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The 1919 Chicago White Sox
The 1919 Chicago White Sox


The fixed games of the 1919 World Series, commonly known as the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, dealt with the eight 1919 World Series
games between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. In attempt to make large amounts of money, 8 players on the White Sox, dubbed the 'Black Sox' by the press, intentionally lost games in order to win bets. There was much controversy surrounding these events and many conspiracy theories have arisen.





The Bet



The idea to wager against the White Sox was first formed by Joe Sullivan, a Boston gambler, and Chick Gandil, the White Sox's first-baseman. However, the White Sox were highly favored in the World Series. But this would be mean higher payouts if they were to lose. [1] .

To successfully fix the World Series, Gandil would have to enlist the help of enough ballplayers to lose the games. But weighing heavily on his conscience was betraying the American people. The World Series was seen as a sort of religious and moral event. The soiling of the series would be all but treasonous.

The White Sox management assembled some of the finest baseball players leading up to the World Series, they included Eddie Cicotte, 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson, and Claude 'Lefty' Williams.[2] Gandil would later find it difficult to lose the World Series with a team of all-stars. An additional affliction was getting money to bet on the Reds. Gandhil and Sullivan had a hard time raising money for the bet, until they met Arnold Rothstein.

Arnold Rothstein
Arnold Rothstein


Arnold Rothstein had long been an underground figure in New York. He had accumulated a large fortune from fixing matches across variety of sports. Rothstein was no stranger to the art of dishonesty. Joining Rothstein was Bill Burns, a washed-up minor league pitcher who worked mainly as a messenger between the team and Rothstein[3] . In fact, Burns had first notified Arnold of the plan to fix the World Series. Bill relayed a message to Rothstein on September 23, a mere week before the Series was to begin. The message entailed that eight White Sox players would purposely lose if they all got $100,000 (about $1.25 million today).[4] It should be noted that ballplayers in 1919 were paid a yearly salary of just $3,000[5] ($35,000 in today's money).

Only Rothstein could be turned to for that much money. But as the players weren't used to keeping this large of a secret, about baseball no less, word about the fix soon got around town. During the last seven days before the World Series, Burns was send back and forth between Rothstein and Gandhil, ensuring the players would keep quiet. With rising speculation of there being a fix, the odds became higher for the Reds, meaning the White Sox and Rothstein would get less of a pay-out. Rothstein minimally paid off those who were sure of the fix in exchange for their silence.[6]

With everything secure and in place, the stage was set for the 1919 World Series.




The Games


The country was ripe with baseball fever. Newspapers claimed this would be the greatest World Series so far, even with the Sox heavily favored. A new cast member now joined the ensemble as Rothstein enlisted Abe Attell, an amateur boxer, to deliver the money to the White Sox. Under the direct orders of Rothstein, Abe would give the players $20,000 after every game they lost, as the World Series was played over the course of 8 games then.[7]

Rumors about the fix were rampant the day before the series was to begin The White Sox played it cool and told reporters it was a ploy set up by gamblers to get big pay-outs. Even so, people now planned on keeping track of any play by the Sox that was 'questionable'. [8] The players would now be under great scrutiny to lose games inconspicuously.

Game 1 commenced on a beautiful October day in Cincinnati. Kid Gleason, the manager of the White Sox, had gotten word from one of his players that the games were going to be fixed. Gleason was one of the best managers in the league, having spent his entire adult life in baseball. Kid refused to address his players about the rumors and would instead try to foil their plans with his managerial tactics.[9] Starting on the mound for the Sox was Eddie Cicotte, the uncontested best pitcher in the American League with an astounding 29 wins.
Ed Cicotte, pitcher and co-ringleader in the scandal.
Ed Cicotte, pitcher and co-ringleader in the scandal.



Cicotte had arranged a sign with Rothstein, who already paid him his $10,000. If the game was going to be fixed, Cicotte would intentionally hit the first batter. Eddie did just that with a bean-ball between the shoulders of Morrie Roth, the lead-off hitter. Arnold was overjoyed and bet another $100,000 on the Reds.[10] Eddie was the determining factor in the Sox's loss, as the rest of the players made great plays on defense. The final score was 9-1.

