100 years since the Black Sox scandal

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/10/2019 (1149 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One hundred years ago today, on Oct. 9, 1919, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series by beating the Chicago White Sox 5-3 in game eight of the playoff between the National and American League champions.

Chicago had been heavily favoured and the upset victory led to what is considered the biggest scandal in baseball history.

In 1920, eight members of the White Sox were accused of taking money from gamblers to throw the Series. The players were never found guilty in a court but the commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned them from playing organized ball. The White Sox became known as the Black Sox.

Wikimedia Commons When allegations arose that eight members of the Chicago White Sox had taken money to fix the 1919 World Series, all eight players were banned from playing organized baseball. Several, including Hap Felsch and Swede Risberg, took to playing for barnstorming and travelling teams that toured Canada and upper midwestern U.S. states.

After Cincinnati won game one 9-1 and game two 4-2, rumours of a fix began to circulate. Dickie Kerr pitched the White Sox to a 3-0 win in the third game and then the Reds shut them out 2-0 and 5-0. With the Chicago players appearing to make more of an effort, the Sox won the next two games 4-1 and 10-5. The disgraced players included star outfielders Shoeless Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch, the league’s top pitcher Eddie Cicotte, who lost twice, and Lefty Williams, the loser of three games.
In 1963, Eliot Asinof wrote Eight Men Out, a book that examined the story by interviewing some of the participants and digging through newspaper files. Since then, researchers have continued to search for the truth and in Chicago on Sept. 25 to 27, a Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium was hosted by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The focus was on what SABR calls Eight Myths Out, points raised by Asinof that have become part of Black Sox lore. Many of these have been challenged and there still is no clear answer to the request a young boy once made of Jackson: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

So this remains a cold case, not a closed case.

After being banned from organized baseball, some of the players tried to make a living by playing anywhere they could.

For many years, Felsch, who Babe Ruth once called the best outfielder he ever played against, travelled around Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the midwestern United States with his bat and glove. In 1927 he was the player-manager of the Regina Balmorals. In the summer of 1928, Felsch brought his Plentywood, Mont., team to Wesley Park, which was located behind United College in Winnipeg, to play a touring team from Melrose, Minn. Felsch hit five doubles and a single in a doubleheader.

In 1929, banned shortstop Swede Risberg came from Minnesota to join a Virden team called Hap Felsch’s All-Stars. That July, again at Wesley Park, Virden swept a three-game series against the Toronto Oilers, who had Lionel Conacher, one of Canada’s greatest all-around athletes, in the lineup.
In Felsch’s last season on the road in 1930, he led Virden to big money wins in tournaments in Brandon and Souris and at home against the Colored House of David.   

In his book, Baseball in Manitoba, Hal Duncan tells the story about a confrontation between Felsch and umpire Hank Cory from Wawanesa at a tournament in Virden.

Felsch, who was known for his abrasive remarks, had been directing them towards Cory all game. Finally, in the fifth inning, Cory walked down to first base where Felsch was playing and said, “Mr. Felsch, I have listened to your remarks long enough. I call them as I see them. I am an honest man, that is why I am here. You are not an honest man, that is why you are here.”

Felsch never opened his mouth for the rest of the game.   

Former world featherweight boxing champion Abe Attell was connected to the gambling aspect of the Series. After his pro career —in which he had 165 matches and lost only 10 — ended in 1917, Attell became known as a hustler always looking for a score.

He was a bodyguard for gambler Arnold Rothstein, and was accused of being the messenger between Rothstein and the White Sox players. Attell was charged with game fixing but the charges were dismissed.

In September 1910, the boxer they called “The Little Hebrew” attracted 4,000 fans to the Winnipeg Auditorium to watch him outpoint Jack White in a 15-round battle.

Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: sportsmemories@canstarnews.com

T. Kent Morgan

T. Kent Morgan
Memories of Sport

Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: sportsmemories@canstarnews.com

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