The 1919 World Series was played between the Chicago White Sox of the American League and the Cincinnati Reds of the National League. Due to increased enthusiasm in baseball after World War I, Major League Baseball decided on a best-of-nine format for the Series. Eight members of the Chicago franchise conspired with gamblers to throw (intentionally lose) games. The conspiracy is often known as the Black Sox Scandal.
This gambling conspiracy between a group of players and gamblers led to the lifetime banning of eight White Sox players from organized baseball, the installation of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the sport's first commissioner, and strict rules prohibiting gambling.
The "Great Conspiracy"
The conspiracy was the brainchild of White Sox first baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil and Joseph "Sport" Sullivan, a professional gambler of Gandil's acquaintance. During the 1919 baseball season, the Chicago White Sox had shown themselves to be the best team in the leagues and, having clinched the American League pennant, were installed as the bookmaker's favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series. At the time, gambling on baseball was rife and there were many stories about fixed games during the regular season, which were typically ignored by team owners and administrators.
Gandil enlisted seven of his teammates, motivated by a mixture of greed and a dislike of penurious club owner Charles Comiskey, to implement the fix. Six of the players were the starting pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude "Lefty" Williams, outfielders "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Oscar "Happy" Felsch, and infielders Charles "Swede" Risberg and Fred McMullin. Buck Weaver was also asked to participate but he refused. He was later banned with the others for knowing of the fix but not reporting it. Sullivan and his two associates Bill Burns and Billy Maharg, somewhat out of their depth, approached the wealthy New York gambler Arnold Rothstein to provide the money for the players, who were promised a total of $100,000.
Even before the Series started on October 1, there were rumors amongst the gambling community that things were not square, and the influx of money being bet on Cincinnati caused the odds against them to fall rapidly. These rumors also reached the press box where a number of correspondents, including Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and the ex-player and manager Christy Mathewson, resolved to compare notes on any plays and players that they felt were questionable.
Whether or not Shoeless Joe was involved in the conspiracy remains controversial. Jackson himself maintained that he was innocent, especially in his last words, which were "I'm about to face the greatest umpire of all, and He knows I am innocent". He had a .375 batting average, threw out five baserunners, and handling thirty chances in the outfield with no errors during that series. However, he batted far worse in the five games that the White Sox lost, totally only one RBI, from a home run in game 8. The Reds also hit an unusually high number of triples to left field during the series, far exceeding the amount that Jackson—generally considered a strong defensive player—normally allowed.
One play in particular has been subjected much scrutiny. In the fifth inning of game 4, with a Cincinnati player on second, Jackson fielded a single hit to left field and threw home. Eyewitness accounts say that the throw would have resulted in an out had pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the leaders of the fix, not interfered. The run scored and the White Sox lost the game 2-0. James C. Hamilton—the official scorer of the 1919 World Series—testified under oath in a later civil trial between Jackson and Charles Comiskey that the throw was honest and that Cicotte jumped up and knocked it down for an error. Chick Gandil, another leader of the fix, admitted to yelling at Cicotte to intercept the throw in his autobiography.
Another argument, presented in the book Eight Men Out is that because Jackson was illiterate, he had little awareness of the seriousness of the plot, and thus he only consented to it when Risberg threatened him and his family. Jackson accepted money in the fix and plead guilty in the ensuing trial. He was advised to plead guilty by his lawyer and claimed to have attempted to return the money twice.
Game One: October 1
The first game began at 3pm that day in Cincinnati's Crosley Field with Cicotte on the mound for Chicago, who failed to score in the top of the first inning. In the bottom of that inning Cicotte hit the lead-off hitter in the back with just his second pitch, a prearranged signal to Rothstein that the game was going to be thrown. Despite this, the game remained close for a while, due in part to some excellent defense from the conspirators who did not wish to bring suspicion on themselves. In the fourth, however, Cicotte gave up a sequence of hits, including a two-out triple to the opposing pitcher, as the Reds scored five times to break a 1-1 tie. Cicotte was replaced by a relief pitcher but the damage was done, and the Reds finally triumphed 9-1.
By the evening of that day, there were already signs that things were going wrong. Only Cicotte, who had wisely demanded his $10,000 in advance, had been paid. Burns and Maharg met with Abe Attell, a former world boxing champion who acted as intermediary for Rothstein, but he did not provide the next installment ($20,000), wanting to place it out on bets for the next game. The next morning Gandil met Attell and again demanded their money. Again, the players went unpaid.
|Chicago White Sox||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||6||1|
|W: Dutch Ruether (1-0) L: Eddie Cicotte (0-1)|
- attendance: 30,511
Game Two: October 2
Although they had not received their money, the players were still willing to go through with the fix. "Lefty" Williams, the starting pitcher in Game Two, was not going to be as obvious as Cicotte. After a shaky start he pitched well until the fourth inning, when he walked three and gave up as many runs. After that, Williams went back to looking unhittable, giving up only one more run; but a lack of clutch hitting, with Gandil a particular villain, meant that the White Sox lost 4-2. Attell was still in no mood to pay up. Burns managed to get $10,000 and gave it to Gandil, who distributed it among the conspirators. The teams headed to Chicago for the third game.
