tv 1919 Black Sox World Series Fix CSPAN November 28, 2019 1:10pm-2:21pm EST
pietrusza describes the 1919 world series fix which became known as the "black sox" scandal. he will talk about how it shaped what happened. he is the author of the criminal genius who fixed the 1919 world series and the judge and jury about baseball's first commissioner. >> okay. i'd like to welcome you all to the village library in cooperstown. i'm with the director here dave kent, and we are fortunate here tonight to have esteemed historian and award winning writer who is not only a historian, but he is very into baseball, and so it a good combination, because right now, it is the 100th anniversary of one of the most infamous
scandals in baseball history, the black sox scandals where members of the chicago white sox were accused of throwing the world series to the cincinnati reds, and it brought about many changes in baseball including getting a commissioner and getting eight players on the white sox banned from baseball for life, but the story of that is not really a simple one. it is very complicated. so, the title of tonight's talk is called field of myths, 100 years after baseball's 1919 black sox scandal. finally separating the many myths from the reality. and so this should be a fascinating talk and i'm excited to welcome david pietrusza, our speaker to night. >> thank you. yeah, we are gathered here
tonight on the eve of this year's world series, and 100 years ago, who knew if there was going to be another world series once that scandal was exposed and whether trust in baseball was starting to evaporate rapidly. and as david said, that's, you know, eight men out. that is the story that we know. that is the title of the book and a movie. there were, you know, the legends have spawned about that, and it wasn't the start of trouble in river city, shall we say. gambling had been rife in baseball since the very beginnings of the sport. people -- you know, think of all the gambling in america. you know, the river boat gamblers and the card sharks out west and people like that. it's always been there. and so, in baseball, in troy, new york, when that was a major
league team, there were gambling scandals or rumors of fixes. in louisville in 1877, four players were -- four players then were banned for life. and an umpire was thrown out, a guy named dick higham in 1882. he's the only umpire who's ever been thrown out. there were rumors of world series fixes almost as soon as there was the modern world series, which really starts at the turn of the 20th century. and in the year before the 1919 world series, in 1918, there's a prospective scandal brewing on the cincinnati reds. now, the white sox play the reds but there was a scandalous goings on in cincinnati with a first baseman named hal chase and his manager, christy mathewson thought he had the goods on chase. he was notorious but baseball
didn't do anything about it. and that was the story up to about 1919 and 1920, where the rumors would occur, but baseball would turn a blind eye to everything so that when the black sox conspire to throw that 1919, you know, people say, well, why did they do that? why did they do that? well, it was a high payoff and it seemed to be a low risk because your employers were not about to bounce you and really do anything about it because it was very bad publicity for the business. the business of baseball. now, who are the eight players who are banned? let's go around the diamond. the first one is a guy named chick gandil. he's a fairly good fielding first baseman, but he is sort of in the middle of the pack of the american league or major league
first basemen. i never come with a slide presentation to these talks, but i really wish i had a slide to show you of chick gandil because here's a guy who looks like a complete criminal. i mean, this -- this is one bad looking dude. and fittingly enough, you know, maybe you can tell a book by its cover, but he was the basic ringleader of the whole fix. and then you had a utility infielder who seemed to be a friend of his, a guy named fred mcmullin. in terms of play at the world series, he only gets two at-bats but he gets a hit. he wants in and he's going to be let in. at shortstop a guy named swede risberg. described by shoeless joe jackson as a hard guy, a tough guy and a guy that you did not want to cross. he's a decent fielder. not that much of a hitter. and at third base is one of the
more problematic members of this octet in terms of guilt and culpability. his name is buck weaver. he's one of -- actually, one of the top third basemen in the american league. probably number two, the home run baker, who had been part of the million dollar infield with connie mack's a's. we'll talk about weaver later on. in center field, a really good fielder, a guy named oscar "happy" felsch. he has some power. he ties for the team lead in home runs in 1919. it's the end of the dead ball era. the lively ball era of babe ruth is going to start up the next year, but it is not quite there in 1919. then you have pitchers. you need pitchers involved in throwing a world series. and the gamblers and people like
gandil have as part of the conspiracy, the two best pitchers on the chicago white sox. eddie cicotte who is a trick ball pitcher, a knuckleball pitcher, shine ball pitcher he might rub something on his pants and then rub the ball on that to make the thing scoot this way or that way. he's a 29-game winner that year. and then the other pitcher is, i think a 23-game winner, he's a much younger pitcher. his name is claude "lefty" williams. he comes from quite a town in south -- southern missouri which even though it's only got about 2,000 or 3,000 people in it even to this day, the barker, the ma barker game from the bank robbers from the 1930s came from this same small town and also a guy who shot up a synagogue in overland park in kansas city. this same town. i don't know what the chamber of commerce says about that town.
