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1919 Blacksox

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Essay title: 1919 Blacksox

Do you think professional sports are fake? Some people claim, on a consistent basis, that many of the leading sports in America have some sort of predetermined conclusion. Many claim that the world of betting is to blame for the conspiracy because there is always a "against the odds bet" that stirs up controversy. Many will turn to the 1919 World Series and the "Block Sox" scandal as the biggest scam in professional sports history. While there are still some skeptical rumors about this incident, eight players were banned from Major League Baseball.

The Black Sox Scandal is a term used for a number of events that took place around and during the play of the 1919 World Series. More specifically, the name "Black Sox" refers to the Chicago White Sox team from that season. Eight members of the Chicago franchise were banned from baseball for intentionally losing games in exchange for money. The conspiracy revolved around the White Sox first baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil and Joseph "Sport" Sullivan, a professional gambler who associated with Gandil often. Having clinched the American League pennant, the Chicago White Sox were strongly favored going into the World Series as they were up against the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, gambling on baseball was common and there were many stories about fixed games during the regular season. The accusations were normally ignored by team owners and administrators. (Black Sox Scandal, 2006)

Gandil convinced seven of his teammates, motivated by the evil of money and a dislike of the club owner Charles Comiskey, to execute the fix. Starting pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude "Lefty" Williams, outfielders "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Oscar "Happy" Felsch, and infielder Charles "Swede" Risberg were five of the players. 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. Utility infielder Fred McMullin, who was initially not approached, got word of the fix and threatened to report the others unless he was in on the payoff. Sullivan approached the wealthy New York gambler Arnold Rothstein to provide the money for the players between all the players, the total payout was $100,000. (Bowman, 1986)

The "Black Sox" scandal has always included Comiskey, the owner, in its group of additional persons involved. There was a clause in Cicotte's contract that would have paid Cicotte an additional $10,000 bonus for winning 30 games. According to Eliot Asinov's version of the story, Cicotte was "rested" for the season's final two weeks after reaching his 29th win, apparently to deny him the bonus. Eliot Asinov is the author of the book surrounding the scandal titled, Eight Men Out. Cicotte won his 29th game on September 19, had an ineffective start on September 24, and was pulled after a few innings in a tune-up on the season's final day, September 28 (the World Series beginning 3 days later). Reportedly, Cicotte agreed to the fix on the same day he won his 29th game, before he could have known of any efforts to deny his chance to win his 30th. (Asinof 1963)

Even before the Series that started on October 1, there were rumors in the middle of the gambling community that things were not square. These rumors also reached the press box where a number of reporters were determined to target any plays and players that they felt were questionable. Although the White Sox were 5-1 favorites to win the 1919 World Series, there was plenty of anticipation and excitement as the Series came closer. Only days before the Series was to start, rumors began spreading that the Series was fixed. The betting odds shifted and large amounts of money were being placed on Cincinnati. By the start of Game 1, the odds were 8-5 in favor of the Reds. (Asinof, 1963)

Whether or not Jackson 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 base runners, and handling thirty chances in the outfield with no errors during that series. However, he batted much worse in the five games that the White Sox lost, totaling only one RBI, from a home run in game 8, when the Reds had a large lead and the series was all but over. Jackson, normally considered a strong defensive player, was unable to prevent a critical two-run triple to left during the series. However, he also threw a runner out at the plate. Unfortunately, Jackson took $5000 from the gamblers. After the series was over, he tried to give the money back on multiple occasions, but by that time the damage had been done. (Bell, 2001)

One play in particular has been targeted for much inspection.

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