1919 World Series
Thanks to the motion picture industry the story of the 1919 World Series being thrown by several members of the Chicago White Sox is well known. Because of the scandal, baseball has long forbidden any association with gamblers and gambling, legal or otherwise. As a sport baseball does not readily lend itself to gambling as it does not have the point spread. There are betting lines published on baseball games daily, and there is betting activity on the game but not at the level of basketball or football. Still, the 1919 World Series was supposedly thrown by the Sox when they were bribed by a consortium of gamblers led by Arnold Rothstein.
There are some things about the story which are often forgotten. None of the players permanently banned from baseball were convicted in court of deliberately throwing the World Series. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned nine men, not the eight men out of fame. The ninth was Joe Gedeon, an infielder for the St. Louis Browns, who didn’t play in the series, but who heard of the arrangement from White Sox shortstop Swede Risberg. Gedeon bet on the series, and then informed Sox owner Charles Comiskey of the fix after the series was over. Comiskey told Landis of Gedeon’s foreknowledge of the events, and he too was banned for life.
None of the gamblers alleged to have been involved were convicted of anything either. Arnold Rothstein has long been believed to have been behind the scandal but there is as much evidence against his involvement as there is for him being the source of the plot. When the series was investigated by prosecutors no evidence against Rothstein was found and he denied even betting on the series, although he testified to the grand jury that he had been approached about a fix. Rothstein was not indicted, and whether it was his money used to fund the bribes is uncertain at best.
What links Rothstein to the fix is a series of notes from Sleepy Burns, a former player and small time gambler who approached the Sox players Eddie Cicotte and Chick Gandil. Burns gave the players messages regarding their demands which read A. R. agrees. That and Rothstein’s reputation are all the evidence which exists. Written statements by the players alleged to have referred to Rothstein vanished before the trial and the player’s refused to testify, citing their rights under the Fifth Amendment, so Rothstein’s own testimony denying his involvement has nothing on record to refute it.
The 1919 Black Sox scandal has often been explained as caused by Charles Comiskey’s reputation as a notorious tightwad. In fact, although Comiskey was certainly no spendthrift, he rewarded the players who did not take part in the fix by paying them bonuses equivalent to the difference between the winning and losing shares for the World Series. Nearly one hundred years later there are still unanswered questions regarding the Black Sox scandal.