Chicago Black Sox Scandal

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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...
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