This Day in the Law
October 9

Black Sox Scandal – Cincinnati “Wins” World Series (1919)

On October 9, 1919, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox in Major League Baseball’s World Series. In particular, Cincinnati beat Chicago in a best of nine game series 5 games to 3 games. However, the 1919 World Series went down as most fixed and corrupt World Series ever when certain players from Chicago deliberately lost the series for a lump sum of money from Chicago gamblers and gangsters – now called the Black Sox scandal.

Major Leauge Baseball grew rapidly at the turn of the 20th Century, and so did its profits. And the 1919 World Series was expected to be 50% more profitable than any other world series to date. Still, while baseball had become big business, players continued to earn relatively modest salaries. Further, a group of players on the Chicago White Sox strongly resented their owner, Charles Comiskey, and were looking for a way to undermine him.

Most sources indicate that some of the players agreed with local gamblers and gangsters to intentionally throw, i.e. lose, the 1919 World Series in exchange for a large amount of money. Eight players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of deliberately throwing the series, including: (1) star outfielder, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, (2) outfielder, Oscar Felsch, infielders, (3) Arnold Gandil, (4) Fred McMullin, (5) Buck Weaver, and (6) Charles Risberg, and pitchers (7) Claude Williams and (8) Eddie Cicotte. First baseman, Arnold “Chick” Gandil was thought to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy because of his close ties with gangsters. However, details of the extent to which each player was involved still remains somewhat unclear.

In September 1920, a grand jury convened to investigate the charges against the eight players. Eddie Cicotte and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson actually confessed to their participation in throwing the series to the grand jury. However, prior to trial, certain evidence disappeared from the Cook County Courthouse, including the signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson who later recanted their confessions. Eventually, all eight players were acquitted of criminal charges. However, Major League Baseball was not so lenient.

Because of the damage caused to baseball by these players Major League Baseball appointed federal judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, as the first Commissioner of Baseball. A few days after the eight Chicago players were acquitted, Landis issued his own verdict on behalf of Major League Baseball. Landis banned the eight players (along with two others thought to be involved with the scandal) from Major League Baseball for life. The movie “Eight Men Out” depicts the story of this scandal.

To this day, many believe that Chicago’s star, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, did not participate in the scandal. Jackson continued to maintain his innocence until his death. In the 1919 World Series, Jackson led all players with a .375 batting average and he hit the only home run by any player in the series.