From the beginning of time, greed and money has motivated man above all else. It seems that in the day that we live in, there is corruption and foul-play everywhere. I sometimes here my grandparents say that back when they were kids they didn't have to worry about crime and everyone did right naturally. I found this to be as untrue as I researched the greatest sports scandal of all time, The 1919 World series. Corruption, money, greed, power, and even organized crime were major factors in this landmark game of 1919. This proves that even America's pastime had it's lowest point.
Heading into the Series of 1919, the White Sox were considered the best team of the 20 th century. The Sox boasted a lineup that included three eventual Hall of Famers; Collins, S chalk and Faber. In addition three others, Jackson, Cicotte and pitcher Lefty Williams-who were forging Hall of Fame careers. The Cincinnati Reds, on the other hand, had its share of stars, including third baseman Heinie Groh, but had only one eventual Hall of Famer, Edd Roush. Still, the Reds dominated the National League, winning a then-franchise-record 96 games against only 44 losses on the strength of a league-leading 2. 23 team ERA, which was more than three-quarters of a run lower than Chicago's.
Even though the Reds were a great team, they were by no means a match for the White Sox team, which was the first reason that gamblers noticed the great opportunity to make money. There was good reason the Sox were susceptible to the lure of quick money. They were among the American League's best players but Charles Comiskey paid most of them no more than the worst. Comiskey, the owner, promised the White Sox that if they did win the 1917 world series that he would pay them a bonus in their salaries. when that bonus did come, it turned out to be a bottle of cheap champagne. Before the 1919 series, Charles Comiskey promised Cicotte an extra $10, 000 if he won 30 games.
The offer of this sum of money appealed to Cicotte and he won 29. When he reached that number Comiskey benched him, the player resentment of this was rampant among the White Sox. On Sept. 18, the World Series fix was hatched in Gandil's room in Boston's Hotel Buckminster.
He summoned bookmaker-gambler Joseph 'Sport's sullivan and told him, 'I think we can put it in the bag.' Gandil asked for $80, 000 (he later raised to $100, 000). He approached the bitter Cicotte, who said he'd go along for $10, 000 up front. Gandil also sold the idea to Williams and Risberg. McMullin overheard Gandil and asked if he could join the conspiracy. Weaver apparently sat in on some meetings but refused to participate.
Gandil was told he'd be paid before the first game. But Sullivan didn't have that kind of money. He brought in other gamblers and, through them, the alleged gangster, Arnold Rothstein. It was said he would bet on anything he could fix. Rothstein provided most of he money. The night before Game 1 in the best-of-9 Series (an experiment that ended after three seasons), Cicotte found $10, 000 under a pillow in his hotel room, he was the only player that was paid up front, due to the fact that he was the pitcher and therefore the most important.
Cicotte was hammered 9-1 by the Reds. The players were promised a sum of money for losing Game 1, they were told that it was out on the bets. Despite not getting their money the players agreed to throw Game 2. Williams lost the game for the juggernaut White Sox 4-2. That night, Gandil demanded the $40, 000 he and his teammates were owed. He was given only $10, 000, a fraction of what was promised and owed to the team.
The players felt betrayed and began to think about playing to win. They won the third game 3-0 when rookie Dickie Kerr pitched a three-hitter. This act got the Rothstein and his men thinking that the players were serious about getting their money so before Game 4, Sullivan came up with $20, 000 and promised $20, 000 more if Chicago lost. Gandil split the $20, 000 evenly among Risberg, Felsch, Williams and Jackson. Two players did not see a dime of that money, McMullen and Miller. Cicotte lost game four 2-0.
Once again the promised $20, 000 never appeared. The conspirators decided they'd been lied to enough and played to win, beating the Reds 5-4 in game number six and 4-1 in 6 and 4-1 in game number seven. It all came down to the last game of the series. Game nine was the determining game and it seems that both the players and the gambling men had everything riding on that one game. This time Rothstein took matters into his own hands.
A thug was dispatched to tell Williams, the Game 8 starter, that something would happen to him, and maybe to his wife, if he lasted the first inning. The terrified Williams gave up four hits in one-third of an inning. The Reds dominated the game with a 10-5 victory to win the pennant. Afterwards there were newspaper stories suggesting that the series had been thrown, and even though the owners feared that was the case they denied every bit of it. If the word got out then it could ruin their ball club. "Shoeless" Joe Jack was conscience stricken and wrote a letter to Comisky to ask him what he should do with his $5, 000.
Comisky refused to see Jackson even when he made appointments to see him. In the season of 1920 a grand jury was looking into reports that the cubs had thrown a three game series and word got back around of the foul-play that was wide-spread at the 1919 series. Cicotte and Jackson admitted their roles to the grand jury. Gandil, the ringleader, admitted nothing. All eight players and several gamblers (but not Rothstein) were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the public.
All were acquitted for want of evidence after transcripts of Cicotte's and Jackson's confessions disappeared from the court files. There was even a report that as Joe Jackson walked out of the courtroom a teary-eyed boy looked up al him and said, "Say it ain't so Joe." It seems that money is the root of all evil and can make a man do things that he would never do otherwise. It shows that sadly, money is indeed power and almost everything can be bought. But was it worth the pain that those 8 men suffered, never to be allowed to play the game that they love so much again? Was it worth the fans that were let down when they realized that their idols and role models could be bought with $5, 000? After that season in 1920 baseball changed and would never be the same again. Sadly, those eight men, Eddie Cicotte, Claude Williams, Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Fred McMullin will go down in history not a great baseball players, but as conspirators in the greatest fix in baseball history. Et tu Jackson?.