Shoeless Joe Summaries: Critical Essay

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The odds of the White Sox vs Reds in 1919 the world series were 5-1 in favor of the White Sox, with their elite team how could they lose? They did lose and in 1920, 8 Chicago White Sox players were accused of fixing and gambling on the 1919 world series and were banned from baseball forever. How did the Black Sox Scandal come to be and how did it change the game of baseball and how do we think about it today?

From 1900-1920 baseball was in its so-called “Silver Age” that ended with the Black Sox scandal. One thing the 1919 White Sox had in common was their hatred toward head manager Charles Comiskey. (Gretsch, Douglas). Charles Comiskey was an American baseball player, manager, and owner. He was born on August 15, 1859, in Chicago Illinois. Charles Comiskey was a talented baseball player playing 13 seasons 9 with the St. Louis Browns, 3 seasons with the Cincinnati Bears, and 1 season with the Chicago Pirates. He managed to rack up 1,529 hits in his career, and a .264 batting average. In 1892 Comiskey was named the manager of the National League team the Cincinnati Reds. (Charles Comiskey). Comiskey begged and convinced Sports writer Ban Johnson to form a Western league to play and challenge the national league. Comiskey later received permission from the national league to move his club to Chicago and later formed the “Chicago White Sox.' (The Black Sox Baseball Scandal). The 1919 Chicago White Sox was an elite team filled with multiple skillful players. One of the most skillful players in the league “Was Shoeless Joe Jackson”. Joe Jackson was once said to be “The purest hitter I have ever seen” by the Hall of Fame legend himself and the best player in the league at that time Ty Cobb. Shoeless Joe was born in South Carolina in 1887. He was born straight into poverty and by the age of 6 he was working at a cotton mill and had no school experience so he was illiterate. (Shoeless Joe Jackson). Jackson and his family knew he was special at baseball by his early teens. He was dominating older men while playing on the Brandon Mill team. Jackson was signed in 1908 by the Philadelphia A’s for $325. In 1910 he was then traded to the Cleveland franchise and in his first season absolutely dominated the league with a .408 batting average and 45 doubles. (B-R Bullpen). His achievements even struck the attention of The Great Bambino himself Babe Ruth. He said “I copied Jackson’s style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He’s the guy who made me a hitter.” Halfway through his 1915 season, Jackson was on the move to Chicago. (B-R Bullpen). Only 2 years after being traded to The Chicago White Sox in 1917 Jackson carried his team to a World Series title. 1919 would start off as an electric year for the 1917 champions and they were by far the favorite to win the World Series title once again. Everyone in America knew Jackson was a top-dollar athlete. Jackson was promised a $20,000 bump from his $6,000 dollar salary.

Trying to get Joe to blow the series was going to be the hardest problem to overcome. Joe Jackson was so good that the other 7 players couldn’t do it without him. One day while Joe was prepping for the series shortstop Swede Risberg approaches him and tries to manipulate Jackson. Swede tells Jackson that he has the entire team on his side and if he doesn’t follow through with the plan then the entire team will hate Jackson. (Durslag, Melvin). Swede convinced Jackson to go along with the plan and Jackson doesn’t even get the same share as the rest. Swede knew The only way to get Joe was to mention his good friends Eddie and Lefty. Eddie Cicotte was a rookie right-handed pitcher who managed to score a $14,000 deal. The highest-played player at the time was Ty Cobb with a $20,000 contract and he was the best player in the league, close up there with Joe Jackson. (8 Men Out)

The list of men involved in the rigging of the 1919 world series was Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Oscar Felsch, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Fred Mcmullin. It is said that Buck Weaver dropped out of the deal before the series began so no money was handed to him. But these 8 men were on a mission. A mission that would change baseball to this day. (The Black Sox Baseball Scandal).