but it's going to be a best of nine game world series so it's different in a lot of ways. and why is that? baseball had previously had best of seven series. but 1919 follows 1918, follows world war i. world war i really disrupts baseball because they issue what is called a work or fight order. that means if you're not involved in the war effort, either in uniform or some other way, they're going to draft you. they're going to do selective service, pull your name out of a fish bowl or something and send you over to france. so, baseball doesn't know if it's going to continue in 1919 until the armistice comes around in 1918. in 1918, the season is cut down
to 142-game series -- season. recall that up until 1961 with expansion in the american league, it's 156-game series. so, there's fewer games, there's fewer attendance, there's much less revenue that year. and with that work or fight order, there's a way you can get around that. and that involves going to work in a defense plan. in a defense-related industry. and what's one of the biggest industries, is shipyards. we have to get all those guys over to france, so we neat boats we have to put them on. so, there's a big shipyard in delaware. and shoeless joe jackson and lefty williams and a reserve catcher for the white sox, a pal of theirs named bird lynn, go over and work there. and oscar "happy" felsch works for a shipyard or defense plan
in milwauket in milwaukee. in milwauket in milwaukee. so, the core, a good core of the black sox of the white sox are jumping and this is the way the owner of the white sox, charles comiskey, interprets that, jumping the team to go get these jobs in the defense plants or shipyards. they're highly paid. a lot of people see these guys as slackers, as draft dodgers, as unpatriotic because they're drawing a good salary to stay out of the war. and play baseball for these shipyards on the weekends. comiskey doesn't even want to let them back in. comiskey is also opposed to the nine-game world series. and comiskey is portrayed as a money-grabber. we'll deal with that more later on.
he's opposed to the nine-game series. why? is he just a traditionalist? a conservative? well, maybe. but remember what i said about eddie cicotte and lefty williams, the two pitchers. they have 29 wins, and 23 games -- wins respectively, but really, you know, in the short series you can get away with a smaller rotation. but this is a longer series. they are planning no off days because cincinnati and chicago are so close. well, really they're not that close. but they were going to have no off days so you needed a deeper pitching staff. and really the white sox that year were really stuck behind cicotte and williams. and after that, it was a guy named dickey carr, who was a rookie who won 13 games and red faber, who's a hall of famer but he's sick.
he's had the flu. he's had health problems. he's had physical problems. he's only won 11 games. he's so sick, he's not even going to pitch one game in the world series. so, the white sox basically have a 2 1/2-man rotation going into the -- going into the world series. they got a problem. cicotte and williams won 95% of all white sox games that year. if you take out faber they won 71%. if they get these guys, if the gamblers get to these guys things look really good for a fix. the pitching is really the achilles' heel or really it is so big that it is the achilles foot of the white sox that year. the white sox are going to lose that series. they're playing to lose in eight games. two of the worst players, the most suspicious players is lefty williams.
he's going to lose three games, which is not going to happen again for decades and decades in a world series. he has a 6.61 e.r.a. in that series when the american league average that year is 3.32. and risberg at shortstop, a really good fielding shortstop, makes four errors. so, he comes under suspicion. dickie carr, the third man on the staff in the series is really a small guy, a rookie. he's like 5'7" or so, but even with the white sox playing -- or the black sox playing behind him, he's going to win the third game and the sixth game of that world series. so really impressive performance on his part, but they are going to lose in those games. eddie cicotte is going to lose a couple of games and, bang, they're out. now, what are the myths?
the myths you've seen in the movie "eight men out," which was made by director john sales. really an all-star cast. it was made in the late '80s. at about the same time in a more romanticized, kind of haphazard way, the more popular movie "field of dreams" with kevin costner where shoeless joe jackson and the black sox are going to come back and be rehabilitated and get to play again, get to play baseball again, despite the lifetime ban against them in this cornfield in iowa. and the genesis of the story of the film "eight men out" and then again in "field of dreams" is a 1963 book by an author named eliot asinof. the gist is why the white sox do it. this is the great myth we're dealing with here.
and the myth that the -- is this -- it's charles comiskey's fault. it's that these guys were exploited working men. they were not, you know, being paid very well. they were among the lowest paid teams in the american league. even though they were, you know, the pennant winner that year. comiskey was cheating them on bonuses. specifically on eddie cicotte. he was really so bad that he wasn't even cleaning their uniforms. they weren't even called the black sox originally because they were crooked. they were called that because comiskey wouldn't even clean their uniforms. so, he was an all-around bad guy, and the black sox just were righting a wrong. they were sticking it to the man. and, you know, getting justice,
retributive justice by direct action. and the problem with this theory is that it's all wrong. i did two books, which dealt with the -- this scandal. one was my biography of kennesaw mountain landis, the commissioner who came in and fixed this mess and the other was biographer of gambler arnold rothstein who created this mess by bankrolling the world series fix. since that rothstein book has come out, what we have this is a massive data dump, really, by major league baseball, and also just the fact that technology has changed. i was talking to some of the folks beforehand and talking about how research has changed since i started in this game. and now you can get to the microfilm, look stuff up easily. you don't have to rely on some relative's scrapbook and you can find stuff.
