The Black Sox Scandal: An Overview

The World Series was fixed by eight members of the White Sox team. The eight members were Gandil, Cicotte, Williams, Risberg, Felsch, McMullin, Weaver, and of course Shoeless Joe Jackson himself. Arnold Rothstein, leader of a large gambling ring in the early 1900s, was the main gambler who wanted the White Sox to throw the series. He was also joined by Aiden Clayton and Aaron Nelson who paid the eight White Sox players in exchange for them to throw the series. White Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte hit Cincinnati Reds batter, Morrie Rath, in the bottom of the first inning, supposedly signaling that the fix was on. One of the most significant plays of the entire series was in game four when White Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte made two major fielding errors, allowing the reds to score two runs and take the game. The MLB commissioner at the time, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, decided to expand the world series into a nine-game affair. Chicago made it interesting in games six and seven by winning both games, making the Reds up 4-2 in the series. This World Series win would be Cincinnati’s first, and the team was completely unaware a fix was on.

Game action during a World Series game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds at Redland Field in Cincinnati in 1919. (MLB Photos, Getty Images) [Caption from Chicago Tribune]
(The eight men banned, Wikipedia)

The owner of the White Sox at the time, Charles Comiskey, was also one of the most hated owners in the history of the game. While the White Sox did win the 1917 World Series just two years earlier, Charles paid the players some of the lowest salaries at the time. The highest-paid player, Eddie Collins, made $12,000 a year, or $186,000 today. The minimum salary for a player today is a little over $500,000. The term Black Sox also comes from Charles making players pay to clean their uniforms, which they protested by not cleaning them, giving them the dirty, Black Sox look. 

It is important to note that since key evidence was lost from the court, a lot of the scandal remains a conspiracy. This is especially true when it comes to Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson is arguably one of the best players of that era, maintaining a career slash of .356/.423/.517, one of the best of all time. Jackson continued to argue that he was never involved in the gambling scheme and the other seven members also agreed that Jackson was never involved in the gambling scheme. Today, many argue that Jackson should be unbanned from baseball and inducted into the hall of fame, as with a full career Jackson could have been one of the best of all time.

A banner reading ‘Cincinnati Reds 1919 Champions of the World’, after the team won the 1919 World Series. The event led to the infamous Black Sox Scandal, in which members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the game in exchange for money. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images) [Caption from Southside Showdown]

Cicotte confessed what the team did in 1920, and all eight players were tried upon by a grand jury. In October of 1922, all eight players were found guilty and were charged with nine counts of conspiracy. The trial occurred the next year in 1921 and Edward Prindiville, who “summed up the case for the first prosecution”, wanted to sentence each player to five years in prison and a $2000 fine. All charges were dropped due to key evidence being lost from the court, and MLB commissioner Landis permanently banned all eight players from the game for life. None of the players have been unbanned as of today.

(Featured image source) (Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4Source 5Source 6Source 7Source 8Source 9)

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