Hot dogs, popcorn and the crack of a bat hitting the baseball is an iconic image associated with summer. Many of us look forward to watching baseball games at the stadium or on TV. Though we are all too familiar with sports scandals today, almost one hundred years ago, the “Black Sox” scandal rocked America.
The name “Black Sox” may apply to team owner Charles Comiskey’s refusal to pay for the laundering of players’ uniforms when they got dirty. Eventually, he had their uniforms washed and deducted the cost from each player’s salary. Others insist that the name came about due to the World Series scandal of 1919, which blackened the name of the White Sox baseball team.
The 1919 World Series pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Chicago White Sox. Chicago lost to the Reds, but eight Chicago players were accused of intentionally fixing the results and taking money from gamblers. At the time the Chicago team was divided into factions who rarely spoke to each other when not on the field. Players Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, and Red Faber were considered strait-laced, clean team members. By September, 1920, rumors of a fix became widespread so a Grand Jury convened to investigate the charges. Eddie Cicotte and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson confessed to their part in the scandal. All together eight players and five gamblers were indicted. Shortly before the formal trial in June, 1921, some key pieces of evidence mysteriously disappeared. Among these were signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who later recanted his involvement. The baseball players were acquitted. Perhaps Comiskey was not such a miser after all. He issued checks of $1500, the difference between the winners and losers share, to the ten players who were not a part of the scandal.
This scandal led to major changes in governing the sport of baseball. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed the first Commissioner of Baseball. He placed the names of the eight indicted Sox players (Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Swede Risberg, George Buck Weaver, Claude “Lefty” Williams) on the ineligible list, banning them from any role in organized baseball. The White Sox team took a nosedive into seventh place. They would not see a pennant race again until 1936.
Ironically, the following poem was published in the Philadelphia Bulletin before Game One of the Series on October 2, 1919.
Still it really doesn’t matter
After all who wins the flag.
Good clean sport is what we’re after
And we aim to make our brag
To each other or distant nation
Wherein shines the sporting sun
That of all our games gymnastic
Baseball is the cleanest one!
Get out there and play or enjoy watching a game of baseball, an iconic summertime pastime!
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