but the real key thing to dispelling the myths of charles comiskey as the scrooge of baseball, the fellow who should bear as much blame as any of the black sox, is this. around 2002 major league baseball, i guess, was cleaning out its attic and they had -- the teams would have to send to the league offices what they were paying each guy. if they got someone up from the minors, okay, how much are you paying him? how much are you paying some guy if he came over in a trade from the st. louis browns? what did he sign for at the beginning of the year? did you pay him a bonus? all of this was in the league office files. and major league baseball dumped it across the street here in cooperstown at the hall of fame and the national baseball library. now, they didn't have the staff to go through all this stuff. they just sort of keep it and treasure it and preserve it for the baseball researchers. primarily, for members of the
society for american baseball research. and these guys really went to work. and they went card by card by card and they figured out what the black sox were making. and you've got to have context. so, they were making something. well, the numbers of what any of them was paid in 1919 were -- are pretty pathetic compared to what they're being paid now because the dollar is pretty pathetic now. but what were the black sox being paid then? well, consider this, the white sox finished sixth in 1918, okay? it was the war. they had lost some guys. other teams had lost guys, too, so it probably all evened out. they went from world champions in 1917 to sixth place in 1918. and yet, and yet at the beginning of that season they're going to have the third highest payroll in the american league. and at the end of that season
they're going to be the highest paid team in the american league. okay. they are not underpaid at all. now, another aspect of this that you may read or have heard, well, they were much better than the cincinnati reds. and the reds were paid more than they were. no, no. the reds were the sixth highest paid team in the national league and the eighth highest paid team in the major leagues. of the 15 highest paid players in the american league, five of them were on the white sox. two of them, who were honest players on that team, eddie collins, second baseman, who was getting $15,000, which was the second highest salary in baseball, ty cobb was getting $20,000. and ray schalk, who was the highest paid catcher in the american league. he was getting $7,083.
three members of the black sox, cicotte, jackson and weaver, were also among the top 15 players. and the next year of the 17 highest paid american leaguers, seven were members of the black sox. so, comiskey was not underpaying his players. what was comiskey getting paid? well, that's easy for you to say, mr. comiskey, these guys are paid well. because of the war in 1918, the previous two years comiskey had been drawing $10,000 a year. and he owned the team. and he took a cut to $5,000 a year. also the revenues really went down that year, so white sox attendance went down by 70% in 1918 and the team lost $46,000. so, consider all those things and things start to fall away of
these myths of why the white sox did it. the bonuses. one of the stories i didn't mention earlier is the players were promised a bonus and all they got -- you've seen this in the movie "eight men out" and all they get is a case of champagne. they open it up and it's like -- it's flat. it's stale. they're incensed about this. well, it -- they were -- they were not -- they could not have been promised a bonus as a team, okay. we know they were promised champagne they got champagne. how bad it was, who knows. but it was -- they put forward a rule that you could not promise a bonus to team members if they won the world series. and the reason for this is
because some losing teams ended up getting a higher bonus than the winning teams in the world series. and this was done -- and one of the owners who did this and caused the losing team to have more than the winning team, this would have been in 1906 was, again, the cheapskate charles comiskey. he paid out a bonus to the losing members of the team and this is what caused that. so you couldn't promise a bonus overall to the team. and then there's a bonus to eddie cicotte. there's a big scene in the movie where cicotte goes in and says, i was promised a bonus of $10,000, mr. comiskey, if i won 30 games. and i didn't -- you know, i was held back. you didn't -- wouldn't let the manager pitch me to win that 30th game.
