Eyewitness Reports in History Black Sox Scandal Part 1
An eyewitness account of the Black Sox Scandal in baseball and American history with a fixed World Series.
Black Sox Scandal
How: The "fixing" of baseball games was as old as the professionalism of the sport itself, but team owners chose to ignore these unkempt intrusions rather than expose them and diminish ticket sales. When at the outset of W. W. I the federal government closed racetracks, gamblers were forced to concentrate their interest on baseball, which at war's end was enjoying unrivaled popularity. The best team in the postwar season of 1919 was the skilled Chicago White Sox, owned by the penurious "Old Roman," Charles A. Comiskey. His athletes' repeated requests for pay raises were snubbed, and the team itself was torn by cliques- a group of fun-loving rowdies and a passel of quiet gentlemen.
Still, Chicago played a sound, well-balanced game in 1919, finishing with a record of 88-52, a team batting average of .287, and two pitchers, Eddie Cicotte and Claude Williams, with 52 victories combined. The White Sox' opponent in the World Series, to be played on an experimental best-of-nine basis, would be the Cincinnati Reds, distinct underdogs by odds as high as five to one in some gambling quarters. A guy could make a bundle betting Cincinnati, but without a complete Chicago breakdown the Reds had no chance. That is why the idea of a breakdown was so appealing to 31-year-old Charles Arnold "Chick" Gandil, Chicago's first baseman.
Gandil was a tall, strong, big-handed ex-boilermaker who had hopped a freight and run away from his Minnesota home at 17 for a life of ballplaying, prizefighting, and roaming in Texas and Mexico. He had been a professional baseball player for 11 seasons and in 1919 batted .290 for his $4,000 White Sox salary. For several of his big league years, Gandil had passed on tips to a casual friend, Boston bookmaker Joseph "Sport" Sullivan. Three weeks before the start of the 1919 Series, Gandil met with Sullivan in a Boston hotel room and told the gambler, "I think we can put it in the bag." Gandil promised the cooperation of several teammates; he wanted $80,000 for this biggest, most heretical of all sports fixes. Sullivan was agreeable.
Within a few days, in a New York hotel, Gandil made the same deal with retired major league pitcher turned oilman William Thomas "Sleepy Bill" Burns. Before the regular season ended, Gandil had lined up his fellow fixers: six White Sox front-liners, including pitchers Cicotte and Williams, and a utility infielder who had to be taken in because he had overheard the other fixers in conversation.
Sullivan and Burns lacked the money to swing the project; individually they turned for help to the nation's high-stakes celebrity, New York's Arnold Rothstein. He embraced fellow professional Sullivan after spurning amateur Burns, who ultimately was promised a bankroll by Rothstein hanger-on Abe Attell, former feather-weight champion of the world. The bettors, and their wagers (Rothstein himself initially put $270,000 on Cincy), were set.
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