Black Sox Scandal

White Sox Turn Dirty

Tension in the Clubhouse

Charles Comiskey, the club owner of the Chicago White Sox was generally disliked by the players and was resented for his greediness. He had a reputation for underpaying his players in the past, even though they were one of the top teams in the league and had already won the 1917 World Series. Because of baseball's reserve clause, any player who refused to accept a contract was prohibited from playing baseball on any other professional team except the White Sox. Players were prevented from changing teams without permission from the owner of their team, and without a union the players had no bargaining power. In the era of the reserve clause, gamblers could find players on many teams looking for extra cash. In addition, the clubhouse was divided into two factions. One group hated the more sportsmanlike players (later called the "Clean Sox"). Some of these players included second baseman Eddie Collins, a graduate of Columbia College of Columbia University, catcher Ray Schalk, and pitcher Red Faber. The two factions almost never spoke to each other on or off the field, and the only thing they had in common was an extreme distaste of Comiskey.

The Plan

Third baseman George "Buck" Weaver was one of those who attended a meeting where a fix was discussed. But he decided not to take part and played his best during the series, batting higher than some of his averages in previous years.

A meeting of White Sox ballplayers, including those committed to the scandal and those interested, took place on September 21, in Chick Gandil's room at the Ansonia Hotel in New York. It was a meeting that would soon destroy the careers of eight ballplayers. Weaver was the only player to attend the meetings who did not receive money. Nevertheless, he was later banned with the others for knowing about the fix but not reporting it. Infielder Fred McMullin heard of the fix and threatened to report the others unless he was payed off. The scheme got an unexpected boost when the Faber could not pitch due to the flu. Years later, Schalk said that if Faber hadn’t been sick, the fix would have likely never happened, since Faber would have almost certainly started instead of Cicotte and/or Williams.

Trial and Decision

The trial began on June 27, 1921 in Chicago. White Sox player Shano Collins was labeled as the wronged party, accusing his corrupt teammates of costing him $1,784 as a result of the scandal. Before the trial, key evidence went missing from the Cook County courthouse, including the signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who withdrew their confessions. Some years later, the missing confessions reappeared in the possession of Comiskey's lawyer. The jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning verdicts of not guilty on all charges for all the accused players.

After the players' exonerations, Landis, who was appointed first Commissioner of Baseball, was quick to suppress any idea that he might reinstate the implicated players. On August 3, 1921, the day after the players were acquitted, the Commissioner issued his own verdict:

'Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.'

Landis made it clear that all eight accused players would remain on the "ineligible list," banning them from organized baseball. Following the Commissioner's statement it was universally understood that all eight implicated White Sox players were to be banned from Major League Baseball for life. Two other players believed to be involved were also banned. One of them was Hal Chase, who had been effectively blackballed from the majors in 1919 for a long history of throwing games and had spent 1920 in the minors. He was rumored to have been a go-between between Gandil and the gamblers, though it has never been confirmed. Regardless of this, it was understood that Landis' announcement not only formalized his 1919 blacklisting from the majors, but barred him from the minors as well.

The eight players banned were Eddie Cicotte, pitcher, admitted involvement in the fix, Oscar "Happy" Felsch, center fielder, Arnold "Chick" Gandil, first baseman, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the star outfielder, confessed in sworn grand jury testimony to having accepted $5,000 cash from the gamblers and later recanted his confession and protested his innocence to no effect, Fred McMullin, utility infielder, Charles "Swede" Risberg, shortstop, George "Buck" Weaver, third baseman, Claude "Lefty" Williams, pitcher. Joe Gedeon, second baseman for the St. Louis Browns was also banned for placing bets since he learned of the fix from Risberg.