The BlackSox Baseball Scandal of 1919

Imagine dedicating your entire young life to being the best baseball player that you can be, just to end up getting banned from baseball for life. Imagine throwing away a world series title just to make some extra spending money. Can you imagine that? As hard as I find it to believe, it happened and is one of the biggest scandals in Major League Baseball history.

The Black Sox Baseball Scandal of 1919 involved eight members of the Chicago White Sox and they were paid by gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. These eight members were dubbed the “Black Sox” once it became widely known that they admitted to accepting bribes to purposely lose the games. The idea of the scandal originated with a meeting between White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil and a gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan. Gandil agreed to throw the championship along with some other members of the team in return for a hefty payout of around $100,000. The White Sox owner at the time, Charles Comiskey, had a long reputation for underpaying his players despite being one of the top teams in the league. Additionally, it was common across the league for gamblers to look for players that wanted to earn extra cash because they were not making a whole lot. As a result, these White Sox players took a chance to make a ton of money at the time on the biggest stage in baseball.

Originally, the White Sox were heavily favored to win the series by as much as three-to-one, but the odds began to shift as the gamblers in the know started placing heaping amounts of cash on the Reds. As the series opener drew near, rumors began to spread about several White Sox players being paid off by high stake gamblers. The suspicions became even more true after the White Sox lost the first game 9-1 and starting off the game by beaming the lead-off batter. The Sox continued their faulty play and were down four games to one, in the best of nine series. Side note: back in the day, the world series was a best of nine-game series, as now it is best of seven. Continuing on, after the fifth game, the players in on the deal grew rather restless because they had agreed on five $20,000 payments after each loss. However, the gamblers failed to deliver the amount and in response to this, the players decided to play to win the rest of the series. After winning the next two games, several players in on the deal reported threats of violence were being made against them on the gamblers’ behalf. Despite their effort to save the series, they ended up losing game eight and the Reds won their first world series title. The players involved in the scandal ended up receiving $5,000 each, or more, and Gandil received a hefty $35,000 payment for being the main guy in charge. It wasn’t until almost a year later when a grand jury convened to investigate the widely known speculation of this scandal. Somehow the jury proved the players not guilty. Apparently, all of the paper records relating to the confessions made to the grand jury vanished under mysterious circumstances. Many believe that the gamblers in charge of the scandal arranged for the papers to be stolen as a part of their cover-up. Unfortunately for the players involved in the scandal, their acquittal did not mean they were in the clear. A day after the trial, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, recently appointed as baseball’s first commissioner, decreed that all eight players were permanently banned from organized baseball. A quote from Landis states, “no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players 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.” This edict effectively destroyed the careers of these eight members of the White Sox, and the commissioner made sure that they would never step foot on a diamond again, despite multiple attempts to get reinstated into the league.

The creativity of this crime lies in the shadows of the entire White Sox organization. The “Black Sox” is a perfect analogy to describe this crime. These Black Sox are essentially the bad apples in the bunch. They are the charcoal stains on your brand new Hanes white t-shirt. These eight members essentially went behind the backs of all their teammates to intentionally try to lose. This team was the powerhouse of the league, the heavy favorites to take home the crown. The top players in the league played like it was their first day in the bigs. What they did was quite creative, however, because no one in their right mind would have saw this coming. I take that back, no one even remotely knowledgable of baseball would consider the fact that players would try to lose the world series to make some extra money. The percentage of the players that make it to the bigs is already extremely low, and the chances of making it to the world series is practically miniscule. Furthermore, to overcome all of those odds just to throw it away literally leaves me dumbfounded. Despite gamblers paying off players during this era was relatively popular, it had never been done on this big of a stage. Additionally, no one else on the White Sox knew this was occurring other than the members involved. The only reason why they got caught was because of the gamblers. Word got out that the gamblers were paying off some of the players, which was why the bets on the underdog Reds were amounting at alarming rates. Now that I am thinking about it, the true criminals were not the Black Sox, but rather the gamblers. The gamblers ended up making tons of money off of this world series, they upheld their deal with the players, and most importantly to them, they did not get caught. Instead, they basically used the players as bait so they could reap all the benefits. While this is quite a low blow to these members of the White Sox, I must admit, this is pretty creative. This goes to show why you should never make deals with a professional gambler. They are like leaches that will suck you dry and then move to the next host.
All in all, the 1919 Black Sox scandal will go down as one of the biggest hoaxes in Major League Baseball history, and it will also probably never happen again. Players make way too much money nowadays, and a bribery of some extra cash would be rather comical to them. So fortunately for the game of baseball, we do not have to worry about scandals like this occurring again, but rather trying to eliminate new ways for teams to cheat. There’s always something with this game.

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Ryan Grove
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