Sports Scandal of Century: The 1919 Black Sox (Part I)
The 1919 Chicago
White Sox were one of the greatest teams of their era. They won the
American League pennant and faced off against the Cincinnati Reds, favored
3-1, to win the World Series.
But as the series
was about to get underway - the betting odds started to shift to even
money. The word on the street was that New York gambler Arnold Rothstein
was behind the swing and that the series was fixed.
Hearing the rumor,
White Sox outfielder "Shoeless Joe" Jackson asked Chicago
manager Kid Gleason and owner Charles Comiskey to bench him. But they
insisted he play. They would have been crazy to put down their best
During the series
Jackson hit the only home run, had the highest batting average, committed
no errors and established a new World Series record with 12 hits.
Nevertheless, the Reds won.
Edd Rousch, who
played for the Reds, dismissed the charges that the series was fixed.
"We were just the better team," he said. And umpire Billy Evans
who worked the series said: "Maybe I'm a dope but everything seemed
okay to me."
But the rumor of a
fix persisted. The 1920 season got underway and the White Sox were driving
hard to their second straight pennant when a petty gambler in Philadelphia
broke the news that a Cubs-Phillies game had been fixed in 1919.
That led to a
gambling investigation, with its focus being the 1919 World Series. With
only a couple of days left in the 1920 season, a Grand Jury was called to
determine whether eight White Sox players should stand trial for allegedly
throwing the 1919 World Series. Jackson was one of them.
He was asked under
oath: "Did you do anything to throw those games?"
was his response.
"Any game in
one," Jackson answered. "I didn't have an error or make no
It took the jury a
single ballot to acquit all eight accused players. But the very next day,
baseball's first commissioner - Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who came to
power in the fall of 1920 with a lifetime contract and a mandate to clean
up the game using whatever methods he saw fit - banned all eight players
from baseball for life.
That was basically
the end of the story of the greatest sports scandal of the century. But it
is a story that will not go away.
Was there a plan to
throw the World Series?
Was it carried out?
If so, which games
What was the role
of each banned player?
Why was there a
blanket banning of the players? Buck Weaver was banned not for dumping but
for allegedly having guilty knowledge that there was a plot. Fred McMullen
was banned though he came to bat twice and got one hit. Jackson was banned
although his performance exceeded his own records.
If the eight
players were found not guilty in a court of law, how could they have been
found guilty by a baseball commissioner?
keeps increasing year-by-year to undo what many believe was a terrible
wrong. But the ban still remains. Every baseball commissioner since Landis
has refused to act on "Shoeless Joe's behalf."
Vincent said: "I can't uncipher or decipher what took place back
then. I have no intention of taking formal action."
Giammatti said: "I do not wish to play God with history. The Jackson
case is best left to historical debate and analysis. I am not for
There have been
other sports scandals in the 20th century - boxing matches that were fixed
or allegedly fixed, the great college basketball scandal of the 1950s in
New York City, rumors of other malfeasance in sports - but nothing holds a
candle to the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
And it just will
not go away.
Harvey Frommer is
the author of "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball" (Taylor
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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