and comiskey goes to his secretary, the general manager, and says, could you look up in the records how many games mr. cicotte won? 29. 29. it's not 30, eddie. just so cynical and all that. except that's not absolutely not true again. bonuses were not promised that way. they would not be promised a $10,000 bonus when his base salary was $5,000. it would be in increments. it would also be in -- maybe you would get so much more if you got -- won 20 games or if you won 25 games. in fact, this is what happened with lefty williams that year. he got to 15 games and 20 games and he got extra bonuses for that. but really why it's not true is because eddie cicotte did get that chance to win 30 games and
he lost the game. he was not held out. he went home voluntarily to his farm in michigan at the end -- in the middle of august and was called back by the white sox, given a chance to win and he didn't win. so, every aspect of this is absolutely false. also, why would you promise a bonus to someone who would win 30 games that year? 30 games were pretty rare, even back then. i think walter johnson had done it in 1913, but it was really, really rare, even then. and eddie cicotte had led the american league in losses the year before. so, again, none of this makes any sense. and -- but cicotte does get a bonus, okay? the truth of the matter is, cicotte, even without this performance bonus of 30 games, does get a bonus because he was promised in 1918, if he had the
same sort of year he had in 1917 when he won 28 games, that he would get a $3,000 bonus. well, he stunk up the lot in 1918. but comiskey, because he's good the next year in 1919, gives him the bonus was promised for 1918. so, he ends up as the second highest paid pitcher in the american league, in the major league, actually, next to the great walter johnson. again, myth, myth, myth, myth. also, so if cicotte did this, if he was in on the fix, and he was actually one of the ring leaders, because he was stiffed on the bonus, which would have occurred late, late, late in the season, why do we know by his own confession that he was working on the fix in early september? and why do we know from buck
weaver's conversation with a detective hired by charles comiskey that cicotte was talking about the fix in june? so, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. now, how great were the white sox? we hear over and over again that they were one of the greatest teams in baseball history. they were pretty good. they won the world championship in 1917. they won the pennant in 1919. but they win it by 3 1/2 games. even in a 140-game season, that's not all that impressive. that's kind of middling. they were supposed to roll over the cincinnati reds. well, the reds win their pennant
by nine games. nine games. and they have the highest one-loss percentage in baseball -- or it is not exceeded until the 1927 yankees, who ain't bad, okay? ain't bad at all. and their second half season is amazing. they have a one loss percentage of .712 in that second half. they are on fire going into the -- going into the world series. and they are deep. where the white sox were shallow in a pitching staff, the reds are so strong, they can start five different guys in the first five games of that 1919 world series. there's another myth, which is maybe not as important, but in terms of, like, how difficult was it to garner information to construct histories of the black sox. and eliot asinof writes that basically there was a wall of silence involving not only the black sox but the clean sox, the honest players, the players who
played against them. and everyone for some reason, there was this cone of silence that fell down about the -- around the world series fix. and that's not true because we know, now again because you can search all that microfilm and find things out more equally, that 20 different reds and white sox players gave at least 85 different interviews afterwards. now, some of these are not very true. they're contradictory. people will contradict themselves but people were willing to talk. they will not -- they were not -- many of them, however, were not willing to talk to the fellow whose history of the black sox is the standard history eliot asinof. i had the pleasure of meeting eliot late in his life. we were watching -- we were watching a series on espn, which was premiering.
and he seemed like a very nice fellow. he was suffering from lyme disease then. but i -- when i first read "eight men out" when i would have been in high school, it was terrific. and it is a brilliant narrative. it is such a wonderfully written book, and it -- you just have the feeling that, okay, he's got it all. this is every detail in here. and it would be very hard for me to improve on it. when i was writing my rothstein book, that was the idea i had at the beginning. and then i tried to figure out the narrative and it just didn't make any sense whatsoever. if you took a look at the chronology of things and how things were supposed to happen. it just sort of fell apart. i wrote that in rothstein, respectfully. it was like this doesn't make sense. here's how the narrative really went down with arnold rothstein.