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||2||10||1|
|W: Slim Sallee (1-0) L: Lefty Williams (0-1)|
- attendance: 26,690
Game Three: October 3
Dickie Kerr, who was to start Game Three for the Sox at Comiskey Park, was not in on the fix. The original plan was for the conspirators, who disliked Kerr, to lose this game; but by now dissent among the players meant that the plan was in disarray. Burns still believed, however, and gathered the last of his resources to bet on Cincinnati. It was a decision that would leave him broke, as Chicago scored early - Gandil himself driving in two runs - and Kerr was masterful, holding the Reds to 3 hits in throwing a complete game shutout and a 3-0 victory.
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|W: Dickie Kerr (1-0) L: Ray Fischer (0-1)|
- attendance: 29,126
Game Four: October 4
Cicotte was again Chicago's starter for the fourth game, and he was determined not to look as bad as he had in the first. For the first four innings he and Reds pitcher Jimmy Ring matched zeroes. With one out in the fifth, Cicotte fielded a slow roller, but threw wildly to first for a two-base error. The next man up singled to center and Cicotte first cut off the throw home from Jackson and then fumbled the ball, allowing the run to score. When he gave up a double to the next batter the score was 2-0 - enough of a lead for Ring, who threw a three-hit shutout of his own. The Reds led the Series 3-1.
After the game, "Sport" Sullivan came through with $20,000 for the players, which Gandil split equally between Risberg, Felsch, Jackson, and Williams - who was due to start Game Five the next day.
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||2|
|W: Jimmy Ring (1-0) L: Eddie Cicotte (0-2)|
- attendance: 34,363
Game Five: October 6
The next game was delayed by rain for a day, and when it got under way both Williams and Reds pitcher Hod Eller were excellent. By the sixth inning, neither had allowed a runner past first base, before Eller hit a dying quail that fell between Felsch and Jackson. Felsch's throw was off line, and the opposing pitcher was safe at third. Leadoff hitter Morrie Rath hit a single over the drawn-in infield and Eller scored. Heinie Groh walked before Edd Roush hit a double - the beneficiary of some more doubtful defense from Felsch - to score two more runs, and Roush himself scored shortly later. Eller pitched well enough for the four runs to stand up and the Reds were only one game from winning the Series.
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||3|
|W: Hod Eller (1-0) L: Lefty Williams (0-2)|
- attendance: 34,379
Game Six: October 7
Game Six was held back in Cincinnati. Dickie Kerr, starting for the White Sox, was not as dominant as in Game Three. Aided by three errors, the Reds jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Chicago fought back, tying the game at 4-4 in the sixth, which remained the score into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Gandil drove in Weaver to make it 5-4, and Kerr closed it out to record his - and Chicago's - second win.
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||0||0||1||5||10||3|
|W: Dickie Kerr (2-0) L: Jimmy Ring (1-1)|
- attendance: 32,006
Game Seven: October 8
Despite the rumors that were already circulating over Cicotte's prior performances, Chicago manager Kid Gleason showed faith in his ace for Game Seven. This time, the knuckleballer did not let him down. Chicago scored early and, for once, it was Cincinnati that made errors in the field. The Reds threatened only briefly in the sixth before losing 4-1, and suddenly the Series was close again.
This did not go unnoticed by Sullivan and Rothstein, who were suddenly worried. Prior to the start of the Series, the Sox had been strong favorites and few doubted that they could win two games in a row - presuming they were trying to win. Rothstein had been too smart to bet on individual games but had a considerable sum riding on Cincinnati to win the Series. The night before the eighth game, Williams - who was due to pitch - was visited by an associate of Sullivan's who left him in no doubt that if he failed to blow the game in the first inning, he and his wife would be in serious danger.
|Chicago White Sox||1||0||1||0||2||0||0||0||0||4||10||1|
|W: Eddie Cicotte (1-2) L: Slim Sallee (1-1)|
- attendance: 13,923
Game Eight: October 9
Whatever Williams had been told had made its impression. In the first, throwing nothing but mediocre fastballs, he gave up four straight one-out hits to yield 3 runs before Gleason replaced him with relief pitcher Big Bill James, who allowed one of Williams' baserunners to score. James continued to be ineffective and, although the Sox rallied in the eighth, the Reds ran out 10-5 victors — clinching the Series by 5 games to 3. Immediately after the end of the Series, rumours were rife throughout the country that the games had been thrown.
