Gary.

2019 MLB Season

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Reds & Giants score a cornucopia of runs. 

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30 seasons ago, a Reds-Giants series might have very well been a potential NLCS preview. Now it's a preview of which team is going to finish in last place.

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I never would have expected things to change across 30 years.

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This is another one of those PSA history type posts that will have very little to do with the ongoing season but is quite informative.

 

With this being the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox, I felt like taking the time to set the record straight on what happened.

 

Most everyone including myself basis what they know about the scandal around the movie Eight Men Out, as well as the Ken Burns Baseball documentary.

 

There has been a lot of recent research looking back at the team, and there have been some discrepancies from what the traditional narrative has been.

 

Charles Comiskey Wasn't a Cheapskate.

 

The White Sox opened the 1919 season with the third highest payroll in the American League. Buck Weaver was the second highest paid third baseman in the AL. Ray Schalk was the highest paid catcher in the league. Eddie Cicotte was only behind Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth amongst AL pitcher salaries, while Eddie Collins was second only to Ty Cobb for being the highest paid player in the American League.

 

For his part, Comiskey enjoyed the reputation of being one of the better owners in the American League up to that point. The White Sox had won the American League pennant four times and twice won the World Series. Only the Boston Red Sox had a better run of success during this time.

 

The White Sox played in what was arguably the best ballpark in baseball at the time, in the second largest city in the country. Anyone playing for the White Sox at the time would not be looking to leave.

 

The Cicotte Bonus

 

What's portrayed in the movie Eight Men Out is that Eddie Cicotte was set to receive a $10,000 bonus (which would have more than doubled his yearly salary) if he won 30 games that year.

 

Sitting on 29 wins, and not wanting to pay Cicotte his bonus out, the Sox instead elected to sit Cicotte out for the final few weeks. For Eddie, this proved to be the last straw.

 

The reality is, there is no evidence Cicotte ever had a clause like this in his contract. It seems improbable that either side would ever agree to such a large share of salary tied to a bonus for an already established pitcher. But even if it was true, this wasn't Cicotte's motivation.

 

The players had met with the gamblers weeks before the season ended and before the White Sox shut down Cicotte for the season.

 

Cicotte was also given a chance by the White Sox to win 30, as he was the pitcher they sent to the mound to clinch the American League pennant while sitting on 29 wins. The reason he was shut down for the year after this game probably had far more to do with wanting to keep him healthy for the World Series, than trying to deprive him of any potential bonus.

 

Most in the Game Including Comiskey Knew About the Fix Before it Happened

 

Before Comiskey was the owner of the White Sox, he was a former first baseman and field manager. No doubt he was exposed to the dark side of betting and would have known something was up even if there weren't any rumors of shenanigans.

 

The reality is neither the players or the gamblers involved could keep quiet about what they were doing. By the time the 1919 World Series rolled around, articles about how the fix was likely in were already in print.

 

Even if you didn't know anything about baseball, it was hard to ignore the number of 23rd-hour bets placed on the Cincinnati Reds by connected people. Again it's impossible to think this information wouldn't have gotten back to Comiskey.


The problem was neither the players or the gamblers covered their tracks, and by November of the same year, there was already a damning amount of evidence gathered by investigators.

 

Why Comiskey and others in the league likely feigned ignorance of what was going on in the hopes that the public would never figure out what was going on.

 

One thing the players and gamblers did have going for them was that in 1919 you had to be at the game to see what happened. What would have been painfully evident to anyone watching the game, could have easily been concealed in print media.

 

The coverup failed because too much was already out there, and baseball had no choice but to take public action.

 

The Lefty Williams Threat

 

A significant part of both the Ken Burns documentary and the Eight Men Out movie is how Lefty Williams was threatened with physical harm to his wife if he didn't throw the eighth game of the World Series.

 

It's true there was some disagreement between the players and the gamblers during the series. (part of the reason why it was so easy for investigators to find willing parties to talk immediately after the Series) But there's no evidence to suggest an incident like this ever occurred.

 

No mention of this story appears in any court documents, and there is no known interview given by Williams where he ever claimed something like this happened.

 

The earliest mention of the story comes from Eliot Asinof's book on the Black Sox which was published in 1963, more than 40 years later after the Series. More than likely Asinof made the story up.

 

The True Depth of Gambling in Baseball

 

The cruel reality is there wasn't anything unusual about what the White Sox did in throwing the 1919 World Series. It's just the most publicized incident like this occurring.


The Pacific Coast League experienced a similar incident that same year when the Salt Lake City Bees threw the 1919 pennant.

