Chicago, IL

Baseball's painful and controversial period

Author Ed Anderson
The 1919 White Sox teamPhoto byNational Baseball Library

Fans of baseball watched as the Cincinnati Reds won the 1919 World Series. It was a Cinderella story for a team that seemed doomed to lose. The results caused some people to wonder if something was amiss.

It turned out that those who thought that were correct. Allegations emerged that eight White Sox players conspired with gamblers and the mafia to throw the World Series. Shockwaves rippled throughout the game and among White Sox fans.

What would motivate the players to do such a thing?

The relationship between the White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and the players was not as wholesome as it appeared on the baseball field, the Law School of University of Missouri-Kansas City reported. It has been claimed by some that they were not paid fairly and they were not treated with respect by their boss.

According to Comiskey, he gave the players everything they wanted, and he also tried to foster a sense of community among the players, executives, and managers.

In baseball, it was well known that Comiskey liked the idea of having a team that won the World Series but did not offer pay raises to his players. Additionally, he exploited a rule that said if a player was offered a contract, he could not refuse it. If he did, he was disqualified to play baseball.

To make sure he kept the best players, he kept many of them on contract, but he opened himself up to a lot of resentment, especially from those who believed they could earn more money elsewhere. They also became more willing to throw games in return for a little extra cash.
One of the games of the 1919 World Series being playedPhoto byReds Hall of Fame

The Room Where It Started

The players, unhappy with Comiskey, were more receptive to the plot to throw the World Series. They gathered in Chick Gandil's hotel room in New York and discussed how to get revenge on the owner. says that it didn't take Gandil long to make his point. When the White Sox won, there would be more money, but if the Reds won, there would be more money. A fortune was at stake for those betting on the other team, and they were willing to share the profits with the players.

As long as the players were willing to throw the series.

Clearly, the White Sox would need to win a few games to drive down the odds of the Reds winning. If they succeeded, the players could run the scam again later.

Red Faber, a Comiskey ally and White Sox pitcher, became ill with the flu during the World Series, paving the way for the eight men involved to secure their illicit pay.

Eddie Cicotte told the gamblers in game one that he was in favor of throwing the game. Risberg was failed to get to second base as a result of a bad throw.

It didn't take long for people to become suspicious. There was speculation in the sports press that something was up right away.
Inside the courtroom in the Black Sox trialPhoto byLibrary of Congress

Exposing The Crime

On October 9, 1919, when the White Sox lost the World Series, everyone in Gandil's room received $5,000 while the mastermind received $35,000. Buck Weaver didn't get anything.

As the 1920 season began, rumors continued to haunt the team. Investigations began to quell the gossip and prove that baseball was still America's pastime and as innocent as a baby. But enough evidence convinced authorities that something was amiss.

There was a grand jury appointed in September 1920, about a month before the World Series premiered. Investigators outlined their case with a strong focus on the eight players and gamblers they suspected of tampering with the games.

On the stand, Cicotte confessed to his involvement in the scheme while testifying before the grand jury.

In the meantime, the White Sox were on the verge of returning to the World Series for the second consecutive year. They were doing it without the eight players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. Seven of those players were suspended by Comiskey. Gandil had not returned to the team, the Society for American Baseball Research revealed.

Eight players and five gamblers were indicted by a grand jury on October 22, 1920. Each man was charged with nine counts of conspiracy to defraud.

A total of $1,500 was paid to the other 10 players and manager of the White Sox by Comiskey. This represented the difference between what was paid to the losing team for participation in the World Series and what was paid to the winning team.

Shoeless Joe Jackson sawthed in anger. He claimed innocence.
Eight players were acquitted of fraudPhoto byImage by Julio Flores from Pixabay

Punished And Aquitted

There were numerous circumstances surrounding the trial of the so-called Black Sox scandal that led to people wondering if justice was done. Judge Hugo Friend delayed the starting of the hearings because two of the players claimed to be sick.

Key evidence also disappeared. One of the items taken was Cicotte's confession about his participation. Jackson's alleged written confession also disappeared, but there is doubt about its authenticity.

Jackson maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, the grand jury hearings, and the preliminary trial, and very little proof connected him to the crimes.

A defense attorney Ben Short continually poked holes in the government's case, and when they called Comiskey to the stand, he used his opportunity to put the owner on trial. During one witness cross examination, the lawyer's questions caused the witness to become irate, causing him to shake his fist at him.

The New York Times reported that the prosecutors had a secret weapon. They called William Burns to testify. Burns admitted to working with his teammates to throw the World Series.

A verdict of not guilty was returned by the jury on July 28, 1921 after less than three hours of deliberation.

It seemed the story was over. The players seemingly escaped punishment and were cleared. Some believed it was a rebuke to Comiskey and the wealthy owners.
Baseball entered a new era after the gambling scandalPhoto byPhoto by Steshka Willems

A New Baseball

Owners of major league baseball teams have been unhappy with the National Commission for years. They felt the body governed the sport more on the side of players than of the owners. Their complaints usually revolved around money and the amount they had to pay their players.

After the acquittal of the eight players, there was a huge controversy within the baseball world. Owners wanted reform, and players wanted everyone to forget about the scandal, ESPN wrote.

In the end, the owners held the power, pushing for federal judge Kenesaw Landis to lead a three-person commission. However, Landis refused, saying he wouldn't accept the position unless he was the only commissioner.

As a result, he was given unchecked power over the major and minor leagues. It was a controversial move. Owners claimed it would help clean up the image of baseball, but many viewed Landis as an extension of their alliance.

Every player involved in the scheme was barred from playing in the major or minor leagues for the rest of their lives, and none of them could be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In response, Shoeless Joe Jackson argued that they had already been acquitted in a court of law, and he was being punished for something he had no involvement in. However, Landis was adamant about his decision.
Shoeless Joe Jackson's innocence is being debatedPhoto byWikimedia

Was Jackson Guilty?

While Jackson fought this ruling, teammates confessed that he had no part in the scheme, and the conspirators used his name as a way to gain credibility with the gamblers.

The stats suggest that he did not contribute to the scheme. He hit the only home run in the series and his batting average was .375, the best of either team.

There was a play that gave those who believe he is guilty pause. During the fifth inning, Jackson threw the ball home and Cicotte intercepted it.

Gandil said he told Cicotte to stop the play.

The name of Jackson was still buried in mud when he passed away on December 5, 1951. No one listened to his claims that he was innocent.

Multiple efforts have been made over the years to have Jackson removed from the banned list and nominated for the Hall of Fame. However, these efforts have generally been denied with reasons mainly linked to the amount of time since he was banned.

ESPN reported that a new rule emerged in 2020 that revived hopes that Shoeless Joe Jackson might be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The rule states that the banned list ends with the death of the player.

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Financing Doubt.

Rochester, MI

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