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||4||0||5||10||1|
|W: Hod Eller (2-0) L: Lefty Williams (0-3)|
- HR: Jackson, CHI (3rd inning, 0 on)
- attendance: 32,930
- Alfred "Greasy" Neale (of):10-for-28; .357 batting average; 3 runs; 2 double; 1 triple; 4 RBI
- Hod Eller (p):2 games (started); 2 complete games (1 shutout); 2 wins; 18 innings pitched; 13 hits allowed, 4 earned runs; 2 bases-on-balls; 15 strikeouts; 2.00 ERA
Chicago White Sox
- "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (of):12-for-32; .375 batting average; 5-for-12 w/ men in scoring position; 5 runs; 3 doubles; 1 home run; 6 RBI
- Ray Schalk (c):7-for-23; .304 batting average; 2-for-3 w/ men in scoring position; 1 run; 2 RBI
- Buck Weaver (3b):11-for-34; .324 batting average; 1-for-5 w/ men in scoring position; 4 runs; 4 doubles; 1 triple
- Dickie Kerr (p):2 games (started); 2 complete games (1 shutout); 2 wins; 19 innings pitched; 14 hits allowed; 3 earned runs; 3 bases-on-balls; 6 strikeouts; 1.42 ERA
The rumors dogged the club throughout the 1920 season, as the White Sox battled the Cleveland Indians for the AL pennant that year, and stories of corruption touched players on other clubs as well. At last, in September 1920, a grand jury was convened to investigate.
During the investigation, two players — Cicotte and Jackson — confessed, and the eight players were tried for their role in the fix. Prior to the trial, key evidence went missing from Cook County Courthouse, including the signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who subsequently recanted their confessions. The players were acquitted. Some years later, the missing confessions reappeared in the possession of Comiskey's lawyer.
- "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. The star outfielder, one of the best hitters in the game, confessed to accepting money from the gamblers. (The story told by Hugh Fullerton of a tearful young boy standing on the courthouse steps, calling out "Say it ain't so, Joe!" is almost certainly apocryphal.)
- Eddie Cicotte. The pitcher also confessed to accepting money from the gamblers. His second pitch of Game One of the 1919 World Series hit Reds leadoff batter Morrie Rath in the back, which was the pre-arranged signal to the gamblers that the players had accepted the fix.
- Oscar "Happy" Felsch, center fielder.
- Claude "Lefty" Williams, pitcher. 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA for the series.
- Arnold "Chick" Gandil, first baseman. The leader of the players who were in on the fix.
- Fred McMullin, utility infielder. McMullin would not have been included in the fix had he not overheard player conversations. He threatened to tell all if not included.
- Charles "Swede" Risberg, shortstop. Risberg was Gandil's assistant.
- George "Buck" Weaver, third baseman. Weaver attended the initial meetings, and while he didn't go in on the fix, he knew about it. Landis banished him on this basis, stating "Men associating with crooks and gamblers could expect no leniency." Weaver, to little effect, continued to protest his innocence to successive Baseball Commissioners until his death in 1956.
Origin of "Black Sox"
Although many believe the Black Sox name to be related to the dark and corrupt nature of the conspiracy, the term "Black Sox" may already have existed before the fix. There is a (probably apocryphal) story that the name "Black Sox" derived from parsimonious owner Charles Comiskey's refusal to pay for the players' uniforms to be laundered, instead insisting that the players themselves pay for the cleaning. As the story goes, the players refused and subsequent games saw the White Sox play in progressively filthier uniforms as dust, sweat and grime collected on the white, woolen uniforms until they took on a much darker shade.
On the other hand, Eliot Asinof in his book Eight Men Out makes no such connection, referring early on to filthy uniforms but only referring to the term "Black Sox" in connection with the scandal.
Curse of the Black Sox
After being marred by the Black Sox scandal in 1919, the White Sox franchise would not reach another World Series until 1959 and not win another World Series until 2005, when they swept the Houston Astros for their first World Series Championship in 88 years.
In the wake of their recent World Series victory, the future of the phrase seems in doubt.
- Chicago Historical Society: Black Sox
- Famous American Trials: The Black Sox Trial
- Asinof, Eliot, Eight Men Out. New York: Henry Holt. 1963. ISBN 0805065377.
- Pietrusza, David Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, New York: Carroll & Graf, 2003. ISBN 0-7867-1250-3
- Wikipedia, 1919 World Series
- 1919 World Series at Baseball-Reference.com
- The 1919 Series and the Black Sox scandal, from the Baseball Almanac
- Chicago Historical Society
- 1919 World Series, from the history section of the MLB site
- Black Sox Links
- Arnold Rothstein and the Black Sox
- Blacksoxfan's baseball card collection
- 1919 Black Sox website
|Major League Baseball World Series|