The Black & White World of Baseball!
Seeing as that the World Series has just come to an end, we decided to bring to you the story of the biggest scandal to ever hit the baseball world. A scandal that went on to be the subject of movies, television shows, and a number of books from paranormal to historical fiction genres.
It was the 1919 World Series that brought about this famous scandal. This was the year that eight players from the Chicago White Sox (a team that went on to be named the Black Sox) were accused of actually THROWING the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Now, as with all myths, legends, and scandals – there have been so many stories as to why this situation came to be, that it is still almost impossible to prove the extent of what these men actually did – if anything.
But this was most definitely front-page news, becoming the headline of every single newspaper across the country. And, despite being acquitted of any and all criminal charges, these eight players were banned from professional baseball for the rest of their lives. These famous ‘eight’ included the legendary “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, as well as pitchers, Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams; Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg – the infielders; and the outfielder, Oscar “Happy” Felsch.
What became known as the Black Sox Scandal took place during the 1919 American World Series, although trying to prove – and even believe – that players would get together to actually throw their chance at winning the biggest baseball game in the world, seems more than a bit odd – even almost one hundred years later. The conspiracy theory is said to have been created by the first baseman, “Chick” Gandil, who was supposedly caught up in the underworld – the ‘bad guys’ and mob members that he was entrenched with. Supposedly, “Chick” was able to persuade “Sport” Sullivan, who was a friend of his and a professional gambler at the time, that a ‘fix’ of this size could actually be pulled off – and that he could end up being far wealthier than if he actually went on to win the World Series.
A New York gangster was supposedly supplying the money for this ’farce’ through a lieutenant who was once a featherweight boxing champion. Gandil must have been one heck of a salesmen in his time, because it was said that he was able to get his teammates to do it all – simply because they didn’t like the club‘s owner, Charles Comiskey. It was said that the players thought the owner was a huge cheapskate and didn’t pay his men what they deserved. In fact, it was know that players either had to take the salary they were offered, or they couldn’t play for ANY Major League Baseball team. They would remain the property of the White Sox, and would not be allowed to be signed by anyone else.
If that weren’t enough of a reason, it was also said that these eight players put this scam into action because they didn’t like the more ‘godly’ strait-laced players on their team. The team was actually not a team at all – there were two side – the good boys and the bad.
Gandil apparently tried to recruit – and did recruit – other players. It seemed that the only one who asked and refused was a man by the name of Buck Weaver who played third base. What made fans and historians the most angry was the fact that there was a true superstar on the team – the outfielder, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson – who was named as a participant in this ridiculous con. But many state that his participation has never and will never be proven.
Even before the Series began, rumors abounded that there were gamblers who had the Series fixed, the proof being that a sudden influx of money was placed on Cincinnati – changing the odds. Despite the incredible amount of rumors, gamblers continued to wager heavily against the White Sox.
They say that on the second pitch of the Series, when Eddie Cicotte struck Cincinnati lead-off hitter Morrie Rath in the back, this was the pre-arranged signal that confirmed the players’ willingness to go through with the scam.
The extent of Joe Jackson’s part in this whole conspiracy is still the most controversial part of the whole thing, most likely because Shoeless Joe was a true icon for the fans. Not to mention, the numbers speak for themselves. Joe had a Series-leading .375 batting average, including having the ONLY home run in the whole Series. He threw out five runners on base, and handled thirty ‘chances’ in the outfield with absolutely NO errors whatsoever. Now, yes, he did bat worse in the five games that the White Sox lost, with an average of .286 in those games (but these numbers are still above-average).
Joe was always considered a strong defensive player, but was unable to prevent a critical two-run triple during the Series. And in one play – that remains the most scrutinized of all time – Jackson fielded a single hit to left field and threw home, when there was a runner on base.
In the bestselling book, Eight Men Out, the author presented yet another theory as to why Joe could not have been blamed of the conspiracy. The fact was that “Shoeless” Joe was illiterate – he had no awareness of the seriousness of the plot – and that’s the only reason why he would’ve consented when Swede Risberg threatened him and his family.
Years later, all of the implicated players said that Jackson was never present at any of the meetings they had with the gamblers. As with any conspiracy – it all fell apart when the bookies didn’t pay, so in the end, all was for naught. The stories of corruption lingered in the air and in September of 1920, a grand jury convened to investigate the whole matter. Two players, one being “Shoeless” Joe, confessed their participation in the scheme.
What was odd, is that the Sox were still in the middle of trying to win the pennant that year. They were in a tie for first place with the Cleveland Indians, and needed to win all three of their remaining games. Despite the whole season being on the line, the White Sox owner suspended the seven players even though he said that without them he would have no chance to win that year’s American League pennant.
Then…prior to the trial, key evidence disappeared from the Courthouse, including the signed confessions of the two players, who then recanted. Without the evidence, the players were acquitted. Baseball, however, did not acquit. The damage to the sport led the owners to ban the players from Major League Baseball for life. Suffice to say, the White Sox would not win another American League pennant for the next forty years, and no World Series for the next eighty-six years.
The black and white world of the Sox was alarming. People lost their money, others – some say – lost their lives, and legendary players who shone the brightest were burned alive by their bad decisions!