MLB

The White Sox’s 100-Year-Old World Series Scandal Can Still Teach Us a Lot

The Black Sox scandal is one of the biggest scandals in the history of professional sports, but after 100 years it may not hold much weight outside of name to young players and fans. The scandal came after it was alleged that several players on the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series after agreeing to a $100,000 bribe. Its legacy lives on in infamy, and the lessons that can be learned from it remain until this day. 

The White Sox’s culprits

The scandal, according to History.com, began with White Sox’s first baseman “Chick” Gandil. Gandil met with a gambler named “Sport” Sullivan to discuss the possibility of throwing the championship series for a little capital gain. Although sports fixing has been around as long as sports, something of this magnitude was never done before this. Rigging the World Series, after all, is rigging one of the biggest events in sports. 

Despite this, Gandil not only agreed but got some of his teammates to agree, as well. He, pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, shortstop Charles Risberg, and outfielder Oscar Felsch agreed to take the hefty payment in return for their subordination. The White Sox golden bat, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was also approached about the deal, although the extent to which he was part of the conspiracy is still unknown today

Was Jackson involved?

Although Jackson signed a confession stating that he took the money from the gambler, he long-stated that he never actually threw the World Series, and he even claimed to try to return the money. Some may question why one of the greatest players in baseball at that time would throw it all away for some money, but it appears as though Jackson, at the very least, considered it. 

If Jackson followed through, however, he had a funny way of throwing the World Series. On defense, he recorded no errors, very hard to do if one is throwing away a game. On offense, he recorded 12 hits and hit an astronomical .375 for the series. It would appear as though Jackson either acted very well or never actually threw the World Series

The scheme

Due to shoddy information and a mediascape that could be less-than-trustworthy, knowing the specifics of the Black Sox scandal can be difficult. While Sullivan is known to have participated, other names like mob boss Arnold Rothstein have been rumored to be involved. Rumors of the players’ involvement spread through the streets right away. 

When the series started, however, the fix was in. Chicago lost the first game 9-1. In game two, Lefty Williams walked three batters in a row with the Sox up 4-2, causing them to lose again. The Sox went down 4-1 before the players reportedly grew a little restless and eventually made this a series.

Some could see this as acting and trying to make the series look competitive, while others could see a change of heart. The White Sox would lose in eight games, and the Black Sox scandal lives on. 

The impact of the White Sox’s scandal today

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All of the players involved in the 1919 World Series scandal including Jackson were banned for life after rumors spread about the involvement. Although a jury acquitted the players, at least four of the five players named are believed to have been guilty, and the trial presented its own comedy of errors and mysterious events, baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was swift and harsh in his punishment. 

Players could learn from the Black Sox scandal after 100 years of legend and folklore. It not only says something about the lengths that people will go to win, but it shows the power of rumor, media, and scandal in a time before the internet. Much like the steroid era of baseball did to so many players, the Black Sox scandal put a mark, perhaps fairly, perhaps unfairly, on the names of several of these players. 

The modern crop of professional baseball players can look back at this scandal and think about how their actions could be remembered long after their gone. Perhaps, if more had done this in the years since the scandal, baseball wouldn’t have the complicated legacy that it has today.