The greatest conspiracy in the history of sports

Boredom Spieth
Boredom Spieth
Boredom Spieth
Contributor

Hop in the Wayback Machine and head to 1919. The Chicago White Sox lost to the underdog Cincinnati Reds 10-5 to close out the World Series.

Rumors abounded that the fix was in almost immediately, and it was eventually revealed prominent gamblers paid a number of White Sox players to lose on purpose. The infamous Black Sox, most notably “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, stood trial and were banned from the game for life.

A rare photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson, taken in in 1915 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. (Photo source: Twitter)
A rare photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson, taken in in 1915 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. (Photo source: Twitter)

A few weeks before the Series, White Sox first baseman C. Arnold “Chick” Gandil and a gambler named Joseph “Sport” Sullivan had a suspicious meeting.

Gandil was recruited to get other White Sox on board and promised $100,000 to whack up with his teammates. White Sox pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg and outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, utility infielder Fred McMullin, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson were recruited.

New York mob leader Arnold Rothstein was also suspected to have been a major player in the scheme, although his involvement was never proved. The powerhouse White Sox were favored by an incredible 3-1 margin at some sports books, so when oodles of cash were shoved behind the Reds in the bookieverse, suspicion flourished.

A newspaper headline from 1928 reporting on the murder of notorious gangster Arnold Rothstein. (Photo source: Twitter)
A newspaper headline from 1928 reporting on the murder of notorious gangster Arnold Rothstein. (Photo source: Twitter)

Eddie Cocotte, White Sox pitcher, was supposedly directed to plunk the first batter to let everyone know the fox was on. He did so. The White Sox went on to lose the game 9-1. The New York Times wrote, “Never before in the history of America’s biggest baseball spectacle has a pennant-winning club received such a disastrous drubbing in an opening game…”

The White Sox again played like clowns, losing the next couple of games, and everything seemed to be going according to plan. That is, everything but the payments. The players, who had arranged to receive their loot in installments, weren’t paid in full.

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In retaliation, the White Sox played up to their potential, winning a pair of games. However, gangsters are a difficult lot to renege on a deal with, and several death threats were levied at the players and their families. Thus, Joe Jackson and the boys lost the final game of the series, handing the championship to the Reds.

It wasn’t until a wealth of evidence appeared in 1920 that a game had been fixed in that season that a formal investigation into the 1919 series began. Several gamblers began to sing, and a grand jury was convened Eddie Cicotte and others confessing to their parts in the plot.

Gandil, Cicotte, Williams, Risberg, Felsch, McMullin, Weaver and Jackson—now dubbed the “Black Sox” were indicted on nine counts of conspiracy. However, an unidentified party lost/stole transcripts of the players’ grand jury confessions, leading to the Black Sox exoneration on all counts in August of 1921.

In the court of baseball, however, the players were guilty of defiling the game. Baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned all eight players for life.

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