[October 2, 2019] I’m a baseball fan. Like many who watch ball games, either casually or not, you have likely heard of the Black Sox Scandal. Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1919 World Series where eight (or was it seven) threw the Series so crooked gamblers could cash in on an upset win. Considered the “greatest scandal in American sports history,”1 a few disgruntled players destroyed the trust of millions of dedicated fans.
There are many ways to kill trust in others. Over the past few months, I’ve written several articles that demonstrate the importance of trust (see examples here, here, and here). Trust can be built over time, but it is easily lost. The Black Sox Scandal was about some of the best players in baseball history yet their attempt to ‘fix’ a game led to some radical changes that were for the good of the game and its fans.
Some will argue that the “Big Fix” of 1919 remains more a subject of debate among baseball historians. True, accounts differ, but the fact is that several members of the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series for a large payoff from gamblers. We do know that C. Arnold “Chick” Gandil and a gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan met to discuss how to get the underdogs, the Cincinnati Reds, to win the 9-game Series.
White Sox pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg and outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch were brought into the scheme. Third baseman Buck Weaver was in early but backed out. Utility infielder Fred McMullin was cut in after he overheard the players talking about the deal. Power hitter “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was also approached. I named their names for the simple reason that the stain of their dishonorable acts should continue to reverberate through history as a lesson to everyone.
Everyone loses. Cincinnati won their first World Series because of the actions of a few dishonest Chicago players, but the victory is tainted. There was a conspiracy trail where all members of the now dubbed “Black Sox” were indicted. They were lambasted in the media for “selling out baseball” but were found not guilty. There was a cover-up that is another story in itself.
But the ballplayer’s vindication would not last long. A day after the acquittal, a judge appointed the first baseball commissioner who decreed all eight players permanently banned from organized baseball. The edict destroyed the careers of the eight Black Sox. The now-disgraced ballplayers never set foot again in a big-league game. For a period after, the image of baseball improved and the fans continued to hunger for more professional games.