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October 1, 1919, was the day of the first game of the 1919 world series. The Chicago White Sox were scheduled to play the Cincinnati Reds at Cincinnati. The White Sox were the clear choice to win this series and this game. The Sox has their trusty ace in Eddie Cicotte on the mound but on that day he did not look like the ace they had all season. The first batter of that inning was plunked square in the back with the second pitch of the inning. From there on the series would fall downhill. Game 2 Lefty Williams steps on the bump but Lefty was smarter than Eddie. Lefty wasn’t going to make it so obvious that he was trying to throw the game. After shutting them down for 4 innings he started to get hit a little bit and gave up a 3 run inning. After that Lefty went on to his untouchable pitching and shut down the Reds for the rest of the game but the White Sox fall to a 0-2 start to the series. The starter for Game 3 was righty Dickie Kerr who was not in on the fix. This game was played at Comiskey Park and Dickie tosses up a gem not allowing the Reds to score a run the White Sox started to look like their normal selves once again by splitting the series in half 2-1. In game 4 Cicotte was on the hill but he decided to take the lefties route and not look so bad this game. Eddie was scoreless through 5 but when a weak dribble was hit to him he threw it over the first baseman’s head which allowed the runner to advance to second. After that, a single was laced up the middle but it was cut off by none other than Eddie Cicotte and he fumbled the ball allowing the Reds to take a 1-0 lead. Later that inning the Reds rallied up another run and took the series 3-1. At this point in time, Shoeless Joe was having second thoughts and independently started to try and win the series. Game 5 was at first delayed with a 0-0 score by the bottom of the 6th. That was later ruined by a misplay by Felsch in the outfield throwing his man and allowing the Reds to take the lead. At the end of the game, the series was 4-1 Reds. Usually, the series would be over but at this point in time baseball was at its peak and the commissioner extended the series to a 9-game series allowing Chicago to actually still have a chance. Chicago did not give up. They had to make the series interesting. The White Sox won game 6 and game 7 of the world series and suddenly it was a close series. With the series bunched up at 4-3 with the Reds in the lead, nobody know who would win this series, but rumors were spreading even days before the series had even started that the White Sox were going to fix the series but nobody was dumb enough to fall for it. Once people started watching the series a spike of bets were placed on the Reds winning the series and things were getting fishy. Game 8 was on its way and the Reds only needed 1 game to secure the series. Trusty Lefty Williams was in the mound once again in this series and the White Sox had hope as an organization but the night before that game Lefty had an unexpected visit from an anonymous hitman threatening to kill his wife he hadn’t blown the series by the first inning. At the start of the game, Lefty tosses nothing but fastballs and the Reds demolish the Sox 10-5 winning the 1919 world series. (B-R Bullpen). After the series had ended the players split the money but things didn’t go as planned. The Commissioner of the National League was not pleased with rumors going around about the “Fix”. These rumors did not fade throughout the 1920 season and things started to get worse for the 8 players behind this deal. In September 1920 a grand jury was set to investigate. During the investigation, Cicotte, Jackson, and Lefty Williams confessed to the fix of the 1919 world series. The rest of the players were later called in to testify and the Jury was not easy with the punishment. After the case was closed all 8 players were banned from professional baseball for life. (In Search Of History - World Series Fix! The Black Sox Scandal (History Channel Documentary). It is said that after the 1919 season baseball had completely “lost its innocence”. That was all true, this scandal affected baseball more than people believed it did. After World War 1 had just started in 1917 baseball was in its prime. Players like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Joe Jackson were bringing in people from all over to watch them play. Baseball was earning its name as America’s sport. “In May of 1918, the selective service division issued the work or first rule” This rule stated that by July 1 all men that don’t have a useful job can be sent to war. According to Jim Leeke, 38% of active players in the MLB were sent to war and 8 players didn’t make it in return for the season. Even though the war took players away from the game it always brought more attention to the game. Teams like the White Sox, Giants, and Yankees were bringing in 600,000-700,000 people at their biggest games. Baseball was rising and so was the money involved in the game.

A big issue in baseball back then and some of it leaks into today’s game is that the games and seasons are too long. A key factor in the Black Sox scandal was the lack of money the team received during the season. If the White Sox owner Charles Comiskey wasn’t cheap and paid his players what they deserved they wouldn’t have the need to fix the series. Players were having to keep up with family, baseball, and war if they were selected to serve. This problem is still an issue in today’s game. Players play a crucial 162 games plus playoffs if your team is good and this makes players want big-time contracts. (One Fix for Baseball's Future: Shorter Season).

Even though the 1919 scandal was a huge and unique situation it wasn’t the only time betting changed baseball. Gambling in baseball has been around since it started and some of the bigger cases are The black Sox scandal and Pete Rose. Pete Rose is and most likely will be forever the greatest base hit machine ever. Pete has the most hits in baseball history with 4.256 hits and is in a unique category with Ty Cobb as the only 2 players to ever reach 4,000 or more hits. Pete Rose finished his career as one of the greatest players ever but later tried coaching for the Cincinnati Reds. During his coaching years, Rose was believed to have bet on and intentionally lose games on purpose so he would make a profit off of it. On August 24th, 1989 Rose was banned from baseball for life.

We will never forget those 8 Chicago White Sox players banned from baseball for life. Nor will we know what Shoeless Joe Jackson could have been. What we do know is that in 1919 baseball flipped a page and started a new beginning and ending its time of “innocence”.

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