but other people have pointed out, and i should have picked up on this, but i first read the book when i was in high school and so it is like that i am not exactly mr. experienced author at that point, okay. but, like, umm, there are like, they are interior thoughts expressed. so and so was thinking that or this, and good historians don't put that down. novelists put that down. elliott asanof was a screenwriter and he is creating this narrative going forward and forward and forward and providing all of the details which you should pick up on and how could he have known this, or details, how he could have known this level of detail from what happened. i picked this out at random
preparing this in a day or so. quote, he, gandil, smiled when he saw the fresh $40,000 that sullivan withdrew from his coat pocket. how would he have this information? how would he? so this is why this book is described as a historical novel. a historical novel. and there are further imaginary characters in it. there are made-up people in the book. one of which is a guy named harry f, a gambler who is supposedly threatened lefty williams on the eve of the world series and how do we know he is imaginary? because asanov told us this, and he said that i did this on the advice of my publisher as a copyright in case somebody is going to plagiarize me. you can't copyright an
individual or a event. so this is making you think that there are a couple of other minor characters in here are completely fictitious as well, and he has admitted that there was at least one other fictitious character in this. now, he consulted a couple of other authors and quite famous people to get a, an idea of what went down with the white sox. two guys who had grown up in chicago, and whose heroes had been white sox players. nelson albren, if you have seen the movie "the man with the golden arm" or "walk on the wild side" and his hero was swede furnigan and also buck. so they were working man authors
with this ideology, and so being the same ideology he was blacklisted. in the 1950s he had fronted for blacklisted authors, and so, he comes at the topic with this sort of bias which is not bad if you get the facts right. and as i think that you got my, you know, understood by now the facts were not right. and the facts were not right, because, you know, in some ways he did not have the material, and embellished the material and fit it into one narrativement one of the most perplexing things which i don't think that anyone is going to know is how did the fix start. and it is an increasing body of thought that has started with the players, that it started
with gandil and ciccotte. and we know the players who started with the black sox on one or another, and this is finite. but the gamblers are all over the place, and there is four or five different groups of them in various places. there is a guy named sport sullivan in boston, big gambler. big guy. he had been involved in betting in the 1914 world series, and as the handling the bets for george m. cohen, and he had won a bundle on the miracle braves and a real 1969 mets' team who swept connie mack's philadelphia ashla's, and there is concern if that series is fixed, and that may be
the reason that connie mack broke up that team afterwards. and then the big bankroll, and the big brain and the go-to guy, and the loan shark, and the labor racketeer and the casino owner, and the bootlegger, and the drug smuggler and the guy involved with everything, and tammany hall politics and bucket shops, and loaning money to finance broadway shows and theaters, and this is the banker, and there is a autobiography about him, and it is true. so sports sullivan might be up to doing and fixing the world series, but he doesn't have the money to make it all work. now, maybe you could make it work, and there is 80,000 dollars, and $8,000 or $10,000 dangled a man in front of the
white sox, and then what do you do? you have to lay down the bets to make money on the world series. there is no use doing this as the intellectual exercise that we are going to just fix the series and go with that, and the point is to put down bets and make a bundle of money. so you have to have two pots of money that way. bribe the players and lay down the bets. rothstein can supply that. then there are a whole bunch of gamblers from the midwest. there was a fellow named henry kidd becker who had been working on fixing the 1918 world series and he never pulled it off. he was thinking of doing the 1919 world series, but unfortunately he was shot dead in april of 1919 by the husband of one of his girlfriends. but he left behind other gamblers in st. louis and a guy named carl zork and frank
redmon, and so this is in des moines, the supposedly honest upright states in the west. and then there is a guy in des moines called ben selter, and doc levi who will be involved in this. and then a fourth group and i don't know if you can call two people a group, but they are sleepy bill burns and he had been a man of ill repute, and no energy. he was called sleepy bill. he would literally fall asleep on the bench. but he had left baseball, and he was speculating in oil leases in texas, and he was a texan, but he would come up to hang around with all of the ball players and try to sell them or try to get them to invest in oil leases. so he is traveling this circuit of the major league cities and
teams, and he is on trains with the players in 1919 and he hears this rumor, and in fact, the players approach him. they are so crooked that even though they have 80,0$80,000 on table now promised from the gamblers of sullivan and rothstein that they go to these guys and say, we will throw it to you for $100,000. such a bargain. and burns doesn't have any kind of money like this, and mahard doesn't at all. he is working in a locomotive plant in philadelphia. and ma har is hard is going bac philadelphia and they tell him in philadelphia, you know who has the money? the guy in new york, arnold rothstein has the money. go see him. they do, and they try to see him at the racetrack, and they try to see him at his office. rothstein is a very, and not a
dem and dose kind of guys, but he is meeting with them and he knows they are coming to discuss the fix. and so in the biggest hotel in times square, and in the middle of everything he has invited these guys not to his office, but there to discuss the fix. and they do. rothstein has this at his table a former new york city police detective and reputedly a new york city judge, and so he has witnesses to what will then happen which is that rothstein blowing up and saying, i want no part of your fix. i want nothing to do with it. and of course, he has another fix going on and this is why. and so he is also creating an ally,a alb alba alibi and very big allibi that e
is not involved in the fix. so maybe he can make the burns and mahard guys work for me. yeah, i will tell them that i will give them the money, and i will tell the players another $100,000 in the pot for them, and with all of this money dangled these players will throw this series. okay. i don't even have to advance any more, and if something goes wrong, maybe these guys will take the wrap. now, the rothstein using a couple of agents of his, a guy named abe atell and another former boxer and the featherweight champion of the world in fact. a famous guy. and rachel brown who is really named nat and zelser is involved. rothstein is a slow pay. he knows the value of keeping money around so you can invest
it in other things such as loan sharking. if you don't pay the white sox players, you've promised them right away, you're holding on to another 40 or $50,000, you can use that 40 or $50,000 to bet on them which isn't much of a bet because you know the outcome, or to loan some money to some guy in time square. why put the money to use that way? hang on to it. paying a slow pay will eventually get him killed in a very high-stakes poker game in 1928. but his guys are not paying the white sox right away and they feel stiffed. they're going to start to play to win. everybody is double-crossing everyone else and that is why, say, for example, eddie wins that one game that he wins in the 1919 world series and why
even though harry was made up, there were threats coming in, there's a country of one threa and gandle later on in an interview and i don't vouch for grandle's veracity. he said there were calling coming in all the time. when you get eight players involved, and then i've named 11 gamblers, not counting harry f. you've got a minimum of 19 guys here and they can't keep their mouth shut. and there's some reasons why -- which are good reasons. say you're a crooked player and your relative, your friend wants to bet money on your team. and you go, no, don't bet. bet on the other guys.
