Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Breaking the Rules (08/16/04)
TITLE: The Cost of Winning... and Losing
By Michael Aubrecht
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Thankfully for sports fans, God created us with a competitive spirit. Unfortunately it is this same “Will to Win” that often corrupts the “Will of God”. What is it about fame or fortune that has caused so many gifted athletes and/or teams to compromise the integrity of both themselves and their sport? What makes it acceptable in their mind to break the rules? Is winning really everything? Not always, sometimes losing is just as bad. Take for instance members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox and their unwanted legacy as perhaps the most dishonest team in all of professional sports.
Even a casual baseball fan can tell you a little something about the infamous Black Sox scandal. The very fiber that held the game together was challenged when the news broke a year after the World Series that a fix was on from the first inning of Game 1. Eight members of the participating White Sox including pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude (Lefty) Williams, outfielders Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch, first baseman Chick Gandil, shortstop Swede Risberg, third baseman Buck Weaver and reserve infielder Fred McMullin were all charged with conspiring to fix the outcome of the Fall Classic against the Cincinnati Reds.
Amazingly, they did not cheat to win! They actually cheated to lose in favor of bribes paid by those that betted against them. Imagine having eight of baseball’s best blow the World Series on purpose! That’s exactly what happened in 1919.
Cynics were apparently initially tipped off before the contest even started when the pre-game betting odds swapped shortly before the first game. Chicago's White Sox were originally slated as heavy favorites, but were later changed to underdogs in favor of the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the rumors though, most fans and members of the press accepted the games to be true. After all, who would lose baseball’s biggest prize on purpose? All that would change though as suspicions eventually turned into confessions.
After a lengthy investigation in 1920, the members of Chicago's tainted team were surprisingly acquitted despite their own confessions (which were recanted later). However, all of the players involved were still banned from baseball because of their undeniable link to gamblers.
In the months that followed, the league’s offices were constantly denying accusations from the press that professional baseball itself was in on the take and made every effort to assure the fans that the 1919 scandal was an isolated incident. "Regardless of the verdict of juries," the commissioner said in a statement, "no player that throws a ball game, no player that entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed, and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever again play professional baseball."
The ultimate victims were the Reds who had won their first World Championship in their first Fall Classic under false circumstances. Later it was revealed that the Black Sox had been able to camouflage their deception by being selective in their misdeeds. Joe Jackson for instance, had batted a Series-leading .375 but acknowledged that he had let up in key situations.
In the end, their sins may have been forgiven, but are far from forgotten. To this day, all of the suspected participants in the conspiracy have been denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A place they would most certainly be, if not for breaking the rules.