The White Sox were doing a fairly good job at fixing the games. Eddie Cicotte took the heat for his poor pitching while the rest escaped ridicule[11] . So far, Eddie was the one player paid and the rest, mainly Gandil, were up in arms. Arnold, downplaying the loss as a fluke, told Gandil and the rest to lose the next game even more surreptitiously.[12] Rothstein was clearly not making this easy.

But the players got their act together and lost the second game by the less-suspicious score of 4-2. 'Lefty' Williams, the starter, was not as good as Cicotte and it was far more believable that Lefty had just had a bad game.[13] Alas, Abe Attell was reluctant to pay up, even though Rothstein explicitly told him to do so. Bill Burns, the messenger between the Arnold and the team, managed to get $10,000 out of Abe with a promise that the Sox would win the third game. Attell explained that it was better for the odds.[14] With these new instructions, Burns delivered the money to the team just as they left for Chicago.

Non-conspirator Dickie Kerr was on the mound for Game 3. It was a synch that the Black Sox would win in front of the home crowd. That did just that with a final score of 3-0. Kerr threw a complete game and Chick Gandhil himself had 2 runs batted in.[15] Few people now believed there was fix going on. The Sox were merely started rough, sure to finish strong, they thought. Bill Burns, believing the Sox would never turn their back on the bet, put $10,000 on the Reds. He ended up broke and Rothstein saw it longer fit that they do business together.
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Chick Gandil- ringleader of the fix

Replacing Bill Burns as a medium between the team and Arnold was 'Sport' Sullivan, the original schemer. Rothstein now reaffirmed his promise that the ballplayers would get paid from now on. After a Game 4 loss of 2-0, Sullivan came through with $20,000-- the first time the Sox had been paid in full.[16] Cicotte had started the game once again and made a few obvious errors. This only re-ignited the claim that the Sox were in it to lose. Charles Cosmiskey, the owner of the White Sox, constantly denied reports of fixing, even though he didn't honestly know why his players were going so poorly. Rain postponed game 5 until the day and gave both Cosmiskey and Kid Gleason time to sort out their team.[17]

Both superiors could get no one to talk and both were disappointed. After another loss in Game 5, this time with 3 errors committed by the Sox, Gleason told the press that his team "Was in the worst slum he'd ever seen,"[18] It was now obvious to Gleason that his once great team was now losing on purpose. Going into Game 6, he hoped their consciences would get the best of them and they would start winning again. Surprisingly, he was right.

The Black Sox narrowly defeated the Reds, 5-4. Rothstein and Sullivan both measured up the odds and thought it in their best interest if the Sox won another game. They were right for the most part. Some gamblers saw this lucky win as a ploy to raise the odds, while others thought that Kid Gleason had finally corralled his team.[19]

Going into Game 7, those not involved with the fix were fed up. Kid Gleason put the last of his faith in his ace, Eddie Cicotte. For once, Eddie came through. Cicotte had already been paid in full and it made no difference to him whether or not the Sox lost.[20] Rothstein also didn't care whether or not the Sox lost this game as he had bet on the entire Series instead of on single games. As long as the Sox lost Game 8, he would get his money. Cicotte was lights-out as he helped his team win, 4-1. Heading into Game 8, the Sox had a legitimate chance of winning the World Series.[21]

Arnold Rothstein, as well as all his fellow gamblers, had put too much on the Series. Rothstein ensured the players who lose the eighth game by threatening the lives of their wives and children.[22] Seeing as Arnold was always true to his word, the players took this threat seriously and went into Game 8 with no aspirations of a win. 'Lefty' Williams threw nothing but garbage and the Reds quickly jumped on his poor pitching, making the game 5-0 in just the second inning. The White Sox were able to rally back for 5 runs, but the damage had already been done. The final score was 10-5, the all-mighty White Sox had lost the World Series.