okay? so they can't keep their mouth shut. rumors of the fix start in august in saratoga rothstein tells a gambler from chicago that the series is going to be fixed. he tells the former owner of the chicago cubs about it. eventually, comisky is going to know. he's going to get very agitated about it. the manager of the white sox is going to get very agitated about it. after the series is over, there's a series of articles coming out about the rumored fix from a guy and it's interesting that when they come out, the sporting news, the bible of baseball comes out and really there's a famous account -- or
passage by them which is ant anti-semitic about the people who are behind this. well, they certainly stooped to it. comisky investigated and hired gamblers in the off season. how much he covered this up, how much he knew, how much did he really know? there's knowing and there's proving. he offered a $10,000 reward right after the series to anyone who could prove that the series was fixed and harry redman comes forward and says i want the $10,000 and here's what happened. and actually it's through redman that we first know that weaver was involved in the meetings to fix the series. but it's, like, well, this is hearsay. what do you do?
comisky hires detectives at a cost of $20,000 to interview -- interview on the sly, to get close to and gain the confidence of weaver and gandle and mcmullin out in california. and each detective comes back and says, ah, we think something happened. but the guy who interviews weaver says, i don't think weaver was involved. and the one who talks to gandle, i don't think gandle was involved. and the same thing happens with mcmullin and another one goes to somebody else. so what basic basis does comisky have to bring action? really none. what's going on now with the black sox as all this is going on, there's a national commission in baseball, ruling baseball. and it's made up of three members. national league president,
american league president, the american league president is johnson, he's running the game, and but he's ticked people off. so the white sox, the boston red sox, and the yankees are against him and they want to dump him. and he's investigating the white sox at the same time he finds out about mahard. a grand jury convenes to investigate a baseball scandal. what's the scandal? the scandal is that maybe a philadelphia phillies, chicago cubs game is going to be fixed. what's this got to do with the white sox? nothing. the story appears to have been planted so that the grand jury can investigate crookedness in baseball. the grand jury is being run by a judge charles mcdonald who is an
ally of van johnson. johnson is plumping mcdonald to be the new commissioner of baseball. they're going to have a commissioner. and the real favorite for this job is judge kenesaw mountain landis he had been the guy who fined standard oil $26 million in 1907 and chased down the iww and the socialist party during the war and helped save baseball when there was a third league being formed in 1914, 1915. johnson doesn't want landis. he wants a grand jury. he's not the star of the show. he's never going to overshadow
landis. but they get into investigating the black sox. three of the players confess to the grand jury, williams, weaver and jackson and a bunch of people are indicted. the players and the gamblers. they are eventually acquitted. they're all acquitted. the acquittal is -- well, there's a scene in the movie of eight men out where it's revealed that the grand jury confessions have been stolen and all of a sudden the prosecution has no basis for prosecution. again, really a misstatement. they were missing but they were immediately reconstructed from stenographer's notes. what did impact the trial was
judge hugo friend, the presiding judge of the trial, said you can't use these confessions by these three guys, jackson, weaver, and secot against the other players and you must also prove the intent, the intent that they were trying to defraud people. how do you prove intent? how do you know what's going on in someone's mind? that helps kill the chances for a conviction. in two hours and 47 minutes the jury comes back and they say acquitted. all of the black sox players are acquitted and they think they're home scot-free. they're not home scot-free because what kenesaw mountain landis says, no player who has
thrown the game or who has sat in on a meeting of crooked players and gamblers will ever play baseball -- organized baseball again. and that takes care of a whole bunch of people. and a whole bunch of things. it's very eloquent and lawyerly all at the same time. regardless of the verdict of juries, no players who has fixed the game. everyone knew you were not supposed to fix a came. although, it was not illegal. they were not indicted for fixing a game, okay? there was no law against it. that came later on. but you knew not to do that. so you knew secot and guys like that and gandle should not be in the game anymore. but also guys who sat in on a meeting which would have been people like weaver or who did not inform their club. there's going to be a couple of scandals in the '20s later on
and what happens is they're broken up very quickly, very quickly because the players -- the honest players who know about these schemes who have been offered bribes will immediately rat on their fellow teammates. nobody wants to be the next buck weaver. once that barrier of silence is broken, then baseball becomes a clean game. that's one of the things you see in the news stories at this time about the black sox. it's a clean game, it's a clean game. it's not like boxing, it's not like horse racing. this is something we can believe in. if the game had not been cleaned up, it would have gone down the same route as boxing. you wouldn't know which fighter was on the level, which round it was going to end in, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera and all of this is tied up in so many
amazing stories where, for example, notice that rothstein, where is he at the trial? people like that. they disappear. sullivan just disappears for a while. rothstein goes before the grand jury and complains about he's been assaulted by the reporters and that's the story there. well, they put out this story that he was assaulted. who is controlling the grand jury? well, it was judge mcdonald and who was controlling judge mcdonald, it was johnson. why would ban johnson want rothstein to be freed or cleared? because of that power struggle for baseball. rothstein was partners with -- partners in a casino in havana with a guy named charles stonan.