 

Reds star center fielder Edd Roush claimed he was approached multiple times to throw the 1919 World Series to take advantage of the smart money which was now on Cincinnati.

 

Early 20th-century baseball was more akin to modern day pro wrestling than the present day Majors. For the right amount of money, a person could get any outcome they desired.

 

Much like PED's, the actual depth of how widespread gambling was will never be known. Like PED's, it was also the majority, not the minority of players who partook.


In the same position, my guess is at least 1/3rd of the players would have done the same thing the Black Sox did.

 

What made the Black Sox situation unique was the scope of the fix and the brazenness by which they went about implementing it. But the 1919 White Sox didn't have a monopoly on throwing baseball games, even at the Major League level.

 

Above all, this is what Kennesaw Mountain Landis and company wanted to prevent coming out. It's one thing to have a cheapskate owner for a team full of corrupt individuals.


It's quite another to say you have this black market of players gamblers can hire that's being created in large part by a league-wide suppression of salaries, and neither the Black Sox or Comiskey's actions are all that out of line with what could reasonably be expected.

 

This is what baseball was afraid of happening. By 1923, Babe Ruth is hitting dingers and the general public, for the most part, moved past the issue of betting in baseball, even though there is ample evidence to suggest this kind of game fixing continued well into the 1920s.

 

The Stolen Confessions

 

In an effort to prevent the real story from emerging, the trial confessions were given by Eddie Cicotte, Joe Jackson, and Lefty Williams were all stolen from court records.

 

This incident did happen, although the magnitude of its impact is overstated.

 

In actuality, this was no more effective than closing the barn door after the animals already got out. All three had already given trial testimony which could be reconstructed using juror notes.

 

Beyond what the players had for lunch the day of the incidents in question, no information was lost.

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I thought it was a good read.

 

It shows to me that we're a long way from a century ago, and to be honest, it bothers me that those events were considered normal at the time. It also brings up the argument that baseball was tarnished long before Rose, Bonds, and Clemens happened.

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5 hours ago, Dolphins Dynasty said:

I thought it was a good read.

 

It shows to me that we're a long way from a century ago, and to be honest, it bothers me that those events were considered normal at the time. It also brings up the argument that baseball was tarnished long before Rose, Bonds, and Clemens happened.

It's been suggested even the ancient Olympics were heavily corrupt, with tons of gambling and match fixing. As long as organized sports have been around, people have found ways to cheat or fix the outcome.

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Samardzija surrendered back to back to back HRs on back to back to back pitches but his Giants still win.

 

Hunter Renfroe blasted a pinch hit walk off Grand Slam against the Dodgers, 1st time in Padres history that it happened.

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18 hours ago, Dolphins Dynasty said:

I thought it was a good read.

 

It shows to me that we're a long way from a century ago, and to be honest, it bothers me that those events were considered normal at the time. It also brings up the argument that baseball was tarnished long before Rose, Bonds, and Clemens happened.

 

You can learn far more about where the game is going by studying its history than trying to interpret news articles because history repeats itself.

 

Even though PED's and gambling have very different ethical issues tied to them, the way the public had reacted to when it first came out has been almost the same.

 

Drop the hammer on a few players and move on as if that's enough.


People think that is what led to the demise of gambling in baseball, but it had nothing to do with it. This wasn't as much of a disincentive as people think there was as there were plenty of outlaw leagues for these players to go to where they could still make a living playing baseball. Think of it more as a loss of income than the end of a career.

 

What ended betting in baseball was the circumstances that enabled it slowly began to change. I don't have time to get into all of them, but the reasons why you would see Al Capone sitting next to the White Sox dugout in the late '20s, but wouldn't see John Gotti sitting with box seats at Yankee Stadium in the '80s explains a lot of it.

 

At a certain point, it just stopped being socially acceptable to have figures associated with organized crime at the ballpark, whereas before it would be flaunted in some cases. That's what changed.

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23 hours ago, dont care said:

Too long didn’t read

Maybe you ought to try it; pmoehrin posts are always worth your time, unlike most posts here that are just about logos that iconically pop, or are me calling someone a "bone-dry dork"

 

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Well, admiral, you gotta admit @dont care lived up to his name in this case.

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Those Reds are busy bees today. 

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For "setting the record straight", the words "probably" and "likely" and "no doubt" (which always means there's a doubt) occur too many times.

 

Not sure how anyone can "set the record straight" or speak as a with such a confident knowledge of the facts so long after the matter, unless said record straightener is 120 years old and was there, or unless some critical evidence has turned up that hasn't been available to any researcher over the past century. 

