flagged at airport security.

“They swab my fingers𠅊nd this is after showering and everything𠅊nd they’re like, ‘Hey, you have explosives on your fingers,’ ” he says. “I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t, but I’m sure that I have something that’s not organic on there.’ ”

The MLB rule book bars pitchers from applying foreign substances to baseballs, but officials have so far done little to curb the practice. (MLB declined to comment but says it is focused on the issue.) Meanwhile, as high-speed cameras and granular data have made it clear that doctoring the ball makes it almost impossible to hit, baseball has found itself dripping with sticky stuff.

“This should be the biggest scandal in sports,” says another major league team executive.

As MLB dawdles, and batting averages dwindle, the use of substances has become all but institutionalized. One NL reliever, who says he does not apply anything to the baseball because sticky stuff disrupts the feel of his sinker, says his pitching coach suggested this year that he try it. An AL reliever, who says he uses a mixture of sunscreen and rosin, recalls a spring-training meeting in 2019 in which the team’s pitching coach told the group, 𠇊 lot of people around the league are using sticky stuff to make their fastballs have more lift. And if you’re not using it, you should consider it, because you’re kind of behind.” The clubhouse attendants of at least one minor league team, according to a player, stock cans of Tyrus Sticky Grip, another product intended to keep hitters from accidentally flinging their bats, and distribute them to pitchers who ask. The NL reliever who uses Pelican says he played for a team that hired a chemist𠅊way from another club—whose duties include developing sticky stuff.

An SI analysis of Statcast data suggests that one team in particular leads the industry in spin: the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

According to the data, L.A. has by a large margin the highest year-to-year increase of any club in spin rate on four-seam fastballs, which are considered a bellwether pitch. In fact, the Dodgers’ four-seam spin rate is higher than that of any other team in the Statcast era. There is no proof the Dodgers are doctoring baseballs, but nearly across the board, their hurlers’ spin rates on that pitch have increased this season from last.

The Dodgers declined to comment.

Souped-up spin exists far beyond L.A., though. Across the league, some pitchers hide gunk on the brim of their cap, in their jockstrap, on their shoelaces. But most no longer bother to be so crafty. Turn on almost any baseball game these days and you can see a pitcher digging into his glove between pitches, coating the ball with his preferred concoction.

“It’s so blatant,” says the AL manager. “It’s a big f--- you. Like, what are you gonna do about it?”

The Dodgers&apos Trevor Bauer has been at the center of the spin rate storm: There is no proof he uses sticky stuff, but the increase of spin on his four-seam fastball, from an average of 2,358 rpm in 2019 toਂ,835 this season, has drawn notice from many in the game.

Brad Mangin/Sports Illustrated

Never in the history of Major League Baseball has it been so hard to hit the ball. The league batting average would be the worst full-season number of all time. Nearly a quarter of batters have struck out, which would also be the feeblest performance ever. The AL manager recently admitted to himself before a game that he expected his team to whiff a dozen times. One of the team executives says that against some pitchers, he is proud of his hitters for just making contact.


Black Sox: The story of the biggest sports scandal in history

The type of corruption we hear about the most frequently these days is a doping scandal: Lance Armstrong, the world-famous professional cyclist who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times, was banned and his wins stripped for his role in the doping scandal which devastated cycling in 2012. However, fraud and scandal in field sports are occasionally illuminated, and large amounts of money can be promised to players who fix games.

The year 1919 saw possibly the biggest sports fraud ever. Players from baseball team the Chicago White Sox fixed the year's World Series so that they lost. They were playing the Cincinnati Reds, the winners of the National League. In many people&rsquos minds, the White Sox were the sure-fire winners. They were the Major League's top team, with a 88-52 win-lose record that year and a World Series title two years earlier.

Despite this, the team was split into two factions who were almost at war with one another. The only thing they had in common was the fact they hated the club owner, Charles Comiskey, who had a reputation as a miser who underpaid his players. In those days, baseball had a 'reserve clause' written into the player contracts. This meant that as long as the club owner offered a player a contract, he had two choices: accept it or not play baseball. He couldn't move to another club he had no current contract. Comiskey used this to his advantage and paid his players the least he could, causing the White Sox players to resent him.