he was promised to be one of the votes to prop up johnson as leader of baseball and that never happens because, again, another double cross, double cross, double cross. what we have with the black sox and what we have in baseball here is this remarkable story of human frailty, of people thinking they can get away with something, and finding out that they can't and finding out that things will not be tolerated anymore and that's why basebal , and because of babe ruth, why baseball survived that series and why we're looking forward to it starting tomorrow night. thank you. [ applause ] >> i'll take some questions and if -- i guess i'll repeat them so c-span's audience can hear them. any questions?
yes. >> did other white sox players who weren't in on it, did they know about it? >> well, weaver, never took any money. the question is who got what amount of money and secot got the most that we know of. he got what he was promised from the original 80. the others all got five. weaver got nothing because he wouldn't agree to it. but he sat in on two meetings. gandle in that article in the 1950s says that weaver wanted the money up front. okay? and at one point he was saying, we could take the money and we could double cross the players and get the winning share of the series, you know, which was about $5,000 as compared to
32,000 for the loser. but i wouldn't trust gandle about anything. but -- so the other players don't know, but they really suspect, and the catcher gets really visibly upset even on the field and in the clubhouse during the series. they know -- they know, but they don't -- they can't prove. and it's a very -- what is true about the cinematic accounts of this, it's a factional ball club. you have guys who really can't stand the other guys. and gandle in that interview says when he's talking about letting someone into the fix, he says, yeah, we -- we didn't love them, but we didn't hate them as much as the other guys.
so it's quite the crew. yes,i yes, anything else? >> the most famous of the white sox players was shoeless joe jackson. what was his culpability in this whole drama? >> again, this story is just so damn complex. what complicates it -- well, two things complicate jackson. one is he hits .375 in the series, he hits the only home run of the series, either team. he has no errors. he catches a man home at the plate, okay? but he takes the money. he takes $5,000. he gets it handed to him by lefty williams.
and he's not at the meetings. he's the one guy who doesn't attend either a meeting -- there's two meetings, one of all the players together to discuss the fix and later with the gamblers and he's at neither one. now, i think one might say -- well, okay. here's some things he said to the press right after he gave his confession. he did confess. he said to the press afterwards, i said i got $5,000 and they promised me $20,000. i never got the other 15,000. well, boo-hoo-hoo. i told that to judge mcdonald, he said i didn't care what i got. i don't think the judge likes me. i never got the 15,000 that was coming to me. hell of a statement. and then he said at another
point, and i'm going to give you a tip. a lot of these sporting writers who have been roasting me have been talking about the third game being square. let me tell you something, the eight of us did your best to kick it and little carr won that game by his pitching. they double crossed us because we double crossed them. what he may have done consciously is this, he may have decided to split hairs and say, i won't do anything to throw the series or be suspicious about my activities and he hits that home run, for example, when the sox are down 10-5 in the last game, when things are out of reach. and when he gets the guy out at home, the throw is offline.
