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Black Sox Scandal

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1919 blacksox

1919 Chicago White Sox team photo

The Black Sox Scandal refers to a number of events that took place around and during the play of the 1919 World Series. More specifically, the name "Black Sox" refers to the Chicago White Sox team from that year. Eight members of the Chicago franchise were banned from baseball for throwing (intentionally losing) games.

The Fix Edit

The plan was thought up by local gamblers, but rumor has it that a New York gangster by the name of Arnold Rothstein supplied the major connections needed.The conspiracy was the brainchild of White Sox first baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil and Joseph "Sport" Sullivan, a professional gambler of Gandil's acquaintance.

Gandil enlisted seven of his teammates, motivated by a mixture of greed and a dislike of penurious club owner Charles Comiskey, to implement the fix. Starting pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude "Lefty" Williams, outfielders "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Oscar "Happy" Felsch, and infielder Charles "Swede" Risberg were five of the players. Buck Weaver was also asked to participate but he refused. He was later banned with the others for knowing of the fix but not reporting it. Utility infielder Fred McMullin, who was initially not approached, got word of the fix and threatened to report the others unless he was in on the payoff. Sullivan and his two associates Bill Burns and Billy Maharg, somewhat out of their depth, approached the wealthy New York gambler Arnold Rothstein to provide the money for the players, who were promised a total of $100,000.

The "Black Sox" scandal has always included Comiskey in its galaxy of subsidiary villains, in particular 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. However, the record is murkier. 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 (the World Series beginning 3 days later). Reportedly, Cicotte agreed to the fix on the same day he won his 29th game, before he could have known of any efforts to deny his chance to win his 30th.[1]

The SeriesEdit

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.[2] 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.

FalloutEdit

The rumors dogged the club throughout the 1920 season, as the White Sox battled the Cleveland Indians for the AL pennant that year, and stories of corruption touched players on other clubs as well. At last, in September 1920, a grand jury was convened to investigate.

During the investigation, two players — Cicotte and Jackson — confessed. Comiskey suspended the seven White Sox still in the majors (Gandil had left the team and was playing semi-pro ball). This move decimated the team, and the remnants finished second, two games behind Cleveland. Prior to the trial, key evidence went missing from the Cook County Courthouse, including the signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who subsequently recanted their confessions. The players were acquitted. Some years later, the missing confessions reappeared in the possession of Comiskey's lawyer.

The Leagues were not so forgiving. The damage to the sport's reputation led the owners to appoint Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first Commissioner of Baseball. The day after the players were acquitted, Landis issued his own verdict:

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 confidence with a bunch of crooked players and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.

With this statement, all eight implicated White Sox were banned from Major League Baseball for life, as were two other players believed to be involved. The White Sox would not win another World Series until 2005.

The banned players Edit

For more information on "Banned Players" in Wikipedia, see List of banned MLB figures.
  • Eddie Cicotte. The pitcher also confessed to accepting money from the gamblers. His second pitch of Game One of the 1919 World Series hit Reds leadoff batter Morrie Rath in the back, which was the pre-arranged signal to the gamblers that the players had accepted the fix.
  • Oscar "Happy" Felsch, center fielder.
  • Arnold "Chick" Gandil, first baseman. The leader of the players who were in on the fix. He did not play in the majors in 1920, playing semi-pro ball instead. In 1956, he expressed remorse for the fix, but claimed that he and his colleagues abandoned it and kept the money after rumors spread that the fix was in.
  • "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. The star outfielder, one of the best hitters in the game, confessed to accepting money from the gamblers.(The story told by Hugh Fullerton of a tearful young boy standing on the courthouse steps, calling out "Say it ain't so, Joe!" is almost certainly apocryphal. [citation needed]) He later recanted his confession and protested his innocence to no effect until his death in 1951.
  • Fred McMullin, utility infielder. McMullin would not have been included in the fix had he not overheard player conversations. He threatened to tell all if not included.
  • Charles "Swede" Risberg, shortstop. Risberg was Gandil's assistant.
  • George "Buck" Weaver, third baseman. Weaver attended the initial meetings, and while he did not go in on the fix, he knew about it. Landis banished him on this basis, stating "Men associating with crooks and gamblers could expect no leniency." On January 13, 1922 Buck unsuccessfully applied for reinstatement. Like Jackson, Weaver continued to protest his innocence to successive Baseball Commissioners to no effect. He died in 1956.
  • Claude "Lefty" Williams, pitcher. 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA for the series. Only one other pitcher in the entire history of baseball - George Frazier of the 1981 New York Yankees - has ever lost three games in one World Series. Frazier, presumably, was not trying to lose them.
  • Joe Gedeon, second baseman for the St. Louis Browns, learned of the fix from friends on the White Sox and bet money on Cincinnati. He was banned for life by Landis. [3]

Origin of "Black Sox" Edit

Although many believe the Black Sox name to be related to the dark and corrupt nature of the conspiracy, the term "Black Sox" may already have existed before the fix. There is a (probably apocryphal) story that the name "Black Sox" derived from parsimonious owner Charles Comiskey's refusal to pay for the players' uniforms to be laundered, instead insisting that the players themselves pay for the cleaning. As the story goes, the players refused and subsequent games saw the White Sox play in progressively filthier uniforms as dust, sweat and grime collected on the white, woolen uniforms until they took on a much darker shade.

On the other hand, Eliot Asinof in his book Eight Men Out makes no such connection, referring early on to filthy uniforms but referring to the term "Black Sox" only in connection with the scandal.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. http://www.thediamondangle.com/marasco/hist/cicotte.html
  2. Arnold "Chick" Gandil (as told to Melvin Durslag), "This is My Story of the Black Sox Series", Sports Illustrated, September 17, 1956
  3. Joe Gedeon biography page

External linksEdit

  • 1919blacksox.com Site with information about the players and some nice media clips.
  • baseball-almanac.com The 1919 Series and the Black Sox scandal
  • blacksoxfan.com Fan site with an extensive catalog of Black Sox cards and occasional news updates and posts.
  • chicagohs.org Chicago Historical Society on the Black Sox
  • Eight Men Out - IMDb page on the 1988 movie, written and directed by John Sayles based on Asinof's book
  • List of players banned for life from MLB

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