The Black Sox (9-28-1920)

The little boy is waiting outside the court house for his hero, the big league baseball player.  The player emerges.  Tears in his eyes, the boy approaches the man.  “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” the kid pleads.  The player says nothing.

If that familiar bit of folklore ever happened, this was the day it did.  This was the day that the Black Sox scandal broke.

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox had entered the World Series as heavy favorites.  When they were upset by the Cincinnati Reds, rumors spread that the series had been fixed.  Most of the public refused to believe it, and the whispers died down.

1919 Chicago White Sox

1919 Chicago White Sox

Then, in the summer of 1920, a Cook County grand jury began investigating a supposed fix in a Cubs-Phillies game.  Various baseball people testified.  The recent World Series came up, and Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte was summoned.

On the stand, Cicotte admitted to taking $10,000 from gamblers to throw the series.  Other players were called.  Eight White Sox were indicted by the grand jury.  The charges involved such things as running a confidence game, and conspiracy to defraud teammates out of  $1784—the difference between winners’ and losers’ shares in the World Series.

Team owner Charles Comiskey suspended the indicted players.  They became known as the Black Sox.  One of them was star outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson.  After his confession to the grand jury, a local paper ran the story about the tearful boy confronting him in disbelief.  Jackson always denied it happened.

The

The “Black Sox” and their lawyers in court

The Black Sox case dragged on into 1921.  Somewhere along the way, the players’ confessions mysteriously disappeared.  The eight players and assorted gamblers were eventually brought to trial, and all of them pleaded “Not Guilty.”  It took a jury two hours to acquit everyone.

Faced with a monumental P-R problem, the baseball club owners had hired federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as their commissioner.  He was given wide powers to clean up the game.  The day after the players were acquitted, Landis banned all eight of them for life—“regardless of the verdict of juries,” he said.

None of the eight Black Sox ever again played major league baseball.

—30—

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