there's this incredible play to catch it. he lends his name to the fix, okay? the gamblers might not want to put all this money and be sure that it's going through without the premier name player attached to it. so he says, yeah, i used my name. i think that may be his culpability there. he's illiterate. that's very famous. but there's a difference between uneducated and dumb and he runs several businesses afterwards and doesn't run them into the ground. he has some native smarts, but the thing about putting him -- and, you know, there was a petition just recently from the people in south carolina where
he's really a hero, greenville, south carolina, there's a museum to him, i think they're moving his house down the road and putting a bigger museum and it was just announced there's a movie about him which is in development. development and being made are two different things. he continues to be a folk hero of sorts here. but it reminds me of the circumstances with pete rose, when there was more active, whether pete rose would go in. and people asked me when i was doing more baseball stuff, you know, how do you feel about pete rose going into the hall of fame? i said, you know, i don't care that much for pete rose. i don't care that much for what he did. if you really wanted to stick it to beat pete rose, here's what you do, a few years back, there
would have been a debate about who would go in the hall of fame, and they would have a lot of talk about them, and then they would get in and no one ever mentioned them again. if you want to bury a guy publicly, you put him in the hall of fame. you make him the 180th best member of the hall of fame instead of the best guy or most famous guy not in the hall of fame. and that would kind of do the same thing for shoeless joe if we were in. if he's in and the family is, you know, coming in and the father or mother or parent has got the little kid there and looking at this plaque, what did this guy do? what took him so long to get here? is this the best baseball has to offer? he took the money and complained about not getting more?
one of the things about -- well, about honor and such, the reason -- one of the reasons why landis may apply that standard to weaver, is that he had a nephew who was in the army, it's the same as what was applied to weaver. yes? >> how did the sox begin re-building the team? >> money. money. they buy a lot of players and they don't turn out all that well, you know, this is the era when you could buy players not just from the other major league teams, you could buy them from the majors, particularly from the pacific coast league.
in the '30s ted williams, door, those guys are purchased from the pcl and comisky is doing this in the 1920s and the guys he gets are -- i can't even remember their names. and he paid big, big bucks for them. although in the mid 1920s, shulk becomes manager. if comisky is so involved in the cover-up, protect his investment in the team and that's why he doesn't, you know, ban all these guys in 1919, what he does do in 1920 is this, the grand jury has heard the confessions of the three players and comisky acts like, boom, the hammer goes down
and he suspends the black sox. i was going to say the eight. but it's seven because gandle was not playing with the team. he had left to retire and go to california before that. but with the season, with about three games left to go and the sox still in the pennant race, comisky guts his team at that point and gets rid of these guys and sinks their chance for a second pennant. at that point, the owner of the yankees was just acquired this hot shot left fielder named babe ruth says this is terrible. i'll loan you babe ruth for the rest of the season. and the commissioner says, no, we don't do that. but, again, a lot of things
which happened very interesting in the wake of that. yes? going once. going twice. oh, i'll tell you one story, then. why didn't abe atell at the trial. the eastern gamblers were not at the trial. rothstein had this attorney named bill fallon and a great jury fixer as well. he may have fixed a juror along the way here. but what he does is, he would invent these incredible defenses where, you know, the best defense is a good offense. at one point in the late '20s, he puts william randolph hurst
on trial by saying the reason they printed these lies about me fixing juries is because i know the truth and i have the birth certificates of the twin daughters that william randolph hursts fathered by marion davies. this was completely made up. he would come out with stuff like this. he makes up the story about rothstein being assaulted by reporters in chicago. so people -- so rothstein becomes the victim, oh, poor around rothstein. but what he does is rothstein and fallon had sent abe out of the country to montreal, hide, stay there forever, shut up, but then they think it over and fallon brings abe back. abe is walking through time square one day and a couple detectives, the pickpocket squad, go up to him and arrest
him and arraign him for his part on the black sox fixes. and they bring in a witness from chicago who atell had bet with on the series. he would have said the series was fixed and i was defrauded. he shows up in court and they said, this is abe atell. he had been featherweight champion of the world. he was a famous guy. and he says, no, it was a different abe atell that i bet with. this is complete perjury. this is a total lie. money was passed to pass at grand central terminal or penn station when he got into town. and so atell walks that way. this is how chicago justice and new york justice was handled in those ways and so, you know, in
the -- when the trial concludes with the black sox, one of the most suspicious things that happens, the celebrating players and their attorneys go to an italian restaurant in chicago and those guys have figured out that -- where the restaurant was and it was owned by an associate of al capone and the gamblers and the players and their attorneys are in one room and there's a movable partition between another room and the jurors, the jurors are in that next room and that wall comes down and they have a wonderful party together. also, some of the grand jurors used to visit new york after
that, and they would be treated to wonderful things by arnold rothstein. that's the story of justice, 1919, and hopefully the 2019 series will end up a lot better. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you all for coming. i hope you enjoyed this. >> thank you. this is "american history tv" covering history c-span-style wic-span c-span-style with lectures every weekend only on c-span3. on september 21st, 1976, a
car bomb exploded in washington, d.c. just over a mile from the white house. next on "american history tv," historian alan mcpherson on his books of "ghosts of sheridan circle." he gives a talk at busboys and poets in washington. but first, we visit sheridan circle with the author to see where the crime took place and the memorial there for the two victims. >> so we are literally at the scene of the crime. this is a memorial that was put here by the institute for policy studies to memorialize the assassination of orlando