The Black Sox Trial – 1921
The Black Sox scandal was a baseball betting scheme involving a group of baseball players and gamblers which led to the Chicago White Sox intentionally losing in the 1919 World Series. As a result this scandal led to the banning of eight players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox team, Joe Jackson (better known as Shoeless Joe Jackson), Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil, Oscar Felsch, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Claude Williams. This event also introduced a new commissioner and strict rules prohibiting gambling in baseball.
This conspiracy was the innovation of the White Sox’s first baseman Chick Gandil and Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, who was a professional gambler among his friend circle. During the 1919 baseball season, the Chicago White Sox had proven themselves to the world that they were the best team in the baseball league and, having clinched the American League pennant, were installed as the bookmarker’s favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series. At the time, gambling on baseball games was widespread and there were numerous stories about rigged ball games during the regular season but they were generally ignored by the team managers and owners.
Gandil, the first baseman, recruited seven of his teammates, to instigate “the fix,” all which was motivated by the mixed feelings of the dislike of the club owner Charles Comiskey along with greed. The seven players were the starting pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Cluade “Lefty” Williams, outfielders Shoeless Joe Jackson and Oscar “Happy” Felsch, and infielders Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Fred McMullin. Sullivan and his two acquaintances Bill Burns and Billy Maharg contacted a wealthy New York gambler by the name of Arnold Rothstein to supply the money for the 8 players, who were told that they would get a total of $100,000. Even before the infamous Series started on October 1st there were whispers all over amongst the gambling population that things were a little weird, and the flood of money showed the odds of Cincinnati decline rapidly. These rumors also reached the press box where a number of reporters, including Hugh Fullerton from the Chicago Herald along with Examiner and ex-player and manager Christy Mathewson, got down to compare notes on any plays and or players that they felt might be questionable.
On June 27, 1921 the case finally came to trial with little evidence, and thus, not a lot that could be proved. The confessions of Joe Jackson had mysteriously disappeared and a while later showed up out of the blues. The case was so weak in fact that only seven of the players and two of the gamblers were brought to trial. The player dismissed was Buck Weaver who constantly said that he never received any money while swearing to not have taken any part in the conspiracy of rigging the series and that he put forth his best efforts to play the game.
The Black Sox Trial lasted about 5 weeks, and a line of witnesses testified for the players. The witnesses also included many of the clean White Sox and their manager Kid Gleason, who no doubt knew that they needed these players back on the field. The defense was prepared by a team of attorneys who none of the Black Sox could have afforded, but Charles Comisky could, a point that was not lost on some observers.
On August 2nd, after two hours and 47 minutes of deliberation, the jury came back with “not guilty” verdicts for the players. Judge Hugo Friend agreed stating that it a just verdict and in legalese admitting that the case of “intent to defraud the public” was near impossible to prove.
However, the Black Sox player’s joy wave quite short-lived. The day after the jury’s verdicts had been handed down, the new Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, made a statement saying, “Regardless of the verdicts of juries, no player who entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player who sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed and does not promptly tell the club about it will ever play professional baseball. Of course, I don’t know that any of these men will apply for reinstatement, but if they do, the above are at least a few of the rules that will be enforced.”
With that, the career of all eight of the Black Sox players involved hit a brick wall. Not only in the Majors, but everywhere they went to play the stigma of the scandal and the wrath of Judge Landis followed them like a ghost. Some of the players desperate to play, tried to mix and play in small towns, independent leagues, and even under fake names, but they were always eventually discovered booed off. Their carreer had been over for life and nowhere in baseball could they find any work!
One of the best teams ever known in major league baseball was destroyed, and seemed destined to fail year after year. As it turned out the 1917 win in the World Series was the last championship the Chicago White Sox ever came across; changing the American pastime history forever!
This Black Sox Scandal trial was a very interesting trial I had wanted to know about for the longest time. In writing this paper I mainly referred to the site,http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/blacksox/blacksox.html
This site consisted of many useful links and was very informative and broke down the events leading up to the trial and gave the entire sequence of events in a brief. Furthermore, to my surprise this site provided the court documents like the confessions of Joe Jackson, which seemed to be lost for a while and then mysteriously surfaced out of the blues later on, the trial testimonies, and many more. What really helped me out was the chronology of events along with the diagram of “the fix”. It was a lot easier to follow the diagram in my opinion. Another link on the website I found quite useful was “The Eight Men Out” link. It appropriately gives the ages, positions, salaries, and comments Gandil made for the eight players which were accused of the scandal.