The Aftermath


The Scandal did not really surface until the fall of 1920. Sportswriters, such as Hugh Fullerton, pointed out the poor performance of the players, especially when compared to regular season success.[23] The truth finally came out when Eddie Cicotte and Buck Weaver confessed their involvement in the scandal. Players had been individually promised sums of money ranging from $20,000 to $35,000.
The MLB had recently instated a system of having one commissioner rather than the old 3 commisioner system. Due to his strong arbitration abilities from being a Federal Judge, as well as a considerable knowledge of baseball from both his playing career and his work during an MLB injunction case, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the obvious choice for the owners. He was extremely determined to maintain the integrity of the game.[24] Though the players were able to avoid any criminal charges (with help from the corrupt Chicago criminal justice system), Landis handed out lifetime bans for the 8 players involved in the scandal.[25] The players were " Shoeless" Joe Jackson, George "Buck" Weaver, Arnold "Chick" Ganhil, Charles "Swede" Risberg, Eddie Cicotte, Cluade "Lefty" Williams, Oscar "Happy" Felsch, and Fred McMullin. In addition, each of the 8 players were levied a lifetime ban from the hall of fame.


Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Kenesaw Mountain Landis

To this day it is a hotly debated topic whether players like Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, who neither received money for, nor truly participated in the scandal (they hit .375 and .324 in the series respectively), deserve to have their names cleared so that they can be accepted into the hall of fame.[26] At this juncture, Jackson has still yet to be reinstated for hall of fame considerations. According to multiple sources, Jackson has not even been considered for reinstatement by the current commissioner, Bud Selig, regardless of the fact that multiple organizations as well as many individuals have requested of the commissioner to ask the executive council to reinstate Jackson.[27] Individuals coming to Jackson's defense have included former players Ted Williams and Bob Feller, as well as U.S. Congressman Tom Harkin.

Popular Culture References


  • The Great Gatsby-In F. S. Fitzgerald's book, the main character meets and is offered a job by "Meyer Wolfsheim". Wolfsheim's character is based on Arnold Rothstein, and it is mentioned by Gatsby that Wolfsheim was the man responsible for "throwing the 1919 series"
  • In the Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls, the character, Nathan Detroit, a 'high-roller' gambler, is based loosely on Rothstein.
  • During the 1989 film Field of Dreams, Karin discovers Joe Jackson on the field, who later is accompanied by the other 7 players suspended in the scandal. They are all excited to be able to play baseball again.
  • The famous movie Eight Men Out is based entirely on the scandal
  • In The Godfather Part II, Hyman Roth, a Rothstein-like Jewish gangster, alludes to the scandal by saying "I loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919." [28]
  • Additionally, there are multiple books in which Joe Jackson is the main character even though the plot does not necessarily follow the 1919 scandal. These include: Shoelace & Me by Dan Gutman; Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, and Bernard Malamud's The Natural.




  1. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 6-7." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  2. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 17-20." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  3. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 22-23;24-27." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  4. ^ Friedman, S. Morgan. "$100,000; 1919, 2010." The Inflation Calculator. 31 Dec. 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. .
  5. ^ Yannarella, Phillip. "Documents Information Newsletter." Baseball Salary History. Nov. 1997. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. .
  6. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 34-37." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  7. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 44" Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  8. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 47-48." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  9. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 52-53." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  10. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 64-65." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  11. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 69." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  12. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 70-74." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  13. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Pages 87-88." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  14. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 91." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  15. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 96-98." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  16. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 102-103." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  17. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 104-106." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  18. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 107." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  19. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 108-109" Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  20. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 110." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  21. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 111." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  22. ^ Asinof, Eliot. "Page 115." Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.
  23. ^ Nemec, David, and Saul Wisnia. 100 Years of Baseball. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2002. 47. Print.
  24. ^ "Commissioners | MLB.com: History." The Official Site of Major League Baseball | MLB.com: Homepage. Web. 13 Feb. 2011. .
  25. ^ Nemec, David, and Saul Wisnia. 100 Years of Baseball//. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2002. 48. Print.
  26. ^ Bowman, John Stewart, and Joel Zoss. "The Beginnings of the American League." The American League. New York: Gallery, 1986. 25-27. Print.
  27. ^ Nixon, Ed. "The Greatest Player Not in the Hall of Fame by Ed Nixon." Baseball Think Factory. Jan.-Feb. 1996. Web. 13 Feb. 2011.
  28. ^ "The Godfather: Part II (1974) - Memorable Quotes." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 13 Feb. 2011. .