Black Sox Scandal
The 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal is one of the most shocking sports stories in American history. Taking place during one of the United States most hallowed sporting events, it tarnished the “national pastime” for years to come. And though no guilty verdict was handed out to any of the parties involved, the scandal remains one of the most reprehensible acts in all of baseball. These words may be strong, but you’ll probably agree after learning exactly what happened during the Black Sox scandal—to the best of our knowledge.
The Setup. In 1919, the Chicago Black Sox, now known as the White Sox, were inarguably one of the best teams in baseball. Anecdotal evidence supports the fact that they more or less dominated the league that year. In fact, just two pitchers who would later be implicated in the scandal had 52 wins between them during the regular season. By all accounts, the World Series title was the Black Sox’s to lose, but there were problems within the organization itself that weren’t revealed until later. Many of the players, who made modest salaries compared to today’s professional athlete’s standards, were extremely disgruntled with the Black Sox’s front office. In one instance, owner Charles Comiskey had pitching great Eddie Cicotte benched to avoid having to pay him a $10,000 performance bonus. In addition to players’ resentment, the gambling scene surrounding baseball was very heavy at the time. So heavy, in fact, that players could earn more by getting involved with betting than through legitimate contracts.
The Series. With these factors coming into play, a nationwide gambling syndicate with key members in Chicago saw the opportunity and pounced. Second City mobster Chick Gandil, though never convicted, is widely believed to be the mastermind behind the Black Sox World Series scandal. He had an “inside man” of sorts approach one of the Black Sox players, most likely pitcher Lefty Williams, to offer them $100,000 to throw the World Series. For the reasons mentioned above, eight of them signed on, including one of the most legendary baseball players of all time, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Backed with “investment” capital wired from New York City, the deal was done. The Black Sox, though heavily favored, lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds 5 games to 3 (it was an 8 game series back then).
The Bust. Unfortunately for the players involved, the Black Sox were far from the only team to throw games in this dirty era of baseball. During an investigation probing the Chicago Cubs concerning gambling, details about the Black Sox World Series loss began to surface and the true scandal began. The trial, which occurred after the 1920 season, indicted eight members of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox. Because the gambling syndicate that ran the operation was so tough to crack, all the players were acquitted of criminal charges. They were, however, banned for life from professional baseball. With that, a new era of baseball began, leaving the Black Sox scandal, and the great players who found themselves involved in it, in the rearview entirely.