Few people who are alive today would remember the Black Sox Scandal that erupted after a group of eight Chicago White Sox players allegedly lost the 1919 World Series due to organized crime. They let the Cincinnati Reds defeat them after being promised a large cash payout by Arnold Rothstein, whose gambling syndicate was gaining power and wealth before the time of the incident.
Tension was boiling behind the scenes in the years leading up to the scandal. Many of the players detested White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, who had previously played the sport but was widely known as a cheapskate when negotiating salaries for his own players. Even in the clubhouse there were two distinct factions of players. From the outside looking in, it may have seemed like a battle between good and evil, or honor and greed.
It was later reported that a meeting took place between many players on the team, some already ready to lose games in exchange for the payment, and others simply open to the possibility. Even before the White Sox threw the requisite games, rumors in the gambling world were circulating that it was a possibility.
A grand jury wasn’t called to investigate the crime until late 1920, at which time one player confessed his part in the scandal. All hell broke loose from there. The players allegedly involved were all suspended in the midst of a strong season they had the potential to win, which left them in second place for the year.
Eight players were indicted, as well as five gamblers allegedly a part of the syndicate that paid them off. The “Clean Sox” who were not implicated in the crime were given bonus checks.
The outcome of the trial seemed to waver back and forth, being injected with new scandal at every turn — signed confessions and other evidence went missing while new testimonies were promised. Even though the testimony presented at trial seemed to clearly indicate the guilt of the players, each and every one of them were found not guilty by a jury of their peers.
They didn’t get away with the scandal without consequence, though: all eight were banned from ever playing in the league again.
Baseball has always been known as a purely American sport here in the United States — even though it originally evolved from a European sport called “rounders” — and it should come as no surprise that the American psyche in the sports world was thoroughly trampled as a result of the alleged crime and subsequent trial. It would be a long time before the integrity of the game was fully restored.
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