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Black Sox Scandal (October 9, 1919)

The World Series of 1919 spawned a scandal that lead to eight men being banned from the sport and having the nickname “Black Sox” attached to them. Usually the best of 7, the 1919 series was the first “best of 9” series that would run until 1921. It was a way to rouse interest in the sport and a way for gamblers to make or lose their money. It was also, however, a tempting thing for some of the Chicago White Sox players who were not paid very well—even at that time.

The headlines of the time confirmed the odds—White Sox at 5-1 over the Reds. On October 1, however, the headlines had a bit of a shift. The White Sox starting pitcher, Cicotte, had been complaining of a sore arm. The odds swung to the Reds at 8-5 over the Sox.

White Sox first baseman, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, and his gambling friend were the two who developed the plan. The plan, of course, was to throw the Series. Gandil was frustrated with the Sox’s owner and the tight-fisted nature of his business deals. If people bet on the Reds to win the game—and they succeeded—Gandil could stand to make a lot of money, certainly more than he made as a player. He enlisted the help of seven of his teammates. As Game 1 approached, however, there was some doubt as to whether or not they’d go through with it.

When Cicotte took the mound in the bottom of the first inning, his first pitch hit the lead off Reds’ batter, Morrie Rath, in the back. That signaled to the gamblers the fix was, in fact, on.

The Series never reached Game 9. There was no need for a Game 9. The Cincinnati Reds won the Series and life continued on as normal. Well, mostly normal. The following season, rumors began that the Sox had thrown the 1919 Series. Finally, in September of 1920, a grand jury convened to investigate.

During that time, the Sox were in the pennant race against the Cleveland Indians. Cicotte and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson both confessed to throwing the Series. Despite the odds against the White Sox, the owner chose to bench the two which effectively forfeited their season. The Sox had to win their remaining three games. They lost two of them.

Later, Cicotte and Jackson would recant their confessions and Jackson would maintain his innocence for the rest of his life. The first Commissioner of Baseball, Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, stated that,
“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

The “curse” of the Black Sox players—that they’d never win a World Series again—lasted until 2005.
For more information on the scandal and to view the sources for this article, please visit the following links:
The 1919 Black Sox
Wikipedia’s Black Sox Scandal
Wikipedia’s 1919 World Series

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