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1 hour ago, BringBackTheVet said:

For "setting the record straight", the words "probably" and "likely" and "no doubt" (which always means there's a doubt) occur too many times.

 

Not sure how anyone can "set the record straight" or speak as a with such a confident knowledge of the facts so long after the matter, unless said record straightener is 120 years old and was there, or unless some critical evidence has turned up that hasn't been available to any researcher over the past century. 

 

Because it’s not arguing against records that were gathered in 1919, or 1920.

 

I’m pointing out the flaws in one person’s research that was done in the early 60’s, and a movie that was released in 1988.

 

It’s also not just me making this argument. The first post I made cites research from about ten different people who got their information from libraries and newspaper records.

 

One major difference you have now versus the early 60’s is the internet. The digitization of old articles has made it easier than ever to do research.

 

Google will yield mountains of information that Eliot Asinof could not have possibly had access to.

 

The crazy thing is there actually is mountains of information out there. Too much for any one person to ever go through and not be at it for months if not years.

 

But that’s how research works. Accounts of records change all the time in baseball, just like history books get rewritten.

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15 hours ago, pmoehrin said:

But that’s how research works. Accounts of records change all the time in baseball, just like history books get rewritten.

 

The idea of “schools of historical thought” goes beyond the academy and applies to professional sports. Movies are an impressive way to “lock” mythology into the popular consciousness, something that’s hard to break.

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19 minutes ago, SFGiants58 said:

The idea of “schools of historical thought” goes beyond the academy and applies to professional sports. Movies are an impressive way to “lock” mythology into the popular consciousness, something that’s hard to break.

 

Eight Men is a nice baseball movie, but it's about as accurate as Braveheart is in depicting Scottish history.

 

Scenes like the one below make for drama, but I'm sorry to say that nothing even remotely close to this happened.

 

Even if Cicotte actually had this bonus, he wouldn't try to collect on it by storming in Charles Comiskey's office demanding it. No player aside from Mickey Rivers would even think to try to collect on a bonus this way. Issues like this are why teams have GM's.

 

 

 

Another is the "Say It Ain't So, Joe" scene.

 

 

That's not even a hard one to debunk. There's film of Joe Jackson leaving the trial on the day in question. All he does is walk from the courthouse directly to his cab and goes home.

 

The movie didn't even get the quote right, which is "It ain't' so Joe, is it?" Jackson supposedly replied, "Yes kid, I'm afraid it is" which if true would contradict the testimony he had given int he trial, where he claimed to have taken money, but didn't take a dive.

 

So where does this quote come from? A single sportswriter (Hugh Fullerton) claiming he heard the exchange between Jackson and a young fan. That's it. No other reporter collaborates the story, Jackson denies it happened, and there's no video evidence to suggest it did. Just one sportswriter saying "a little birdy told me" is the only piece of evidence supporting it.

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On 5/5/2019 at 2:19 PM, pmoehrin said:

The Lefty Williams Threat

 

A significant part of both the Ken Burns documentary and the Eight Men Out movie is how Lefty Williams was threatened with physical harm to his wife if he didn't throw the eighth game of the World Series.

 

It's true there was some disagreement between the players and the gamblers during the series. (part of the reason why it was so easy for investigators to find willing parties to talk immediately after the Series) But there's no evidence to suggest an incident like this ever occurred.

 

No mention of this story appears in any court documents, and there is no known interview given by Williams where he ever claimed something like this happened.

 

The earliest mention of the story comes from Eliot Asinof's book on the Black Sox which was published in 1963, more than 40 years later after the Series. More than likely Asinof made the story up.

 

I have a hard copy of this book, but haven't read it yet. Based on this comment, just how much of his good is actually credible and, if it's not particularly credible at all, what are the best books and/or sources on the topic?

 

There are plenty of things I would love to research and either read up on or watch documentaries about, but if it's rubbish, I'd really rather not have anything to do with it.

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1 hour ago, Kramerica Industries said:
 
 
1
1 hour ago, Kramerica Industries said:

I have a hard copy of this book, but haven't read it yet. Based on this comment, just how much of his good is actually credible and, if it's not particularly credible at all, what are the best books and/or sources on the topic?

 

There are several people who have been involved with doing research related to the Black Sox, but the main point man has been a fellow by the name of Jacob Pomrenke.

 

He has been doing a bunch of interviews on the subject matter given its the 100 year anniversary. Here's a link to the most recent one. The interview starts at around the 21-minute mark.

 

His 2015 book, Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 White Sox is probably the most comprehensive record of what happened during the era.

 

For anyone interested, if you shoot me a PM with your email address, I can send you the entire book in PDF form.

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