Centennial Series: 1919 World Series

2019 marks the centennial of the Hamilton County Courthouse and I thought I would take a look at landmark cases, legislation and general events of the world from 100 years ago as a reflection on where we were then and where we are now.

Baseball had been in rough shape for many years due to America’s participation in World War I. Many of baseball’s greats served their country until the war ended in 1918 so that 1919 was the first year many teams were back up to their pre-war standards. The 1919 World Series saw the American League Champion Chicago White Sox face off against the National League Champion Cincinnati Reds in a best-of-nine (as opposed to the usual best-of-seven) series. Cincinnati won this, it’s first World Series, 5-3.

But that’s not what makes this particular World Series so important. What makes it important is also what makes it infamous. The Black Sox Scandal.

 

If you’ve ever watched the movie Field of Dreams, you’ve heard this story. 8 members of the Chicago White Sox, including the world famous “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were accused of accepting money to intentionally lose the World Series. There are many, many theories about how the plot came about, who was involved, which games were actually thrown, how it was implemented and whether some players, especially Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, were falsely accused. Whatever actually happened, the fallout can still be felt today.

Due to the events of 1919, the position of Commissioner of Baseball was created and granted full control over the sport with the goal of restoring the public’s faith in its integrity. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed the very first Commissioner. After a Grand Jury investigation into the events leading up to the 1919 World Series, Commissioner Landis gave all 8 White Sox members who were implicated in the scandal a lifetime ban from the game and barred them from ever being recognized for their achievements, like being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

You can read a full account of the scandal, along with the trial that followed, here.

Apart from the effects this scandal had on baseball as a whole, Chicago, the White Sox and the 8 men implicated, let us not forget about the impact this scandal had on the Reds themselves. Most people have heard of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox Scandal, but very few remember that they were playing Cincinnati at the time. This was a win that Cincinnati, both the ball club and the city, had fought for with all their souls. This was Cincinnati’s first Series title. And while the Reds did absolutely nothing wrong, they were forced, by the actions of these 8 men, to have to live with the suggestion that they hadn’t actually won at all. That the only way they could win a Series title was if the other team threw the game. Newspaper accounts of the aftermath of the game, when allegations were first circulated, illustrate the incredulity the players felt toward the implication that they might have won on anything less than their own merit.

“None of us paid any attention to betting or the odds on the games” Reds manager Pat Moran is quoted as saying in the Enquirer in September of 1920. “We had read in the papers that the White Sox were favorites and that made us smile because we were very sure that we could beat them. But there was no betting among the members of the team and no knowledge of any betting by others. We simply went along and played every game to win and the result speaks for itself. I do not think that the White Sox laid down. They seemed to me to be very anxious to win and to try as hard as they could for every game. They were badly outplayed and it gave some of the losing betters who had laid out odds on them a chance to come out with an alibi. At least that’s the way I look at it.”

Cincinnati wouldn’t win another World Series until 1940. 21 long years to live under the specter of a crime perpetrated against them and their ball club. To be sure, the titles in 1940, 1975, 1976 and 1990 did something to dispel the sour taste leftover from the scandal, but it was undoubtedly a long 21 years.

A few facts about the 1919 World’s Series tickets.

Tickets were distributed via a lottery. Over 200,000 people applied for tickets to the games. Redland Field (later Crosley Field), the home of the Reds at the time, could seat 35,000. This was the first time in baseball history that demand for tickets far exceeded the supply. The president of the Reds came up with the lottery idea to ensure that every day citizens had an equal chance to acquire tickets as Big Wigs and millionaires. At first, the Ohio government said this violated the state’s lottery laws, but in the end agreed to the plan. Prices ranged from $1.00 for the bleachers all the way up to $5.00 for box seats, which was much higher than rates at Redland Field had ever been.

SOURCES:

Ryder, J. (1919, Sep 12). Official prices announced for world's series ball games: SIX BONES for the box seats. but sungods will get in for one iron man. big demand continues for series tickets. nine games agreed on, starting october 1. reds may have to win eight contests to cinch flag--boston opens series here to-day. Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.research.cincinnatilibrary.org/docview/865841802?accountid=39387

WHITE SOX: BEATEN ON SQUARE IN WORLD'S SERIES, SAYS MANAGER PAT MORAN. PHIL HAHN DENIES THAT HE MADE CHARGES. HERRMANN DOESN'T THINK MAGEE WILL BE CALLED. NATIONAL LEAGUE-FULLY INVESTIGATED THAT PLAYER'S CASE, DECLARES HEAD OF CINCINNATI BALL CLUB. (1920, Sep 26). Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.research.cincinnatilibrary.org/docview/865421015?accountid=39387

WHITE SOX: EXONERATED BY COMMY. CHARGES OF THROWING WORLD'S SERIES GAMES NOT PROVEN, DECLARES THE CHICAGO MAGNATE. (1919, Dec 15). Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.research.cincinnatilibrary.org/docview/865829180?accountid=39387

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/blacksox/blacksoxaccount.html