In today's money, over $1 million dollars ($80,000 in 1919) changed hands between the players and the gamblers &ndash and that's only the known amount. While the full details of the scandalous story have never been completely revealed, it has been alleged the players were taking bribes from two parties, amounting to some $180,000. Eight of the team's players were involved, with first baseman Chick Gandil being the ringleader. Legendary hitter and the White Sox's best player, 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson, is said to have been involved, but the full extent of his involvement is still murky, with many details left to the imagination. Some rumors say that as Jackson was supposedly illiterate, he didn't understand what was going on, so only consented to the fix when another player, Charles 'Swede' Risberg, threatened him and his family.

To confuse matters, there were two fixes running at once. One was by established gambler Joseph 'Sport' Sullivan, and another by former ballplayer 'Sleepy Bill' Burns. Sullivan met with ringleader Chick Gandil, who agreed to fix the Series for $80,000. Mere days later, Burns met with another player, Eddie Cicotte, and offered to top Sullivan's offer, eventually deciding upon a fee of $100,000. The players met and agreed to take both offers, which meant they'd make $180,000 in total &ndash an extortionate amount of money at the time, considering that most were earning $5000 a year.

One of the biggest uncertainties in the Black Sox scandal was the involvement of the most prominent American gangster at the time, Arnold 'Big Bankroll' Rothstein. Known for his gambling skills, was said to have put forward as much as $40,000 for the fix. Other accounts say he considered the opportunity but decided against it, skeptical that the fix could be pulled off and feeling it was too risky an investment.

The third possibility of Rothstein's involvement, and maybe the most reliable, is featured in the book Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof. He writes that Rothstein originally declined to be part of the fix when asked by Burns, but later accepted when Sullivan approached him. In between, one of his associates, Abe Attell, a former boxing champion, saw an opportunity to make some money. He told Burns that Rothstein had reconsidered, and wanted to front the full $100,000 Burns needed.

Days later, Sullivan approached him with the same offer as Burns had. Rothstein accepted Sullivan's offer and put up $40,000. Sullivan now needed an extra $40,000, while Burns supposedly had the money he needed. Whether Attell would actually produce the money was another matter. Attell did not have nearly as much clout as Rothstein had, so may have struggled to come up with the money he needed &ndash as with so many things in the scandal, it's not clear how much money did actually change hands between Attell, Burns and the players.

What historians and researchers do know is the number of gamblers who were allegedly involved in the fix is probably less than the true number. By the beginning of the series on October 1, the entire gambling world was ablaze with news that the series was 'in the bag'. It's possible that more than 20 gamblers were either directly or indirectly involved, either through funding it by putting money on the White Sox's opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, or through other means. There are reports of Cicotte and Gandil, the two main players involved, receiving phone calls the night before the first game threatening them not to fix the series.

After the series had been lost, rumors followed the White Sox all through the 1920 season. Finally, in September 1920, a grand jury was convened to investigate the claims. Soon after this, Eddie Cicotte and Joe Jackson admitted their involvement, and just under a month later, the grand jury made their decision: Eight players and five gamblers had been involved on nine counts of conspiracy to defraud.

The trial began in June 1921, with the prosecution calling several witnesses to testify, including 'Sleepy Bill' Burns who had been promised immunity from prosecution. The prosecution also called White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, who recounted his entire history in baseball. The defense attempted to use evidence that Comiskey's revenues in 1920 had been higher than any year previously, meaning that the players who had been charged with fixing the Series could not have 'injured his business'. The judge cut this line of questioning off, deeming it not relevant.

In July the trial finished, and the jury convened to consider their verdict. They did not need long: Three hours, in fact, to find all eight players not guilty. Their joy was short-lived, though: the new Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned all eight players from organized baseball for life.

In the end, the trial didn't bring to light all the details of the scandal, many of which are still murky and unclear. Considering the fact that this event took place almost 100 years ago, it's likely we'll never find out the full extent of this massive case of sports fraud.


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