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Chicago Black Sox Scandal

Essay by review  •  February 16, 2011  •  Case Study  •  2,272 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,638 Views

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Chicago Black Sox Scandal

The 1919 World Series is home to the most notorious scandal in baseball history. Eight players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds. Details of the scandal and the extent to which each man was involved have always been unclear. It was, however, front-page news across the country and, despite being acquitted of criminal charges, the players were banned from professional baseball for life.

If anything can be said in their favor the players on Charles Comiskey's 1919 Chicago White Sox team had plenty to complain about. Together they formed the best team in baseball, yet they were paid a paltry sum compared to what many players on other teams received. Comiskey's contributions to baseball are unquestionable, but he was very selfish when it came to salaries and also liked to rule his team with an iron fist. The White Sox owner paid two of his greatest stars, outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver, only $6000 a year, despite the fact that players on other teams with half their talent were getting $10,000 or more. For Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, there was another source of irritation: in the fall of 1917, when Cicotte approached a 30-win season that would win him a promised $10,000 bonus, Comiskey benched the star pitcher rather than be forced to come up with the extra cash. The players had few options in dealing with their owner. Because of baseball's reserve clause, any player who refused to accept a contract was prohibited from playing baseball on any other professional team. Its no wonder ball players become bitter with owners. To make matters worse, the White Sox players did not get along with each other. The team was divided into two factions; one led by second baseman Eddie Collins and the other by first baseman Chick Gandil. Collins's faction was educated, sophisticated, and able to negotiate salaries as high as $15,000. Gandil's less polished group, who only earned an average of $6,000, bitterly resented the difference.

In 1918, with the country disrupted by World War I, interest in baseball dropped to an all-time low. The 1919 World Series was the first national championship after the war, and baseball and the nation were eager to get back to "regular" life. Postwar enthusiasm for baseball soared. National interest in the Series was so high that baseball officials decided to make it a best of nine series, instead of the traditional best of seven. Although gambling was intertwined with baseball long before the eight White Sox were accused of fixing the Series, the number of gamblers at ballparks had dramatically increased by 1919. Ironically, Comiskey posted signs throughout the park declaring, "No Betting Allowed In This Park." Unfortunately for Comiskey, the signs were not enough. Player resentment was high and gamblers' offers, which were sometimes several times a ballplayer's salary, were to tempting to refuse. The financial problems and general unhappiness of the White Sox players was persuasion enough to convince eight members of the team to enter into a conspiracy that would change the game of baseball forever and be remembered as the greatest scandal in the history of professional sports. They would agree to throw the World Series.

No one is sure of exactly how the conspiracy started and progressed. It is generally agreed that the idea of fixing the Series apparently first sprang into the mind of Sox first baseman "Chick Gandil." The "fix" began about three weeks before the end of the 1919 season. Gandil contacted an acquaintance and professional gambler named "Sport" Sullivan. Gandil demanded $80,000 in cash for himself and whomever else he could convince to join his devious plan. Gandil knew that the Chicago's ace pitcher, Eddie Cicotte, had no love for Charles Comiskey. What's more, Cicotte had money troubles. He was soon "in." With Cicotte on board, Gandil's efforts to persuade other Sox players progressed quickly. After securing seven more players, Gandil met with Sport Sullivan to tell him the fix was on, provided that Sullivan could come up with $80,000 for the players before the Series began. Sullivan told him that it might be difficult to get that much cash so quickly, but he promised to meet with Gandil again before the final games of the regular season. Then things started getting complicated. Another gambler, "Sleepy" Bill Burns, had heard of a possible fix. He approached Cicotte and offered to top any offer Sullivan might make. Gandil met with Cicotte and Burns and announced that they would work a fix with Burns for an upfront $100,000. Burns and an associate, Billy Maharg, set off for New York to meet with the most prominent gambler/sportsman in America, Arnold "Big Bankroll" Rothstein. The fix would go to the highest bidder, if Rothstein would pony up that much money. At first he didn't. Meanwhile Sport Sullivan, continued independently to pursue his own fix plans. He ended up also going to New York and meeting with Rothstein. When Sullivan laid out his plans for the fix, Rothstein expressed an interest in the scheme that he had initially wanted no part of. Rothstein decided to send a partner of his, Nat Evans, back to Chicago with Sullivan to meet with the players.

On September 29, the day before the Sox were to leave for Cincinnati to begin the Series, Sullivan and Evans met with the players. Evans listened to the players' demand for $80,000 in advance, then told them he would talk to his "associates" and get back to them. When Evans reported back, Rothstein agreed to give him $40,000 to pass on to Sullivan, who would presumably distribute the cash to the players. The other $40,000, Rothstein said, would be held in a safe in Chicago, to be paid to the players if the Series went as planned. Rothstein then got busy, laying at least $270,000 on the Reds to win the Series. With forty $1,000 bills in his pocket, Sullivan decided to bet nearly $30,000 on the Reds instead of giving it to the players; he thought they could get the money later. Odds were dropping quickly on the once-heavy underdog Reds team, and the best Sullivan could do was get even money. After his heavy betting, Sullivan passed the remaining $10,000 to Gandil, who put the money under the pillow of the starting pitcher, Eddie Cicotte, for game one of the Series. The players were not happy at receiving only $10,000 from Sullivan, and seven of them without "Shoeless" Joe Jackson met on the day before the Series opener. The players decided to throw the first two games, but also demanded the money they'd originally bargained for.

Opening Day of the series was a sell-out. The game stood 1 to 1 with one out in the



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