On This Day in 1919

On This Day
Fox Sports Radio 92.7 FM's Pryce Robertson

What happened on this day in history: The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. The win would be later tainted when 8 Chicago White Sox were charged with throwing the game. The incident became known as the “Black Sox” scandal.

White Sox club owner Charles Comiskey was widely disliked by the players and was resented for his miserliness. Comiskey long had a reputation for underpaying his players, even though they were one of the top teams in the league and had already won the 1917 World Series.

Because of baseball’s reserve clause, any player who refused to accept a contract was prohibited from playing baseball on any other professional team. Players could not change teams without permission from their current team, and without a union the players had no bargaining power. Comiskey was probably no worse than most owners—in fact, Chicago had the largest team payroll in 1919. In the era of the reserve clause, gamblers could find players on many teams looking for extra cash—and they did. In addition, the clubhouse was divided into two factions that, according to most accounts, almost never spoke to each other on or off the field, and the only thing they had in common was a resentment of Comiskey.

A meeting of White Sox ballplayers—including those committed to going ahead and those just ready to listen—took place on September 21, in Arnold “Chick” Gandil’s room at the Ansonia Hotel in New York. George “Buck” Weaver was the only player to attend the meetings who did not receive money. Nevertheless, he was later banned with the others for knowing about the fix but not reporting it.Although he hardly played in the series, utility infielder Fred McMullin got word of the fix and threatened to report the others unless he was in on the payoff. As a small coincidence, McMullin was a former teammate of “Sleepy” Bill Burns, who had a small role in the fix. On October 2, the day of Game One, there were rumors amongst gamblers that the series was fixed, and a sudden influx of money being bet on Cincinnati caused the odds against them to fall rapidly. The rumors even reached the press box as well. After throwing a strike with his first pitch of the Series, Eddie Cicotte’s second pitch struck Cincinnati leadoff hitter Morrie Rath in the back, delivering a pre-arranged signal confirming the players’ willingness to go through with the fix.

A year later, a grand jury was convened to investigate, resulting in a trial in 1921, where noted baseball fan Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the presiding judge, in which all of the accused players were found not guilty. The following eight members of the White Sox were banned by Landis for their involvement in the fix: Chick Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Buck Weaver, and Claude “Lefty” Williams. Joe Gedeon, 2nd baseman for the St. Louis Browns, was also banned for his involvement. Gedeon placed bets since he learned of the fix from Risberg, a friend of his. He informed Comiskey of the fix after the Series in an effort to gain a reward. He was banned for life by Landis along with the eight White Sox, and died in 1941.

The indefinite suspensions imposed by Landis in relation to the Black Sox Scandal remain the most to be imposed simultaneously in the history of organized baseball, and were the most suspensions of any duration to be simultaneously imposed until 2013 when thirteen player suspensions of between 50 and 211 games were announced following the doping-related Biogenesis scandal.