Peddling America's Pastime

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Peddling America’s Pastime
In 1919 a gambling scandal forever tarnished the credibility of baseball. I myself, am a huge fan of baseball at any level, however, the scandals that surround the sport undeniably cast a black cloud over America’s pastime. Like fried chicken and apple pie, baseball is woven into the fabric that is the United States of America. Baseball goes back a long way, all the way to Civil War, and even before. During the Civil War baseball was used to break up the monotony of fighting and killing. Soldiers from the Union and the Confederacy enjoyed the game as often as they could (baseball-almanac.com 2). This is one of the many reasons that I love baseball. No matter what is going on in the world, baseball can take you to a better place. I chose the 1919 Chicago White Sox to write about because I find the time period and story interesting. Also because this is the time when players played more for the love of the game, however, the players were only paid a fraction of what they were worth. It was common place for players to take on other jobs to make ends meet. The team owners encouraged the local small business owners to give players jobs so that they could stay in the city of the team for which they played.

The 1919 White Sox were the best team in baseball that season. The team boasted the best pitching, defense, and offense. What they did not boast, however, were fair salaries. The team owner Charles Comiskey had been labeled a tyrant, and a tightwad. Comiskey’s practices made his players especially willing to sell their baseball souls for money (Linder 3). Honestly, you cannot blame the boys for doing what they did. I think they were sticking it to the man who deserved it, and unfortunately got caught.

Comiskey habitually made promises that he never intended to keep, promises of bonuses for winning pennants, and winning games. Comiskey even charged his players for the cost of laundering their uniforms. Comiskey was a real, for lack of a better word, douche. No wait, actually, douche fits perfectly. In protest, the players wore their dirty uniforms for weeks. This is where the name “Black Sox” originates ( The Black Sox 4).

The eight men who were charged with facilitating the fix were: the ringleader and first basemen Arnold “Chick” Gandil; starting pitcher and knuckle baller Eddie Cicotte; shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg; utility infielder Fred McMullin, the other ace pitcher Claude “Lefty” Williams; third basemen George “Buck” Weaver; centerfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch; and last but not least, leftfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson who is considered the greatest natural hitter of all-time, lifetime .356 batting average (Asinof 1).

Three weeks before the start of the series where Chicago is facing Cincinnati, Gandil called a meeting with bookie and gambler Joseph Sullivan. Gandil pitches the idea of throwing the World Series. Chicago was heavily favored in the series that year and the gambling community stood to make a lot of money with the fix. Gandil gets a commitment of $80,000 from Sullivan and then goes about recruiting members of the team for the fix (Asinof 1).

Sullivan does not have the clout to fund the fix, so he goes to his friend Bill Burns, who in turn goes to Al Rothstein. The plan is laid out and eventually everyone is on board. Sullivan gets half of the $80,000; the other half is in a safe back in Chicago waiting, that the players will receive if everything goes according to the plan. Instead of distributing the cash to the players, Sullivan places a $30,000 bet on Cincinnati to win the series and then gives the remaining $10,000 to Gandil. Gandil gives the whole sum to Cicotte (starting pitcher) because he had said that he wanted ten grand up-front, to play ball. This infuriated the other players in on fix and they demanded a meeting with the money men. Rothstein sends his right hand man Abe Attell, who promises the boy a $20,000 payment for each loss. Shoeless Joe never...
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